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This is the first in a two-part series When Ladies of a Certain Age Ride Colts Part 2 is the second article.

I’m a mid-level kind of rider. EQ_20090822_0013.jpgAfter being fortunate to have had a horse when I was a teenager, I didn’t ride again until I was in my early forties. Now as I near 51, I’m heading up to take a ‘test ride’ on my three-year-old quarter horse filly, JR’s Blonde D. In Florida, we’re lucky to have as a resource, the dynamic duo of Tom & Trina Curtin. The Curtin’s winter at their modest ranch in the northern panhandle region. The tiny rural town of Madison, is close to the Georgia border. The Curtin’s have had my filly in training since the first of the year. The rolling hills and miles of red clay road make for perfect “leveling” of young horses…but more on that later.

As I make the three and a half hour drive from my little farm in Eldridge, Florida, to the Curtin’s, I worry. Can I ride this young filly who’s only been under saddle for two months? She’s from fine cutting horse stock, she’s got moves that would embarrass your mother and she can be as fast as a Vegas hooker on a Saturday night; is she too much horse for me? What have I done? So, with more than a few doubts, I sneak into Madison past dark on Thursday evening, hook up at the Curtin’s and await Friday morning’s fate. If only I can ride my filly.

Oh my she’s looks good, I’m thinking, when I see miss Blond-D the next morning. She’s strong and muscled (and still blond). So after a few cups of coffee and a couple of breakfast bars, I get suited up to ride. As Tom Curtin likes to say, “Taking pride in your appearance goes along with taking pride in your horsemanship.” I like to wear a nice straw flattop hat with a horsehair band; Oregon style. A fancy set of Mark Dahl buckaroo spurs, burgundy chinks with black trim, tall buckaroo style boots and the prettiest wild rag a gal can find. For the coup de grace, my pride and joy, a scarf slide made especially for me by Javier Riveyrol of Argentina. It’s a magnificent sterling silver museum quality piece with a lovely “D” on it layered in gold. Gosh darn it I look good! Now if only I can ride my filly!

So, still looking fine and my filly looking strong, I halter my gal and trudge to my “outfit” (that’s means horse trailer and dually in horsey talk). So far, so good. Brush the gal, say hello, and ask her to mind her manners. Kindly place the pad and saddle on her. No problems here! I gather up a snaffle bridle with slobber straps and a yacht line mecate and get her ready. Still no problems and so now comes the moment of truth. I’m not proud, I’m not young, so I hunt for just a little bit of a step so I can “cheat”. This is quite a big deal, because at the same time, I’m trying not to let anyone see me while I’m on the big hunt. Finally, I find a shipping pallet; perfect. I ask my filly to side over to me and after a bit of working on it, eureka! One foot in the stirrup, up and over- whew!

Off we go, straight to the arena and forward at a brisk trot. Holy cow, what a big engine she has! Once we’re inside the arena and under Tom and Trina’s supervision, a little right leg pressure and she’s off to a canter. So far, so good. Her gaits are smooth. Now, “think stop”. Sure enough, nice stop too. Back again to a trot and then the canter- all good. I can see that this isn’t a gal that will take too kindly to just standing around when she’s fresh. Best to keep those feet moving. I think I can ride my filly.

Now I’m brave enough to head out to the nearby woods and some open country. I’ll weave around some trees and go up and down a little trail and back to the arena. We return safe and sound and the filly is now settled. Off on a trail ride with Tom, Trina and a handful of other riders and boy! can this girl keep a steady rhythm. One key, Tom Curtin says you can develop a good mind in a young horse by maintaining a consistent rhythm over long distances. This is what I meant earlier; this is “leveling”. The trick is to keep trotting, no walk or canter breaks, just keep trotting- for miles and miles. Miles in the arena don’t count, you have to cover open ground. In the arena, you’re always thinking of the corner, and then the straight, and then another corner. The horse doesn’t get leveled because he never gets the opportunity. I find that this little gal can go forever, riding on the buckle, with very passive rein contact. She’s so sensitive, it’s look and go, sit and stop. I can ride my filly!

Back to the ranch, and a good brush and a hug for my pretty Blond-D. I say goodbye to my sweet girl for now, until the end of March when I go back to the Curtin’s to pick her up. Can’t wait to ride my filly!

Denise Shirey enjoys cutting horses, obstacle challenge competitions and heading out on long trail rides. Sheʼs always on the lookout for her next two-year-old prospect. When not horseback, she makes a living in the defense industry. Miss Denise is a regular contributor to High Minded Horseman.

Comments for When Ladies of a Certain Age Ride Colts

  1. Ed McKnight,DVM on July 29, 2010

    Denise rides as well as she communicates. Blonde -D is learning and teaching. Both rider and horse give all they have to whatever they decide to do, fun or work.
    Enjoyed the article and look forward to more… I know they are coming!