It is safe to say I have always been nuts about horses, although for much of my young life I had to settle for stories, movies, and Breyers. I took lessons off and on at various places, and rode a lot of different horses.
There came a point in my life when I wanted a horse SO much, so I told my parents I was going to get one, and they said "not until you learn how to ride." So once again I started lessons, this time for real. I rode for a few years at HK Farms, which was not too far from where I live. I started out riding English, and even learned how to do some jumping. But I wanted to ride Western--I wanted to be a cowgirl. So I switched over, and even considered finding a horse to do some barrel racing at some point, but I simply never had time for that. When I was almost 13 my trainer agreed that I was ready to have my own horse, and she started to look for one. I tried a few horses and made a lot of phone calls, but none of them were really what I needed, until one day in April of 1992 she called me up and said she had a Quarter Horse mare for me to look at. And that was the day I met Thunder.
I didn't know when I first saw her that Thunder would be my horse, but after riding her once I knew she was the horse I wanted to own. Looking back of course she was perfect, though I wouldn't have said that every day that I owned her. She was a 15.2 hand tall bay American Quarter Horse. She had a star on her forehead, white socks her back feet, and a white coronet on her left front foot. She didn't care much for most people, and really didn't like men. But she liked me, although I'm sure there were times when she got just as frustrated with me as I was with her. I bought her on April 29, 1992, when she was 17 and I was 13.
I'm thinking this must have been in 1993 or 1994. Running bareback past the pond.
We did a lot of fun and often dangerous things in all the rides we went on. We almost always rode alone on the trails on the ranch, but some of the most memorable times are those we spent riding with friends.
This is from that same trip, right before we were about to leave. This is my favorite picture of Thunder.
She had a lot of goofy habits. She really didn't spook much at anything, but certain things never failed to catch her eye...I grew up next to a nudist camp, and for some reason Thunder was just enthralled with naked people. She would stop, prick her ears, and just stare for all she was worth. I of course was mortified when this would happen, and no matter how much I tried she wouldn't budge until the offending naked person had removed him or herself from sight. It was really like she didn't know people could be that color.
I used to let her graze in the yard sometimes, and if I heard a loud crash it was always because she had knocked over the can of chicken food to get the lid off. So I'd run out there yelling and she'd go tearing off across that lawn with this silly expression that really said "Ha ha!" I had to fill in a lot of footprints in the yard.
The stories could seriously go on for pages and pages, but that's a lot to write. Maybe some day I'll write a novel about her. :-)
We had sold all our cows in 1996, except for Klamath. We let Thunder and Klamath live together until we found a home for Klamath, and the two of them were pretty good buddies!
Longing to get out to pasture...
Gimme back my hat!
Another one of my favorite photos of her. Taken when she was 22 years old.
Looking good for 22 years old.
Thunder foundered in May of 1999. We did all we could for her, and sneaky horse that she was, she made everyone think that she was getting better. She perked up when I came home from college for the summer, and sometimes she almost walked normally. But there were changes going on that I didn't know about, and she didn't tell me about. In July, she started to limp again, worse, and in a different way. As it turned out, the coffin bone of her right front foot had rotated all the way down. She fought it with all her heart, and did her darndest to stick it out as long as she could. I think she would have fought it forever. That's the kind of horse she was--as stubborn as you can imagine. But it wasn't fair to her to make her live like that.
On July 23, 1999, I lost my best friend. She was 24. I will always think of her, and I will always miss her. I treasure every minute I ever spent with her, every photo I have of her, every thing that anyone had ever told me about her. Shortly after she died I felt compelled to sculpt her. That is far and away the most heartfelt piece of art I have ever done.
We were a team.
I thought long and hard about getting another horse. Maybe I was too busy with school and would never have time. Maybe it would feel like a betrayal to Thunder. But on the other hand a terrible emptiness lingered here, especially in my heart. So in the winter of 1999 I started to look for the next horse that I was fated to own. I had looked at seven so far, and made umpteen phone calls, before an ad in the paper for a black Morgan/Shire cross mare caught my eye. I went to look at her, and there stood Guinevere.
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