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Back In The Saddle Again

Dear Dad:

A few weeks back, I saw a group of horseback riders and it reminded me of that pony you bought me when I was 9 years old. I know how disappointed you were when I showed no interest in riding beyond the first few days of getting him.

On the other hand, you were a champion show horseman; a middle-class Kentuckian, but when you rode your prized, high-stepping Tennessee Walkers in your top hat and tails, you looked like the king of the world. Yes, you wanted to teach me horsemanship, but I was unwilling to learn and I don’t know why. 

A mere 45 years later I’m ready to follow in your footsteps, and I have finally realized that here in Kentucky, the horse capital of the world, it ought to be everyone’s civic duty to own a horse.

I’ve got pastures and fences along with two run-in sheds, so that part’s done—and I knew I wanted a trail horse even before I started shopping. There are many trail-worthy breeds to research and choose from. I learned that even ex-Thoroughbred racehorses can make excellent trail horses.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t write that check until I’ve found out if the horse is up to date on all its vaccinations. Don’t buy him until he’s checked by a veterinarian. Does he get along with other horses?  Don’t forget to ask if he has any bad habits like wood chewing.

Over the last few months of looking for a horse, I’ve learned that when sellers say things such as “she’s got a little spunk,” it could mean I’m going on a wild, buckin’ bronc-type ride. I’d just as soon not do that. There are other phrases I’ve picked up on too, like “green broke,” meaning the horse is not fully trained yet. “Kid broke” is another one. That means the horse is safe for a 5-year-old to ride, supposedly. And there is “husband safe.” Even he can’t mess this horse up.

Well, Dad, just the other day I got myself a horse as a birthday gift again. He’s a gelding named Blue Majestic—a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse with sturdy feet for rough trails and he’s gaited (one foot always on the ground), giving me a smooth, gliding ride, a lot like you and your Tennessee Walkers.

I’m lucky to have wonderful horse riding neighbors like Ginn and Dave and Betsy and Brad, who’ve gone above and beyond to help me re-enter the equine world. And I’ve got a thousand questions for you too, Dad. I know you can’t answer them. But maybe, just maybe, you’re up there smiling, watching your son canter off into the sunset, back in the saddle again.

DAVE SHUFFETT is a public speaker and host of Kentucky Life on KET, airing Saturdays 8 p.m. ET and Sundays 4:30 p.m. ET.

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