A couple of readers have asked me to share my story. You already know the stories of 4 of the horses. I'll do Sunni tomorrow.
I was born in Pasadena, CA and grew up in Arcadia, not far from the Santa Anita racetrack. My childhood home was once a part of the large Lucky Baldwin estate. After WWII, he divided it up into subdivisions and my parents were able to buy their lot with money from the GI bill. Oaks and peacocks still grace the land there. One of my great-uncles had been the personal secretary to Anita Baldwin. I had another great-uncle who was a trainer at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park and Del Mar. He even raced his horses at Bay Meadows. He only had a small barn. But...I got to visit his thoroughbreds and I was hooked! I always loved horses! My grandfather used to take me to the track with him and give me a couple of dollars and let me pick out horses to bet on at the track! Hee...hee...We'd sneak over after school. I'd always at least break even and occasionally I'd come home with a wad of money! My grandparents lived about a mile away from the track (it was my grandmother's brother who was the trainer) and Grandad told me wonderful stories about Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Swaps, and Citation. I don't remember my first horseback ride, but I remember that I could sniff out a riding stable wherever my parents went and I'd beg to go riding! I was an only child, so of course they gave in. HOWEVER, I was also being groomed (HA! pardon the expression) to become a concert pianist, like my great-grandmother, so I had to practice my piano every day. THAT was the focus of my life. My dad did take me ice skating (since he was from Connecticut) and eventually, for several years, I took lessons at the old ice rink in Pasadena. I got fairly good at that, but eventually, since that competed with my "piano" time, skating lessons were cut out of my life. I rode horses, however, every chance I could. I fell off twice as a kid. Once with my cousins up in eastern WA and once with my cousin, Valerie! Both times I simply got back on my horse and kept riding. When I was about 10 or so, my parents, looking for a good investment, bought a 10 acre horse ranch down in Vista, CA! I was THRILLED...but soon learned there would be NO horses there. It was strictly an investment. My dad put a new roof on the red barn and I would wander the acreage dreaming of owning my first horse. THAT never happened. However, when my parents sold the ranch and retained a second mortgage on it, I was able to ride horses with the girl whose family bought it. At LAST! We spent hours and hours riding the hills of Little Gopher Canyon Road, past rattlesnakes! Aaaaahhhhh....to be 12 years old again! Then came middle school and high school. By then, after BEGGING and BEGGING, my mother finally allowed me to take riding lessons for 2 years. I was in heaven. My lesson horse was a pinto and I loved him! HOWEVER, then came high school and orchestra. I was the solo pianist for my high school and, as such, there was NO TIME for any more horseback riding lessons. Not only did I have my own parts to practice, but, as the only pianist, I had to accompany other performers. I did get to perform several times and one time I played "The Messiah" on the organ at our Christmas concert. Then I had to practice for college, which meant even MORE practice time. I went to college as a music performance major to the University of Redlands, but...to my horror...so did every other girl there! YIKES! Since I was taking my general education requirements, I really began to love political science and I enjoyed my professor there! I switched majors. My mother was FURIOUS! (all those years of piano lessons!) After one year I also met my husband there. We married a year later, but we both still had 2 more years of college, so we moved and switched to UC Riverside. He worked FULL TIME and attended college. I stayed home and studied and went another year and a half and got my MA in political science. So, the young couple moved down to the desert near his parents, who lived in Rancho Mirage, CA. We could barely afford to feed ourselves and I never, at that time, even thought of owning a horse. It just wasn't possible. He had student loans to pay off and I was working my first real job in a law firm in Palm Springs. We DID have a German Shepherd, however! I also continued to follow the "sport of kings" and I was fortunate to watch the great Secretariat and Seattle Slew win their triple crowns. Then, our kids came. We owned a small house in the desert and that's where we raised our children. They were both into sports and music. Our daughter picked up a flute in 5th grade and hasn't put it down since! She went to UCLA as a music performance AND music education major, was first chair flute for her 5 years there, and marched in the Rose Parade (piccolo). Our son went to UC Davis and was a political science major, just like his parents! They now have their own careers and jobs and I was faced with an empty nest.
Hmmmmm.....an empty nest. HOW should I fill it? I was secure in my job, hubby was secure in his...I picked up a book, "My Racing Life" and read it and realized that the void in my life was horses! We began to take our cameras to the racetracks (this is 2005) and I would spend most of my time photographing thoroughbreds. You've seen some of my pics. We would spend weekends, once again, in Arcadia, and visit Santa Anita. Sometimes we took our daughter with us to Hollywood Park, but I drove alone to Del Mar and visited my aunt and uncle, who live about 15 minutes away! Then, in 2005, I spotted a young colt, a descendant of the great Secretariat. I took one look at him and decided HE was the horse whose career I would follow. His name was Stevie Wonderboy. And, BOY, did I fall for him! I attended every race he entered when he raced at SA, HP, and Del Mar. When he shipped back east for the Breeder's Cup, I was ready. I KNEW he was a closer and I KNEW he would win that race. I gathered up my "mad horse money", which was $150 and bet it all on him. When he won, I had a nice little nest egg. NOW I knew I was ready to begin my lifelong dream....SAVING HORSES! I donated some of his winnings to various horse rescues, never even dreaming that soon I'd have my own horses. It was my winnings from Stevie Wonderboy that I was able to finance my adventure into horse ownership! I began to look at online rescues near our home. I drove out to United Pegasus, in Hemet, and took bags of carrots and fed the horses there. Little did I know, I was actually feeding Sunni! I also drove up to their Tehachipi ranch and visited it and checked out horses there. Finally, two friends of mine decided, "Oh, good grief! Let's go with her and help her pick out a horse!"since I was spending weekends at their ranch doing chores for their horses, so they went with me, trailer in tow. They KNEW how much I wanted my own horse. That horse was Sunni. They boarded him for over a year. THEN....I found the CBER website. Hubby and our son were gone on a boy's vacation and they LEFT ME HOME ALONE for over a week. It was during that time that I adopted Beauty and Gigondas from a feedlot in Washington state. I didn't tell hubby for some time...I already had one yearling and I really had no place to board them. My friend refused to help me out and I was stuck trying to find a place to board 3 horses! YIKES! Fortunately, someone on another forum offered to board all 3 horses....and well, you know the rest of the story. Three became five and now we have 5 horses! I'm a newbie horse owner, a newbie horse trainer (HA! my cousin does all the work!), but we dearly love our horses! I find that they are my therapy. Especially Sunni. He was there for me after I discovered melanoma on my arm. He would stand patiently while I cried into his mane. Fortunately, mine hadn't spread and it was cut out of my arm. I've now been cancer free for over 5 years. Hubby even remarked one day, "Boy, you sure can't take your emotions with you when we go see the horses!" (and this is a TYPE A behavior guy!)...we are BOTH learning a lot about horses and training and we still have a LONG way to go. We've made some really DUMB mistakes, but now, after 2 years, and LOTS of help, Beauty is rideable, Gigondas is in training, and so is Sunny. The mustangs also get some training and we are in no hurry with them. We have to board them all, but that's okay. They are only a 30 minute drive away. I scour horse forums and blogs in a feeble attempt to keep learning and I have several DVD's that I watch, but, honestly, my cousin Valerie has been the best teacher I could ever have! THANK YOU, VALERIE! We agreed that next summer, when she moves back up to the mountains, she will take Gigondas out for the summer and her final "tuneup". After that, hubby will be able to ride her. She will also come over to the ranch where we board the horses and give Sunni his final lessons and then he should be rideable, too! Three down....two to go! By then, my back should be completely healed (cross your fingers) and I'll be able to ride again. I'm looking into buying some of the gel saddle things that absorb shock, so my back won't get tweaked again. Any other ideas/ suggestions for my back? Photos are of Stevie Wonderboy, who made it all possible.