I was never one of those horse crazy girls. My best friend, Mary, was horse crazy. She lived in the same suburban Maryland neighborhood I did, but she had a horse. I went with her to the farm where her horse was stabled, watched her clean out the stall, groom it, ride it. Nope, no interest on my part. I was just hanging out with Mary. By the time Morgan was three, she was begging for toy horses, nothing but toy horses for Christmases and birthdays. Is it born in you, this horse crazy thing in girls? She wasn’t exposed to horses, other than the toys at the store that she zeroed in on. I saw an ad about a horse camp for kids nearby. I took her, and that led to regular riding lessons. I had nothing to do with the lessons other than dropping her off and picking her up. Nope, no interest.

Now I have two horses–for Morgan.

I’m slightly leery of horses. My one previous experience riding a horse was when I went with a church youth group in California to a trail riding outing. I rode a horse, for the first–and presumably last–time. I didn’t find the experience comfortable. Horses made me nervous. They’re big. I feel uncomfortable–now–handling Patriot and Zip. I can handle sheep, cows, goats, donkeys, but not horses. Horses are big. But I have to start handling these horses. Morgan isn’t here–and won’t be here–all the time. They need to be moved from pasture to pasture, they need to be vetted, they need their hooves worked on, and who knows what else. In the end, I’m the one who runs this farm and is here all the time. I have to be able to handle the horses. Other than the one glorified merry-go-rounding ride I had on Patriot when we first visited him in Kentucky, and the one glorified merry-go-rounding on Zip last week, and oh yes, that one trail ride in California when I was a teenager, I’ve never been on a horse. And I sure can’t handle them. I can’t even put a halter on them.

Yesterday, I went to Soggy Bottom Farm, where Zip is staying for a month of board and train with Mike Trader. I’m very pleased now that I’ve been to his farm. She isn’t at a stable, like a business, she’s at a home. His house is right beside the big horse barn, and she’s not stalled non-stop. She has pasture time. I thought we’d start with me watching him train Zip, but he had other ideas. He put me on one of his horses, Sierra, right away.

Let me state straight up that this is an incredibly well-trained and gentle horse. I felt immediately safe on this horse. He showed me how to put her saddle and bridle on. I got on the horse, and he put me through my paces teaching me to make her walk, make her stop, make her turn. Making me take my hands off her while she was walking, and even making me close my eyes. And then because I was having so much fun that I wanted to go faster, he let me take her out of the ring and make her gait. Wow, that was fun. Then we took her back and he made me unsaddle her and wash her down.

Then, yes then, came Zip. We took Zip to the ring and he showed me her groundwork. He went through what he’s been working with her on for the past few days–desensitizing, yielding her hindquarters, and backing up. She’s resistant, but he’s made a lot of progress with her in just a few days. He said strong will is not a bad thing. “She’s got heart,” he said. “She’ll make a good horse.” And then he let me come into the ring and practice the groundwork exercises with her. THIS THIS THIS was even more fun, if possible, than riding Sierra because I got to learn to handle Zip, make her back up, make her get out of my face, show her she can’t crowd me. These types of exercises are what she needs–but it’s also what I need to gain the confidence to handle her.

I only have two weeks before Morgan will be back and I have to share the fun with her–which I want to, but….this is my time. On the other hand, I don’t want to bother the trainer too much or impact his time to work with Zip. Three hours later when I was leaving, I said, “I’ll come back next Thursday, if that’s okay.” He said, “I’ll start riding Zip by this weekend, taking her out on the trail. Don’t you want to come trail ride with us? You can ride Sierra.”

First lesson in the ring. Second lesson on the trail? I JUST MIGHT.


  1. beforethedawn says:

    That is so awesome, for you and for Zip. It’s so important to build up that confidence.

    My daughter is just like Morgan about horses. She is 7 and wants a horse, wants to learn all about horses (and ponies), and loves horse toys. At the feed store, on our way to grab rabbit supplies for her mini pet rabbit, we walk by the horse aisle and she loves looking at the horse stuff.

    I grew up loving horses too, I even had a pony for a short time (he passed away of cancer less than a year after I got him). I also worked at a pony ride place and rode big ponies and mules. I also took care of my uncle’s horses (lived next door) and was allowed to ride one of them. (The other was his cattle ropin’ horse, he never had to tell me not to ride her, I just knew not to.)

  2. MousE says:

    Oh Suzanne, I am just loving your website so much. I appreciate how you take us along on all your adventures to running YOUR OWN FARM ALL BY YOURSELF – well, with a little help from hired hands! But still. You have my admiration and respect. And such lovely photos you take! I am so happy for you. And glad that you are tackling those big animals. :snoopy: Thank you! Keep up the good work! Stay courageous! You’ll get the best of that big old tractor yet, too, I think!

  3. bonita says:

    Well now, you go giddy-up, girl!

  4. Rose H says:

    I’m SO impressed with you Suzanne.
    As a small girl I would have loved a pony, and used to ‘ride’ the arm of the sofa! I don’t know if the TV show ‘Fury’ was on in the States, but I watched it weekly and sobbed when it finished. We lived in a town so a pony was never on the cards. I’d still love one but don’t have either the time or the space – so I’m going to share Patriot and Zip through the ether with you if you don’t mind… 8)

  5. twiggityNDgoats says:

    Go for it! He wouldn’t put you on his horse on the trail if he knew it wouldn’t be a positive experience for you. Take this time to learn everything from him you can. He sounds wonderful.

  6. CATRAY44 says:

    Ditto, twiggitNDgoats! Have fun, Suzanne! You have already tackled giants much bigger than a horse!

  7. Hlhohnholz says:

    Woohoo, Suzanne! I find that once people get over the initial distrust/lack of confidence with horses, they often find love and passion for such wonderful creatures. I hope you can continue to develop your love & trust for Zip & Patriot, and that they enrich your life the way my horses have enriched mine. 🙂

  8. Miss Judy says:

    I love the way you are meeting your uneasiness around horses head on!Morgan better be aware…Zip may bond with you while she is gone.
    Now, is there a tractor trainer out there somewhere? lol

  9. BuckeyeGirl says:

    Being around a horse makes you feel strong. They are usually over 10 times our weight, with so much muscle and all those legs… but they trust us. They allow us to handle and ride them, and they look to us for affection and food and care. They make us feel strong and capable and loved and loving… and a canter through a field or a walk through the quiet woods makes us feel free. On a horse we can get to the secret parts of the hills, and we can get away from people we want to get away from, and under the right circumstances, feel admired by people we’d like to impress. Pretty powerful those horses!

    I’m glad you’re getting comfortable ‘on the ground’ with Zip. Being handed a ‘trained’ horse is no substitute for knowing what you have to know to get where you can read their body language and know what they’re up to. Your Mike Trader sounds like a smart fellah! I’d send him any horse of mine in a second!

  10. Murphala says:

    This is great! They are BIG. I was a seriously horse crazy girl who was cured by a)being stepped on, b)having a chunk taken out of my upper thigh (well, not out, but had some deep horse-teeth shaped bruises on my leg for months, c)having narrowly avoided losing another body part because it apparently looked delicious, and d) constantly being scraped off the horse along fences, and, in cartoon-like episodes, being walked under branches that were just kinda too low. So I gave up. You’re a better woman than me! Face your fears! And have a great time trail riding!

  11. kdubbs says:

    Yay! I love my saddle time and am so glad you’re tackling learning about horses with a qualified mentor. Good for you.
    I think there’s some kind of genetic component to being fascinated with horses. This isn’t to say that you can’t decide as an adult to take up riding–and learn to love it. However, like Morgan, I too was that horse-obsessed kid. I had the Breyer models, read the Marguerite Henry books a million times, and finally got to take riding lessons and join a 4-H horse club at age 13. Now I’m giving my kids the opportunity to experience their own pony, and their responses are interesting. My daughter, who’s 5, just doesn’t have the horse obsession. The pony is nice, and she’ll ride occasionally, but I can tell that the interest just isn’t there. My son, who is 2 and 1/2, is interested in anything “horse”, asks all kinds of questions about tack and equipment and horse-handling, and would ride constantly if we let him. He’s asking me when he can ride by himself (he gets pony rides now), canter, and accompany me on trail rides. I can’t explain the difference in the two of them except to say that he has the “horse gene” and my daughter doesn’t! It’s a funny thing.

  12. wildcat says:

    This Mike Trader sounds like a real horse whisperer. You and Morgan will be riding Patriot and Zip through the fields before you know it. :yes:

  13. outbackfarm says:

    That is amazing! I have chill bumps all over just reading this. It brought back memories of all my plastic horses growing up. That’s all I wanted. I drew horses constantly. Wanted one so bad. We went to a place called Strawberry in Calif. every summer. They had a riding stable. I cleaned out stalls and polished sadles to ride the horses and just be near them. I LOVE horse smell! I finally got a horse 8 years ago. She was only 2. First mistake. She was a beautiful Paint. My grand daughter named her Sally Sunshine Moonshade. Had her trained. Rode her a few times. Then she bucked me off. Scared me really bad. I thought I had broken my back. I did break my little right pinky finger though. That was enough breakage for me. Then I sold her. So IF I ever get another horse, it’ll have to be at least 35 years old and a gelding. I hope you go trail riding on Sierra. She looks like a great gentle horse. You will be hooked for life! Go for it.

  14. Remudamom says:

    I’m grinning here because the terms you are using sound so Clinton Anderson, and he happens to be my favorite trainer. Have fun.

  15. Remudamom says:

    Just saw your comment on another horse post confirming the CA method. I’ve had horses all my life, from the time I was young, (I rode an OTTB for someone when I was 14) all through school with no college break from the horses, and when I married and moved to the ranch my fil gave me a horse and put me to work. About 12 years ago we “discovered” Clinton Anderson and it was like I then learned how to work with horses. My husband bought me five new horses right after we saw CA and none of them were started. We did it ourselves. All of our children raised, trained and started their own colts using his methods. If you can get your hands on some of his dvds they are really enjoyable and the more you watch them the more you will learn.

  16. ferngrower says:

    This is so interesting to me. I have always been afraid of horses. I also had friends who seemed married to them or would marry a horse one day. 🙂 A couple of years ago, I spent some time at my friends horse farm. She’s a trainer for children who want to compete in the hunter ring. My friend helped rid me of my fear of horses by having me clean the hooves of her tallest horse. I couldn’t believe it was me lifting up the legs of that horse and crooking his elbow in mine. I desire with all my heart to be a better rider. Thanks for sharing your stories.


  17. lesliedgray says:

    Good for you!!! Yes, I believe that the “horse gene” is born into us. I was the same way. As a kid, and now as an adult, I was and am.. the only horse nut in my family. It is an incredibly soul-satisfying experience to be on a trail with your horse, seeing beautiful country, feeling the warm sun and cool breeze, hearing the same birdsong or animal sounds, and exploring that trail. You are exceedingly lucky to live where you live,.. there is no lack of pretty trails to ride. As a kid growing up in Virginia, we rode pony back EVERYWHERE! Of course back then, then was a little more of country and a little less of city, so we cut through neighborhoods to get to our favorite trails. I miss those days! Now the nearest fun trail to ride (that I know of) is @ 4 1/2 hours trailer ride away.

  18. Leaves of the fall says:

    haha… they’ve got you hook, line and sinker.
    have a great time! nothing better than smelling a lightly sweaty horse’s neck… 🙂

  19. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl says:

    I can’t get over their size either. I grew up on a farm and all the big animals still scared me. My brother has several horses and I’d love to ride, but just not comfortable with them. I have ridden a few times, but never was comfortable up there.

  20. Leck Kill Farm says:

    Is it born in you, this horse crazy thing in girls?

    I think so. Until the time I went to college, I was obsessed with all things horse. I never had my own horse but was fortunate enough that my mom had enough friends with horses that needed exercising for me to be able to ride almost every weekend growing up.

    Then right about the time my parents bought a farm, built a horse barn and filled it with horses, I lost the “bug.” Go figure.

    A well trained horse is a joy. My dad really enjoyed taking “problem” horses, working with them for several months and then selling them.

    Your trainer sounds great and I agree with the other poster, if he thinks you are good to go on Seirra, hop on and enjoy!

  21. STH says:

    Suzanne, it’s so inspiring to me to see you taking on all these challenges. I’m a worrier and it’s so easy for me to just sit back and do what I’ve always done and never take any risks. I’m going to think about you and the tractor and the horses when I feel anxious about new things. Thank you.

  22. sheilatrader says:

    Suzanne, I just wanted to welcome you to Soggy Bottom Farm and to let you know how much we enjoyed having you here. Please feel free come out anytime you want to see Zip and check on her progress. I hope you and your daughter come to enjoy riding as much as we do. Please know that Sierra will take VERY good care of you on the trail as she has taught many folks to ride. We look forward to seeing you next time! Sheila Trader

  23. yvonnem says:

    …Oh,, you have to go on the trail ride. I’ve never been around horses and would be very intimidated by them, but after reading this post and the comment from Sheila Trader, I say GO FOR IT!

  24. kbryan says:

    I am so thrilled for you, you will enjoy riding so much – I hope you go for it! Horses love having “jobs” and I am sure that you can fit riding into your routine and give your horse a job. How about gathering up the cows or riding a fence line looking for breaks? I hope we will be reading a lot of horsey posts in the future!

  25. chicksitter says:

    I have loved horses for years. I am so happy for your introduction to the love and respect you are nurturing within yourself and these magnificent animals. Enjoy, you may give Morgan a run for her money!
    I enjoy your blog very much and have baked ‘Grandmothers Bread’ many times and my hubby absolutely loves it. We are retired and scraping by and I still remember my Mom baking bread, and I have a 1942 edition of the Good Housekeeping cookbook which she used for many of her recipes. I guess my favorite recipe is for Scalloped Potatoes but there is also a recipe for Pecan Streusel Coffee Cake which I remember her baking and it is ‘to die for.’ God’s blessings to you and yours. Evelyn
    also @HillsideHappyHens

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