I put Melissa on a horse at about two years of age. It would have been one of the many horses Dad had at his stables. We were living at my family home for a while, and Dad’s stables and yards were our backyard. I prided myself on being a good mother, keeping my baby close by.
Imagine my horror, when Melissa went missing one day. She was barely 18 months old. I searched the house, and the garden. She should not have been able to get into the backyard, the gates were always kept shut. There must have been a visitor to Dad’s stables that had opened the gate.
I found her. She was standing in a yard, patting the hind leg of a new wild brumby that had been unloaded a day or so earlier. Dad occasionally took on a challenge, or a request to train the Brumbies. They took a little longer than other horses to train, as most had never seen people, or yards etc. before.
What was so unbelievable about the situation is that any other horse would have kicked out at something touching its hock, on its hind leg. Not so this wild horse. It must have sensed she was only a baby. The wild horse stood frozen, while she chatted with it, and lovingly rubbed its hind leg.
I froze as well for a moment, evaluating the situation, wondering how I should approach this most critical situation. Then I gently and softly called to Melissa, to come to mummy. I dare not walk too close to the yard, lest I frighten the horse. Luckily for me, she was a good little baby girl, and obedient. She moved back and climbed through the big timber rails of the fence. She came out into the clearing, away from the horse. The horse remained frozen and still until she had gone. Then the horse turned and looked at us. I was so grateful, I thanked him, and prayed thanks to God.
If it had been one of the quieter horses, it would more than likely have kicked her. If not, I would have been able to get Dad to entice the horse away from her with a treat, or a word, a command.
It was my nature, like most parents, to take our children everywhere with us, we showed them interesting sights, and the everyday things that parents do. I had always taken my babies with me, and watched their faces and expressions, to see what captured their attention. It stood to reason that we had spent a lot of time with my father, and watched him handling and training the horses. So it stood to reason, what interested me, would also interest my children. Had I been a gardener, she may have ventured out into the garden, but I was a horsewoman, so she went looking for the horses.
Fast forward to Melissa and later years, and her love of horses.
Her first pony was a little white Shetland pony, we named him Tubby. We rescued Tubby. We found him with Laminitis; his little hooves were almost 12″ long. It took months with the Farrier to get his hooves back to normal, where he could walk properly, and without pain again. Years later I sold him to the daughter of a family friend. We went to check on him after 4 months. You would not believe it; he was founded again, this time with old shoes. She said she thought the shoes would last him for years. I took him home, ours would be his Forever Home. I could not trust other people to look after horses properly. She should have known better, her father was a horseman, she had grown up with horses.
My main horses were paddocked opposite our house. The paddock was at the rear of the Drive In theatre. There were often vandals around, that cut the fences, or did damage in the paddock.
The police woke me at 4.00am one morning, they said they had one of my children in the back of the van. I was taken aback, impossible I said, both my girls are in bed. They laughed, said we will prove it. There in the back of the van was little Tubby. Unbelievable, they had found him wandering down the main street. Vandals had cut the lower fence wires, and Tubby crawled out underneath, and went for a walk, exploring the town.
Melissa’s second pony. Bacardi had been a stock horse, and frightened of men. Melissa trained him, and they both excelled in all her riding competitions. He was also very good at Barrel Racing. Bacardi was just 13 hands high, he had done an excellent job in all their riding competitions, and competed at Pony Club, inter club competitions, Horse Shows, including State Championship Competitions. But Melissa was like me, always wanting a new challenge, and Dressage was her next challenge. For whatever reason I did not like show Jumping, and steered her away from that activity.
Melissa’s third pony. We bought Angel at age six months, from a friend of mine. I broke Angel in myself, as my father had passed away a couple of years ago. Melissa and I had been training Angel for Dressage. I also employed a Professional Dressage Trainer to train both the horse and rider. Vandals cut Angels fence one night, both my horses Angel and Rex ran onto the Hume Highway. Angel was hit by a car, she was not badly hurt, but she hurt a Tendon, and was unfit for Dressage or Riding Competitions after this accident.
Melissa also rode my horse Rex. Rex was a former racehorse, who had broken down from racing, but was fit and perfect as a riding horse. It took months of taking him to the racetrack, and training him to remain calm that we would not race around the track. Horses have great memories, and he became agitated and excited at the sight of the racetrack. Away from the race track he was a very intelligent, responsive horse, and lovely to ride.
Melissa was riding Rex, when she was just seven years old. It gives you a good indication of how competent a little rider she was. Rex was an easy horse for me to ride, but I had a lifetime of experience riding and retraining the most troubled horses. For her, it was simply another challenge.
She decided she would take Rex to Pony Club one day. I agreed he should be ok, but he might be a real handful once he got to the track. Well, boy did Rex put on a show. He pranced and carried on as if to show all the other horses what a champion racehorse did, like race around the track. Melissa enjoyed showing off her new horse. Most people who saw Rex, mistook him for Paleface Adios, as he had very similar markings, and most would be drawn to him, and want to pat him. I think Melissa also wanted to impress the judges, and instructors, and probably gain huge browny points for this show.
She continued riding and training, competing with Angel, and Bacardi, until Angel was involved in the car accident, and could no longer be ridden. She was almost 16 years at this stage, and had been playing squash and learning Roller Skating.
A Roller Skating Coach asked me to allow him to coach Melissa in Speed Skating, as he believed she had great potential to win some major skating competitions. This new activity required practise and coaching most afternoons, and the horses were retired. Melissa went on to win many skating competitions, and came third in a huge State Competition, in her first year at this sport.