In Shakespeare’s King Richard III, the pathetic but arrogant hunchbacked villain-king Richard III is about to meet his doom at the hands of the future king Henry VII. In the battle, Richard’s horse has just bit the dust, but desperately, valiantly, he cries out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Unfortunately, none was forthcoming, and Richard got whacked.
My daughter Susy was never the king of England, or, for that matter, pathetic, arrogant, hunchbacked, villainous, or girded for battle, – but she did share one thing in common with Richard III. During her childhood, SHE HAD DIRE NEED OF A HORSE. In capital letters.
This passion commenced when she was about 5 years old. She consumed information about horses from books, photos, movies, TV. And, like chicken pox, it was catching. Two of her sisters – Gretchen and Terry (now Teresa, thank you) were similarly infected.
When they reached their early teens, my husband Gene started taking them to ride horses at the Aquabarn, and soon after at Ralph Dodd’s farm in Redmond. By this time, Susy’s head was crammed with information about the equine world.
In the summertime, Gene liked to give each child a special outing of their choice (as long as it was something we could afford). One year when she was 12 or 13 years old, Susy chose a trip to Longacres Racing Track here in Seattle. This gave me cause for concern because thanks to my barefoot-pregnant-and-cloistered life, I imagined that a racetrack must be a den of iniquity and no place for impressionable children.
As they were leaving the house for the racetrack, I said to Gene worriedly, “Now, don’t let her gamble any money. It’s okay if she watches the horses, but she shouldn’t be learning about gambling at her age.”
“Oh, a couple of dollars won’t hurt her”, said Gene.
“No, not even one dollar”, I insisted. “Promise me you won’t give her any money to gamble with.”
“All right”, he grumbled. “Well, let’s go, Susy.”
I still can’t believe what happened. While they were there, Gene kept his promise and didn’t give her any money, but he did let her pick who she thought would win each race. And all of her picks won. She was starting to draw attention from people around her in the stands.
Pretty soon, some people from Longacres public relations office came out to talk to her and take photos of her for their newsletter. They told Gene that young girls who like horses often have the ability to sense which ones will win. They said that professional gamblers in the stands can spot a streak like that going on and will often capitalize on it.
It was nice to know somebody made money on Susy’s “winning streak” but I’m still glad it wasn’t her. She might have ended up working in a casino or on Wall Street, instead of in a nice wholesome place like Ford Video where she may not get rich but at least she can stay out of jail.
It was also on her 17th birthday that Susy’s dream of a horse came true. After supper, she opened her presents. The last one was a birthday card from Gene and me. Enclosed in it was a check for $100 and a note that said “You can either buy a coat or a horse”. Susy started weeping with joy, and so did the rest of us.
Curt told Susy about a wild horse on Orcas Island that she could get free if she could pay $50 to haul him, so sight unseen, Susy made the arrangements.
The next day, Gene took her to Northgate Mall’s Western Wear store. She still remembers exactly what she bought. She used the rest of her money to buy a new bucket, bridle and bit (which she thought was a hackamore), bareback pad with cinch and stirrups (she didn’t have enough for a saddle) and some brushes.
Excited beyond belief, Susy was waiting at Ralph Dodd’s farm on the day the horse was to be delivered. When he arrived, Curt and other helpers help unload him – a wild creature, with a long mane and tail covered in burrs, and pitifully skinny.
He didn’t stay that way though. Susy named him Rusty. It wasn’t long before he became a husky beautiful, horse, his coat brushed to a gleaming red. Rusty was a wonderful “first” horse for Susy and he lived a long “horse-life” – into his twenties.
Another of their horse acquisitions was discovered one winter. They found a little Welsh horse in a mudhole next to a shack. It was a 2 to 3 year old in mud up to his hips. Curt bought him, told by the owner that it was a gelding. When they got him home and got some of the mud off, they discovered that he wasn’t a gelding after all. They named him Henry, and he turned out to be a gorgeous Palomino with a good sense of humor. Curt sold him for several times more than he paid for him.
Among their other horses was Penny, a Saddlebred. She was a high-stepping deep Palomino with high white stockings and too “prancey” for her own good. Another was Cutie, a beautiful quarter horse. She had the rare grullo color, the rarest horse color. Farmer Ralph had used her as a brood mare in hopes of breeding more in that color.
Curt has been around horses all his life. The first ones he remembers are Tiny, and then Peanuts, her baby. The lived to be in their thirties. So did Elvis, the pony you’re about to meet in this video, when he came to visit us at our house in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. He was probably the first member of the horse family to visit here since the early 1900s.
Curt and Susy were to own other horses, and after they were married, they operated a horse boarding stable. When they started having kids, though, they moved back to the city (Bellevue, Washington) where they had access to better schools.
Someday, I’m positive, they’re going to be back in the saddle again. You’ll see.