by Laura Crum
With Sunny and Henry my son and I began exploring the trails along the ridge near our home in earnest. My son was seven and a half. I was fifty years old and, to my surprise, a new horseback passion had entered my life. Because I became quite obsessed with riding the trails of my home.
And here, if there is anyone out there who has been reading my posts on Equestrian Ink from the beginning, is where you came in. Because I began blogging here just a couple of months after I bought Sunny. In fact, one of my early posts was titled “The New Horse” (May 2008).
Sunny was always a very reliable trail horse and he gradually came to accept me as his boss and dropped most of his “testing” behaviors. I’ve blogged about him here often enough, so probably most of you have a pretty good idea of this little yellow horse’s personality. Suffice it to say that Sunny and I formed a good partnership and from the beginning I was deeply grateful for how steady both he and Henry were on the trails. These two horses opened up a whole new world for my son and me.
We began riding in the hills several days a week, sometimes with our friend Wally, sometimes just the two of us. We rode the trail to the Lookout often.
We also discovered new trails, a whole network of trails that criss-crossed the wild ridge that we could see from our front porch.
We hauled the horses down to the shore and rode them on the beach.
Sunny and Henry were and are amazing trail horses. In the redwood forest.
In the mountains.
I could never describe, or even show you in photos, half of the delightful and beautiful things my son and I were privileged to see from the backs of these two wonderful horses. I have to say that though it may not sound as exciting as training and showing cutting horses or competing at team roping, these last five years exploring the trails of our home and the beaches and mountains have been my absolute favorite part of my life with horses. It has been a time of pure enjoyment, of taking delight in both the horses and my son and the wonder of what we were all seeing together. There has been nothing to prove to anyone, and no need to improve or train or push. The horses have been our partners every step of the way; they were competent, solid horses when we got them and they brought their own confidence and experience to share with us. My forty years with horses stood us in good stead, and I am proud to say that my son has grown up riding, has challenged himself as he saw fit (and yes, kicking Henry up to a gallop after a steer and riding some of the steep, tricky trails we have ridden has been a true challenge), and has become an adept, kind and secure rider, one who really understands horses. I don’t know what the future will bring, but we have done and seen some lovely things. My photos can show our life with these two horses better than words.
I can truly say that for five straight years we rode Henry and Sunny everywhere and had a blast. We may be getting close to a thousand rides all told (I kept track the first year and we went on 165 rides that year alone). We were never hurt or scared, never even very anxious—none of us. And it is all due to these fine horses. We have had so much fun. Gathering and working cattle with friends.
Just loping along in the sunshine.
This year my son turns thirteen and Henry is twenty-five. We are still riding a couple of days a week, but we aren’t pushing Henry too hard, and, to be fair, my kid is developing other interests and isn’t as passionate about riding. And that’s OK. The magic will always be with us and in us. And Henry and Sunny will be with us until they die. The gift they have given us is beyond price, and I will always be grateful.
I wrote my 11th and 12th novels in the Gail McCarthy series about trail riding along the ridge by our home (of course the books feature some very dramatic happenings out on these trails—which I am VERY glad we never experienced in real life). Sunny and Henry both have prominent roles in these stories and are described very much as they actually are. So, for a glimpse of this part of my life, and a couple of exciting mysteries as well, try Going, Gone and Barnstorming.