Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Parade

" In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it

You'll be the grandest fella in the Easter Parade

I'll be all in clover and when they look us over

We'll be the proudest couple in the Easter Parade"

                                         Irving Berlin

When I was a little cowgirl my Grandparents lived in the very

small town of Port Chicago, California.  

Port Chicago was a typical small town, the kind they write 

about in movies and stories.One wide main street, three

 churches, a railroad and families. Lots of families. 

One of the biggest celebrations for our family was the annual

 Easter Parade down the middle of Main Street. 

The town put on this parade way before I was born, but the 

first one I remember was in 1961 when I was 5 years old. 

I rode on the float with the Congregational Church.

My Dad, though, he rode his big bay mare and carried the

 American Flag with other members of the 

Martinez Horsemen's Association.

 I can still remember how the four men looked, dressed in 

crisp white shirts, with Kelly green ties carrying the 

colors. The horses pranced all the way down the street. I 

wanted to be with them, not on the boring float!

The next year I was allowed to ride my little 

black Shetland pony. Mom made me a red and white 

flowered western shirt with pearl snap buttons. I polished up 

my black cowboy boots and cleaned my little old saddle to a 

high shine. 

As  the parade started, I sat on my pony at the top of the 

street, looking toward the crowds waiting near the center of

 town. I don't think I had ever been so excited in my whole 

short life. 

The sirens on the police cars whined to life, the band picked

 up a walking beat on the drum and the whole shebang 

began to move slowly toward the judging stand that had 

been put up especially for this day, right in front of Leo 

Reese's store. Most of the crowd was there, waiting for the

 Bands to play, the twirlers to twirl their batons and the 

Church Chorus

 to sing.

I concentrated hard on making my pony, Candy, 

walk sedately down the street. I knew my Dad and his friends

 were behind me on their big horses.I could hear their flags 

snapping in the morning breeze.  I caught a glimpse of 

myself in the large plate windows of the Market, a small 

blonde girl on a prancing black pony. 

I reached the edges of the crowd, and waved to my friends

 standing along the curb in front of the Post Office. It felt 

so good! I was so proud of my shiny pony and the red pom

 pom balls my Mom had made bouncing from her bridle.

I remember smiling. 

Candy tossed her head up and down and I thought it made

 her look like Tony the Wonder Horse.

When we reached the judges stand, the speaker crackled to 

life. They were announcing my name, but I didn't hear it.

 Candy had never, ever heard a loudspeaker before. 

She reared straight up and walked on her back legs. I heard 

my Mom scream from the back of the crowd. 

I leaned forward and kept smiling. 

I waved harder- just like Roy Rogers. 

Candy finally touched down, still prancing down the 


I kept waving. 

At the end of the Main street, the rest of the parade was 

swirling around, finished with their part, looking 

for friends and family. 

I didn't see my Mom rushing breathlessly toward me. I was 

on Cloud 9! 

I pulled my pony around and set off across town for my 

Grandmothers house. It was only a few blocks away. 

The tiny clip clop of Candy's feet on the cement street was 

music to my ears. 

When my Mom finally caught up to me, she had a small 

vase shaped loving cup gripped tightly in her fist. 

It was my prize for participating. I couldn't have been prouder

 than I was at that moment.

I still have that little cup, tucked away in the box of treasures

 from my childhood. 

The little red pom poms are probably there too. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Fear of Flying~ off the horse and into a fence.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Even the word scares me.

When you are hungry, you can eat.
When you are cold, you can cover up.
When you are afraid, you can't just be unafraid.

It's a word that I hate to admit I have in my vocabulary. As a bad ass Cowgirl, I'd like to think I thumb my nose at fear.
That I eat Fear for breakfast. That I ain't afraid of nuthin'. 
But that would be a lie.

I know a little.....

OK ...

...I know a lot..... about fear.

Especially fear of riding, or more specific: Fear of flying off my horse and into a fence, or a rock, or a ditch.
Because I have done all of those things and even more. I've had so many wrecks that I have forgotten about half of them.
I was always taught that if you fell off, or were bucked off, you had to get back on.

Yep. The old cliche is true.

Ya gotta get back on.


Because if you don't, you'll start to think about it, and you will be afraid to get back on.

Used to be that when I got bucked off~
 and make no mistake, being bucked off is way different than  falling off! I never just fall off!~
I would bounce, and I would get back on ANGRY.

That old cayuse and I would have a Come to Jesus meeting and I would come out on top
 ...or I'd go to the ER.
Until about ten years ago I owned a little horse that I really liked. But he was unpredictable and a little bit hot. I could ride for hours and then something would freak him out and BAM- I'd be in a Rodeo.

One afternoon, I was riding in a covered arena when the peacocks dropped out of the rafters and flew past.


I thought I had him rode, but at the last minute he turned back and I got dumped HARD.
I got up. I caught him. And I got back on. And then I went to the ER.

And Fear came to ride with me for a long time.

I've wondered why.
Why that ride? I've had worse wrecks.
Maybe it was because I was 50 years old and I didn't bounce.

Maybe it was a hormonal change.
Maybe it was just my time to be scared.
In any case, I  had a hard time riding without Fear after that.
They say that knowing your failures will help you overcome them.
I don't think that is true.
I kept riding. That part was easy.
But putting the fear aside- not so easy.
I tried to override the fear, I tried telling myself that I was being a BABY.

That I was being an OLD WOMAN.

That Cowgirls don't feel fear.

It didn't work, because it wasn't true.

Then I had a talk with a good ol' boy named Charles Wilhelm. He's an older guy. Came to riding a bit later in life, but he is amazing with horses and more importantly, people.

I asked him, " How do you NOT be afraid?"
He didn't say, " Oh try this," " or " Retrain your horse.blah blah blah..."

He told me,
" You should be afraid. Fear is what keeps you safe."

He was right.

I needed to embrace that fear, but not let it rule me. When I started feeling fear, I should listen. 
Is it a truly dangerous situation? Or was it a situation that I could handle?

I realized 
There is no SHAME in Fear.

I won't ride with Fear on my shoulder. I won't worry about things that might happen. I am aware of Fear, but I trust myself and my skills.

As weird as it sounds, I am okay with pain or hurt or even death. Every time I put a foot into a stirrup, I have to understand and make a pact with Fear that I won't be ruled by it today.

Fear has gone back to it's hidey hole in my soul somewhere.

I address it.

Then I saddle up.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Stirrup

"My foot's in the stirrup, my bridle's in my hand, 
Good morning, young lady, my hoss he won't stand. 
Old Paint's a good pony, he paces when he can,
Goodbye ol' Paint, I'm leaving Cheyenne."

" Good bye Old Paint "

It's just a simple tool really. A piece of wood or iron formed into a shape, hung by a strap to a saddle. And yet, that simple thing changed the entire world.

I imagine it like this:
Early man climbed out of the caves, took one look at Horse and said to his friend,
" Hold my beer. I want to try something."

Realizing what a boon riding would be, he invented a simple saddle; a rug or skin tied to the horses back. He also probably realized that if he were mounted and his foes were not, he would have an advantage while at WAR.

Loaded down with rocks and sticks, it must have been difficult to get up on the horses back; he needed a step. He needed a step that could go where he went while on the horse, so he would always be able to mount up.

Man developed a single loop, attached to the girth of the saddle. He could hook a big toe in and haul himself up.
As most horsemen know, being barefooted around a horse is Numero Uno No-No. Like in the game Rock/Paper/Scissors, Horse Hoof crushes People Toes.

Men began wearing sandals, and developed a single 'step' attached by a strap to the saddle.

 That worked for awhile, but it needed some improvement.

The next stirrup was elongated and the sides were removed to keep the riders foot from being entangled.
Soon men figured out that when they were riding the horses around looking for War, the foot with the step could rest, while the other foot grew tired. They had to get off the horse to rest. They couldn't go as far, ride as long or fight as well.

Qin Shi Huangdi's Army, Terra Cotta or otherwise, did not have stirrups.

Either did the Early Romans.
Of course they didn't have gun powder either, but I digress.

Enter the paired stirrup.

Jin Dynasty stirrups

This invention is attributed to the Jin Dynasty in China, approximately 322 A.D.

  The nomad Mongolians came to realize that it improved your center of balance to have two stirrups. Not only that, but it gave you a better purchase when swinging a sword.

Traditional Mongolian riding saddle.

The whole idea caught fire and spread through South Central Europe. German raiders improved the stirrup by building in a rectangular loop set in the same plane as the bow. Viking raiders most likely brought the stirrup into Scandanavia.

Viking raiders more than likely spread the use of the stirrup into Scandinavia.

The Early Hungarians improved the shape from a 'slipper' into a pear or apple shape.
About this time they may have also decided that a boot was way better than a sandal for riding.

Pear shaped iron stirrup.

 Crusaders garbed in heavy iron armor needed a larger stirrup to help hold their weight. Their style of riding soon swept the entire European continent.

Crusaders popularized the metal wide bottom stirrup,especially for war. 

Japan improved the stirrup during the Edo Period making the bottom flat, and covering the wood with iron.

Decorated Japanese stirrup.

All the while the movement of Man across the continent was supported by the lowly stirrup.

When people began to cross the Ocean, they brought their horses and saddles with them.

Spanish Conquistadors fitted their saddles with stirrups that had covers over the toes. It had a two fold effect, it  protected the feet and boots from getting wet or being hung up in thick brush while cutting new trails.  Plus it looked cool.

The Spanish settlers into Western America devised a better stirrup, built on that model. The Western tapadero covered the stirrup, and was often lined in fur or leather to keep your feet warmer, as well as keeping your boots from slipping through the stirrup if riding a wilder bronc.

Bohlin Parade Saddle with fancy tapaderos at The Autry Museum, Los Angeles Ca.

Modern pair of tapadero covered stirrups with hand stamped basket weave toes and floral design.

As with anything else, the stirrup is also dictated by fashion, and no more so than today.
The typical English style stirrup, called the irons, are polished chrome, but even they have been decorated with  rhinestones and etching.

Rhinestone embellished English type stirrups.

Etched chrome English style stirrups. 

Western stirrups have the most variations now.
Bell shaped western stirrup with wide flat foot.

Etched aluminium western stirrup, with a slight bend in the arch to relieve foot pressure for the rider. 

Lightweight metal Trail stirrups with 'cage' tapaderos.

Vintage leather western tapaderos with silver diamond embellishment.

Vintage iron stirrups.

Vintage Mexican style Vaquero stirrups.

'Monkey face'  Mexican tapaderos over wooden stirrups.

Spanish inspired Paso stirrups of hammered metal. They can also be used as an anchor when you leave your horse unattended.

Vintage English ladies side saddle stirrup. There was ever only one, as the other foot was draped over the leaping horn.

Bell, Ox Bow, reining, roping, and trail riding, with tapaderos or without. Some have  rhinestones, etched aluminium or engraved leather.

Modern Western Pleasure Saddle with leather covered stirrups. 

The lowly stirrup, the thing that changed the world, has left the function of war behind and is now firmly in the heart of fashion.