Saturday, November 2, 2013

Friendship, model horse style!

I've written about my friend, Trisha, on many occasions, but today the tables are turned and she's writing about me.  I have to admit, this extremely flattering account of our decades long friendship makes me a little bit uncomfortable, because, you know, I'm really not that awesome.  Mostly however, it makes me feel very loved and appreciated and reminds me of our many wonderful adventures.  Thanks for everything, Trish!

Dear Pen Pal

by Trisha Swift

The pen pal ad was simple, but it caught my eye all the same.  
“Nineteen-year-old college student tired of an empty mailbox.”  Even though the only other items included were a name and address in California, I knew I had much in common with this girl.  For instance, I was also a 19-year-old college student tired of an empty mailbox.  And since the ad was in the Just About Horses magazine, I was sure we were both mad about model horses, and most likely she was as mad about the real thing as I was.
I answered the ad, thinking I would just get a cool pen pal.  I got much more than that.
Blur Hill Farm, Unionville, pa 1994
The answer came in an envelope with a drawing of a horse on it.  This was not some stationery, but a drawing actually done by the girl who sent the letter!  
The more amazing surprise, though, I found when I (carefully) opened the envelope.  After a brief introduction, the girl wrote, “For nine months out of the year, I think we’re practically neighbors.”
What?  Indeed, it was true; this girl was an equine science student at Colorado State University, and while that’s not next door to my parents’ farm, it was less than a half-hour drive away.  Incredible.
We exchanged letters that summer, and when fall came, Jennifer returned to Colorado.  Our first phone  conversation lasted well over an hour (in the days when my family’s phone was still a rotary-dial anchored to the wall), and we made plans to go to a horse farm to a book signing party with author Cherry Hill.
After that first night—when we stayed up until 11:00 talking after the book signing—I knew I had made a very cool friend.  At the time, however, I didn’t know exactly how cool she was.
Yeah, I am SO cool!
She was cool enough to go riding with me wherever and whenever… and she was a good rider too!  
Truthfully--I was more brave than good!
Instead of me watching out for her on our excursions, we could watch out for each other.  This came in handy at times, like when I got my horse stuck in the mud at the lake, and when Jennifer’s horse took off with her upon seeing terrifying llamas.  (No horses or humans were harmed in the making of these memories!) 
Note the muddy legs!
I found Jennifer to be the kind of friend who, after three weeks of intense cold weather, would go riding with me when it had warmed up to the nearly tropical temperature of 10 degrees above zero.
NOT too cold to ride!
“I’m going stir crazy,” I said, “Let’s ride.”

“Okay.” She agreed.  “But it's really cold.  Can we ride bareback?”

“Why not?"  I agreed to Jennifer’s idea to ride the Arabians down the road (because the arena was frozen), bareback (so we could be warmer), into the wind (so we could have it at our backs on the ride home).  I don’t even think we wore hard hats.  At least we put bridles on the horses instead of halters… I think.  It’s hard to say which one of us was crazier.
I think it was a tie!
Our forays into training horses were equally entertaining.  We taught one little mare named Charity to trail ride with Jennifer riding her and me riding my steady-eddie mare, Peace.  Every time Charity would freak out, Jennifer would steer her into Peace  Yes, you read that right—she’d run her right into Peace, who didn’t care one iota. 
Peace's reward for being used as a battering ram
The woman who eventually bought Charity said she was the best trail riding horse in the stable where she boarded, so we must have done something right.  Charity even let her new owner put bells in her mane for Christmas.
Bareback on Charity, because eventually trail riding with a saddle got boring!
And of course, there were model horses.  Jennifer and I encouraged each other to increase our herd sizes, we started our foray into photo showing together, and we even co-judged several photo-shows.  
Our model horse photo shoots usually ended with some sort of ridiculous laughing fit.  
Shooting on location at the Badlands, South Dakota
Once, we took several of my classic models and stuck them in the snow to do some herd shots.  One thing led to another, and I took my rearing model and put him on his back in the snow while the rest of the herd looked on, and Jennifer took the photo (after we laughed for at least a minute).  We titled it, “Ayat (the model’s name) takes a roll.”  It even won several herd classes in photo shows… I guess the judges had the same sense of humor we had!
Once Jennifer and I went to a live show, and we saw some beautiful tack that looked just like the real thing.  Of course, we were amazed… it was much better than the tack we had for our models.  I remember Jennifer’s words as she peered closer at the hunter saddle we were examining:  “I think I can make that.”
Time moved on as we created more memories.
Road trip to Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Alberta 1990
All too soon, three years passed, and Jennifer graduated with a degree in Equine Science. 
I was distraught when she moved to Tennessee to work for a mobile tack shop.  
But we remained in touch, and after years of other jobs, Jennifer returned to Colorado, and she turned more to model horse tack making.  The artist who decorated many an envelope and box for me was also the artist who honed her craft into making beautiful works of art masquerading as model horse tack.
I was more than delighted to see her tack on the cover of the most recent edition of Just About Horses .  It reminded me of how we met, the friendship we share, and the spark of inspiration which started it all.
In addition to being a teacher, horse trainer, upper level dressage rider and extremely good friend, Trisha is also a writer.  Her first novel, At the In-Gate, is available as an ebook through


  1. wow jen you have a history with horses...


  2. So very cool! I love reading your stories about the past. It's cool that you have a degree in Equine Science...that was my major in college, too.

  3. me to when I go to college.


  4. This was such a sweet post! It came very near to bringing a happy little tear to my eye. :)

  5. Oh, sweet memories! And to think it all started with an ad in JAH. :)

  6. Bahaha! If I had known you had a pic of us bareback on Peace, I would have included that escapade in the post. :-)