Chapter 1

The Beginning

bushkillstable.jpgMy parents George and Mardean Fenical were married in 1943 in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. They made their home in the picturesque Pocono Mountains near the Delaware water gap. George was a homegrown outdoorsman who loved to fish, hunt, and trap. My mother "Deanie" was from the city and enjoyed nature but spent her free time playing several musical instruments and writing poetry. One evening about a year after they were married my father came home with an announcement. "I bought six horses today. We're going into the trail riding business!" I'm sure my mother's initial reaction was less than enthusiastic since neither of my parents knew much about horses. Undaunted, George built a barn behind the house and set up shop. The business grew and soon several of the resorts in the area were sending vacationers out to their stable. As far as anyone can remember, Bushkill Falls House stables was the first trail riding business in the Poconos.

parents.jpgI came along eleven years later. My sisters Jayne and Bonnie worked in the hack string when they were old enough but never really fell in love with riding. I, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the horses. My mother was taking me to the barn in a carriage when I was just a few months old. Always the practical sort, my father took an old western saddle and fashioned a "riding bassinette" so I could tag along in the hack string. When not lolling about on the back of a horse, I was napping in the hay mangers in the barn and playing with my babysitter, "Tony the Pony."

mombaby.jpgAs I got a little older my parents allowed me to water the horses. For me that meant leading them down to the stream twice a day where they could stop and drink. By age four or five I was able to help with most of the daily barn routine. What many children would dread as "chores" I enjoyed because it kept me surrounded by my four-legged friends.

My father developed a general understanding of horses and entertained himself by teaching them to rear, bow and park on command. My mother stayed focused on maintaining a quiet, reliable hack string for the tourists. Neither of them had any great desire to become equestrians. After watching movies like "Thunderhead" and "National Velvet" all I could think of was riding grand Lippizzan stallions or jumping like Elizabeth Taylor. Day after day I would take Buttercup behind the house and pretend to be one of the guys on Bonanza with our back yard serving as my Ponderosa.

When I turned seven my parents sent me to Flo and Howard Lininger's Hill Meadow stable for a riding lesson. They saw the light in my eyes when I was around the barn and knew I needed formal instruction in order to compete at shows. I thoroughly enjoyed taking lessons but my parents made it clear that I would have to earn the money for additional training. That led to my sisters and I taking some ponies to local fairs and carnivals to give rides. "Three for a quarter, six for 50 cents" was the sales pitch all weekend. During the week I would jump up on a fence when the tourists came in from a hack and start playing my little guitar. After singing "Mommy told me something a little girl should know......." I would pass my cowboy hat for tips. Slowly, I would save enough for another lesson at Flo's.

paintrear.jpgThe lessons at Hill Meadow continued for until I was about thirteen. Each year my parents allowed me to board a horse one month in the spring and one in the fall. This gave me the chance to take lessons on Buttercup and the school horses. Since Flo had an active lesson program, I was able to ride a variety of her horses as well as some of the other students mounts. Flo also let me participate in the starting of young horses and the breaking process. Hundreds of students passed through Hill Meadow Farm but one of my riding buddies was Sandra Vaughn who has enjoyed a wonderful career on the Quarter Horse circuit.

My show career began when I was nine. It was just the local jumper events at first but later progressed to nationally recognized shows. For the next five years I rode Buttercup in every show I could afford. Howard and Flo's quarter horses gave me the opportunity to show several horses on the AQHA circuit and qualify them for the Congress.

gigiten.jpgAbout the time I turned fourteen several changes took place that affected my riding life. Most importantly, my parents sold the trail riding business. Over the years they had run three resort stables and countless visitors to the Poconos had enjoyed the mountain scenery aboard a Fenical horse. Unfortunately, my father's health had deteriorated and it was no longer possible for him to work. This change meant that my parents had left the business but I had no intention of letting it keep me away from my beloved horses. The new owner of Fernwood stables was a lady named Dotty Spearmint (no kidding) and I simply asked if I could work for her. She agreed and I was content.

As I worked part time at the stable I also began taking lessons from a local trainer named Bobby Bectal. He worked for Howard Lininger and ran a hack string during the week. On the weekends he hit the jumper circuit and let me tag along. Bobby encouraged me to ride Gemini 7, which eventually led to larger shows like the Harrisburg National.

gigihj.jpgThis period marked another starting point in my life. I began teaching people to ride. I was only fourteen but the Sammet and Tweedy families asked me to give basic riding lessons to their young children. Flo Lininger also had me work as a "junior instructor" at Hill Meadow's riding camp one summer. This early instructional experience helped me realize that I liked teaching and felt great satisfaction at seeing youngsters learn to enjoy horses the way I did. I also worked at a local resort, a restaurant and in a men's clothing store. These part time jobs combined with the money I earned teaching was sufficient to cover my lesson and show expenses.

Even as a teenager I was working to pay for my horses. Some things never change.