buttercup_1.jpg Always on the watch for a good deal on a horse, my parents answered an advertisement in the local paper: “GRADE PALIMINO GELDING. $ 75.00 and he’s yours.” When we went for a look, what we found standing in pasture would be more accurately described as a skeleton with a palomino coat. Adequate feed was obviously missing and we discovered that the sad gelding also lacked any shelter due to a recent barn fire. A low price and a seven year-old's persuasion resulted in Buttercup coming home with us. Even at such a young age I could see that there was wonderful spirit within those sunken eyes.

Before my folks could put him to work in the hack string, Buttercup had to be fattened up. That gave me a chance to get to know the kind of heart that beat beneath the skin and bones. The healthier he got, the more opinionated he became. When my parents introduced Buttercup to the hack string they quickly discovered that he ran off with most of the trail guides. It turned out that he didn’t do any better in the middle or rear. Truth be told, Buttercup was a menace. To spare the other horses and guides any further grief, the decision was made to let me have another hand-me-down. Buttercup became my horse when I was seven. Little did I realize that with the exception of my sisters, he would become the longest relationship of my life.

Little did I realize that with the exception of my sisters, he would become the longest relationship of my life.

buttercup_2.jpgThe short rides around our stable soon turned into long, bareback hacks down country roads. Early in our getting to know each other phase, Buttercup illustrated the difference between riding and controlling a horse. We were three miles from home when he decided that it was time to return to the stable…whether I wanted to or not. The now-healthy horse broke into a full gallop downhill towards the barn. Somehow amidst my terror, I tried to think of a way to stop him. Bareback offers little control for a seven year-old rider and the dash was so fast that I had no real opportunity to turn him. The two of us came to a grinding halt in front of the barn. Fear gave way to excitement as I realized that I had managed to stay on despite the surprising bolt. The next day I looked my friend in the eye and decided that I would ride him but with more tools at my disposal.

A Kimberwick seemed like it might offer more control than the snaffle used the day before. About the same distance from home, Buttercup attempted another run for the barn. With the harder bit I was able to slow him to the point that he simply cantered on the spot. We returned to the stable at that pace. Oh, to know then what I know now! As I look back, this was the first time I used whatever understanding of horses, equipment and skill I had to solve a problem. That process has since become an integral part of my profession. buttercup_3.jpg

Buttercup and I went on to compete in Junior Jumper classes when I was ten. Due to his sensitivity he showed under the name Touch ‘n Go. We rode against much older riders in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Neither of us had any formal instruction so the ribbons didn’t come quickly….. but they did eventually come. A little girl from the Poconos and her grade horse began to earn a reputation as tough competitive team with a lack of form (and good sense) but an abundance of courage.

buttercupsanta_3x2_120dpi.jpgMaturing into an adult, wherever I went, Buttercup followed. As I began teaching at Hob Nob Hill, he became a school horse. When I opened my own facility, he was my “reindeer” as I rode around the arena dressed as Santa Claus for Christmas parties. Once retired, he became the designated babysitter for the foals I bred. As I opened a new training center in Bangor Pennsylvania, I decided to name it after my life-long friend. In 1993 Buttercup was laid to rest at the original Touch ‘n Go Farm at the amazing age of 43.

I miss him to this day.