I was born and grew up on the south side of Jacksonville, Florida in the beautiful Mandarin area. I attended Loretto Elementary, DuPont Junior High, and Wolfson Senior High. I was a swimming nerd since my mom taught swimming lessons in our large natural pool built by my father, who also built our house (more on the house). I was our high school’s swim team’s backstroke swimmer; I also swam relays, medleys, fly, breast, and crawl – these terms date me).
When I was a baby, my mom had a horse, Glassy, who was so gentle that she would allow me to crawl around under her legs. I also had a baby goat friend! And always, we had three dogs that were able to run free since we lived way out in the country/woods (except for college and 6 months in a duplex, I’ve always lived in the country).
I Grew Up Loving Horses
I read every book there was at the library on horses and had hundreds of plastic or rubber horses, ranging from palm size to maybe 16 inch tall model horses like they had in the 1950s.
When in elementary school, I would walk over 3 miles every Tuesday after school to ride at a rental barn; I also rode some of my friends’ horses. Finally, when I was 12, I got a horse of my own, a 14.3 1/2 hand buckskin, part quarter horse, to learn to care for and retrain from being wild and always wanting to run and jig to a horse that would walk and canter just from a lift on the reins. I did this from reading books and articles about horses.
My first saddle was a hard McClellan Army saddle (blech!) that I hated, so I rode bareback most of the time until I finally got Western saddle, then an English saddle in my later teens so I could jump things.
My First Horse, Scottie
I would do everything on my horse ‘Scottie’ (short for Great Scott – I renamed him from Apache), riding for miles all around my family’s 30 acres in the woods of Jacksonville/Mandarin/Greenland/Bayard are. I would go swimming bareback in the clear water of the barrow pits that were dug to build I-95 next to our land.
I would jump over 2 long pieces of skinny baseboard moulding spread out over the long side of 2 sawhorses that I set up as a jump. I would gallop over a 24+ natural jump course I made of piled up tree limbs and logs, spanning a couple of miles, weaving in and out of trees, ducking under low-hanging branches, sliding down a steep embankment — generally being a adventurous, horse-loving teenager.
You Don’t Do This Now-a-days
I would run barrels and do pole bending and compete at a saddle club where I would ride to on Friday nights with a group of others. The saddle club was about 8 to 10 miles from my house. I would meet up with the other riders about 3 miles from my house and we would all ride together. Then, I would ride back home in the dark by myself – something you would never let a young girl do in today’s world!