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The Horses of Summer

September 6, 2011

Several people, well three actually, have asked me why I haven’t posted much this summer. Well, first of all foolish us, once again we were in Washington, DC the hottest and most humid place in the country... Heat index of 122 degrees the other day. It is no wonder congress acts as it does. It is madness to be here and yet here we are again in July and August. We had planned to be north of Duluth, MN this summer. As I mentioned earlier, babies were being born, 85th birthdays were to be celebrated and  our son Michael was visiting the whole family in North Carolina at the end of the summer. With this large gap between big family events, we entered the world of rated horse shows.

Yes, this as been the summer of the horse. I have been in full grandmother stablehand mode. It has been all Calli and Buster (Woodland’s Buster Brown, a very large Welsh Pony) all summer. 

There was a short trip to New York City to see a Broadway Show at the Lincoln Center. What else? The War Horse.  And yes it was absolutely beautiful, moving and worth every penny for aisle seats near the stage. It may be my favorite production ever. (Calli rated it over The Lion King, but not Hair)

It was a short and restful visit, including time in the Poconos and a trip to Hershey Park. Too soon it was back to the stables, barns, and show rings.

Left: The proper styling of human hair for competitive showing.
Right: The proper styling of the horse's mane for competitive showing.

It would appear that something even more primal than romance or mythology is going on between this little girl and the horse.

So, it has been wall to wall real horse all summer. Horse shows with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, braiding and unbraiding manes, oiling saddles and tack, camping behind out-of-town stables with all the attendant smells, shoveling horse manure, and my least favorite activity... spending hours at Dover Saddlery while my beloved granddaughter poured over various coat conditioners, blankets and hoof picks along with saddles and other tack items. If you have never really been around horses it is hard to imagine the minutia of horse care and the products and gear that go into the preparation and showing of a horse. Don’t even get me started on horse shows and the amount of proper clothing plus human and horse hair styles that must be achieved in order to compete. (I may have suffered a bit, it was always over 90 degrees, but in truth I loved every minute of it.)

I do remain quite mystified by the whole little girl/horse thing. There is much controversy about what attracts girls to horses. Perhaps it is something about power and strength and the ability to control such a huge animal. It has also been suggested that girls are attracted by the mythological and romantic aspects of the horse. I can see that grooming and “dressing up” horses is a very important part of the relationship that is established between a girl and her horse.

My Little Pony

My Little Pony with her mane styled and her grooming kit nearby. Photograph and styling by Amy Swann

For some, My Little Pony may also come in for its share of responsibility...

I spoke with two of Calli’s professional horse friends about what attracted them to horses.

Her trainer, Julianna, said she had no choice... She was born and grew up at a stable. Her mother nursed her in the stalls while monitoring and assisting in the birth of foals.

Shailla, who manages the Potomac Horse Center, where Calli rides, said while living in Germany when she was 7 or 8 she was visiting a stable where she met Rex the biggest ugliest horse she had ever seen. That was it! She threw open her arms, embraced the huge equine and her life was changed forever.

Perhaps it is the basic man woman thing... boys want control and their feet on the ground (or perhaps there are concerns about straddling a horse and bouncing on certain sections of their anatomy) and girls want a relationship with the horse.

When I wasn’t fulfilling my groom and stablehand duties, I had a little time to sketch horse body parts. Never a whole horse.  These gesture drawings were done with graphite and sweat.

Really like your site! It's fun getting the long-suffering, sort of non-horse-person's point of view. Keep it up. And, thanks, for giving me credit for managing PHC! I just do my little corner of it and love it - clients, horses, everything. Renee, Rick, Mary and our wonderful instructors do the heavy lifting. Hope your time in the northern parts is a relief from sweltering here in D.C. See you again soon, Peg.


Never quite got the horse thing myself. Motorcycles are faster and you don't have to feed or clean up after them if you don't ride :>) You can certainly show them, race them, and go on long rides in the country and I suspect they are a lot cheaper to buy and own.

I'll be spending a few days in the PA mountains on one later this month. :>)


Sis: Just wanted you to know that I thought your drawing of the horses was quite good.


Love the pics of Calli - did not know until now she was hooked into horses - and your sketches, Peg!  We saw Warhorse in London last year and also thought it was a beautiful, magical production.  We saw a trailer for a Warhorse film coming next year - won't be anything like the stage version, of course.

Sorry you landed in the hotest spot for a time this summer - we came south and missed an earthquake and Irene.  Go figure?


Thank you so much for keeping me in mind and reminding me via email to look at your blog. I truly enjoy it.

I have a very bad cold here in Estonia, but hope to be better by Saturday when I fly home.  I have become truly fond of my relatives here, and cannot imagine life without them.  They loved Calli and made it a point to find out all about her life with Buster.

When I get home I will resume my ESL tutoring/teaching, part time, of course. I hope to see Calli more often this fall/winter.


Love the sketches, adventuring and wonder.  Go Calli!


Love your sketches, Peggy!

Amy S

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