To read this story from the beginning,
Dana had cancer. I was just entering high school, and didn't really have a good grasp of how scary and dangerous this was. She hadn't been my riding instructor for that long, but I did like her and didn't want a new teacher. She said she would be teaching for a few more weeks while her replacement got to know the students and the horses.
That's when I met Blair. She was in her early twenties, outgoing, funny, and excited about the job. It was easy for her to fall into the role of instructor at the barn, and she was well liked by the students. I was lucky that she was willing to let me continue to work off my lessons.
That year, Jean and I went to different high schools. We didn't spend as much time together anymore, and she didn't come to the barn as much. Pretty soon she stopped riding. Unfortunately, I haven't spoken to her in years and don't have any idea of how to get a hold of her. Makes me sad.
I still went to the barn a lot, and soon became friends with Blair even though she was older than I was. Looking back, I think she was just being nice to her "barn kid". She started expanding the riding program and soon they had to schedule more hours of lessons and buy more school horses to keep up with demand. Blair brought in some horses that she had in training, and she would let me ride one of her horses from her house down the street to the barn for exercise.
This is where my horse education really took off. Blair started showing me things about training young horses using her young mare, Missy. She would have me lead Missy to the barn while riding her other horse (who's name I can't remember) and then she'd train Missy and I'd watch and learn. She taught me about longing, long-lining, how to get horses used to saddle and bridle, and finally how to get on and ride. She would let me do some of the work while she watched, giving instruction from the side. She let me get on Missy when she felt that Missy was broke enough that I wouldn't get hurt. It was thrilling to ride a horse that was fresh and young.
But Blair wasn't perfect. She was living with an older guy (I say that now, but I think he was only 35 or so...he seemed so much older then she was) who was bad news. I never knew for sure, but I think he was pretty abusive and was involved in drugs and drinking. What I do know is that when he would come to the barn he would always make me feel uncomfortable the way he looked at me. One day Blair asked him to take me down to the deli to grab lunch for everyone. On the way there he was talking to me and put his hand on my leg. I casually moved my leg away from him, but inside I was scared stiff. I was never alone with him again. He was a creep.
This guy had Blair hanging around with a pretty wild crowd. She would stay up late partying, and then have to be to work the next day. Somehow she was able to do her job, and do it well. Eventually she came to her senses and kicked the creep out. It was easier to kick him out than it was to stop seeing her friends. But she knew that they were bad news, and that the only way to clean up her lifestyle was not to hang out with these people again. She talked about how hard it was to blow them off, but she felt so much better for it.
She was making good money from the lesson program and her few training horses, and she decided to buy a horse. She trained arabians, and I'm not sure how she found this horse, but one day she pulled into the barn with her trailer declaring "I just bought the most beautiful horse!"
I was excited to see what was going to come off of the trailer. What I didn't expect was the way the horse came off the trailer. As soon as she was unhooked and the bar lowered behind her, the horse ran at full speed backwards, not really caring what she ran into or who she ran over.
Blair said "Isn't she pretty?", as we all watched the horse snort and blow nervously. The rest of us were like, yeah, she's, umm, great! To be fair, she was absolutely stunning. Her name was Porteeya and she was a young 3/4 arabian, 1/4 morgan mare. We soon found out that she was an absolute bitch. She'd pin her ears and threaten to kick you given half a chance. Blair would have long training battles with Teeya, and we were all wondering if she'd ever make the wonderful show horse that Blair dreamed of.
Years went by (I can't remember how many exactly), and Blair's training business was starting to expand. She wanted to have more stalls for training horses at the barn. I don't know if she and the barn owner couldn't come to an agreement or what, but eventually she found another barn where she could have the majority of the stalls and run her training business. There would be no school horses - just training horses. The only lessons that she'd give would be to people on horses that they owned or leased. I wanted to go with Blair to the new barn, but I was worried. I didn't have a horse, and knew I wasn't going to be getting one. How would I be able to take lessons without school horses? I feared this was the end of my riding.
Side note: Dana won her battle with cancer - at least she was healthy the last time I saw her. It's been almost 20 years since we've spoken. I hope she's still okay.
To be continued...