Photo: Zoe Nathan

SANDY NATHAN: STILL RIDIN'
MY LIFE WITH HORSES

(Being a partial history of horsemanship in the SF Bay Area, with pictures.)

January 15, 2005

Dear Readers,

I just realized that very few photos on this site show me riding, nor has my life with horses been recorded here-- or anywhere. Well-- that's pretty silly! I've been riding for 45 years and intend to keep at it until I drop. I haven't been showing horses in recent years, but my love of and involvement with the the creatures hasn't diminished one bit. I've been riding as much as I can-- mostly in my own back yard.

Two summers ago I had breast cancer. That kept me out of the show ring that season. Last year, Barry's mom died in May, followed by my mom in July: I didn't feel much like competitive riding. This year, I've been working on editing my first novel, and my leg is falling off. Actually, it's my knee, which has been begging to be replaced for years and has been hollering enough this summer to finally get my attention. I'm getting it replaced come Fall. I have to... I can't walk to the barn any more. Who said, "After fifty, it's patch, patch, patch." I can't remember. Memory's shot.

I've been having a blast pleasure riding these past few years! I'm having such a good time that I'd be quite content if I never showed again. I never thought I would say that. Perhaps I'll give showing a try again next summer, when my knee works again.

Meanwhile, it's me and Eddie around the barn:


SANDY NATHAN AND REY DE CORAZONES DOING A FIGURE 8 AT HOME
I've been riding "Eddie", my 7 year old Reserve Champion Performance Gelding, at home these days. Having a blast.

Like everything on this web site, this article grew. My daughter, Zoe, took a few shots of me riding a couple of days ago. I thought I'd post them to laud the joys of pleasure horses and tell a little bit about myself as a horsewoman. But then I dug out the old family albums and found some shots that form an equine history of the San Francisco Bay Area. Equine treasure! So the article evolved to "My history with horses". Most of these shots have never been seen outside our family. They record events from the early '60's-- great shots like:

 


"TOOTS" LOPEZ LEADING THE SAN MATEO COUNTY JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE
IN THE 1960 FOURTH OF JULY PARADE, REDWOOD CITY, CA
What times these were! In those days, we had a real Junior Sheriff's posse, associated with the Sheriff's Department. We even had real looking badges. Times have changed: no one can claim attachment to the Department except the Sheriff's Deputies.

Some old timers from the SF Peninsula might like to see these shots-- if any of us codgers are still left. I'd love to hear from you if any of you recognize yourselves: e-mail me!

As I prepared this article, I realized that my internal critic was one reason that I haven't put many pictures of myself on our site, riding a horse or otherwise: I don't like my posture, appearance, weight, equitation, and so on. This internal critic has gotten worse in recent years, as my aging body gives it ammunition. I felt something like, "Well, sugar, you don't look like Bo Derek on a horse any more."

"And you never did," I discovered, digging through my albums. "It's not going to get any better. Only Bo Derek looks like Bo Derek, so why not 'show and tell'."

And then I found these great pictures, which demanded OUT!


THE SAN MATEO COUNTY JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE & DRILL TEAM
FOURTH OF JULY PARADE, REDWOOD CITY, CA 1960
I'm on the fifth horse (counting heads) from the right. He looks gray-- he was a buckskin pinto: Jerry. My second horse.
Might be Kerry Maxwell, sixth from the left on Socks.

There's a story to all this-- my life with horses. I've loved horses since before I can remember. Every Sunday morning, my dad used to take me to ride the ponies in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This was right after he got home from W.W.II. Sunday was my mom's day to sleep in-- only the Park's ponies would appease me. I don't remember any of this. However, I do remember loving horses as early as my memories start. After much begging, crying and carrying on, as well as a move down the Peninsula, I was allowed to take riding lessons.

Riding my bike from my family's home to be a "barn rat" at the Menlo Circus Club every Saturday, I started riding when I was ten. My first teacher was a Col. Seisen (spelling phonetically from ancient memory): a former colonel in the Prussian army. We sat up straight!

From English lessons, I graduated to a horse of my own. The happiest day of my life. I kept my horse on some property my family owned in Woodside. We hit the trails. From there, it was a drill team and parades. "Toots" Lopez lead the San Mateo County Junior Sheriff's Posse and Drill team, shown above.


MY FIRST HORSE:
SPICE & I IN 1959 OR SO-- THAT'S REDWOOD CITY BELOW US!
The amazing thing about this photo is that that's FARM Hill, a development my father began in the late 50's and almost completed by his death in '64. Challenge Development finished it off. We're on the site of Canada College before it was built! I think the foundation you see is the Novitiate. Also-- I remember Spice as being chunky and small. He's rangy and not small. This horse could buck! Bucked in circles so it was hard to ride him. Also he had a good stop-- Triff Trifeletti used to rope off of him. Triff could ride!


MY SECOND HORSE:
JERRY HAD A HABIT OF RUNNING AWAY WHEN HE GOT SCARED.
He ran away with my dad on him once and got himself sold. He also stepped on Clint Eastwood at a parade in San Francisco. Clint was in his "Rawhide" days. I had a zit on the end of my nose. I'll never forget it. I'm showing the picture not because we're so beautiful, but THAT'S REDWOOD CITY DOWN THERE! I'm standing where Canada College is again, or maybe up in Farm Hill somewhere. Do you believe it?!

My early days as a horse person included Toots Lopez and so many more great people. Here are some of the kids in the Junior Sheriff's Posse in front of our Bus:


JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE MEMBERS
With a little help from my friends (Thanks Rick, Cynthia, Linda, and Kerry!), I came up with some of the names of this happy crew:
Front row: Larry Matson, unknown posse member, Rick DeBenedetti, another unknown, the Oddstad family dog, Shep, & Cynthia DeBenedetti. Second row: Linda DeBenedetti, Melinda James, Sandy Oddstad Nathan, & Kathy Matson.
Back row: Two unknown posse members and Sheila Trifeletti.
Sheila was one of my best friends and riding buddy as a kid. Sheila passed on a few years back-- I miss her.

.

My dad got into the act when I joined the Posse: he was always one for doing things more efficiently. When he saw the gang of us go off to a parade in 15 two horse trailers, he thought, "That's silly! Why not just one load!" He got a hold of an old bus somewhere. Triff Trifeletti took it to the shop and turned it into a very handy transportation for about 10 horses. Oh, my dad was Andy Oddstad, a SF Bay Area builder from the 40's to 60's. (The link will take you to a story about him.) We created quite a stir arriving at a parade or fair grounds to "do our thing" in the bus. Triff's guys at the machine shop did an incredible job fixing it up.

Riding in that drill team was a blast. After doing our drill routine, we'd come out of the fair ground arenas at a dead run-- what joy! What courage! What stupidity! All the first horse in line had to do was stumble and we'd pile up. We wore matching green suede shotgun chaps, beige hats and pants, and carried flags. I don't have a horse today I'd trust in a parade like I did my two plain, grade horses, Spice and Jerry. We practiced at the Mounted Patrol Grounds in Woodside every Saturday. I remember being out of place in one drill and broadsiding someone's horse at one practice-- no one got hurt, but I haven't forgotten it in forty years. (If you're interested in the role of the Mounted Patrol Grounds in Woodside equine history, the link will take you to stories about it. You can come back and read the rest of at your leisure- a link is provided for that, too.)

Somehow, things always worked when we performed. I remember Toot Lopez's kindness and patience with us-- and all his work. Great days, great people.


"TRIFF" TRIFELETTI & HIS DAUGHTER SHEILA IN THE POSSE'S BUS
Two dear friends who have passed on in a sweet family picture.
Triff, Gordon Hanson, John O'Malley & my aunt Elma Mendola bought Oddstad Homes after my father's death.
Triff & Gordon were later given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the National Homebuilders' Association.

We kept our horses on a ranch we owned on Canada Road-- which we eventually sold to become Canada Junior College. The ranch had an old Victorian barn on it, long gone, and a pretty old Victorian house. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent at that ranch, and riding over every inch of Woodside I could reach. You could ride pretty near anywhere back then-- few of the big estates had fences. The beauty of those rides shaped my soul; I think heaven on earth is found in the redwoods of the coastal range.

Here's some Woodside history:


MY FAMILY AT OUR RANCH
Sandy, Clara, Andy, & David Oddstad on Robin Rose, Cheyenne, Water Dog, and Billy Howe.
Remember the bubble head? How could you put a Western hat on with a hairdo like that? More like sculpture than hair. Not visible in picture: my horse, Robin, wanted to buck me off in the worst way. Can you see how stiff she's standing? If horses could swear, you'd see a blue cloud over her head. One wrong move and she'd have dumped me.
This must have been shortly before my dad's death: early 60's. I didn't get Robin until I was 17.


MY BROTHER, DAVID, AND I DRIVING IN THE EARLY '60'S
I was maybe 13, David was 4 or 5.

I got the horse show bug when I was 15. After struggling along by myself for a year, I began to take lessons from Mickey Burks, founder with her husband Glenn of the original Willow Tree Farm in Woodside and a super show coach. Mickey and Glenn were a terrific training team and led many riders to horse show honors. They were like surrogate parents to me, coaching me and a succession of horses to "lotsa" ribbons and trophies in various types Western riding. Mickey and Glenn relocated to Hawaii. I understand Glenn has passed on. My fond memories linger with him and Mickey.

The hub of horse related activity on the Peninsula was the Mounted Patrol Grounds. They were familiar from my days with the Junior Sheriff's Posse, but once I began showing, the Mounted Patrol Grounds was The Place. I don't know how many shows I attended there: my memories are a pastiche of sights and sounds going way back. I'll tell a few stories about the place that may make you smile.

My most vivid memory of the Mounted Patrol Grounds occurred perhaps ten years ago: my friend, Dianne Fruehling Cummings arranged a benefit horse exhibition/dinner/dance for the San Mateo Battered Women's Shelter. Dianne is a great friend of that organization and figured out a way to combine her love of Peruvian Paso horses and having a good time to benefit the Shelter. The Woodside Mounted Patrol graciously allowed her group to use their facilities. Dianne enlisted a group of fellow Peruvian Paso maniacs to do the exhibition. What a hoot! What fun! The event was entitled "The Rootin' Tootin."-- and it was. The exhibition occurred in the late, late afternoon, followed by a barbecue and dance. It was the first time many people had seen a Peruvian Paso horse-- the crowd came from all over the Peninsula. My husband & I were in the exhibition on our a couple of our horses.

I rode my beloved Halagueno DC. "Ollie" is one of the best trained horses I've ever ridden, trained in classic enfrenadura reining. This reining originated in the bull ring. Early Peruvian bull fights were not the elaborate spectacles you see now. They consisted of a guy with a lance on a horse in a ring with the bull. That's it. No padding. No band of extras: just a guy, horse and bull. The horses had to be very brave, and learn how to get out of the way of a charging bull fast. They did this by spinning off the front end, rather like a reiner spins off its hindquarters. Enfrenadura horses can do this spinning very fast, and can change the direction of their front end spin very fast. My Ollie is enfrenadura trained-- remember this.

Ollie also got nervous in strange surroundings. He'd never been to the Mounted Patrol Grounds before; we lived on the other side of Woodside, for heavens sake. There might have been balloons and such up: decorations. And people in evening clothes. Besides, it was his dinner time. I don't remember what all we did for the exhibition: the kids might have put on a drill team display, just as I had in my youth. I do remember the Champagne Class.

Peruvian Paso horses are known for the smoothness of their gait-- they're known as "the smoothest riding horses in the world". One crowd pleasing way of demonstrating it is the Champagne Class. Riders carrying full glasses of champagne perform whatever maneuvers the judge calls for. The horse with the most champagne left at the end wins. Neither Ollie nor I had been in a champagne class. Not too many exhibitors were there, so Dianne drafted all of us for the class. I didn't give it a thought, Ollie was gentle. Very well trained. No problem.

When they handed out the plastic champagne glasses, Ollie did not like me leaning over and waving my hand (and empty champagne glass) around beside his neck. I was supposed to keep my right hand quiet. He knew all about equitation. (I also was wearing a traditional Peruvian poncho-- it's flapping about might have added to his dismay.)

I didn't know Ollie was a teetotaler, either. The subject never came up-- until Mounted Patrol member Perry French came around pouring the champagne. Ollie's eyes widened. As did his nostrils when he smelled the alcohol. He snorted at about a million decibels and attempted to remove himself from the vicinity of the glass. Perry did a good job, a brave job, in filling that glass. And when he was finished, Ollie sidepassed leftward at about 50 miles per hour for about half the length of the arena. I did not drop the glass. So he was forced to give an enfrenadura exhibition.

When you ride in a champagne class, you hold the reins with your left hand; the right handles the glass. You can't shorten your reins, you can't do much but neck rein. I did not know this before that ride. Boy! Could Ollie neck rein. The crowd got an enfrenadura exhibit and champagne class all in one! Until I dropped my glass and headed out of Dodge, or the arena, as the case was. I guess my ride impressed people, because I asked someone at the party later, "How did you like the Peruvian Pasos?" The fellow shook his head, "Well, they're pretty, but boy are they hot. That one was all over the place." I realized he was talking about me! Yes, but I never felt in danger: Ollie would never rear or buck or anything. He just wanted me to drop the glass.

The rest of that night was a medley of oak trees and soft lights, wonderful food, great people, and dancing! When you've got a bad knee, you remember dancing. There was an auction, if I recall, and someone donated a Peruvian Paso weanling as a raffle prize. They even brought him into the building-- where he behaved very well. Nice horse. (I always remember a horse.)

We raised a bunch of money for women whose lives had been pretty rough and were working to make them better. I'm very grateful to the Mounted Patrol for allowing us to use their facility. I'm sure the women from the Battered Women's Shelter were even more grateful.

My earlier memories of the Mounted Patrol Grounds are around horse shows. Lots of horse shows. Many, many horse shows, on a succession of better and better horses. I'm going to talk about those early show days a bit, and about some wonderful horse people I knew. If you're interested specifically in horse events at the Mounted Patrol Grounds, the link will take you there.)


SMOKY JOE: MY FIRST SHOW HORSE
I think this was my first ribbon, won after a year of campaigning without a trainer.
My dad went with me to all the shows with me, the faithful horse show dad. I never won. One day I asked, "Can you see what I'm doing wrong?" Thinking hard, my dad said, "I think you're leaning to far forward." I sat straight in the next class and won immediately. Trainers really help! You can't see yourself riding-- can't see your mistakes. Mickey Burks, my eventually trainer, said I didn't wreck myself too badly teaching myself from books: she fixed me pretty fast. Horseback riding is one discipline where you need instruction from a live body who knows how to do it. I think this show was over in the Oakland hills somewhere.


Nostalgia time! Anybody remember Stan Cosca and his family over in the Oakland hills? Trainer Jimmy Black? Earl Naninga & his great saddles? Was Stan's ranch the "Skyline Ranch"? This is memory lane: Stan was a great friend of my dad's, a friendship forged at Oakland City Council meetings when my father was building in Oakland. Stan built Skyline Ranch right across from public open space. This was one of the first ranches built "of a piece"-- the Coscas put in a house for themselves and trainer/artist Jim Black & his family. They also built complete stable facilities: barns, indoor round pen, roping/rodeo arena, a coffee shop and a saddlery for Earl Naninga. Before that, barns tended to be piecemeal operations put up a row of stalls at a time. My dad had one of the great saddles Earl Naninga made: a masterpiece. What wonderful days!

Stan and Jimmy Black found my first show horse: I called him Smoky Joe, I think his previous owners called him Tommy Tucker. Smoky was a Nevada mustang we bought from the Rose family of Hollister. Smoky/Tommy was supposed to be for one of the Rose brother's son. We got him when the father broke both his legs in an accident-- rough for a cattleman and horse trainer. He had to sell Smoky to pay the bills. My parents bought him for me-- this was one of the best horses I've ever owned. Never lame. Perfect disposition. Great in the show arena and on the trails. We won all over Northern California after Jim Black schooled him for a couple of months. I rode him in equitation and junior stock classes. He was a dandy! We traded him in on Robin Rose, shown down below.

Long after Smoky left my life, my trainer, Mickey Burks, was judging a show somewhere and saw a kid riding him in his equine old age. She told me, "I had him at second until he got to his wet work. [Working a steer, doing proscribed maneuvers with a live bovine.] He just couldn't keep up." Smoky got too old to successfully compete-- but he gave it his all. That's was a fine animal: a plain Nevada mustang.

I'd sure love to hear from any of you who know about the Rose's and Smoky Joe/Tommy Tucker. I loved this animal.


WATER DOG & I AT A SHOW IN THE EARLY '60'S
This is a pretty typey Quarter Horse for the time. Notice what we did to the mane and tail back then:
roached (clipped) mane, tail pulled up above the hocks. Take a look at Smoky Joe in the picture above: forelock pulled to nothing. Sometimes we braided the forelock for a "really slick look". It did show off the horse's face: you couldn't hide an ugly head with a long forelock.


Guess I kind of missed the 60's: I'm listening to a Bob Dylan album as I write. While Bob and Joan Baez and the Beattles were living the summer of love in San Francisco, I was riding my horse down the Peninsula. The horse above is "Water Dog"-- the horse's registered name, not one we gave him. I showed Water Dog in Western pleasure and trail classes. This horse was the best trail horse I could imagine-- in the sense of being able to negotiate obstacles that people thought up in an arena. A caveat: the best trail horse at home. He got nervous in competition and blew stuff he could do blindfolded at home. Water Dog learned a great trick: pre-show tummy ache. The minute I got the clippers and shampoo out, he knew where he was going. He'd start looking at his tummy, stamping his hind feet: instant nerve induced colic. He hated shows. After a while we stopped showing him: if a horse hates it that much, he shouldn't have to go.

HOWEVER! Water Dog did fine at shows, nerves and all. The only trail obstacle I ever saw this horse refuse was a gate with a bear hide hung over it. You were supposed to sidle up to the gate on your horse, open it in the proscribed way, and close it on the other side. Water Dog refused to go near the bear hide. I had to agree: if I met a bear sitting on a gate out on the trail, I'd want my horse to have enough sense not to walk up to it. But apparently the designers of show trail classes thought otherwise. I remember one of my friends chortling about a trail course he set up that no horse successfully navigated: it involved elephant manure. Fresh elephant manure. Now, wouldn't you want your horse to take a good look at an elephant out on the trail?

Such brains are not required in the show arena. They're an impediment, in fact.

Water Dog was my dad's horse. He was over having lunch with Stan Cosca one day and Jimmy Black was working this horse in the arena. His previous owner had died and the horse was up for sale. I guess my dad had never taken a close look at a registered Quarter Horse, but he flipped, saying, "He had muscles like wrestler and red hair like my wife: I had to buy him." And he did. Andy Oddstad was a wrestler in fact and by disposition, however, "I don't understand anything I can't pin on a mat." He never really got horseback riding: it's domination without domination. Tricky for a wrestler and football player. (He might have made a fair bull dogger.)

One of the scariest things in my young life: My dad didn't ride that much-- he worked too hard. And Water Dog was a big, strong boy with lots of energy. My dad used to ride him up the hill once in a while. Soon, I'd hear brush popping and see my dad whizzing by, Ol' Water Dog running to beat the band, my dad holding on to the horn, looking as scared as I ever saw him. I started riding the horse after school. Didn't want my daddy hurt. Riding wasn't his thing. Turned out he got hurt after all, but not by a horse.


1965 CALIFORNIA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER HORSE SHOW?
Billy Howe & I in a Western Pleasure Class

Here's another nice Quarter Horse our family owned in the the '60's. This was at the California State Champion Quarter Horse Show for at Santa Rosa, or some such title as I recall. Definitely in Santa Rosa. It was one of the last shows I went to with Mickey and Glen Burks after my dad died. This is a western pleasure class. Things to note: this is the official western pleasure head set back in the last century. Billy Howe packs his head were a normal horse would, not down on the ground like today's pleasure horses. They're supposed to keep the poll (top of the skull) above the withers now, right? New rules are an improvement-- after not having horses for many years, I was shocked to see horses in magazines with their heads seemingly between their knees! I scream about humans imposing fashion on show horses-- the modern Dustbuster headset is one I can't understand. Billy's also pre- the Arnold Schwartzenegger look: huge bulging muscles weren't the thing in the QH breed at this time. This horse was plenty strong enough: he got me where I wanted to go, and he packed enough punch to buck me off whenever he wanted. Those of you who show in Santa Rosa now: those were the stands back in the old days. Also note: I'm leaning forward. Still do, and still hold my hand that funny way. My leg's stuck too far forward. All this drove Mickey Burks crazy. The hand thing also messed up some tendons in my hand-- good equitation will save your body as well as win you ribbons. Sit how your trainer sez!


SANDY NATHAN & ROBIN ROSE AT TALLY HO IN 1965
This photo from the Menlo Circus Club's Tally Ho demonstrates a number of things:
First, I've been showing horses a long time. This horse is Robin Rose, a Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross, and a killer stock horse. A horse didn't have to be pure bred to do well back then. Second, the photo shows that today's western horsemanship is much better than yesterday's. You'd see jerky stops like this back then, the horses' mouths open and heads thrown up. Training and horsemanship have improved incredibly. Modern Western riding is as elegant as dressage Third, Robin had incredible hocks-- look at how clean they are and how she uses them.

My first show horse, Smoky, was a bit limited when it came to the top levels of competition. The year before my dad died, my parents bought me a fireball named Robin Rose. Like everything, there's a story about how we got Robin Rose: we were at a show in Gilroy, I think. I was riding my dad's Quarter Horse, Water Dog, and Smoky in different classes. Smoky and I were having a day that comes along every so often-- oh, say, once a life time. We won every class we entered. My dad stood on the rail, holding Water Dog and watching. These two guys kept looking at him, and me. My dad was starting to get bugged by them. Finally, one came over and introduced himself-- he was one of the Rose brothers from Hollister, which was just down the road. Memory fails me here, so I don't have his name. We had bought Smoky Joe from him, acting through Jim Black! We'd never met Smoky's previous owner. My dad was secretly looking for a really top horse for me, and asked the Roses if they had one. "Why, yes, we do," was the reply. We drove out to their ranch after the show and took a look. That's how I got Robin Rose. I'd never ridden a horse that fine-- That mare could spin so fast, the world blurred and you had to sit perfectly or spin off. Nothing at the show we'd just been to could touch her.

She could buck, too! I found that out. She was always a little hot for me: scared me a little. But Spencer Chapin of Woodside did well on her. He showed her to Reserve Champion Junior Stock Horse for the State of California back in the '60s. What a mare!

Another story from the good old days: I was showing at the Junior Grand National at the Cow Palace with all of the Willow Tree farm kids. Must have been '64, my last year as a Junior. The Junior Grand National is is a huge show, very old, and a very big deal. The Cow Palace, with its weird lighting and muffled sounds, echoes, flapping pigeons, etc., was hell for a horse. As unnatural a place for a horse to be as in a skyscraper. Nevertheless, no one would miss it if you had any chance of placing. I was peacefully watching the show in the gigantic stadium when Mickey's daughter ran up to me,

"Sandy! You've got to come! Robin's gone bonkers! She's out of her mind! You have to handle her!" Robin was totally nuts: my high strung, half thoroughbred mare was wild eyed and crazy in her stall, pacing and stomping. Mickey ordered me to deal with her. How? My mom and dad were there. We stood by, perplexed and horrified. Robin finally found something that calmed her down: chewing on my mom's straw purse. She stood in her stall, shredding the thing, gradually coming back to earth. Mickey came by to check on us. What was my trainer's advice?

"If eating that purse calms her down, LET HER!" said Mickey. When it was safe, I saddled Robin, rode her down by the hog barn and put her in a lope until she calmed down. I cooled her out and brought her back up to the main horse barn, hosing her off before putting her in her stall. Robin's energy was up, roaring, by the time we got to our class. That horse taught me about brio-- Peruvian horses are hot like that. Robin's Thoroughbred brio was a bit spicy: she was likely to buck or bite my arm off in that state.


DAVID ODDSTAD & TUCK:
Tuck was a trick and roping horse owned by the Cosca Family back in the 60's.
You could do anything on this horse: Roman ride, rope tricks, rodeo. Stan's daughter used to ride him in exhibitions. .
Wasn't my brother cute? He's about 8 here.

Shows at the Woodside Mounted Patrol grounds figured throughout all of this. If you have been to a few horse shows, it will come as no surprise that many horse show parents get really sick of driving their kids all over the $@%#$!! place taking them to shows. My dad was the quintessential horse show dad. When I think about what he did for me now that I'm an adult, I really am amazed and very grateful. The man worked. I actually have few memories of my dad until I was about 9 years old and we moved to Atherton-- he wasn't home. He worked that much. Oddstad Homes was the largest residential construction company in Northern California by a long shot during the late 50's and early 60's; the 7th largest in the country at one time. (My Aunt Elma kept all the statistics!) After working those inhuman weeks, he'd get up at 4 AM Saturday to trailer me and my horse to some show in some godforsaken hamlet hours from home.

I remember one such show. I was very happy and warm: I was riding my horse. My dad was standing around freezing. (This was before any of those super insulating fabrics or boots.) How freezing? He spent most of his tour of duty in W.W.II in the South Pacific as a member of the first Underwater Demolition Team. For some reason, the Navy sent him to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska after that. "I have never been so cold in my life," he said of that show, "including when I was in the Aleutians." He bought a down parka the next week. (At that point in time, even down was innovative.) This was a true horse show dad!

Andy Oddstad really appreciated the proximity of Mounted Patrol Grounds. A simple 20 minute drive from our home in Atherton, pick up the horses on Canada Road, ten minutes to the Patrol Grounds. Easy Or I could just ride over. My mom could saunter by in the afternoon, watch me, and not be stuck all day. The convenience of a local showground was marvelous. I expect that other horse show parents have felt the same way in years past and present.

I learned how to be responsible on a horse. In strange and wonderful ways. One day, my dad dropped me off at a show at the Mounted Patrol Grounds. He had business to do, so he unhooked the trailer and left me, it, and my horse for a few hours. I was about 15, responsible. It would be okay. I tied my horse-- Smoky Joe, shown above somewhere-- to a tree and sat in the stands to wait for my classes. Some time later, the announcer said, "There's a gray horse loose. If you have a gray horse..." It was Smoky. I never could tie a knot worth beans, no matter how Glenn Burks tried to teach me. This happened a couple of times, "There's a gray horse loose." I looked around, holding Smoky's lead rope. What to do? Several horses were waiting inside their trailers. Ahah! Good idea. Put him in the trailer! I put down the ramp and started to load him. He got his feet up on the ramp and balked. Why? Smoky loaded perfectly. Why was he balking? I got more aggressive. He got higher on the ramp.

Why was he s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g like that? His body elongated before my eyes, front feet far in front of him like a parked out Saddlebred. He leapt off the ramp just in time: the trailer leapt out from under him, heading downhill. I grabbed at it, 15 year old kid against two horse trailer. It won. In horror, I watched as the trailer plunged down the incline, down farther and father. Past other trailers, trees, horses.

It stopped when it hit a Jeep. I was dead. My father would kill me. The Jeep owner would kill me. I ran down the hill, Smoky in tow, sure that we'd destroyed the Jeep.

The Jeep was great! Not a mark. Not a scratch. Jeeps are tough! Someone came and we pushed the trailer back somehow.

"You ought to block your wheels before loading your horse," the person said. An embarrassing moment that will live with me forever-- a learning experience. Always block your wheels. Amazingly, no one got mad at me. I wasn't killed. My dad just laughed.

It was a different time, then. A wonderful time. We'd probably get sued for abuse of Jeep or runaway trailer these days, but then.. Woodside was a community and the Patrol Grounds were its heart. People were just people. Many people in Woodside were quite wealthy, then as now. And many were not. They mixed. Folks of all sorts went to these shows.

So much of my life played out at the Patrol Grounds. Would you like another story? This one is later. My dad had been killed. I only had one horse left, Robin Rose. I ended up giving her to Glenn and Mickey Burks for their son to show. Typical of kids, he lost interest immediately. Robin became a pasture ornament. Well, Glenn was working with a client's stock horse some years after that-- I expect it was the 70's. He was tuning the horse up, getting it ready to campaign seriously. The horse's debut class was to be the Open Stock Horse Class at an upcoming show at the Mounted Patrol Grounds. Glenn was working like crazy on the horse.

"We're down on entries," someone from the show called Glenn the day before. "Do you have another stock horse? If we don't get another entry, we'll have to scratch the class." "Well, uh. I've got one out in pasture," said Glenn. He pulled Robin in, hosed her off, got on her and stopped her a couple of times. What happened in the class?

She beat the horse he'd been working on! That was one horse, I'll tell you. Some horse. If she decided to work, boy! And if she decided to buck! Say your prayers. (I wrote a funny article on this 'zine, H.A.Y.:The Cure for Horse Addiction, that you may get a kick out of. Talks more about Robin. Or you can Return to the top to pick up the story with the Junior Sheriff's Posse.)

Such a different time, back then. Pre-monster houses. Pre- "He who dies with the most toys wins". I used to sleep in our barn with my girlfriends as a kid, then ride down to the greasy spoon where Buck's is now and have breakfast. We could ride anywhere, and did, but I don't remember anyone getting into trouble, or even getting hurt. Never heard of a lawsuit. The old days. Wonderful folk, wonderful memories: Dick and Jean Meisack. Chris Olmo. Great family friends. We moved from Woodside some 7 years ago, but I'll never forget the thrill of running into Chris on the Woodside trails. He always had a typey horse. His first wife, Ruth, was one of my mom's best friends.

I don't know if we can go back to those days now, but I swear to you, if we lose the community spirit we had, if we lose the sense that people are more important than things, then we've lost something very valuable. More valuable than "toys" and all the props of a material culture.

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A STORY ABOUT PLEASURE RIDING, ALL I'VE TALKED ABOUT IS SHOWS-- AND PHILOSOPHY. WELL, WE MEANDER A BIT AT SPURS:

I didn't have a "life with horses" for a few years while I went to school, got married, had kids, and worked. Age and my herniated disc got me into them once more:

"Sandy," something in me said, "You're forty. If you're going to have horses in your life again, don't you think you should get started?" It took a ten minute test ride for me to decide on a Peruvian Paso. I bought our first two Peruvians with own money, my husband declaring,

"Horses should be extinct." Yes, Barry Nathan, whom you never see OFF a horse now, actually said that. Barry felt that horses were too big and had no place in the modern world. Plus, he'd ridden Robin Rose, my old stock horse. She hated him as much as he hated her. She was utterly trained, and he was a total beginner who inadvertently told her to do things like stop and go at the same time. That Thoroughbred temperament would not tolerate a beginner, even on a 23 year old horse-- which was how old Robin was by the time Barry rode her.


VIRA & I: OUR FIRST PERUVIAN PASO
Still truckin' after all these years. Vira is now our oldest horse: at age 16, she's as sound as the day we bought her.
She's ridden all the time, over hill and dale. Wish I could say I held up as well.

One ride on a Peruvian Paso and my aging back went, "UMMMM. I can ride a horse without hurting!" The whole family eventually got into horses, with both daughters taking Hunt Seat lessons and moving into Peruvians and shows.


LILY NATHAN AT HER FIRST SHOW: AGE 6?
She's on good old reliable VIRA! I'm holding the lead line.

For many years, my life with Peruvians was also about showing them. I dreamed of breeding and showing a National Champion Pleasure horse. And I did very well for a few years. These were a couple of photos I dug up:


BARRY & I WINNING A MATCHED PAIRS CLASS WITH RICK MERO JUDGING
We're riding two geldings we bred, full brothers by *AV As de Oro out of Venganza MSR:
Vistoso BSN & Azteca BSN.


AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY A FEW YEARS BACK

AT LONG LAST, WE GET TO THE JOYS OF PLEASURE RIDING--

Before my physical disabilities took over, I couldn't imagine NOT riding competitively. My entire life was about competition. And all of a sudden, I wasn't able to compete. I did not adjust easily: It took cancer and a few philosophic changes for me to do it.

Cancer is an extreme motivator: I realized that even if I won every horse show class in the Peruvian Paso breed, indeed, in every breed, it would not cure cancer. Nor would it truly make me happy, or do much for the planet, either. Yes, winning is fun. It was great fun riding around an arena in front of a bunch of really nice people on great horses-- and the thrill lasted about two days for a Championship (well, Reserve Championship is as high as I got).

As I got older, the "high" of winning lasted less time relative to the "total-post-show-physical-melt-down". Also, I noticed that I got very NERVOUS! at shows and at times my husband and I would have "heated discussions" of various things around showing.

THIS WAS NOT FUN.

WHAT WAS FUN WAS THIS:


BARRY & SANDY NATHAN RIDE TWIGGY AND EDDIE ON THE TRAILS
"Twiggy", officially Gabriela de Amanecer, and "Eddie", Rey de Corazones, are mother and son.

 

AND THIS:


"EDDIE" & I DO THE CONES

 


"EDDIE" GETS READY TO BACK UP
Isn't he gorgeous? This is why you should have fine horses: to look at them. Also: a truly fine horse lasts longer. Those strong ligaments that stand out so, and the big joints and bones, the beautiful proportions - the things that make a horse beautiful-- also make him last. And make him fun to ride.

I FIND PLEASURE RIDING FUN, SO I DO IT. WHEN I CAN SHOW WITHOUT STRESS OR PAIN, I'LL DO THAT.

MEANWHILE, I ENJOY MY HORSE.

 


EDDIE RUNNING IN HIS FIELD:
I like to look at this animal. If I cold never ride him again, just looking at him would be enough.

To me, life with horses is a spiritual thing. My bond with my special horse, Eddie, transcends any ribbon or trophy he could ever win. And he's won: Barry showed him twice, won all his classes and ended up with a Reserve Champion Pleasure Gelding title on him. But he's more than that. Eddie is my therapist, my healer, my buddy, my friend. Just looking at how the parts of his body fit together gives me great joy. Being able to groom him is a joy. Owning him-- or does he own me?-- is a delight.

Eventually, we all get old and die. And so do our horses. The bonds we share, human to animal, are the source of value, as are the times we have together.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!
Barry Nathan riding our stallion, Capoeira BSN, in the field next door.

Copyright 1999 - 2006. Sandra Nathan. All rights reserved.
No part of this article may be quoted or reproduced without permission of the author.

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STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION

 

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NUMENON
A T
ALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON

 

"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."

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TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD

BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.

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THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY

 

A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN

Click the covers above to go Sandy Nathan's books on the Amazon Kindle store. All Kindle books are 99 cents.
They are also available as print books at Amazon.
The Angel and Numenon are also at the Nook store. The Angel is an iBook, as well
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AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN IS THE WINNER OF SEVENTEEN NATIONAL AWARDS!
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SANDY NATHAN

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