Horses and good medicine

By Helen Row Toews

April 11, 2018 1:27 PM

There’s a unique sense of being one with nature when seated astride a horse. You can almost melt into the landscape and join, unnoticed, the daily rhythm of the Prairies.
Growing up on a farm, my brother Bill and I had several wonderful steeds, the first of which was Princess, a small, fat Shetland pony.
Perhaps every child who wants to ride should first be issued a Shetland pony, because learning to ride them is quite an education.
Dad had a large, chestnut-coloured gelding of his own, and after much pleading from me, bought the pony so we could ride together.
When the joyous moment arrived, he produced an ancient English saddle (used on the pony he rode to school each day in the late 30s) and cinched it around her stout belly. She submitted to this activity with ill humour; twisting to evade my eager grasp.
Then, free of the corral, we trotted gaily along until reaching the summer fallow.
Without warning she dropped to her knees and rolled busily in the dust to be rid of me. Granted, it wasn’t very far to the ground from where I sat, but what a shock! Thus began the era of Princess. If she could roll, scrape or buck us off – she did.
Once she bolted under the clothes line with Bill, nearly decapitating the boy amongst some tea towels. However, good times were had as well and she is remembered fondly. 
Next came Judy, acquired by my grandfather in an unusual transaction involving some hay, three chickens and a shovel. She was a grade horse (mixed breeding) and he sold her to us for the grand sum of $75.
Later, standing in the barn to assess our fine piece of horseflesh, dad announced we were buying a new saddle.
Off we roared to town the very next day to choose from the selection offered at Peavey Mart. As we clambered into the truck with our prize, dad held the door.
“Well,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief, “that’s the first time I ever paid more for the saddle than I did for the blamed horse.”
The saddle was $125.
My favourite horse of all was Pearl, a large, dapple grey mare of uncertain breeding, but likely some Percheron. She and I travelled the countryside together and were nearly inseparable.
During the summer, I rode her every other weekend to meet my friend Cyndi on her horse Tina. Cyndi lived along the banks of Big Gully where we shared some wonderful adventures.
Other times, Pearl and I would lope into Marshall where I’d tie her to a stop sign near the corner store in order to secure a chocolate treat from within.
Owning a saddlehorse and having an ability to roam across the Prairies is a privilege I cherish.
Galloping off into the sunset may sound a bit melodramatic, sort of like an old Roy Rogers film, but it truly is medicine for the soul.

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