Our first ride. Darice Whyte Photo

Tia today. Darice Whyte Photo

And So Began the Dream

Mar 15, 2018 | Twisted Tales

by Darice Whyte

About 10 years ago my husband and I were visiting with another couple. The wife asked me what I wanted to do when I retired. As I really hadn’t given it much thought, I really didn’t have an answer. She said, “Why don’t you start riding again?” And, with that, I was back into horses after a 30-year absence.

I took a few lessons riding a Quarter Horse, a Welsh Cob, and I’m sure the world’s biggest Warmblood! I was extremely rusty, and I’m sure I had forgotten more than I ever knew.

I knew I wanted my own horse rather than a jaded lesson horse. No offense to those lesson horses out there that love their jobs, but these sure didn’t! The Quarter Horse almost wore me out trying to motivate him to do anything more than walk. The Welsh Cob routinely tried to run me over, spooked at nothing, and bucked when asked to canter. The Warmblood required a ladder to get on, however, he was the least obstinate of the three. As I was accustomed to using a lot of leg to make the other lesson horses move, I did the same with the Warmblood. Well! We shot off like a rocket ship! Imagine my surprise at this turn of events! I did what I always do when I sense my impending doom — I started laughing. I was all over the place on this horse laughing while my coach was shouting instructions at me. I somehow managed to come to a halt without falling 20 feet to my death. OK, not quite 20 feet, but it felt like I was up close to the heavens on that horse! The ground was a very, very long way down. I did manage to survive that lesson, and I thanked that horse for not killing me.

One of my coaches tried to talk me into buying a Warmblood, as what was I going to do with an Arabian? Trail ride? Endurance ride? Um, well yes, actually. I knew I had no desire to enter the showring, let alone the dressage ring. I just wanted to trail ride, and I wanted to trail ride on an Arabian. Period. She thought I was bonkers, which might be partially true, but I knew what I wanted. And I knew exactly where I could get one.

It all started with one little grey Arabian mare, Beau Tia Maria (Albatross x Beau Brandy), who I bought from my sister. Tia, who was six at the time, was leading the life of luxury doing absolutely nothing but lazing in a pasture. I’m sure she was quite content; however, I had other ideas for her. To say we didn’t get off to a great start would be a huge understatement, but that’s another story for another day. Let’s just say we came to an understanding: I would feed her, and she wouldn’t try to kill me when we went riding. Occasionally, 10 years later, I still have to remind her of that pact.

After I had been boarding at a local riding stable for about a year, I went with a friend to an endurance ride which was being held at Birds Hill Park, a Provincial Park about 20 minutes from the city where we lived. As I wasn’t a camper, a cross-country skier, or a Folkie (the park has a huge Folk Festival every year), I had never been to the park nor had any interest in going. That all changed when I went to the ride and discovered they had actual trails for horseback riding! Trails that did not have vehicles passing you at warp speed! Trails that wound through an actual forest! I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I was enamored with a place that I’d had no idea even existed.

My husband, who had always lived in the city, really wanted to live in the country. I grew up in the country so I wasn’t keen on the idea. Well that changed overnight! We started looking for a property close to the park, but a lot of them sold almost overnight. We decided we should build a house, and so we bought 20 acres 1-1/2 miles from the park and started our dream.

In the meantime, my little horse herd had grown from one to five and would be six come the spring! Oops. Not sure how that happened quite so quickly. I did reduce my number back to three that first winter, so then I had a bay, a grey, and a chestnut. Perfect!

Of course once you buy the land, then you need a truck to move hay, straw, feed, etc., for the horses, so a truck was purchased. A horse trailer was a must for all those endurance rides I wanted to partake in. Then a quad, shelter, barn, copious amounts of pit stripping (a product that limits mud — if I knew I would spend so much money on DIRT
I would have laughed), more horses, well you see where this goes!

I often wonder why I have no money and had to establish an underwear fund, but then I look at my money running around in the backyard, and I realize that underwear is completely overrated. There will come a day when I’m too old to enjoy riding my Arabians. When that day comes, I’m sure I’ll find some granny panties to wear in the nursing home.

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