Women and the Horses in Their Lives - An Ongoing Series
While some women come to horses early in life, and others later in life, for Cathy Childs it came somewhere in between. It wasn’t until she was 33 years old that she decided she wanted a horse in her life. “ I was tired of being pit crew,” she explains, referring to years of helping with grooming, saddling and feeding her younger sister’s horse. She had been around horses for many years and certainly it could be said horses were in her DNA , with a grandfather who trained and raced harness horses, but for some reason she didn’t seem to have the bug as early as her sister did.
Announcing she wanted to buy a horse, Cathy started her search for that horse. She found a grade gelding named Chester. Chester was the perfect horse for her, at that time, he was well broke and gentle, with very little desire to break out of trot. What he did lack was any really extensive training and, as Cathy’s horsemanship skills improved, she began to outgrow Chester. Cathy found Chester a new home with another person who would appreciate him.
Cathy thought she wasn't in a hurry to find another horse, but it turned out she was, “It surprised me how quickly I wanted another horse,” she says. The next horse to come into Cathy's life was a Standardbred Pacer, who had been advertised as Missouri Fox Trotter. "The man I bought her from just called her Black mare and thought she was a Fox Trotter. Actually she was a Standardbred Pacer and I named her Missy - which suited her, I thought", Cathy explained. Eventually Cathy would ride Missy English and Western, but it was the driving that Missy really enjoyed and that was fine because Cathy found out she loved it too. “Missy taught me how to drive” she says. Missy turned out to be a wonderful horse. She and Cathy enjoyed a great partnership for 11 years. In 2000 Missy went on to greener pastures and is still sadly missed today.
In 1994 Cathy found herself the owner of a 4 year old unbroke Arabian mare. In fact, the mare had hardly been handled by people at all. That mare opened up a whole new chapter in Cathy’s life with horses. With the help of her sister Cathy set out to train her Arab mare, who she called Jodi. Cathy surprised her sister when she decided she wanted to be the first person to mount Jodi. Cathy trail rode Jodi and also showed her a little as well. “ I would never have imagined myself owning an Arabian, not to mention having trained her,” Cathy explained. Jodi and Cathy showed some when Jodi was young and while they both enjoyed it they didn't pursue a career in the show ring. Jodi would go Western or English and while she enjoyed ring work her heart belonged to trail riding. Jodi and Cathy's relationship grew as the years passed. Jodi was that one special horse with whom Cathy shared an unbreakable bond. In 2013 Cathy lost her beloved mare, but they shared almost 20 years together and she still has a special place in Cathy's heart.
It was 2000 when Cathy purchased a Paso Fino gelding named Al. “He was an early birthday present to myself”, Cathy explains, even though she had no intention of buying him when she went to look at him one Sunday afternoon. “It was a Sunday lark,” Cathy says, but once she rode him she knew she wanted him. Perhaps it was because a Paso gait is similar to a Pacer’s gait or maybe it was the big brown eyes or the white blaze in the shape of Argentina on his face. Whatever it was Al became part of the herd. It wasn’t easy for Cathy and Al in the beginning - due to some baggage from his previous life as a show horse, but with lots of time and patience from Cathy Al's issues faded away. Cathy joked "He was like a little wind up toy when you rode him. He was so much fun", Cathy will tell you Al taught her a great deal about the Paso Fino as well as gaited breeds in general. Al will be 30 this year, so he now spends his time enjoying a well earned retirement "As always it was difficult to retire my Paso Fino, but I knew it was time. I have been through this before and it is always hard to watch your horse grow old and have to stop riding him, but Al's doing pretty good for a his age and I think he has been pretty happy the last 20 years", Cathy says.
While Al has retired Cathy hasn't. Like several times before fate intervened and sent Cathy another horse. This time it was National Show Horse mare named Mel. Mel was owned by a friend and even though Cathy wasn't activly looking for another horse she knew Al's retirement was near, so she agreed to go see Mel. Well, there she was, a lovely grey mare who reminded Cathy of her beloved Jodi. Mel's Arabian bloodlines were similar to Jodi's, which Cathy liked. Mel had a few issues it turned out. Mel's owner had bred her once to her Arabian stallion, but Mel rejected the foal and after that she thought Mel would do well in the show ring. Mel's show career was short lived as she was what her owner called " co-dependent" and couldn't deal with being away from her stablemates. As with Al, with time and patience Cathy (again with help from her sister) worked Mel through most of her issues. While they are still a work in progress Cathy and Mel are building a relationship. Cathy has been ground driving Mel and hopes to be able to break her drive some time soon.
It’s been a rather interesting journey for Cathy over the years. In 1987 she knew she wanted her own horse and began a new phase in her life. In 1989, not even thinking she wanted another horse a black Standardbred Pacer came along who helped Cathy find her love of driving (which was a family tradition). In 1994 a beautiful grey Arabian mare stole her heart, introducing her to the Arabian breed that she now has a passion for. In 2000 a big brown eyed Paso Fino gelding wittled his way into her life giving her admiration for the Paso Fino breed and challenging her to expand her horsewomanship skills.
Like so many horsewomen Cathy knows horses will always be a large part of her life and when asked what they have brought to her life she says, “Owning horses has completely changed my life and my attitude. I just don’t take people’s guff anymore” Author’s note: I have met so many fascinating horsewomen. I wish I could have profiled them all in this issue, but of course that wasn’t possible. Look for more profiles of horsewomen throughout this coming year along with profiles of fascinating horsemen as well.