My contact with them was minimal but I had times where I really connected and enjoyed being with them. Talking, feeding, patting, washing and grooming . I love touching the soft outer part of the mouth, with the contrast of the prickly whiskers and the short soft fur.
As a teenager I spent my weekends with my cousins Tommy and Michael, cleaning out Smirks' stables and feeding the horses so that I could earn a trail ride.
My cousins who both eventually became professional rodeo riders, gave me enough tips to at least stay on.
We would ride into the bush lands around the bottom of the hills near Maddington where we could canter and gallop over the fields, dodging trees, through waterholes and over the odd natural jump that would suddenly and unexpectedly loom.
I remember going down to the horse beach near Fremantle where I was able to ride a magnificent 20 hand high horse, bareback, in the ocean. The horse was at peak fitness, ready for the trots, so he was very strong rearing to go. Michael cupped his hands and gave me a leg up onto the high back of this amasing creature. I sat there feeling in awe of this beast. I placed the reins in my hands and took control. He walked proudly into the water up to his girth at which he decided that he didn't want to be there. Even though I held the reins strongly, he had a hard mouth and didn't respond to me. He clumsily crab walked sideways out of the water and onto the beach, as I was holding on tight and pulling the reins tight in the opposite direction still trying to keep him in the water and then....
He took off along the beach, with me on top...
I was terrified as we sped along, pounding the sandy beach in a pacing gate, the rocks looming rapidly. I had to pull him up...and I didn't know how. I hung on tightly to both the reins and the mane, praying that he would stop. The sand was looking pretty hard at that moment. I pushed my ankles into the horses underbelly fearing that I would slide to one side and fall off.
I could hear Michael yelling, "hang on!!!".
Just metres short of the rocks, the horses front legs began to stiffen, braking in the sand and at the same time, his head jurked forward down towards the sand. As the reins tightened and slipped out of my grip they slid down out of my reach. I could feel myself lurching forward, but I was determined to stay on. Again I gripped with my feet and sat back high, still holding on to the mane with both hands, keeping my balance. As he came to a complete halt, I felt relieved and at the same time very excited. I was still on his back. As I walked him back to the others who had been standing watching, I held onto the wet mane, sliding off to the safety of the sand.
I was back the next day, cleaning the stables!