TROUBLE WITH HORSES: Once you begin loving them

At 9, I identified with a short, bug-eyed blonde named Priscilla Nutshell who lived in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal. “Priscilla’s Pop” was a popular comic strip in my hometown’s famous Green Sheet for 37 years. “Pop” Nutshell was famous for eating mashed potato sandwiches. His 9-year-old daughter, Priscilla, was famous for conniving to get a horse. Priscilla and I shared a brain.  


Dream Come True

I was married with children and living in Rochester when MY dream horse became a reality. The white Arabian was a two-for: too thin, 2-year-old, $200 bargain found in a dry lot with a flimsy shelter. It was love at first sight for both of us.

Zanzibar actually did a double-take seeing his lush new digs and must have decided he was no trail horse if it ever meant leaving his new haven. On a ride down our steep driveway to a nearby “park,” he balked at crossing a wooden bridge over a creek, until I used my shirt to cover his eyes. He also balked at wading across the stream or stepping onto black asphalt. Heading home, however, was balk free.

Homeward bound one day, I dismounted to tighten his saddle before a neighborhood building project. Before I could find my seat again, Zan took off with me draped crosswise over the saddle—butt up—great entertainment for the construction workers that hooted and whistled as we raced up our hill. Racing up the hill became our new norm—me in jockey position, hands tangled in his flying mane, screaming with joy. 

More Horses

Eventually, we added more horses and called our hilltop “Mt. Pegasus.” When we bought a 3-month-old Arab-Shetland pony named Ms. Muffit for Tanya, our youngest daughter, Zan became Muffy’s self-appointed guardian. The two became as inseparable as Muffy was to “her” 8-year-old human. 

Tanya trained Muffy herself, winning 4-H State Horse Show trips where the two of them once demonstrated their Little Mermaid musical routine in 1993. She was the image of a red-haired, fish-tailed Ariel on a “seahorse” pony with a crab in her mane. Music in Motion became a new class in statewide 4-H horse shows the following year.

As our three daughters amassed show ribbons and grew in horsemanship, our herd also grew, including two wild mustangs we trained. When our little mermaid outgrew Muffy, she continued to capture trophies and two southeast Minnesota titles on her bay quarterhorse and a Palomino named Skip. 

Giving Riding Lessons

I began giving riding lessons when our nest emptied and our barn didn’t. Over 15 summers, 60 children took lessons, culminating in our own little ribbon show each fall that featured silly games and costumed musical productions on horseback. 

Through the years I had learned to inoculate, treat and train horses and conversely suffered bites and kicks, been trampled and thrown—suffering a broken arm. It was worth it all. The spunky, graceful creatures that made my heart soar when riding them, watching them compete or even graze the pasture were now postcard memories. 

The images don’t fade now that the pasture is empty. As I watched American Pharoah win the 2015 Triple Crown on TV, I screamed and bounced on the sofa. I was with the jockey, riding Zanzibar uphill in a glory ride to a cheering crowd. The trouble with horses is that you can never forget them…or stop loving them once you begin.

C.J. Fosdick now spends her days crouched over her laptop, working on her sequel to “The Accidental Wife,” published this March to five-star reviews. Check her out at