I’m sure we all have our favorite 4th of July horse memories, but my personal favorite is the summer of the Bicentennial: July 4th 1976.
We had a blowout extravaganza planned for the Bicentennial, and of course, ours had to include horses;
Me and my other Pony Club friends prepared for days. We made red white and blue pom poms to braid into our horses manes and tails.
We had a quadrille in the dressage arena, all of us wore red, white, and blue tee-shirts. We played equestrian games, had a vaulting show and a dressage exhibition. We jumped cross-country fences in tandem, and ate snow cones that we shared with our horses, and Kentucky Fried Chicken out of the big cardboard tubs, getting our fingers so sticky we had to wash them with Wash n’ Dri packets that made our hands smell like Bactine. Lots of the girls had wide swathes of zinc oxide across their noses and cheeks. Everybody got sunburned. We all drank purple and pink bug juice, which was always a little too warm and sticky-sweet on our tongues.
We took turns spraying our horses with fly spray and filling up buckets of water that came from a water truck rented for the day. The line at the watering truck was always longer than the line at the big orange thermos that dispensed the Kool Aid. We loved it when our horses dipped their noses deep into the big black buckets and played and splashed with the water a little bit before drinking. When the water splashed out of the bucket, it made raindrop patterns on the dust that we couldn’t seem to keep off of our boots.
At the end of a hot, sticky, day up on Pony Club Hill, we all rode our horses home. No loading up on the trailer. No leaving the horse at the stable… we all rode home on the buckle, bathed our horses, settled them down.
That’s what I remember from the Bicentennial, July 4th 1976. Not fireworks, but the sight of the pom poms in my horse’s mane.
And that’s what it means to be horse people, isn’t it?
Every cherished memory seems to have manes and tails in it. When other people remember the big events, the stuff happening in the news, we remember the beautiful horses who shared those days with us.
My mare Kim has been gone for thirty years, but her memory lives on in the faded technicolor of a 70s snapshot. Me, sweaty with a bug juice mustache, dust and fly spray up my nose, a blister or two on my heel, in love with the whole world, and especially my horse. The pom poms were pulling loose from her mane, my red-tee shirt was smudged up six ways to Sunday, but on the way home, I knew I would never ever forget that day.
If you’ve ever celebrated the 4th of July with your horse, this post is for you.
And while you’re at it, the picture at the top of this post is from an amazing organization called Horses for Heroes that pairs up horses with American men and women servicemen who have been injured in their service to our country. Now there is a cause that I can get excited about on this Fourth of July.
Happy 4th of July, horse people!