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Venus d' My Luv

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When I was eight years old, we moved out of Renton and onto three and a half acres in the hills east of Kent.  We built a house and a barn and started filling the barn with horses.  First it was a part-Arab bay filly, Angel, and a big on-loan ex-mustang pinto, Poncho.  (Can you believe it? )

Within a couple of years, we obtained two quarter-horse mares, one of which was a lovely bay mare named Pat's Skippette.

Before long, we bought a quarter-horse stallion, Printer.   Quite a color, eh?  He's a palomino, but I've never seen another quite like him.   His coat was literally two-toned, each hair ticked with a bronzy gold.  He had a rep for running people out of the pasture before my dad (the good-looking guy at his head) got hold of him.  Within a year, I was riding him perfectly safely among mares and even in fuzzy slippers.  He had the most amazing rocking-horse canter that would have people stopping in the street to watch him in action.  I've seen better conformation, but never more style. Printer.jpg (18330 bytes)

In the way of horses, within a year, we had a couple of babies.  Pat was my horse at that time, and I rather naturally favored her babe.   I had her name picked (Venus) before she was ever born.  (I've forgotten what my colt-contingency name was.)  One of her "name" ancestors was a horse called "Starduster" so the Astronomical (rather than mythical) association was a natural for a future Astronomy major.

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I knew the moment her head was dry that I'd picked the right name.  She had a big bright star on her forehead with a hazy  halo ... obviously atmospheric clouds.  My dad gave me her papers for my graduation present and over the next thirty years, she taught me the meaning of love and commitment, patience and respect.

Venus1.jpg (16530 bytes)We taught one another Western pleasure,  English, a bit of dressage,, a bit of jumping, we rode trails and obstacle courses and even tried cutting and driving.  (It was my idea to stop those activities, not hers.)  She gave me three babies to play with and never ceased to amaze me with her cleverness and good sense. 


Venus2.jpg (14709 bytes)I have many pictures of her, but the following are my favorites, in part because they were taken by my friend and fellow author, Nina Kiriki Hoffman.  Venus was at her prime and Nina did a marvelous job of capturing our pre-ride game of tag.  At this time, Venus spent her days in a big stall with a small run and when I'd arrive, she'd be full of frijoles.  We'd spend a certain amount of each session just playing tag.  I'd turn her loose in the big outdoor arena, go booga booga and she'd proceed to tear around as if she had no sense.

Venus4.jpg (17073 bytes)I include both of these without color correction to illustrate one of her unusual qualities.  The color difference actually has to do with the photographic processing, but the fascinating thing about Venus' deceptively ordinary color was that she truly did go through both these color phases each year, shedding out a soft, warm brown and reddening toward the end of summer.  A peculiar kind of  sunbleaching, I suspect. 

Venus7.jpg (10775 bytes)Like her papa, each hair was ticked with a goldenbrown.  I think as the summer went on, the green pigment broke down leaving the bright red.  Doesn't really matter; she was my "horse of a different color" and I loved it.

Nina's camera work is really quite spectacular.  It was late in the day, the pasture in shadow and Venus was "on".  She was very quick on her feet.  Though she herself would break no speed limits while under saddle (she had a great sense of conservation of energy) her full sister, who didn't even go to a track until she  was an "aged mare" was rated AA, and her nephew was a AAAT.

As you can see, she found herself a friend that day and they spent several minutes pacing one another along the fence.

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Venus3.jpg (19487 bytes)Before she ran herself out, I'd stop running, say quietly Okay, that's enough; let's go in and she'd immediately drop to a walk, come over to me and go sans halter wherever I wanted her to go.  If we'd been at home rather than boarding, I could have taken her back to the barn and tack her up without ever having to halter her. 

She trusted me implicitly, and I think growing up with that kind of trust had no small influence on my attitudes about responsibility in everything from driving to writing.  My driving reflexes were honed driving a truck and trailer with a horse who would walk into anything for me.  I felt compelled to make sure her ride was safe and smooth.  On a trail, I never asked her to go somewhere that wasn't safe so long as she kept her head.  Somehow, she seemed to know that, and never lost it---not even the time the bees attacked us.

 Venus6.jpg (18606 bytes)I try to treat my readers with that same respect. I frequently drive the story into rough territory but I try to make sure the readers areprepared for the speed bumps and the ruts and the white water and feel it's my responsibility to make sure I guide them out safely on the far side.

So long as they keep their heads, the way she taught me to keep mine. 

Bye for now and hope you enjoyed meeting my "old girl".

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