“a true story”
First Horse – I was about 14 years old, and my family and I were living in Houston, Texas. My heart, however, was liv¬ing at the family ranch in Giddings, Texas.
I loved and was involved in sports, such as track, baseball and football, but my true love was ranching and horses, and being a cowboy. I asked, and in fact begged, to keep a horse in the Houston area so I could ride regularly. I promised I would take care of the horse myself and do whatever work was necessary to maintain a horse in the city. My pleas went on for months, but unhappily fell on deaf ears.
Christmas morning came and I was feeling a little left out. My brothers and sister had gotten several gifts, and I had received very little. Finally, my dad walked in with my granddad’s old Stelzig saddle, and right away I knew. We loaded up in the old station wagon and headed to the west side of town. We turned down an old dirt road to a rather rough-looking riding stable. Old wood barns and corrals were the fare of the day.
I was so excited. I followed Dad to one of the stalls to find my new horse. My excitement faded and my heart broke as I looked in the stall. I tried not to act or look disappointed, but I was. My horse was skinny, bigheaded, and longhaired, with withers that looked like the hump on a camel. To tell the truth, he was just plain ugly. I pretended to be happy and said, “Thank you” at least 100 times.
My parents drove off. They left behind what they thought was a completely happy young man to get acquainted with his new horse. I felt baffled, frustrated and betrayed How could they buy me this mangy-looking fur ball? His name was Poncho.
“That’s about right,” I said to him. “Bet they didn’t give $5 for you. Maybe the owners gave my parents $5 for taking you.”
Poncho just blinked and stared at me.
“Oh well,” I thought. “At least you are a horse.”
I got my brush, groomed and saddled him, and went for my first ride on Poncho. He was a little unsure of his new surroundings, but when I got back, 1 thought, “Not too bad”.
Every minute of every day after school and all day on weekends I spent with that horse. I bought sweet feed and coastal hay. I learned a lot having Poncho. I had really never had to care for a horse before. I made new friends at the stable. I took some lessons and found out more about feed. I dewormed my horse and worked on his feet. There was a lot of riding through the woods with this horse called Poncho.
I learned and bought better feed, and found out about alfalfa hay. I mixed sweet feed with oats and a handful of Calf Manna. I groomed, washed, manicured and rode Poncho every day. Poncho started to look pretty good Matter of fact, he was looking darn good.
And you know what? Poncho became my best friend With my buddies on the weekend, we took long rides through the woods and bayou country of west Houston. The land was still wild and we found a lot of country to ride and explore. And I found out that wherever there was a horse, there were girls! What great times I had because of old Poncho.
I signed up to go on the Salt Grass Trail Ride and the next year on the Sam Houston Trail Ride. These were long rides that took four or five days to complete. They kicked off at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Man, did we have fun! Those rides ended with a parade in downtown Houston. Most of my friends would trailer back across town to our stables, a distance of about 25 miles. Not Poncho and me— we rode, and what an adventure that was!
Poncho was the best traveling horse I ever rode. To this day I remember he had a great little foxtrot that was smooth as glass and could eat up the miles. And the miles we went through the years! Poncho and I were pals.
I grew to love that old horse and I know he loved me. Poncho taught and educated me. I owe him so very much. Of all the horses I have owned, in some ways Poncho gave me the most, and he took the very best care of me. At that time in my life, Poncho was the right horse for me. Even though Poncho is long gone, I think he’ll be waiting for me at the end of my trail.
A Native Texan Craig Cameron, one of the original clinicians, is on the road more than 44 weeks a year covering 80,000 miles demonstrating the style of horsemanship he has perfected in the last 23 years. Called the “public defender of the horse,” Craig dedicates himself to those who educate their horses by first educating themselves. At an age where most have long since retired the thought of starting colts, Craig Cameron, known as “The Cowboy’s Clinician,” starts hundreds of horses each year. Learn more about Craig Cameron at www.CraigCameron.com
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 7