I was an avid rider since I was a child.  For several years  I was an active NATRC Region 6 competitor, finishing near the top in our division regionally on my walkaloosa (half appy, half MFT) gelding.  He was my first gaited horses and I was in love with the smooth foxtrot and his big heart. We could go all day over the trails and finish strong.

But life took me away from that when my arthritis and subsequent knee replacement surgery stopped it. My surgeon said I should not ride again, and I took him at his word…. for a while.

This year I decided I was going to ride again. I started taking lessons with an amazing woman, Leslie Smith at Dollar Creek Stables in Neosho, Missouri.  By now I had no idea if I could even ride again and it had been so long, I was afraid I wouldn’t remember anything and my nerves and anxieties were huge.

I found Summer, “Superstition’s Lady’s Knight” and started down the trail to all things horses again!  I was told that Summer had been out to pasture for the last 5 years and just had 60 days ‘refresher.’  When I test rode her I was so nervous-okay, scared.  She acted up a bit, and was pretty sassy. But my daughter prodded me to buy her, thinking this Missouri Fox Trotter would be perfect for me.  She knew I wouldn’t be happy with a dead head.

When I got Summer home to Dollar Creek, I was so nervous. I started by lunging her and taking lessons on her.  Summer has been patient with me.  Even when I give her mixed signals, she shakes her head a bit, as if to say, “No, not that way,” but she always tries to figure out what I want and give it to me.

Since our start in the lesson arena, we have ventured out onto the extensive trails on the stable property. We’ve learned how to descend the steep rocky hills carefully and not charge up the steep uphills.  We’ve crossed creeks and waded in ponds.  We’ve encountered the herd of ‘wild’ horses that roam there.  Even though they approach us and I get nervous that she might panic and bolt, she is calm. She’s made my confidence and trust grow and she has helped me return to what I love so much.

Summer deals with everything as it comes.   She and I are learning to read each other and we take care of each other.  It feels like home to be with her. At my age, she will probably be my last horse.  And she is perfect and she makes me a better person.

My goal is to be back in NATRC next season. I believe this gaited horse will get us there.


– Pam Dunaway-