Pinch Penny Acres
by Ute Carson
Horse & Pony, Vol. 13, No. 9, June 2, 1981

A German proverb says "the greatest happiness on earth is to be found on the back of a horse."

My brother-in-law would claim that the greatest happiness is to be found behind the wheel of a race car. My husband, pointing out the futility of arguing about where the greatest happiness lies, finds a great distance between him and horses as well as race cars to his liking.

But for those who have spent their lives as professionals with horses, or for the child who starts riding for fun and continues it with dedication as a teenager, or for people like myself who began riding again after a 20-year hiatus, horses hold a special fascination.

Let me take you to a place where the questions about horses can best be answered. The stable‹Pinch Penny Acres‹with two riding rings is located at the edge of Gainesville in the heartland of rolling northern Florida. Nothing is fancy in appearance there.

Fences are mended by student helpers and kids earn extra riding lessons by doing odd jobs. There are coffee cups on fence posts, especially during the cooler months. At the end of the day someone picks them up and delivers them to the tack room which also serves as a tiny office for the owner, Miss B.

A blackboard announces which horses are leased for the month (and thus unavailable to the rest of the riders). The thought for the day is also written there. On one of my first visit to the stable, it read "there is nothing to fear, there are only things to be understood," Marie Curie. I was charmed!

A11 newcomers guess at Miss B's age. One clue is that she has been on horses for 35 years. Another is provided by the presence of her aged parents who run a few errands, help with small tasks and talk while the riders attend to their horses. Miss B is the first in their family to go into the horse business, they explain. They mark the beginning of their daughter's long love affair with horses from the time, at age five, she saw a pony in Central Park, N.Y., and weeks. He was missed.

Miss B is an authoritative person. She rides and teaches that way. To protect the rider, the horses and herself, she is a strict taskmaster. Various animals find their way to Miss B's Stable‹stray dogs, abandoned cats, and horses of all kinds and levels of training. Her method of handling them is simple behavior modification. Bad traits are punished, good ones are reinforced. And sometimes she mixes in a little magic that I don't claim to understand. I just marvel at the results. In the end all the animals become her pets.

So Many To Learn From

The veterinarian, who is no stranger to Pinch Penny Acres, imparts knowledge as he treats ailments of horses. In an emergency he surprises you with his prompt arrival. I once witnessed a horse having a heart attack. I was returning "Choice" to her stall when the horse in the adjacent box started rolling on the ground, thrashing against the wall. Within 10 minutes Dr. R was there. The horse calmed down and, following a blood transfusion, grazed peacefully. Between treatments Dr. R tells how mares in labor can turn their contractions off and on, and delay birth for hours when sensing danger. He explains how cataracts in horses come and go of their own accord. The blacksmith grew up at rodeos; he knows more than first meets the eye. Watching him shoe a horse, you are convinced that a bad job can ruin a horse but a shoe well-fitted can compensate for many a physical deformity. You will get a lecture on the complicated physiology of the marvelously constructed and padded hoof. And if you encourage it, he'll weave in an interesting story or two about his experiences raising and training horses.

Then there are the riders who vary as much in personality, background, age and ability as do the horses they ride and get attached to. Even among those who don't own a horse, favorites emerge. Young teachers and stable helpers come and go. Some are remembered for their riding ability or for a funny habit or a special gift for teaching. I will always remember one young man (as my daughter, Caitlin, characterized him) as "one who can bring friendship between you and a horse." Around the horses the riders and attendants build a community. What binds them together is their love of horses.

From the stable there are excursions to horse shows where the achievements of horse and rider are tested, where the beauty of an animal is displayed and admired, and where the breeders and traders hope to cash in with profitable sales.

There is the excitement of preparation, of washing your horse and polishing the stirrups. There is camaradie; criticism and the last-minute tips. There is the competition that spurs accomplishment and heightens vanity.

But there are also the peaceful excursions into the woods adjacent to the stable where rider and horse relax and are startled by a rabbit darting from the underbrush. Leisurely conversations are struck up between riders, and horse stories are exchanged.

A horse senses a rider's anxiety as well as his pleasure in riding. Every time 'Sport' shied, I jumped too. "Ride him life you would carry a frightened kitten between your legs and he'll calm down," Miss B instructed me. I tried it. She was right.

Two of our daughters have started insisted on climbing on it. Miss B's parents are an integral part of the stable. Once her father was ailing and wasn't there for horseback riding with Miss B. Comparing notes from the lessons one day in the car. Claudia began to sing a song from the film adaptation of Charlotte s Web There must be something more to us than love..." Caitlin soon joined her in that expression of enthusiasm for what they had begun‹a new sport but also a relationship which I hope will have on them that uplifting and rewarding effect it has had on me at Pinch Penny Acres and on people who congregate anywhere for the love of horses.

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