December 2013

Speaking of brave, headstrong chestnut mares…have you heard of the legendary Reckless? She's no relation to me (except in spirit…and, okay, maybe appetite) but she was definitely another mare to be "reckoned" with!

It was back in the 1950s and this fiery little mare lived halfway around the world in Korea. Her name there was Ah-Chim-Hai, or "Flame of the Morning," and she was living her life as a racehorse. But when the Korean War started, some U.S. Marines bought her and took her to the battlefield to help them carry equipment. They renamed her Reckless.

This change in circumstances had to be quite a shock, don't you think? But Reckless quickly adapted. She learned how to safely step over barbed wire and how to kneel in bunkers for protection; she readily jumped in and out of makeshift trailers and on cold nights she often slept with the Marines inside their tents.

Her assignment was to carry the heaviest ammunition across dangerous, open terrain. And here again she proved her intelligence and her bravery. Once she'd been led along the path a few times, she kept making the trips by herself, even under enemy fire. One day she made 51 trips, covering about 35 miles, and delivering 9,000 pounds of ammunition. Even though she was hit in the face by shrapnel and bloodied, she kept going. The men were impressed.

It was just this sort of bravery that earned Reckless real sergeant's stripes, which were pinned to her blanket during an official ceremony. From then on she was known as Sgt. Reckless-and humans had to salute her! (I like that! Where can I get some of those stripes?)

Now, about that appetite! I've been known to enjoy a few people treats on occasion-doughnuts and bananas being two of my favorites-but Reckless grazed the whole human buffet. She ate scrambled eggs and bacon and drank coffee with the men. She devoured peanut butter sandwiches and washed them down with Coke. Once, she even ate some poker chips. (She must have confused them with potato chips!)

After the war was over, the Marines wanted to bring their brave friend home with them but the government wasn't willing to ship a foreign horse to the U.S. (Where's the gratitude??) Not until the owner of a cargo line read about her and offered free transport did Sgt. Reckless make it to America. Eventually she settled in at Camp Pendleton, a Marine base north of San Diego, California. There she continued to march alongside her fellow Marines in daily activities and still made time to give birth to four foals. When she was retired in 1960, the Marine Corps awarded her free housing and feed for life. She died eight years later and is buried on the Camp Pendleton grounds.

Here's to one feisty and phenomenal filly: Reckless!

June 2013

"I'm not doing this because I'm a girl. I'm not trying to win the race because I'm a female jockey. I just want to win the race." -Rosie Napravnik

Rosie Napravnik, horse racing's 25-year-old jockey sensation, made history this month when she became the first female jockey to ride in all three Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes). She underscored her reputation by claiming fifth place in the Derby on Mylute and then third place on Mylute in the Preakness, both best-ever finishes for a female jockey in those races.* Even more impressive, since she is competing in a sport dominated by men, she finished the previous year ranked eighth on the North American leader board for jockeys. Her total purse winnings now exceed $49 million.

Although she didn't set out to claim the spotlight, Napravnik says that "it feels great to know people can be inspired by me…If I can make someone else's day by my accomplishments, that makes mine."

The daughter of a horseshoer and a horse trainer, Rosie grew up around, on and-sometimes-under horses. "She was about four when she broke her arm the very first time, falling off a pony," recalled her older sister. But that didn't stop Rosie. She "climbed right back on," her sister said. "Toughness has never been an issue."

Even with all of the accolades, Napravnik doesn't race horses to strike a blow for women's equality. "I really do this because I love to do it," she says. "The fact that I'm female doesn't matter to me…I just want to accomplish what I've worked so hard to get to this level." That passion for horses and commitment to hard work are no doubt paving the way for more trips to the winner's circle. The lady is a champ!

*Racing Hall of Fame member Julie Krone remains the only female jockey to have won a Triple Crown race, guiding Colonial Affair to first place in the Belmont in 1993.

March 2013


It’s everywhere.
With heat like May
And sun all day
I’m shedding so fast I’ll soon be bare!

It’s in my grain,
Falls from my mane,
Drifts round my toes
And up my nose.
All that hair.

Clumps of chestnut
Clog the brush but
Then Diane brings out the blade.
Hair goes flying
And happily I’m sighing
As dander and dust and winter all fade.

Brown turns to flaxen
New hairs are made smooth
Some sprays, oils and waxin’--
This mare’s become new!

Then it’s out to the pasture
Where I turn all the heads
Find a nice spot of mud, sure,
To roll in…

Get up! Get up!
The other mares neigh.
You’re in trouble now, girl,
Diane’s coming your way.

Up on my feet, I gallop off like a filly
The warm air, my clean coat and spring make me silly.

December 2012

What would Christmas be without horses? “Bells on bobtail ring” as people dash through the snow “in a one-horse open sleigh.” (I hope that poor, short-tailed horse lives in a fly-free stable!) The 2012 Christmas tree for the White House is delivered by a pair of very handsome Clydesdales. (I admit I do have a thing for the burly sort with a Scottish accent in their whinnies.) In many parts of the country, riding groups deliver toys on horseback. And every January 1st, the mares, the minis and I gather around the television to watch the almost two dozen equestrian groups prance through Pasadena in the glitzy Tournament of Roses Parade. Really, why else would you watch this parade, except for the horses?

So, in honor of all we horses do to bring a festive spirit to the season, lay off the silly equine antlers and Santa hats, and chop up a few extra carrots and apples in the dinner bucket tonight. A generous helping of molasses cookies would be appreciated as well.

Merry Christmas to all my horse buddies (and their very thoughtful caregivers)!

September 2012

The “dog days of summer” are here and why any dog likes it this hot is beyond me. The other mares and I have barely been able to put one hoof in front of the other during our daily turnout in the pasture. (I use the word “pasture” loosely and with fond memories as it more closely resembles a dust bowl this month.)

Not much to do these days except stretch out in the sun and wait for lunch…and then wait for dinner. Usually one of us “stands guard” while the other two nap—you never know what those little prankster miniature horses are going to attempt—but the other day felt so warm and lazy that all three of us stretched out at once. (Apparently this gave Diane heart palpitations as she came running out to make sure no catastrophe had struck.) Easy there, writer girl. Go back to your air conditioning and your computer.

Anyway, the mares and I got to nickering about our favorite horse movies. Vicki likes “Black Beauty.” It’s a classic, of course, (and a tearjerker) about a very nice horse mistreated by a number of people. (I think they might have cast me in the part of the older and wiser “Ginger.” Sometimes you’ve just got to give stupid humans a good kick.) Ribbon voted for “Seabiscuit” which kind of surprised me because she’s the quiet sort, not typically interested in racing. But it’s an excellent movie about a courageous horse. Me, I like adventure: scenes like the buckskin horse galloping headfirst down the mountainside in “The Man From Snowy River” or the black stallion swimming to safety with Alec after the ship sinks in “The Black Stallion” get my heart pumping! It’s awfully difficult to nap thinking about such adventures!

“Spirit” and “Hidalgo” and “War Horse” came up for consideration but by that time the hay cart was rumbling near and we scrambled to our feet. A fresh flake of good hay makes even a “dog day” a good day to be a horse. Cheers!

The farrier visited the other day—Ricky, nice guy, easy with the rasp—and while he was talking about all the used horseshoes he had in his truck, I got to thinking about how popular those little paperweights are with people. For hundreds of years, apparently, you’ve looked to such misplaced footwear to deliver good luck.


Anyway, here’s some of what I learned:

       - A “found” horseshoe is supposed to be luckier than a purchased one.

       - A shoe with seven holes (a lucky number) is considered the best. (Ricky says he hasn’t seen a shoe with
          seven holes in it in a coon’s age. I have no idea how long that is.)

       - A horseshoe is typically hung above a door but can be nailed onto a boat’s mast, a gate, or your horse’s
          stall—sort of a spare, get it?

       - The shoe should be hung with the ends up (like a U) to keep the luck from running out.

       - Horseshoes can be welded together to create hat racks, bookends, picture frames, coat hooks, table bases
          and many, many other “horsey” home accoutrements.

Here’s hoping you each find a lucky horseshoe of your own. Personally, I have four!

March 2012

The other day Diane and I were talking about the fact that a lot of history's notable women have been horse lovers, and pointing out the ways these equine partnerships have moved society forward.

Take Inez Milholland, for example. In 1913, and only 26 years old, she mounted her horse, Grey Dawn, and led 10,000 women through the streets of New York, demanding the right to vote. An illustration of Inez on Grey Dawn became one of the most memorable images of the women's suffrage movement.

Or Sue Sally Hale. To compete in polo in the 1950s, she had to disguise herself as a man-and did so for the next twenty years. When her identity was finally revealed and she was threatened with harm if she tried to enter the playing field, she boldly replied, "Better boys than you have tried," and kept on galloping. Today she is recognized as an icon of the sport.

More recently, in 2008, Hannah Zeitlhofer, a 21-year-old Austrian rider, broke a five-century-old gender barrier when she became one of only two girls ever admitted to the famed Spanish Riding School in Vienna. With the second girl having dropped out of the rigorous program, Hannah stars as the only female rider working with the talented Lipizzaner stallions.

Of course these triumphs didn't arise solely from equestrian skill; these young women had guts. But in my many years of carrying girls and women around the ring and over the countryside, I've felt their confidence increase. Perhaps a girl's world just looks different from the back of a horse; maybe it's when they're high up in the saddle that they can clearly envision life's possibilities.

Anyway, to celebrate these amazing equestriennes, Diane and I are adding a new section to this website called "Girls Who Gallop." Included will be interesting and inspirational sketches of female riders, some from the past, but many from the present who continue to change society through their love of horses.

Being a gutsy mare myself, I insisted that groundbreaking female horses be honored as well so Diane promises to add a chapter entitled "Fantastic Fillies and Mares." I'm responsible for researching that one, and I'm already looking forward to writing about the mare who was rescued from a butcher's cart and went on to set a world trotting record, the filly who went to war and labored so bravely that she was actually given the rank of sergeant (lower-ranking humans had to salute her!) and an impressive mare who is still the only horse-male or female-to win three Olympic gold medals in jumping.

There are a lot of stories to tell about amazing women and their horses so sketches will be added over the next several months. Keep checking back. We're sure you'll find a lot to celebrate!

Well, Diane says I've been a sloth because I haven't kept up with this blog as promised. Hmph! It's not as if I just nibble my way around the pasture all day. There's road construction nearby that requires my constant surveillance, two of the other mares want help writing their memoirs, and those minis are ALWAYS getting into trouble. But a promise is a promise, and so I, Sammi Wilson, promise to update this blog at least once every three months. Okay? Okay! So, with the holidays coming and my pasture mates always hungry, I'm sharing my favorite recipe for horse cookies. They're ridiculously easy to make and your own horse friends will love them. From me to you. Enjoy!


1 cup oatmeal (uncooked)
1 cup flour
1 cup shredded carrot (about one large carrot)
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 T. brown sugar (optional if the girth has been a little tight)
2 T. vegetable oil
¼ cup water
¼ cup molasses

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Form into balls and arrange on lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly into discs. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 10 to 12.

Some “miniature” horses—Sonny and Cherie—moved into my stable a few months ago and they still have me and the other mares bug-eyed and snorting. What gives? Are these dog-sized creatures truly horses and if so, did someone chase them through the hot water cycle?

On the opposite end of the scale, a Belgian gelding aptly named Big Jake was just named the tallest living horse in the world. (Is there a tallest dead horse category?) He stands 20.3 hands high—nearly an entire “mini” taller than my 14.2! In other words, if Cherie climbed into my back (which would never happen as I am not a circus pony) she could look him in the eye and invite us both over for dinner. Why would we want to join this “gentle giant”? Because he gets to eat about 40 pounds of hay and 8 gallons of oats EVERY DAY! Do you know the sort of measly diet Diane keeps me on?

Out on the track another phenomenal mare just made history: the six-year-old Zenyatta won her 17th straight race, securing the longest winning streak for unrestricted races in modern Thoroughbred competition. Whinnies to this unparalleled winner!

And red apples and blue ribbons to all of you other champion fillies out there!

"The world's best athlete is a girl with four legs"

That's my favorite quote of 2009 and I have it framed in my stall. It's what sportswriter Joe Draper said about the phenomenal filly (and aren't we all?) Rachel Alexandra. She ran eight races in 2009 and won every single one of them. Beat the girls by twenty lengths in the Oaks. Beat the boys in the highly respected Preakness and Woodward, becoming the first filly or mare to ever win the Woodward. I love this girl! Here's wishing success to all girls-fillies, mares, or humans-in 2010!