Happy Birthday, Star Bright

Anyone who knows me well knows I am basically horse crazy.  I didn’t come out horse crazy, but certainly acquired the insanity not long after birth.  I was three years old when my mom took me to visit her little sister and the sister’s pony, Patches.  I fell in love.   From that moment on, I was hooked.

When I first told my mom I wanted a horse, because her little sister was twelve when she first acquired a horse, she promised me I could have one at twelve as well.  She made the promise less with the intention of actually getting me this equine nearly a decade hence, but more to shut up my incessant requests for my own four-legged friend.  She never believed her three-year-old would remember this promise.  Ah, the naivete of parents.  Of course I remembered and at age twelve years, three months, I did indeed receive a pony of my own.

The story of that pony is for another post.  Suffice to say I absolutely adored her, but she was only 10 hands tall, which is basically forty inches.  Considering I hit 5’7″ by age 10, this pony was much too small for me.  In spite of my adoration, I eventually had to sell her and purchased a larger pony.   I continued to grow and outgrew her as well.  At age 14 I was 5’9″ tall and it was time to move on from ponies.  I simply needed a horse to accommodate my ever-lengthening legs.

I had started doing some work for local farmers, helping out with horse training and stable cleaning.  Through this I met a couple who had purchased a two-year-old gelding they did not have the time or experience to train.  They offered him to me to buy for $200.  Having just sold my pony to a good friend for $350, I had enough to buy him.  They called him Volcano because he was born on the day Mount St. Helens erupted, May 18, 1980.

I remember the day I went and picked up my very own horse.  I was so proud as I walked him up the road along the railroad tracks from their farm to ours.  Though I would never have admitted it to anyone, and although I was terribly excited, I was also a bit frightened.  He was big!  I changed his name to Star Bright because of the bright star on his chestnut face, plus Volcano seemed a name that did not bode well.  I took him home and settled him in.  He was my horsey companion for the next twelve years.  Life in my extremely dysfunctional family was difficult; Star made those years as a teenager bearable and even brought me happiness.

Star was an amazing horse.  He could perform circus tricks and would give me a hug with his foreleg in exchange for a treat.  I rode him hunt seat and also in gymkhana.  At one horse show, I rode him in an equitation semi-finals class in the morning, which we won, placing us in the finals that evening.  That day, I rode him in a bunch of gymkhana classes because he seemed to really enjoy the speed and agility required for these gaming events.  He won the hi-point championship for the gymkhana.  Then that evening, still energetic, I rode him in the hunt-seat equitation finals and we won reserve champion.  He was amazing like that.  The horse was as happy in a show ring as he was trekking up the side of a hill or at the beach playing in the water.

Keeping a horse after I grew up and moved away from my parents’ farm was a bit difficult to say the least.  I moved him around and even leased him for a year while I traveled.  I was modeling at the time and spent a good deal of time out of the country.  At some point, it became clear that keeping him was not in his best interest.  He needed someone who could focus on him and I wasn’t doing it. My parents didn’t keep horses anymore, so he could not go back to their place, and he would have been ignored there anyway.

The day I sold him was heartbreaking.  He would not go into his new owner’s trailer.  It was as if he knew what I was doing and did not want to go.  I felt horribly guilty and sad.  I visited him at his new home and he always remembered me.  The new owners eventually sold him to someone else, a woman in a small town in the northwestern part of Oregon.  The last time I went to visit him, he was 19 years old, and seemed genuinely happy to see me.   He rubbed his head on my chest.  I rode him and visited, then said goodbye, not realizing I would never see him again.  The farm was over two hours from my home in Portland.  The next time I tried to contact the owners to arrange a visit, their number had been disconnected.  I was not able to locate them and do not know how Star’s life turned out.

Every year on May 18, the rest of the world remembers the day Mount St. Helens blew its ash all over Oregon and Washington, flattening trees and decimating a forest.  I, however, remember May 18 as the day my Star was born.  Not a year goes by I don’t remember this day and think about the big chestnut horse who made me happy.   Happy Birthday, Star Bright.  Thank you for being my friend.

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