NATHAN: STILL RIDIN'
LIFE WITH HORSES
a partial history of horsemanship in the SF Bay Area, with pictures.)
just realized that very few photos on this site show me riding,
nor has my life with horses been recorded here-- or anywhere.
Well-- that's pretty silly! I've been riding for 45 years and
intend to keep at it until I drop. I
haven't been showing horses in recent years, but my love of and
involvement with the the creatures hasn't diminished one bit.
I've been riding as much as I can-- mostly in my own back yard.
summers ago I had breast cancer. That kept me out of the show
ring that season. Last year, Barry's mom died in May, followed
by my mom in July: I didn't feel much like competitive riding.
This year, I've been working on editing my first novel, and my
leg is falling off. Actually, it's my knee, which has been begging
to be replaced for years and has been hollering enough this summer
to finally get my attention. I'm getting it replaced come Fall.
I have to... I can't walk to the barn any more. Who
said, "After fifty, it's patch, patch, patch." I can't
remember. Memory's shot.
been having a blast pleasure riding these past few years! I'm
having such a good time that I'd be quite content if I never showed
again. I never thought I would say that. Perhaps I'll give showing
a try again next summer, when my knee works again.
it's me and Eddie around the barn:
SANDY NATHAN AND REY DE CORAZONES DOING A FIGURE 8 AT HOME
I've been riding "Eddie", my 7 year old Reserve
Champion Performance Gelding, at home these days. Having a blast.
everything on this web site, this article grew. My daughter, Zoe,
took a few shots of me riding a couple of days ago. I thought
I'd post them to laud the joys of pleasure horses and tell a little
bit about myself as a horsewoman. But then I dug out the old family
albums and found some shots that form an equine history of the
San Francisco Bay Area. Equine treasure! So the article evolved
to "My history with horses". Most of these shots have
never been seen outside our family. They record events from the
early '60's-- great shots like:
"TOOTS" LOPEZ LEADING THE SAN MATEO COUNTY JUNIOR
IN THE 1960 FOURTH OF JULY PARADE, REDWOOD CITY, CA
What times these were! In those days, we had a real Junior
Sheriff's posse, associated with the Sheriff's Department. We
even had real looking badges. Times have changed: no one can claim
attachment to the Department except the Sheriff's Deputies.
old timers from the SF Peninsula might like to see these shots--
if any of us codgers are still left. I'd love to hear from you
if any of you recognize yourselves: e-mail
I prepared this article, I realized that my internal critic was
one reason that I haven't put many pictures of myself on our site,
riding a horse or otherwise: I don't like my posture, appearance,
weight, equitation, and so on. This internal critic has gotten
worse in recent years, as my aging body gives it ammunition. I
felt something like, "Well, sugar, you don't look like Bo
Derek on a horse any more."
you never did," I discovered, digging through my albums. "It's
not going to get any better. Only Bo Derek looks like Bo Derek,
so why not 'show and tell'."
then I found these great pictures, which demanded OUT!
THE SAN MATEO COUNTY JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE & DRILL TEAM
FOURTH OF JULY PARADE, REDWOOD CITY, CA 1960
I'm on the fifth horse (counting heads) from the right. He
looks gray-- he was a buckskin pinto: Jerry. My second horse.
Might be Kerry Maxwell, sixth from the left on Socks.
a story to all this-- my life with horses. I've loved horses since
before I can remember. Every Sunday morning, my dad used to take
me to ride the ponies in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. This
was right after he got home from W.W.II. Sunday was my mom's day
to sleep in-- only the Park's ponies would appease me. I don't
remember any of this. However, I do remember loving horses as
early as my memories start. After much begging, crying and carrying
on, as well as a move down the Peninsula, I was allowed to take
Riding my bike from my family's home to be a "barn rat"
at the Menlo Circus Club every Saturday, I started riding when
I was ten. My first teacher was a Col. Seisen (spelling phonetically
from ancient memory): a former colonel in the Prussian army. We
sat up straight!
English lessons, I graduated to a horse of my own. The happiest
day of my life. I kept my horse on some property my family owned
in Woodside. We hit the trails. From there, it was a drill team
and parades. "Toots" Lopez lead the San Mateo County
Junior Sheriff's Posse and Drill team, shown above.
MY FIRST HORSE:
SPICE & I IN 1959 OR SO-- THAT'S REDWOOD CITY BELOW US!
The amazing thing about this photo is that that's FARM Hill,
a development my father began in the late 50's and almost completed
by his death in '64. Challenge Development finished it off. We're
on the site of Canada College before it was built! I think the
foundation you see is the Novitiate. Also-- I remember Spice as
being chunky and small. He's rangy and not small. This horse could
buck! Bucked in circles so it was hard to ride him. Also he had
a good stop-- Triff Trifeletti used to rope off of him. Triff
MY SECOND HORSE:
JERRY HAD A HABIT OF RUNNING AWAY WHEN HE GOT SCARED.
He ran away with my dad on him once and got himself sold.
He also stepped on Clint Eastwood at a parade in San Francisco.
Clint was in his "Rawhide" days. I had a zit on the
end of my nose. I'll never forget it. I'm showing the picture
not because we're so beautiful, but THAT'S REDWOOD CITY DOWN THERE!
I'm standing where Canada College is again, or maybe up in Farm
Hill somewhere. Do you believe it?!
early days as a horse person included Toots Lopez and so many
more great people. Here are some of the kids in the Junior Sheriff's
Posse in front of our Bus:
JUNIOR SHERIFF'S POSSE MEMBERS
With a little help from my friends (Thanks Rick, Cynthia,
Linda, and Kerry!), I came up with some of the names of this happy crew:
Front row: Larry Matson, unknown posse member, Rick DeBenedetti,
another unknown, the Oddstad family dog, Shep, & Cynthia DeBenedetti.
Second row: Linda DeBenedetti, Melinda James, Sandy Oddstad
Nathan, & Kathy Matson.
Back row: Two unknown posse members and Sheila Trifeletti.
Sheila was one of my best friends and riding buddy as a kid. Sheila
passed on a few years back-- I miss her.
dad got into the act when I joined the Posse: he was always one
for doing things more efficiently. When he saw the gang of us
go off to a parade in 15 two horse trailers, he thought, "That's
silly! Why not just one load!" He got a hold of an old bus
somewhere. Triff Trifeletti took it to the shop and turned it
into a very handy transportation for about 10 horses. Oh, my dad
was Andy Oddstad, a SF Bay Area builder
from the 40's to 60's. (The link will take you to a story about
him.) We created quite a stir arriving at a parade or fair grounds
to "do our thing" in the bus. Triff's guys at the machine
shop did an incredible job fixing it up.
in that drill team was a blast. After doing our drill routine,
we'd come out of the fair ground arenas at a dead run-- what joy!
What courage! What stupidity! All the first horse in line had
to do was stumble and we'd pile up. We wore matching green suede
shotgun chaps, beige hats and pants, and carried flags. I don't
have a horse today I'd trust in a parade like I did my two plain,
grade horses, Spice and Jerry. We practiced at the Mounted Patrol
Grounds in Woodside every Saturday. I remember being out of place
in one drill and broadsiding someone's horse at one practice--
no one got hurt, but I haven't forgotten it in forty years. (If
you're interested in the role of the Mounted
Patrol Grounds in Woodside equine history, the link will
take you to stories about it. You can come back and read the rest
of at your leisure- a link is provided for that, too.)
things always worked when we performed. I remember Toot Lopez's
kindness and patience with us-- and all his work. Great days,
"TRIFF" TRIFELETTI & HIS DAUGHTER SHEILA IN THE
Two dear friends who have passed on in a sweet family picture.
Triff, Gordon Hanson, John O'Malley & my aunt Elma Mendola
bought Oddstad Homes after my father's death.
Triff & Gordon were later given Lifetime Achievement Awards
by the National Homebuilders' Association.
kept our horses on a ranch we owned on Canada Road-- which we
eventually sold to become Canada Junior College. The ranch had
an old Victorian barn on it, long gone, and a pretty old Victorian
house. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent at that
ranch, and riding over every inch of Woodside I could reach. You
could ride pretty near anywhere back then-- few of the big estates
had fences. The beauty of those rides shaped my soul; I think
heaven on earth is found in the redwoods of the coastal range.
some Woodside history:
MY FAMILY AT OUR RANCH
Sandy, Clara, Andy, & David Oddstad on Robin Rose, Cheyenne,
Water Dog, and Billy Howe.
Remember the bubble head? How could you put a Western hat on with
a hairdo like that? More like sculpture than hair. Not visible
in picture: my horse, Robin, wanted to buck me off in the worst
way. Can you see how stiff she's standing? If horses could swear,
you'd see a blue cloud over her head. One wrong move and she'd
have dumped me.
This must have been shortly before my dad's death: early 60's.
I didn't get Robin until I was 17.
MY BROTHER, DAVID, AND I DRIVING IN THE EARLY '60'S
I was maybe 13, David was 4 or 5.
got the horse show bug when I was 15. After struggling along by
myself for a year, I began to take lessons from Mickey Burks,
founder with her husband Glenn of the original Willow Tree Farm
in Woodside and a super show coach. Mickey and Glenn were a terrific
training team and led many riders to horse show honors. They were
like surrogate parents to me, coaching me and a succession of
horses to "lotsa" ribbons and trophies in various types
Western riding. Mickey and Glenn relocated to Hawaii. I understand
Glenn has passed on. My fond memories linger with him and Mickey.
hub of horse related activity on the Peninsula was the Mounted
Patrol Grounds. They were familiar from my days with the Junior
Sheriff's Posse, but once I began showing, the Mounted Patrol
Grounds was The Place. I don't know how many shows I attended
there: my memories are a pastiche of sights and sounds going way
back. I'll tell a few stories about the place that may make you
most vivid memory of the Mounted Patrol Grounds occurred perhaps
ten years ago: my friend, Dianne Fruehling Cummings arranged a
benefit horse exhibition/dinner/dance for the San Mateo Battered
Women's Shelter. Dianne is a great friend of that organization
and figured out a way to combine her love of Peruvian Paso horses
and having a good time to benefit the Shelter. The Woodside Mounted
Patrol graciously allowed her group to use their facilities. Dianne
enlisted a group of fellow Peruvian Paso maniacs to do the exhibition.
What a hoot! What fun! The event was entitled "The Rootin'
Tootin."-- and it was. The exhibition occurred in the late,
late afternoon, followed by a barbecue and dance. It was the first
time many people had seen a Peruvian Paso horse-- the crowd came
from all over the Peninsula. My husband & I were in the exhibition
on our a couple of our horses.
rode my beloved Halagueno DC. "Ollie" is one of the
best trained horses I've ever ridden, trained in classic enfrenadura
reining. This reining originated in the bull ring. Early Peruvian
bull fights were not the elaborate spectacles you see now. They
consisted of a guy with a lance on a horse in a ring with the
bull. That's it. No padding. No band of extras: just a guy, horse
and bull. The horses had to be very brave, and learn how to get
out of the way of a charging bull fast. They did this by spinning
off the front end, rather like a reiner spins off its hindquarters.
Enfrenadura horses can do this spinning very fast, and can change
the direction of their front end spin very fast. My Ollie is enfrenadura
trained-- remember this.
also got nervous in strange surroundings. He'd never been to the
Mounted Patrol Grounds before; we lived on the other side of Woodside,
for heavens sake. There might have been balloons and such up:
decorations. And people in evening clothes. Besides, it was his
dinner time. I don't remember what all we did for the exhibition:
the kids might have put on a drill team display, just as I had
in my youth. I do remember the Champagne Class.
Paso horses are known for the smoothness of their gait-- they're
known as "the smoothest riding horses in the world".
One crowd pleasing way of demonstrating it is the Champagne Class.
Riders carrying full glasses of champagne perform whatever maneuvers
the judge calls for. The horse with the most champagne left at
the end wins. Neither Ollie nor I had been in a champagne class.
Not too many exhibitors were there, so Dianne drafted all of us
for the class. I didn't give it a thought, Ollie was gentle. Very
well trained. No problem.
When they handed out the plastic champagne glasses, Ollie did
not like me leaning over and waving my hand (and empty champagne
glass) around beside his neck. I was supposed to keep my right
hand quiet. He knew all about equitation. (I also was wearing
a traditional Peruvian poncho-- it's flapping about might have
added to his dismay.)
didn't know Ollie was a teetotaler, either. The subject never
came up-- until Mounted Patrol member Perry French came around
pouring the champagne. Ollie's eyes widened. As did his nostrils
when he smelled the alcohol. He snorted at about a million decibels
and attempted to remove himself from the vicinity of the glass.
Perry did a good job, a brave job, in filling that glass. And
when he was finished, Ollie sidepassed leftward at about 50 miles
per hour for about half the length of the arena. I did not drop
the glass. So he was forced to give an enfrenadura exhibition.
you ride in a champagne class, you hold the reins with your left
hand; the right handles the glass. You can't shorten your reins,
you can't do much but neck rein. I did not know this before that
ride. Boy! Could Ollie neck rein. The crowd got an enfrenadura
exhibit and champagne class all in one! Until I dropped my glass
and headed out of Dodge, or the arena, as the case was. I guess
my ride impressed people, because I asked someone at the party
later, "How did you like the Peruvian Pasos?" The fellow
shook his head, "Well, they're pretty, but boy are they hot.
That one was all over the place." I realized he was talking
about me! Yes, but I never felt in danger: Ollie would never rear
or buck or anything. He just wanted me to drop the glass.
rest of that night was a medley of oak trees and soft lights,
wonderful food, great people, and dancing! When you've got a bad
knee, you remember dancing. There was an auction, if I recall,
and someone donated a Peruvian Paso weanling as a raffle prize.
They even brought him into the building-- where he behaved very
well. Nice horse. (I always remember a horse.)
raised a bunch of money for women whose lives had been pretty
rough and were working to make them better. I'm very grateful
to the Mounted Patrol for allowing us to use their facility. I'm
sure the women from the Battered Women's Shelter were even more
earlier memories of the Mounted Patrol Grounds are around horse
shows. Lots of horse shows. Many, many horse shows, on a succession
of better and better horses. I'm going to talk about those early
show days a bit, and about some wonderful horse people I knew.
If you're interested specifically in horse events at the Mounted
Patrol Grounds, the link will take you there.)
SMOKY JOE: MY FIRST SHOW HORSE
I think this was my first ribbon, won after a year of campaigning
without a trainer.
My dad went with me to all the shows with me, the faithful horse
show dad. I never won. One day I asked, "Can you see what
I'm doing wrong?" Thinking hard, my dad said, "I think
you're leaning to far forward." I sat straight in the next
class and won immediately. Trainers really help! You can't see
yourself riding-- can't see your mistakes. Mickey Burks, my eventually
trainer, said I didn't wreck myself too badly teaching myself
from books: she fixed me pretty fast. Horseback riding is one
discipline where you need instruction from a live body who knows
how to do it. I think this show was over in the Oakland hills
Nostalgia time! Anybody remember Stan Cosca and his family
over in the Oakland hills? Trainer Jimmy Black? Earl Naninga &
his great saddles? Was Stan's ranch the "Skyline Ranch"?
This is memory lane: Stan was a great friend of my dad's, a friendship
forged at Oakland City Council meetings when my father was building
in Oakland. Stan built Skyline Ranch right across from public
open space. This was one of the first ranches built "of a
piece"-- the Coscas put in a house for themselves and trainer/artist
Jim Black & his family. They also built complete stable facilities:
barns, indoor round pen, roping/rodeo arena, a coffee shop and
a saddlery for Earl Naninga. Before that, barns tended to be piecemeal
operations put up a row of stalls at a time. My dad had one of
the great saddles Earl Naninga made: a masterpiece. What wonderful
and Jimmy Black found my first show horse: I called him Smoky
Joe, I think his previous owners called him Tommy Tucker. Smoky
was a Nevada mustang we bought from the Rose family of Hollister.
Smoky/Tommy was supposed to be for one of the Rose brother's son.
We got him when the father broke both his legs in an accident--
rough for a cattleman and horse trainer. He had to sell Smoky
to pay the bills. My parents bought him for me-- this was one
of the best horses I've ever owned. Never lame. Perfect disposition.
Great in the show arena and on the trails. We won all over Northern
California after Jim Black schooled him for a couple of months.
I rode him in equitation and junior stock classes. He was a dandy!
We traded him in on Robin Rose, shown down below.
after Smoky left my life, my trainer, Mickey Burks, was judging
a show somewhere and saw a kid riding him in his equine old age.
She told me, "I had him at second until he got to his wet
work. [Working a steer, doing proscribed maneuvers with a live
bovine.] He just couldn't keep up." Smoky got too old to
successfully compete-- but he gave it his all. That's was a fine
animal: a plain Nevada mustang.
sure love to hear from any of you who know about the Rose's and
Smoky Joe/Tommy Tucker. I loved this animal.
WATER DOG & I AT A SHOW IN THE EARLY '60'S
This is a pretty typey Quarter Horse for the time. Notice
what we did to the mane and tail back then:
roached (clipped) mane, tail pulled up above the hocks. Take a
look at Smoky Joe in the picture above: forelock pulled to nothing.
Sometimes we braided the forelock for a "really slick look".
It did show off the horse's face: you couldn't hide an ugly head
with a long forelock.
Guess I kind of missed the 60's: I'm listening to a Bob Dylan
album as I write. While Bob and Joan Baez and the Beattles were
living the summer of love in San Francisco, I was riding my horse
down the Peninsula. The horse above is "Water Dog"--
the horse's registered name, not one we gave him. I showed Water
Dog in Western pleasure and trail classes. This horse was the
best trail horse I could imagine-- in the sense of being able
to negotiate obstacles that people thought up in an arena. A caveat:
the best trail horse at home. He got nervous in competition
and blew stuff he could do blindfolded at home. Water Dog learned
a great trick: pre-show tummy ache. The minute I got the clippers
and shampoo out, he knew where he was going. He'd start looking
at his tummy, stamping his hind feet: instant nerve induced colic.
He hated shows. After a while we stopped showing him: if a horse
hates it that much, he shouldn't have to go.
Water Dog did fine at shows, nerves and all. The only trail obstacle
I ever saw this horse refuse was a gate with a bear hide hung
over it. You were supposed to sidle up to the gate on your horse,
open it in the proscribed way, and close it on the other side.
Water Dog refused to go near the bear hide. I had to agree: if
I met a bear sitting on a gate out on the trail, I'd want
my horse to have enough sense not to walk up to it. But apparently
the designers of show trail classes thought otherwise. I remember
one of my friends chortling about a trail course he set up that
no horse successfully navigated: it involved elephant manure.
Fresh elephant manure. Now, wouldn't you want your horse to take
a good look at an elephant out on the trail?
brains are not required in the show arena. They're an impediment,
Dog was my dad's horse. He was over having lunch with Stan Cosca
one day and Jimmy Black was working this horse in the arena. His
previous owner had died and the horse was up for sale. I guess
my dad had never taken a close look at a registered Quarter Horse,
but he flipped, saying, "He had muscles like wrestler and
red hair like my wife: I had to buy him." And he did. Andy
Oddstad was a wrestler in fact and by disposition, however, "I
don't understand anything I can't pin on a mat." He never
really got horseback riding: it's domination without domination.
Tricky for a wrestler and football player. (He might have made
a fair bull dogger.)
of the scariest things in my young life: My dad didn't
ride that much-- he worked too hard. And Water Dog was a big,
strong boy with lots of energy. My dad used to ride him up the
hill once in a while. Soon, I'd hear brush popping and see my
dad whizzing by, Ol' Water Dog running to beat the band, my dad
holding on to the horn, looking as scared as I ever saw him. I
started riding the horse after school. Didn't want my daddy hurt.
Riding wasn't his thing. Turned out he got hurt after all, but
not by a horse.
1965 CALIFORNIA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP QUARTER HORSE SHOW?
Billy Howe & I in a Western Pleasure Class
another nice Quarter Horse our family owned in the the '60's.
This was at the California State Champion Quarter Horse Show for
at Santa Rosa, or some such title as I recall. Definitely in Santa
Rosa. It was one of the last shows I went to with Mickey and Glen
Burks after my dad died. This is a western pleasure class. Things
to note: this is the official western pleasure head set back in
the last century. Billy Howe packs his head were a normal horse
would, not down on the ground like today's pleasure horses. They're
supposed to keep the poll (top of the skull) above the withers
now, right? New rules are an improvement-- after not having horses
for many years, I was shocked to see horses in magazines with
their heads seemingly between their knees! I scream about humans
imposing fashion on show horses-- the modern Dustbuster headset
is one I can't understand. Billy's also pre- the Arnold Schwartzenegger
look: huge bulging muscles weren't the thing in the QH breed at
this time. This horse was plenty strong enough: he got me where
I wanted to go, and he packed enough punch to buck me off whenever
he wanted. Those of you who show in Santa Rosa now: those were
the stands back in the old days. Also note: I'm leaning forward.
Still do, and still hold my hand that funny way. My leg's stuck
too far forward. All this drove Mickey Burks crazy. The hand thing
also messed up some tendons in my hand-- good equitation will
save your body as well as win you ribbons. Sit how your trainer
SANDY NATHAN & ROBIN ROSE AT TALLY HO IN 1965
This photo from the Menlo Circus Club's Tally Ho demonstrates
a number of things:
First, I've been showing horses a long time. This horse is Robin
Rose, a Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross, and a killer stock horse.
A horse didn't have to be pure bred to do well back then. Second,
the photo shows that today's western horsemanship is much better
than yesterday's. You'd see jerky stops like this back then, the
horses' mouths open and heads thrown up. Training and horsemanship
have improved incredibly. Modern Western riding is as elegant
as dressage Third, Robin had incredible hocks-- look at how clean
they are and how she uses them.
first show horse, Smoky, was a bit limited when it came to the
top levels of competition. The year before my dad died, my parents
bought me a fireball named Robin Rose. Like everything, there's
a story about how we got Robin Rose: we were at a show in Gilroy,
I think. I was riding my dad's Quarter Horse, Water Dog, and Smoky
in different classes. Smoky and I were having a day that comes
along every so often-- oh, say, once a life time. We won every
class we entered. My dad stood on the rail, holding Water Dog
and watching. These two guys kept looking at him, and me. My dad
was starting to get bugged by them. Finally, one came over and
introduced himself-- he was one of the Rose brothers from Hollister,
which was just down the road. Memory fails me here, so I don't
have his name. We had bought Smoky Joe from him, acting through
Jim Black! We'd never met Smoky's previous owner. My dad was secretly
looking for a really top horse for me, and asked the Roses if
they had one. "Why, yes, we do," was the reply. We drove
out to their ranch after the show and took a look. That's how
I got Robin Rose. I'd never ridden a horse that fine-- That mare
could spin so fast, the world blurred and you had to sit perfectly
or spin off. Nothing at the show we'd just been to could touch
could buck, too! I found that out. She was always a little hot
for me: scared me a little. But Spencer Chapin of Woodside did
well on her. He showed her to Reserve Champion Junior Stock Horse
for the State of California back in the '60s. What a mare!
story from the good old days: I was showing at the Junior Grand
National at the Cow Palace with all of the Willow Tree farm kids.
Must have been '64, my last year as a Junior. The Junior Grand
National is is a huge show, very old, and a very big deal. The
Cow Palace, with its weird lighting and muffled sounds, echoes,
flapping pigeons, etc., was hell for a horse. As unnatural a place
for a horse to be as in a skyscraper. Nevertheless, no one would
miss it if you had any chance of placing. I was peacefully watching
the show in the gigantic stadium when Mickey's daughter ran up
You've got to come! Robin's gone bonkers! She's out of her mind!
You have to handle her!" Robin was totally nuts: my
high strung, half thoroughbred mare was wild eyed and crazy in
her stall, pacing and stomping. Mickey ordered me to deal with
her. How? My mom and dad were there. We stood by, perplexed and
horrified. Robin finally found something that calmed her down:
chewing on my mom's straw purse. She stood in her stall, shredding
the thing, gradually coming back to earth. Mickey came by to check
on us. What was my trainer's advice?
eating that purse calms her down, LET HER!" said Mickey.
When it was safe, I saddled Robin, rode her down by the hog barn
and put her in a lope until she calmed down. I cooled her out
and brought her back up to the main horse barn, hosing her off
before putting her in her stall. Robin's energy was up, roaring,
by the time we got to our class. That horse taught me about brio--
Peruvian horses are hot like that. Robin's Thoroughbred brio was
a bit spicy: she was likely to buck or bite my arm off in that
DAVID ODDSTAD & TUCK:
Tuck was a trick and roping horse owned by the Cosca Family
back in the 60's.
You could do anything on this horse: Roman ride, rope tricks,
rodeo. Stan's daughter used to ride him in exhibitions. .
Wasn't my brother cute? He's about 8 here.
at the Woodside Mounted Patrol grounds figured throughout all
of this. If you have been to a few horse shows, it will come as
no surprise that many horse show parents get really sick of
driving their kids all over the $@%#$!! place taking them
to shows. My dad was the quintessential horse show dad. When I
think about what he did for me now that I'm an adult, I really
am amazed and very grateful. The man worked. I actually
have few memories of my dad until I was about 9 years old and
we moved to Atherton-- he wasn't home. He worked that much. Oddstad
Homes was the largest residential construction company in Northern
California by a long shot during the late 50's and early 60's;
the 7th largest in the country at one time. (My Aunt Elma kept
all the statistics!) After working those inhuman weeks, he'd get
up at 4 AM Saturday to trailer me and my horse to some show in
some godforsaken hamlet hours from home.
remember one such show. I was very happy and warm: I was riding
my horse. My dad was standing around freezing. (This was before
any of those super insulating fabrics or boots.) How freezing?
He spent most of his tour of duty in W.W.II in the South Pacific
as a member of the first Underwater Demolition Team. For some
reason, the Navy sent him to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska after
that. "I have never been so cold in my life," he said
of that show, "including when I was in the Aleutians."
He bought a down parka the next week. (At that point in time,
even down was innovative.) This was a true horse show dad!
Oddstad really appreciated the proximity of Mounted Patrol Grounds.
A simple 20 minute drive from our home in Atherton, pick up the
horses on Canada Road, ten minutes to the Patrol Grounds. Easy
Or I could just ride over. My mom could saunter by in the
afternoon, watch me, and not be stuck all day. The convenience
of a local showground was marvelous. I expect that other horse
show parents have felt the same way in years past and present.
learned how to be responsible on a horse. In strange and wonderful
ways. One day, my dad dropped me off at a show at the Mounted
Patrol Grounds. He had business to do, so he unhooked the trailer
and left me, it, and my horse for a few hours. I was about 15,
responsible. It would be okay. I tied my horse-- Smoky Joe, shown
above somewhere-- to a tree and sat in the stands to wait for
my classes. Some time later, the announcer said, "There's
a gray horse loose. If you have a gray horse..." It was Smoky.
I never could tie a knot worth beans, no matter how Glenn Burks
tried to teach me. This happened a couple of times, "There's
a gray horse loose." I looked around, holding Smoky's lead
rope. What to do? Several horses were waiting inside their
trailers. Ahah! Good idea. Put him in the trailer! I put down
the ramp and started to load him. He got his feet up on the ramp
and balked. Why? Smoky loaded perfectly. Why was he balking? I
got more aggressive. He got higher on the ramp.
was he s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g like that? His body elongated before
my eyes, front feet far in front of him like a parked out Saddlebred.
He leapt off the ramp just in time: the trailer leapt out from
under him, heading downhill. I grabbed at it, 15 year old kid
against two horse trailer. It won. In horror, I watched as the
trailer plunged down the incline, down farther and father. Past
other trailers, trees, horses.
stopped when it hit a Jeep. I was dead. My father would kill me.
The Jeep owner would kill me. I ran down the hill, Smoky in tow,
sure that we'd destroyed the Jeep.
Jeep was great! Not a mark. Not a scratch. Jeeps are tough! Someone
came and we pushed the trailer back somehow.
ought to block your wheels before loading your horse," the
person said. An embarrassing moment that will live with me forever--
a learning experience. Always block your wheels. Amazingly, no
one got mad at me. I wasn't killed. My dad just laughed.
was a different time, then. A wonderful time. We'd probably get
sued for abuse of Jeep or runaway trailer these days, but then..
Woodside was a community and the Patrol Grounds were its heart.
People were just people. Many people in Woodside were quite wealthy,
then as now. And many were not. They mixed. Folks of all sorts
went to these shows.
much of my life played out at the Patrol Grounds. Would you like
another story? This one is later. My dad had been killed. I only
had one horse left, Robin Rose. I ended up giving her to Glenn
and Mickey Burks for their son to show. Typical of kids, he lost
interest immediately. Robin became a pasture ornament. Well, Glenn
was working with a client's stock horse some years after that--
I expect it was the 70's. He was tuning the horse up, getting
it ready to campaign seriously. The horse's debut class was to
be the Open Stock Horse Class at an upcoming show at the Mounted
Patrol Grounds. Glenn was working like crazy on the horse.
down on entries," someone from the show called Glenn the
day before. "Do you have another stock horse? If we don't
get another entry, we'll have to scratch the class." "Well,
uh. I've got one out in pasture," said Glenn. He pulled Robin
in, hosed her off, got on her and stopped her a couple of times.
What happened in the class?
beat the horse he'd been working on! That was one horse, I'll
tell you. Some horse. If she decided to work, boy! And if she
decided to buck! Say your prayers. (I wrote a funny article on
this 'zine, H.A.Y.:The Cure for
Horse Addiction, that you may get a kick out of. Talks more
about Robin. Or you can Return to the top
to pick up the story with the Junior Sheriff's Posse.)
a different time, back then. Pre-monster houses. Pre- "He
who dies with the most toys wins". I used to sleep in our
barn with my girlfriends as a kid, then ride down to the greasy
spoon where Buck's is now and have breakfast. We could ride anywhere,
and did, but I don't remember anyone getting into trouble, or
even getting hurt. Never heard of a lawsuit. The old days. Wonderful
folk, wonderful memories: Dick and Jean Meisack. Chris Olmo. Great
family friends. We moved from Woodside some 7 years ago, but I'll
never forget the thrill of running into Chris on the Woodside
trails. He always had a typey horse. His first wife, Ruth, was
one of my mom's best friends.
don't know if we can go back to those days now, but I swear to
you, if we lose the community spirit we had, if we lose the sense
that people are more important than things, then we've lost something
very valuable. More valuable than "toys" and all the
props of a material culture.
IS SUPPOSED TO BE A STORY ABOUT PLEASURE RIDING, ALL I'VE TALKED
ABOUT IS SHOWS-- AND PHILOSOPHY. WELL, WE MEANDER A BIT AT SPURS:
didn't have a "life with horses" for a few years while
I went to school, got married, had kids, and worked. Age and my
herniated disc got me into them once more:
something in me said, "You're forty. If you're going to have
horses in your life again, don't you think you should get started?"
It took a ten minute test ride for me to decide on a Peruvian
Paso. I bought our first two Peruvians with own money, my husband
should be extinct." Yes, Barry Nathan, whom you never see
OFF a horse now, actually said that. Barry felt that horses were
too big and had no place in the modern world. Plus, he'd ridden
Robin Rose, my old stock horse. She hated him as much as he hated
her. She was utterly trained, and he was a total beginner who
inadvertently told her to do things like stop and go at the same
time. That Thoroughbred temperament would not tolerate a beginner,
even on a 23 year old horse-- which was how old Robin was by the
time Barry rode her.
& I: OUR FIRST PERUVIAN PASO
Still truckin' after all these years. Vira is now our oldest
horse: at age 16, she's as sound as the day we bought her.
She's ridden all the time, over hill and dale. Wish I could say
I held up as well.
ride on a Peruvian Paso and my aging back went, "UMMMM. I
can ride a horse without hurting!" The whole family eventually
got into horses, with both daughters taking Hunt Seat lessons
and moving into Peruvians and shows.
LILY NATHAN AT HER FIRST SHOW: AGE 6?
She's on good old reliable VIRA! I'm holding the lead
many years, my life with Peruvians was also about showing them.
I dreamed of breeding and showing a National Champion Pleasure
horse. And I did very well for a few years. These were a couple
of photos I dug up:
BARRY & I WINNING A MATCHED PAIRS CLASS WITH RICK MERO
We're riding two geldings we bred, full brothers by *AV As
de Oro out of Venganza MSR:
Vistoso BSN & Azteca BSN.
AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY A FEW YEARS BACK
LONG LAST, WE GET TO THE JOYS OF PLEASURE RIDING--
my physical disabilities took over, I couldn't imagine NOT riding
competitively. My entire life was about competition. And all of
a sudden, I wasn't able to compete. I did not adjust easily: It
took cancer and a few philosophic changes for me to do it.
is an extreme motivator: I realized that even if I won every horse
show class in the Peruvian Paso breed, indeed, in every breed,
it would not cure cancer. Nor would it truly make me happy, or
do much for the planet, either. Yes, winning is fun. It was great
fun riding around an arena in front of a bunch of really nice
people on great horses-- and the thrill lasted about two days
for a Championship (well, Reserve Championship is as high as I
I got older, the "high" of winning lasted less time
relative to the "total-post-show-physical-melt-down".
Also, I noticed that I got very NERVOUS! at shows and at times
my husband and I would have "heated discussions" of
various things around showing.
WAS NOT FUN.
WAS FUN WAS THIS:
BARRY & SANDY NATHAN RIDE TWIGGY AND EDDIE ON THE TRAILS
"Twiggy", officially Gabriela de Amanecer, and "Eddie",
Rey de Corazones, are mother and son.
"EDDIE" & I DO THE CONES
"EDDIE" GETS READY TO BACK UP
Isn't he gorgeous? This is why you should have fine horses:
to look at them. Also: a truly fine horse lasts longer. Those
strong ligaments that stand out so, and the big joints and bones,
the beautiful proportions - the things that make a horse beautiful--
also make him last. And make him fun to ride.
FIND PLEASURE RIDING FUN, SO I DO IT. WHEN I CAN SHOW WITHOUT
STRESS OR PAIN, I'LL DO THAT.
I ENJOY MY HORSE.
EDDIE RUNNING IN HIS FIELD:
I like to look at this animal. If I cold never ride him again,
just looking at him would be enough.
me, life with horses is a spiritual thing. My bond with my special
horse, Eddie, transcends any ribbon or trophy he could ever win.
And he's won: Barry showed him twice, won all his classes and
ended up with a Reserve Champion Pleasure Gelding title on him.
But he's more than that. Eddie is my therapist, my healer, my
buddy, my friend. Just looking at how the parts of his body fit
together gives me great joy. Being able to groom him is a joy.
Owning him-- or does he own me?-- is a delight.
we all get old and die. And so do our horses. The bonds we share,
human to animal, are the source of value, as are the times we
THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!
Barry Nathan riding our stallion, Capoeira
BSN, in the field next door.
1999 - 2006. Sandra Nathan. All rights reserved.
No part of this article may be quoted or reproduced without permission
of the author.
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION
A TALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON
"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."
TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD
BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.
THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY
A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN
Click the covers above to go Sandy Nathan's books on the Amazon Kindle store. All Kindle books are 99 cents.
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The Angel and Numenon are also at the Nook store. The Angel is an iBook, as well.
AUTHOR SANDY NATHAN IS THE WINNER OF SEVENTEEN NATIONAL AWARDS!