Neu Perspectives

My First Horse

Rodeo Parade

A scruffy bay Arabian introduced me to the exhilaration of horse ownership.

Rodeo ParadeKelli Neubert rides Skyhawk in a rodeo parade.

There’s something very special about your first horse.

Whether you met him at a young age or had to wait until you were much older, it’s an unforgettable experience getting a horse to call yours. Sometimes the first is the best one you’ll ever own. Sometimes he is merely a stepping stone to something more advanced. But either way, the first horse is often the one that teaches you the most. Your triumphs with him are monumental—and your mistakes are often unforgettable (and make you glad that equines can’t talk!)

My first horse wasn’t the one that I’d always hoped for.

He wasn’t the strong, powerful, shiny animal I was saving my money for. He didn’t have any cow sense, training or much of a hip—he wasn’t even a Quarter Horse. His name was Skyhawk, and he was a small, fuzzy, bay Arabian gelding that had been used for an occasional trail ride.

I chose Skyhawk because he was easy for me to get on and he was cheap. He didn’t need shoes and he seemed smart. Although I had looked at a lot of nice Quarter Horse mares and geldings, at 11 years old with $1,000 in my pocket, I knew I couldn’t afford them. And as he stood at 13.3 hands, I could swing up on Skyhawk without a problem (which was an important detail, as I bought a horse long before I bought a saddle).

He navigated me through countless hours of riding outside. I entered him in little schooling shows, gymkhanas and playdays. He taught me how to deal with embarrassment—as well as the difference that properly preparing for competition can make. In the three years I owned Skyhawk, we went from rearing up at the gate and whirling out of it, to winning blues in every event imaginable. I was hooked. He outran my friends’ horses in the pole bending, and he could travel further in a day than anything else I’d ridden. He was patient with my antics, but smart enough to run back to the barn whenever I fell off. He was my ticket to freedom, and we spent the majority of our time together on grand adventures.

AliSkaihawk2Neubert competes at a horse show on Skyhawk.

Nowadays I have more horses than I do fingers. Some that I have owned have come and gone quickly, while others have been very special individuals. I assess any potential purchases with a keen eye and a lot of discretion for conformation, breeding, performance and temperament. I say no a whole lot more than I say yes. In the horse business, in order to make money, I believe you have to be a bit that way. However, sometimes I think back to my first purchase, and I’m so thankful that my 11-year-old self took a chance on the economical, small, scruffy Arabian.

Skyhawk taught me humility, dedication, disappointment and the rewards of responsibility. My passion for horsemanship was ignited by that little horse, and I am so thankful that I chose him over my “dream horse.” After a few years together, I grudgingly knew it was time for me to move up to something with more ability and I decided to sell Sky. He ended up going to a girl about my age, who lived in the same valley, who had always dreamed of riding down the trail…on a horse of her very own.

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