I was in the horse showing business briefly in the late 70s. I think it was 78-79 or so, which would’ve made me 13-14. Sounds about right. Might’ve been 77, since I remember Seattle Slew winning the Triple Crown. This is a story I can’t believe I haven’t written about before! It was a big deal in my life and it cemented my feelings about my family and their dysfunctions. Much of it, I simply cannot remember – probably because I was so confused and unhappy.
To set the stage, let me first explain my family’s logic when dealing with pretty much anything. They truly believe that ignorance can be overcome with money. If you don’t know about ______________ (insert subject), then all you need to do is buy the top of the line stuff having to do with that subject and you’ll magically know all you need to know about it and be successful at it. They’ve done it many, many times over the years with anything from horses, to restaurants, to cars, to guitars. Not joking. Knowing this proclivity, let me tell you the tale of my sad stint in the horse showing business.
As most teen girls, I loved horses. We had two old nags at the house, so I’d been around them a bit, but I wanted to show horses, which the nags couldn’t do. So, in true Pratt fashion, my father goes and finds an expensive, pedigreed greenbroke 2 year old gelding named Hyline Scooter for me. I think this horse cost $3000 – a LOT at the time. And of course, he had to have a custom built trailer to go with the horse, which was another $5000 at least. And I had to have a show saddle, so we drove from Knoxville to Germantown TN (Memphis) to purchase a saddle for around $1500. I have no documentation or pix of this time period, so all prices are from my less than stellar memory. I’d ask my mother, but this whole incident is never spoken about because it shows their stupidity.
Anyway, my parents spend all this money on my whim – remember, I’d never shown a horse, been to a show or anything – and find these sketchy ass trainers in Loudon TN, where my horse was boarded and I would go every weekend to train. Or so they told my parents.
What actually happened was I’d go down there to ride my horse and they would not let me. They told me I was fat and didn’t know how to ride, so I had to ride the other horses until I was more capable and/or lost weight. Which made sense to me at the time – it never occurred to me that 115# was NOT too much for a horse to carry. They just used my insecurities against me. Apparently my parents never checked up to see what was going on down there and they didn’t know I could never ride my own horse. But I’m certain I told them about it, so I guess they just chose to believe the Embertons’ LIES rather than my accounts. Since they were completely ignorant about horses and showing horses, they put 100% confidence in these horrible people rather than, say, INVESTIGATE what was going on.
They “trained” me to show Scooter at halter, which means stand there and let the judges look at the horse. Halter competition is strictly about the horse’s looks and conformation, it has nothing to do with the person holding the lead. But I nonetheless accepted this as OK and showed him at halter.
In the meantime, the Embertons (Jeri and Milton), were beating the shit out of my horse and were generally abusive to all the horses in their care. They’d tie them up and beat them, put them in “bitting rigs” (which is basically tying the horse’s head to its side in full bridle and saddle) and leave them there ALL DAY, and they’d ride them for hours to exhaust them. The Embertons were horrible people and I’m glad that Milton died about 10 years ago at 58. I hope it was a painful illness. I can’t find that bitch Jeri, sadly, but I hope she dies painfully as well. They were abusive to the animals and to me.
The Embertons would not let me ride Scooter, but I could groom him and pet him, which he loved. He was the sweetest boy. Which is why it pisses me off SO MUCH that they beat him. They also drugged him. At one show, he was disqualified because he tested positive for a sedative. Of course the trainers denied it (!!), but that was the beginning of the end of my horse showing.
I only went to one season of shows all in the E TN region. Very little actual showing for me. Milton rode Scooter in Western Pleasure, but I don’t think he won anything because Scooter hated him and wouldn’t comply.
So finally my parents got the idea that the Embertons were using my horse for themselves and not letting me near him, so they confronted the Embertons about it. A fight ensued and we ended up in court. I remember being called to testify and being very nervous, but that’s all I remember about the hearing. The dispute was over who owned the horse. Apparently the Embertons had filed for ownership papers with the AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) and used their influence to get the papers without any of us signing him over. So they showed up with ownership papers and the judge ruled in their favour. Of course my father blamed the judge and said he was bribed. Nope, it was IGNORANCE that screwed that pooch. I’m sure we could have won a real dispute – after all, I HAD the ownership papers for Scooter, but that would require logic and confronting the AQHA, which my parents were too ignorant to know how to do.
All this is my parents’ fault, of course. They were completely ignorant of the horse showing business and assumed that buying top of the line stuff (horse, trailer, etc.) would ensure my success. Truth of the matter is that the Embertons knew a patsy when they saw one and they totally stole that horse, knowing they could get the papers changed at the AQHA, which is a bunch of asshat good ole boys.
All I got out of it was a year or two of cleaning out stalls, riding nags and a couple of shows. And lots of bullying about how fat I was and how bad a rider I was. I’d never ridden much, remember. My mother was “shocked” when I reminded her of this abuse years later – even though I’m sure I mentioned it at the time.
The Embertons gave us back the saddle, bridle and show halter, but kept the horse. They sold him for a tidy profit, no doubt, since he was now 4-5 years old and in his prime. I’ve asked the AQHA for his records, but I doubt those assholes will give them to me. As I said, I don’t have a single pic of Scooter or me when I was showing. Shows how much my parents thought of it.
I was devastated by this whole drama. I just wanted my horse and I wanted to ride him. But thanks to my parents’ inability to ADULT, this period of my life was pretty horrible. I felt like it was my fault because I was fat and untalented. Only with the distance of years and wisdom, I can now see that this is just another in a long line of SHIT experiences brought to me by my fucked up family. They don’t mean to be abusive, but their ignorance just lends itself to constant abusive neglect.
I still love horses and maybe I’ll get one if we retire to the desert. I enjoy horse racing immensely and I’d bet on all the races if I didn’t live in buttfuck GA. But my attitude towards trainers and the AQHA are: they can eat a bag of dicks. I know there is abuse a plenty in the racing industry (Jeri and Milton were from Kentucky and had been race horse trainers) but I really don’t think that racing itself is abusive to the horses. They are made for running and they are at their most amazing when they are running. I get emotional watching horses race just from the sheer beauty of it.
I know that Hyline Scooter did become a very successful show horse after the Embertons sold him. I remember seeing a blurb about him in the AQHA book. I hope the AQHA will give me a copy of his records, I’d like to know how he did. I wish I had pix of him, he was a beautiful horse. I can’t believe that I don’t have a single pic of us. Not one. My mother probably threw them away, knowing her. Sigh. I cannot find any pix or records of Scooter via the web. Records from back then are scarce.
So that’s my career in horse showing. It was short and painful. I hope the Embertons rot in hell for doing that to a 14 year old girl. As for my parents, eh, it’s just another in a long list of shit they gave me. They are paying for it now with horrible health, dementia and overall malaise. Of which I have no part. And I’m FINE with that.