Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.



After the sadness of the blog on Saturday, I wanted to talk about something happier. Hope you enjoy.

I grew up around horses. We had horses named Chi Chi, Susie-Q and Black Diamond. To be honest, I don’t know much about them except don’t walk behind one (so you don’t get kicked) and how to put on a saddle. But there’s one horse that’s a legend in the Spess family.

When my dad was about twelve, which would have been in 1942, he heard about a Welsh pony for sale in the town of Keystone. He took the money he’d been saving and got his dad to drive him.

This isn’t Sparky, but he was the darker color of the horse on the left.

When Dad got to the house where the horse was for sale, the girl selling him told Dad his name was Sparky and asked if he wanted to ride him. Of course he did. They saddled Sparky and Dad got onboard.

First thing the horse did was run through the family’s garden and try to scrape Dad off with the clothesline. But it wasn’t Dad’s first time on horseback, so he was okay. They paid for the horse (saddle and bridle were part of the deal) and Dad rode the horse home.

Dad said Sparky was one of the smartest horses he ever ran across. Although he wasn’t very tall (taller than a Shetland, though) he could jump any fence on the farm. He loved hanging out with the mares, even though he was a gelding. (No longer a daddy.)

Sparky was the best horse ever! At least on the Spess Farm. Most of my memories are of the cousins all riding him. I remember him at the ‘Ford rodeo at least one year. They took turns riding him in the Rodeo Parade.

When I was small, I got on him with dad and we rode a bucking bronco. (Dad was making him buck on purpose.)

One of my girl cousins liked to take a double handful of oats out and feed him when she was no taller than his hip. (As I said, Welshes aren’t very tall horses.) There’s even a story about him running away when one of my aunts was riding him, but Dad says Sparky was just teasing. 🙂

Sparky was gentle when a small child was on his back, but not above a buck or two when the older guys were there.

I remember Dad saying once that Gene Autry retired his horse, Champion, on ten acres of prime alfalfa. Sparky was retired on 160 of prime alfalfa. (There was no keeping him off because he loved to jump.)

Dad owned Sparky for over twenty-five years before the gelding died. They found him where he’d tried one last time to jump a fence.

I like to think there were mares on the other side.

Did your family have horses when you were growing up? Are your memories of them as happy as mine?