The Horse Gene, Part 1

My earliest horse was Prince Harry the Hairless Horse

While no official study has been done, the existence of a “horse gene” is a well-established “fact” among equine fanciers. This gene is not a simple inheritance gene as evidenced by genealogies of many families. It is not totally sex-linked, but female offspring have a much higher incidence.

We found this photo on eBay, if you’re looking for Prince Harry the Hairless Horse.

I will provide myself as an example. To my parents’ horror, apparently my first word was “horse.” Neither of my parents ever had much interest in horses. I did, however, have two aunts and one great aunt on my father’s side who obviously had the horse gene. My sisters both got mild cases of this – perhaps influenced by me.

From the moment I could speak, I asked for a horse at every opportunity. At age 3, I was given a rocking horse (Prince Harry the Hairless Horse in case anyone got the same one I did; you can learn more at I rode him for hours every day, fed him dry cereal through a small crack by his mouth and groomed him daily.

When Wheaties offered a pony as a prize in the contest, I ate Wheaties multiple times a day just to get more box tops to send in. When my father played a cruel joke one day and called the house to tell me I had won the pony, my mother was furious. That led to my father’s promise that I could have a horse when he retired from the Army but I had to pay for it. Don’t worry – I was not about to let him forget it!

Meanwhile I was a dedicated fan of My Friend Flicka, The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and any other show on TV that featured a horse. I still asked for a horse at every chance and was disappointed to receive Breyer models – not that they weren’t great, but they weren’t real. My personal library consisted of everything ever written by Marguerite Henry and all the classic horse books.

At that time we lived in a rural area near Binghamton, N.Y. I was about five when I disappeared one day. My mother said she got a phone call from a neighbor about half a mile down the road. Mr. Gene Davis (hoping you are still alive Mr. Davis!) became my hero. He had a Quarter Horse mare named Goldie who had just had a half Arabian filly, Ahza BeBe. Goldie was not a friendly horse, but apparently she felt a small girl was not a threat. Mr. Davis found me in the stall with the mare and filly.

Since the horses and I got along so well and it was obvious it would be almost impossible to keep me away, I simply began to spend every waking hour I could down at the barn with the two horses.

Before you decide my parents were neglectful, do remember things were a bit different back then – the early ’60s. I was in my own personal horse heaven. Goldie was a lovely Palomino as befitting her name and Ahza was a bright chestnut.

Then my father was transferred to Germany. There were many tearful goodbyes to my beloved equine friends and off we went. By sheer luck, we were now living in Zweibrucken – a German town famous for its lovely Rose Garden AND its horses! They had beautiful stables, horses competing at the top levels in dressage and open jumping plus a grass track for both flat and steeplechase racing.

I would hike the mile down the hill from the Army base to the stables whenever I could. Now, for every gift I simply asked for money for riding lessons.

The German system for young people was that you would take vaulting first. We had a lovely gray Percheron named Donner with a smooth canter. A flock of little girls with one or two boys (hmm, notice the gene distribution again?) would run and leap on and off this marvelous horse while he cantered steadily around. Language was no barrier. I can’t do a headstand on dry land but I did one hanging on to Donner’s neck in our Christmas show.

Unfortunately Donner was headed for retirement. The replacement horse was a lovely roan mare named Zuckerpuppe (Sugar Doll). Her tolerance for crowds of human monkeys clambering around her was not great. We might get two or three of us on board and then she would gaily buck and send us flying. The arena had deep sawdust and no one was every hurt, but it was frustrating.

To be continued . . .

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