Horsey Tales from the Hamptons

Written By: Diana Berthold

“Horsey Tales from the Hamptons”

A friend moved out to the Hamptons. She had a farm there, and I was always welcome to come out to visit and ride. We first met when she managed a farm where I rode at night after commuting to NYC. I was new to riding and horse ownership. Although she intimidated me at first, we began a lasting friendship. She taught me a lot about horses, horsemanship, and the responsibility of owning a horse. A few days after my own horse moved in, I sat on the grass and witnessed something I had never seen before, the best dressage riders in the world. That farm hosted the “Alternative Olympics,” the result of the boycott of the summer Moscow Olympics. When I left designing full time and went on to freelance fashion design, and later into my own business; I had the opportunity to do things that wouldn’t have fit into my former work schedule. We would pack and ride, or go and look at horses all over Long Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. After she left the Hamptons, we climbed and tubed in the Rain Forest and only a few years ago, went to the World Equestrian Games even though I was recovering from brain surgery and she from ovarian cancer!

Upon visits to her farm, I would turn my horse out in the field with a dozen or more horses. He didn’t know he was a small horse, and went out immediately, to make it clear that he was king; especially to the biggest and youngest of the herd. My friend’s horse, a 17.3 Anglo-Trakhener gelding, and my horse, looked like Abbot & Costello, whether they were rearing and sorting it all out, riding on the trailer, or out on a trail ride. My small alpha horse, all of 15.2 hands, roundish with a short gait, and her horse, tall, lanky, with a big stride, together were a comedy!

One day when I pulled up, I met my blacksmith, who was out for the day servicing the horses. We rode and turned them out when we were done. After he left, I discovered my horse only had three shoes! I walked the entire pasture searching for the missing shoe, so that when I got home, the blacksmith could come and just tack it on. While out looking, I found so many horse shoes! More than I could carry! Not one of them belonged to my horse! When I got home, I had to wait for my blacksmith to have the time to come and make another shoe. If I had found the missing one, he would have just stopped in and tacked it on! You can ride a horse with four shoes, two front shoes, but not three shoes!

On Thanksgiving Day, after turning all of the horses out and getting the stalls done, we tacked up and went for a long ride through the potato fields and all around town. It may be hard to believe, but in those quiet time times, we were lucky to find a deli open to get a sandwich to hold us over til dinner. It was a great ride even despite nearly getting pegged with golf balls, while riding past a golf course. We left our husbands back at the cottage happily watching television, and one of them, a local chef, was cooking a fantastic dinner. After all of the horses were in, fed, and settled for the night, we consumed a fabulous feast on beautiful china that one of the guests had brought along, to make the presentation as wonderful as the food served on it!

My husband will never forget the afternoon when an owner came down to visit his two year old and had a bag of carrots for him. He was so happy to come and visit his horse, that while shouting his name and waving the bag of carrots, he jumped over the fence into the pasture full of two year olds. The horse’s name was “Paloma” and there was another horse out there named “Palomar,” amongst that bunch of silly two year olds closing in on him fast, when he again jumped back over the fence to escape!

In a few years we started a family, and hadn’t visited the farm for some time. We stopped in with our five year old son and two year old daughter. Long gone were the quieter days of managing the brood mares and babies and running a stable which boarded and gave lessons to local children. The indoor ring was up and business catered to clients from Manhattan (with whose children seriously showed regularly). All of our lives had changed. My friend, not having children of her own, had to get accustomed to seeing me with mine. My son was lucky to be able to take lessons on one of the show ponies and daughter was always happy being in the middle of it all, even though one of the “Jacks” constantly bit onto her “Barbie” sneakers refusing to let go. My friend didn’t like her at all, and I told her that she was “trapped in a two year old body and was frustrated since everyone was buzzing past her doing whatever they wanted to do and she couldn’t.” It was fun watching those two over the years! They have great love and respect for each other and laugh at those two year old times

In the cold winter the barn was dead as a door nail and boarders didn’t come out to ride their horses. I had no horse to ride since mine was lame; I was also having vision issues which made it impossible to drive out to the farm. On the days, my husband was off, he’d leave me at the train all packed up with my equipment, so I could ride; and he would care for our children and animals. I was never a catch rider but really wanted to ride, so I would bring the horses in and groom them and ride them one after another. I began to ride my friend’s very large horse, whom she loved dearly, since she had a new project to ride. These rides were either going to make or break me, and I had to summon all of my nerve to do it. I got sick and called my friend to tell her that I wasn’t coming that week. Sadly, that week her horse had a bad colic and despite surgery, died. I know that if I had ridden him, no matter how close we were, I would feel the blame. Even though she had many horses in her life, he was that very special one. Most riders have only one that is truly special and he was it! Life changed and before long, she moved on and started a new life in another part of the country, but we continue to be the very best of friends.

Just before that time, I paid the past board for a lovely three year failed race horse which was destined to be dropped off at a dealer. In February, it didn’t look good for her. Everything that could possibly happen to a horse happens to her, so she never fulfilled the prospect of being a show horse which was how my friend came to find her. Now at age 24, she has been living happily retired with us for 21 years along with our 26 year old adopted “Happy Appy” and assortment of other companions.

My friend has long since moved away. I miss those times when we could just get in the car and go on an adventure, or pack up the horses and go for a ride. Although we don’t keep up with regular weekly phones calls, we do from time to time, when a thought crosses our mind, pick up the phone and share our experiences. It is almost a mental telepathy when we make that connection, though we laugh and talk like we were steps away rather than a plane ride away.

We continue our visits to the Hamptons and since its opening have barely missed a day the Hampton Classic Horse Show. I am looking forward to new adventures when my daughter and I visit my friend in a few weeks, and especially when she returns to the Hamptons for a visit in September. She has mixed emotions wanting to remember things as they were and not quite sure of what to expect after absence of many years. It am sure it will be another great adventure!