After I had him for six weeks, my first horse died from a freak colic problem.

My mom loaned me money to buy another horse, which I had for about a year before it developed a serious lameness. Since I could not ride her, I sold her and from there on out began buying and selling horses.

Since I was delivering newspapers, I had first hand information on horses for sale in the classified adds. I would find good deals, call them, and see if I could talk my mom into taking me to look at the prospects. Sometimes they turned out to be duds, other times they were truly good deals. I would buy these horses, then ride them while I would have them for sale, then sell them. Some horses would be fairly close (5-10 miles or less), so I would ride my bicycle and check them out on my own.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

There was a real good deal I found advertised, that I was able to snag before my mom got home from work. It had a simple add that read “mare for sale, $75.” I found out it was about 6-7 miles from my house, so I rode my 10-speed bike over to the place. The mare was kept next to a hog pen, and she was mimicking the hogs by rolling around in the mud. I scraped some of the mud off, and found out she was a nice black color with a white star, and only six years old.

Just as I put $25 down on her to hold her till I could come get her, a man in a nice 4×4 truck raced up and asked if the horse was still for sale. The horse owner pointed to me, and said that this kid just bought her. He was pretty bothered that a kid on a bike beat him to the deal. He offered the lady $150 for the horse, but she stuck to her deal with me. My mom was able to give me and my saddle a ride over to the horse the next day, so I could ride it to the place where I boarded my horses, about 10 miles or so away.

I sold that horse about two weeks later for $375 – pretty good profit for a kid who made about $90 a month selling newspapers. Being on a bike kept my expenses down. It was not a bad deal to pay others to haul my horses and me around. Sometimes the seller would even deliver the horse as part of the deal.

There were times that I took a bus that happened to have one of its stops near a horse auction ring. I would pay someone to pick up me and whatever horses I bought at the sale. One day I got kind of excited, and bought more horses than I had money for at the auction. I called my mom and asked her if she could bail me out and cough up a little extra cash to pay for the horses. The only way I could get her to bail me out was to convince her that I bought one of these horses for her (boy, I had to think on my feet on that one).

One of the horses did work for her, and later on I helped find horses for my two younger brothers also. I had my mom try out some of the different horses I acquired, but she broke her wrist falling off one of my lively prospects, so I had to back off on using her as a lab test guinea pig. Although my mom would complain from time to time about taking me to see horse prospects, when she looked back she had mostly good memories of our escapades. Later on when I owned a horse rental business, I would come get her to ride in my rig with me to look for new prospects for my livery string.

Buying and selling horses like this helped me experience the many different types and dispositions they can have, as well as the situations they were kept in. It also showed me what a kid was capable of, if they are motivated to rise to the occasion. I remember being bothered by adults who looked down on me just because I was young. I remember a boarder at our barn saying to me “you shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing yet – you don’t even have any facial hair yet.” Maybe I should have asked him whether he would have rather had me throwing rocks at cars (maybe I never told him about that time in my life).
My experience in Minnesota later in life showed me kids who could play hard and work hard at a young age. I remember knowing a farmer there who had his sons operating old combines in tandem with his own machine coming down the field together. I about fell over when I saw his 10-year-old son step down off of one of the combines. Rick offered to me to ride in the combine with the fourth grader, Joshua, to watch him operate it. It seemed to me that he operated it as well as an adult. I was very impressed.

Some might feel that we are robbing a kid’s childhood by challenging them with work skills at a young age. I figure childhood can consist of selfishness, rebelliousness, or destruction, or it can consist of teachability, obedience, creativity, and imagination. I know from my own experience that I can have fun with all of the above, but the last four not only puts wings on my horsemanship, but puts wings on my life too.

They point me to a creative creator who took on a human body. The one who was a baby in a crib while he ran the universe at the same time. He showed us that those last four qualities of childhood need to be practiced by everyone at any age and be kept forever.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.

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