One day grandpa Howard was at the sale barn. During the auction a sorrel filly reared up in the arena. Grandpa liked flash and showmanship. He bought the horse.
Ginger was a tall quarter horse with white blaze on her forehead. She was beautiful. After she was broken she was the entire family’s favorite ride. Her gait was smooth and easy. Her gallop was powerful as she dug her hind legs beneath her and pushed forward. She was gentle but would occasionally nuzzle you off balance.
Grandpa would exercise her in a circle then drop the lead and throw up his hands. Ginger would dig in, leap forward into a full gallop. Just before she got to the fence in grandpa’s pasture she would stop dead on her hind feet, rear up and kick her front feet in the air. It was their favorite trick – Grandpa and Ginger both.
Before too long, Mom began to ride Ginger in the Quadrille De Mujeres – a precision drill group made up of local horsewomen. They were fast and dangerous. Mom was an excellent rider and Ginger was a great, powerful ride.
The ladies in the group rode as fast as their horses would carry them. They wove in and out of each other. They rode toward each other at breakneck speed and then joined in pairs, pausing in unison at the arena’s edge for a count before turning and continuing their coordinated, speeding waltz on their powerful mounts as speakers blared the Orange Blossom Special.
Again, Grandpa loved the flash and showmanship. He was in heaven. Sometimes, just after the women had ridden, Grandpa would get on Ginger and ride her to cool her down. Ginger would still have on her white tack. He would sit high and proud.
We kids would ride Ginger in gymkhana. For a big horse she was great at barrels. With the right pace and timing, Patrick could run her to where I was waiting for him to pick me up in the rescue race. I could grab the saddle horn as Patrick spun Ginger in a circle and the momentum would carry me on to her back. It was like flying.
One time Curt fell from Ginger’s back as he was running poles. Boot caught in one stirrup, he dangled beneath her, swinging like a puppet. Ginger stopped in her tracks and didn’t move an inch until Curt got unhooked and back in the saddle.
I occasionally used her to rope. Gary Ralston would release the shoot and Ginger would leap forward like a rocket. She knew what to do and where to go. There was coordination to her gait and my swing. If I missed it was my fault, not hers.
She was great in Crowds and seemed to know when she was performing. During the Rose Bowl Parade a mechanical failure somewhere in line ahead of the Quadrille stopped the parade.
Mom and Ginger were in front of the reviewing stand where the networks broadcast the parade. Ginger stood there with her head held high. Mom held the reigns loosely with perfect posture. Other horses pranced while Ginger stepped lightly from one foot to another. And, the Nation watched.
She didn’t like Clydesdales however. She was always watchful and a bit skittish around them. Once when the Quadrille was racing from the arena in the Phoenix coliseum, she was startled by the Budweiser group and made a crow hop sideways away from their wagon. Mom held on but was sore for quite a while.
Ginger foaled three times: Tippy, Toppy and Gin Dusky Brooks. All were born in Grandpa’s back pasture. He insisted that after Tippy was born she came to his bedroom window and pawed at the wall to let him know she had given birth.
Her foals were tall like her with white blazes. They were powerful and graceful as well.
I miss Grandpa and Ginger. But then I imagine that scene: Ginger digs in, leaps forward into a full gallop. Just before she gets to the fence in grandpa’s pasture, she stops dead on her hind feet, rears up and kicks her front feet in the air. Grandpa chuckles.