My First Horse

My First Horse

I grew up, until the tender age of 9, in and around a small town in Central Idaho called Genesee.  Some of my fondest memories are running the creeks, ridges and farm fields out in the country.  This area was called the Linville area.  There was only a few scattered farmsteads, the Linville Community Center and Gun Club.

The Linville Community Center was basically an old building with a wood stove and indoor small bore rifle range in the back.  I remember, as a small boy going to Lady’s Socials, there was one very upset old lady banging a shoe on the table and me getting in trouble for being too loud.  My mother was absolutely embarrassed because children were to be seen not heard.  I got my ear twisted and ushered outside for a very harsh lecture.  This never scared my psyche one bit!

That’s what happens when you’re raised out in the country with no one around.  I can remember longing for a little brother or close neighbor kid or, even better, a pony.

When I was seven years old my dad took me to Culdesac, Idaho to a one-eyed horse traders place, by the name of Roy Cool, where my father bought me a Tennessee Walking horse cross mare named Misty.  We stopped at another man’s place, who had a saddle shop in the basement of his house in the Spaulding Park area, which was at the mouth of Lapwai Creek.  We had to go around the back of Frank Jewett’s house where he lifted up the cellar doors to descend down a set of concrete steps into the cellar turned saddle shop.  I remember seeing several rows of saddles and almost passed out with excitement.  I was asked to sit in a little black saddle.  Having no idea who the maker was and when asked if it felt alright,  it could have been cutting me in half and I would have denied it for fear of losing the saddle.  I often think of that feeling now when having people try saddles out and wonder just how bad does it really feel or how good does it really feel, because I know that feeling can be overwhelming.

It was either that very night or very next day dad came home from work from the grain elevators.   By this time the family farm had been sold.  He backed the International one-ton, 2-wheel drive pickup complete with a set of racks to the loading chute.  Then, he saddled and loaded his horse Gypsy and my horse Misty in the back.  We called Toots the dog and dad told me we were headed out to check cows.  I crawled into the truck that seemed 10 feet tall.  We drove about half an hour to 45 minutes to a pasture my father and another man named Lloyd Wilson rented together outside a small town called Troy, Idaho.  The pasture was known to the locals as the White Pine Pasture.  There were several acres of rolling, pine covered hills and open mountain meadows teaming with ground squirrels and other wildlife.

My first lesson was how to pull myself up into the saddle using strings and the horn to finally nestle myself into the seat.  Took quite a while to figure it out!  But, the worst part was having only gone 50 yards from the truck and had to cross the creek.  That’s where we found out Misty didn’t like to get her feet wet.  So, she jumped and I fell off, getting soaked to the bone.  My father laughing, didn’t help any.  In later years he and I had plenty of opportunity to laugh at each other on several occasions.

Unfortunately I didn’t go another 50 yards and had to cross yet another creek, again and again and again.  My first experience with riding horses and checking cows could literally be described as “diving right in”!  I remember finally coming back to the truck after a very damp evening with lots of coaching to learn not to touch the horn, to finally landing on the other side of the creek and still be on top of Misty even with still soaked clothes from the day’s trials.  I WAS HOOKED as you could tell from the grin on my face.  I’ll never forget those moonlit nights checking cows with my father and falling asleep on the way back home.

That’s what childhood is supposed to be about!

Until next time keep your mind in the middle and if you have to have a little shame in pulling leather it is better than all night in wet clothes.

By | 2017-10-25T19:56:03+00:00 January 16th, 2017|blog|9 Comments

About the Author:

Clay Ensley is a master saddle maker of some of the finest hand-made saddles and other leather products available. Clay and his wife Shelley own and operate C and S Saddlery.


  1. Mom January 23, 2017 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    Your childhood experiences pretty much mirror one another, huh?

    • Clay Ensley January 23, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Yes, we talk about how we should have met 30 years ago and we would both be retired!

    • Shelley Ensley January 24, 2017 at 1:44 am - Reply

      As we have spent a good deal of time discussing over the years we have been together, now going on 10 years, neither one of us understand how we did not meet years ago! Timing wasn’t right I guess.

      I find it interesting how we both checked cows with Lloyd Wilson at the White Pine pasture just past Troy, Idaho and that I crossed the same creeks he did, just years later. I believe I was but 8-10 years old when I started riding with Mom and Nellie (Lloyd’s wife). So, we only missed each other at the White Pine pasture by about 3-4 years.

  2. Brian clemm January 23, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Ha ha! That’s an awesome story clay. I really like this blog idea.

  3. Mike Jarrett January 24, 2017 at 1:52 am - Reply

    That’s a great story Clay, I look forward to reading more strips from you!

  4. Kathy January 24, 2017 at 5:52 am - Reply

    By golly as you would say😉 I think I remember that mare😊 Love your stories.

  5. Pam Donaldson January 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Good story Clay! I have some fond and not so fond childhood memories of ol gentle horses and checking cows too. Thanks, your story brought up the memories!!! Keep em comin!

  6. Beth Hayes January 28, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Clay your stories have always blessed me over the past 30 years and I’m looking forward to hearing more on your blog. I have to say the best ones have been told around a campfire. Love you my dear friend.

Leave A Comment