Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Debbie Sams: One Horse-Crazy Girl

My first ride on a big horse at age 7

Have you ever played “Doggie Doggie let me down” on the teeter-totter? Well, here’s how the game goes: Two people play the game, one at each end of a plank with a bar in the middle. One person will scoot back and balance the other person up. This person is the Doggie. The kid who is up will offer the Doggie various things . . . diamonds, an island vacation, and so on until she hits the one thing that Doggie wants; then she will let him down. My friends all knew that I only wanted a horse, and a whole bunch of them would be even better.

My horse fetish began when I was in first grade. Every week we would go to the library, and I would take out Little Black by Walter Farley. I was very disappointed when I could not take Little Black out the next week, but I did take it home with me every other week. As I grew older I discovered other horse books, and I voraciously read every one I could get my hands on. I still read a lot today, but I have switched from fiction to info that will improve my teaching and riding skills. At age 6 I started asking for a horse. Finally, when I was 9 we got a pony. Tiny was 18 years old with plenty of experience — he was the perfect first horse.

Here I am giving pony rides with Tiny.

My dad would always say, “Horses don’t earn anything.” So I decided to start giving pony rides on the front lawn so Tiny would be earning money. My family sold vegetables and later opened a farm bakery, so our customers would often come for a pony ride. When someone would come to the door asking for pony rides, I would rush out and saddle Tiny. Ten cents wasn’t much, but at least Tiny was earning something.

I quickly outgrew Tiny, and after 3 more years of asking for a horse, I got Lady Lindy. The fact that she was pregnant was a bonus. Unfortunately, Lindy was afraid of everything. This was not a good combination with my timid spirit. Since I had finally gotten my dream horse, though, I stuck with it and rode her anyway.

Here I am with Lady Lindy.

My dreams came true when . . . 
In my sophomore year of college, I got a phone call from the director of the Sacandaga Bible Conference Camp, located across the road from our farm. He asked me if I would be interested in helping them start a horse program! Wow, I could hardly believe it!

Teaching horse camp

Teaching horsemanship at the camp was very scary because I was so shy. This was a good thing, though, because I knew that I needed to work hard to be a really good teacher. I had been in horse 4-H for 9 years and had read everything I could get my hands on. I knew just enough to know that I needed to know more. A teacher must always continue to learn. Balanced-seat riding lessons were just what I needed, so I took lessons for about 3 years. Meanwhile, I continued to teach horsemanship and do trail rides at the camp. After a while I decided that I wanted to take dressage lessons, but it took me a while to find a dressage instructor. Weekly dressage lessons were on my agenda for the next 7 years. I still take them sometimes because there is always more to learn.

The Springer’s Farm drill team

Life is good. I began giving lessons to the community, putting on exhibitions for my students to show off their skills and giving birthday parties.

My students enjoyed going to big horse events with me. At those events they were introduced to drill team and vaulting. Of course, they wanted to try it, so we did. Our yearly exhibitions now include drill team, vaulting, and drama on horseback.

After many years in the horse business, I began to try my hand at writing. In 2009 Storey Publishing published my book 101 Drill Team Exercises. This has opened up new opportunities to put on drill team clinics.

If you would like to have a clinic at your facility, contact me at (518) 883-8548 or samsfarm@juno.com. Put "Drill Team" in the subject bar.

Debbie Sams

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