I remember my first horse very well. I am 14 and an experienced rider. I do trail rides and speed shows. My horses are members of my family and not just my pets.

My first horse was a blanket/leopard Appaloosa named Cherry. He would always trot up to the gate when he heard my voice. He was blind and popped every time he walked. You could put any type of rider on him, and he would walk around like he knew they were inexperienced. I felt he was safe enough to put toddlers and babies on, which we did more than once.

Keirstyn with Cherry

Keirstyn with Cherry

I took him down to the Shawnee National Forest for the 9-day trail ride they have every year. During a pleasure show, we ran into a gate and I fell. After his “toddler tantrum,” he wouldn’t leave my side for hours. We had both suffered a few minor cuts, and I got arthritis from him landing on my knee.

Eventually Cherry became completely blind and went to a blind horse rescue. It was very hard because in my mind he was my baby boy. That was 3 years ago when I was only 11. I have a new Haflinger now, but Cherry will always hold a special place in my heart. He was my first horse and the only Appaloosa I will ever own.

By Keirstyn Benson