Linda’s favourite horse growing up was a shetland pony gelding named Mr Ed. Elcarlan’s Mr Ed, to be exact. He was 39″ tall, black with a star on his forehead and could run like the wind! Linda loved to go fast and had no fear, much to her mom’s dismay. Depending on the activity, Linda was required to wear a motorcycle crash-helmet before helmets were a thing in western culture.

As a family, the Magaw’s participated in gymkhana events around the Kootenays. Many games were played, races run, trophies and ribbons won. Among her favourite events were barrel racing, keyhole and the stake race.

The most exciting and intense event of all was the flat track, and this was the event Linda loved most.

Imagine, half a dozen ponies and kids waiting at the line, ready to blast off into a galloping race around the track. Eddie clearly loved to race. Although he was often the smallest pony in the race, he knew how to play the game. At the start line, he’d sit back on his haunches and rear up. He’d tuck his front legs underneath his body and hold his position, ready to spring forward. At the sound of the start gun, Mr Ed would leap into action. Within a few strides, he would be out in front and moving to the rail. Somehow he knew the inside rail is the shortest distance around the track, and that’s the place to be if you want to win the race.

Many races were run, and many were won by Mr Ed. It wasn’t until his sister, Red Lady, foaled a filly out of an Arabian stallion, Rashod, that Mr Ed became second fastest on a regular basis. The beautiful sorrel mare, Rashod’s Red Dominion (Domino) was found on July 1st morning, born under the shelter of a tree. She was spirited, sensitive and exceptionally athletic.

As Domino grew up and the time came for her to be started under saddle, Linda was of the size, age and ability to play a part in her training. Under the guidance of her dad, Al, and alongside her siblings, Linda had the opportunity to help teach Domino to accept a rider, neck rein, move off leg cues, and do all the activities an all’ round horse will do.

Although the thrill of the race captured Linda’s passion, she also learned to be quiet and peaceful around horses. During her years growing up, she would ride bareback into the forest behind the house, laying flat on her horse’s rump, looking up at the canopy of trees above. The blue sky peeking through, many hours of daydreaming were spent dreaming of growing up to be a cowgirl.

Her favourite horse to do this with was Thunder. He was a small black and white pinto horse. Some thought he was homely, but anyone who knew Thunder knew him only as one of the most wonderful horses to ever live. He was completely gentle. He was the horse we would let our novice friends ride because we could always trust him to take care of them at their ability level.

Thunder was the horse chosen to gallop into town many summer mornings only to stand tied in the shade, nibbling grass while Linda participated in swimming lessons. Then they’d meander home afterwards.

He was also the horse used into the winter months to deliver newspapers along the rural route and into the forbidden trailer court.

Thunder himself was a wonderful swimmer, as were most of the horses, and we’d spend hours at the river or in the deep ponds outback of the property, swimming with the horses, fishing off their backs with a twig, string and safety pin. While no fish were ever known to be caught, wonderful memories endure.

Fast forward through the teen years, Linda became involved in sports such as sled dog racing, school team sports and softball. As the family grew up and engaged in other activities, the gymkana’s and competitions became less frequent.

Horses came and went. Many came as unmanagable steeds and left as quiet, responsive and treasured mounts. Between Linda, her siblings and a few devoted friends, many hours of training were put on the horses. The full out racing became less frequent and the quiet, refined skills were focused on. Crossing the river, going quietly alongside the busy road, visiting friends in town were all part of the process.

As teen life went on, there were many good times and just as many struggles. The consistency of the horses helped Linda navigate the struggles. She could always jump on bareback and go for a ride. Her upsets were felt, her sadness absorbed, her happiness shared. The horses truly helped make the teen years more bearable.

Once the kids all moved away, the horses were left to hang out in the pasture and the decision was made to sell them. Hearts were broken, but the best interest of the horses was paramount. Only Mr Ed remained for his last few years. His coat grew long, his eyes grew dull and finally, Mr Ed passed over to the lush grasses of Horse Heaven. The whole family grieved the little black pony with the great big heart.

Linda Hopp is the head coach at Emerge Equine. Find out more about how your mental health and well being can be affected by horses through the programs we offer.

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