Across the road from the ranch we lived on (we didn't own it, but rented a small house near the barns and cattle/horse corral and breeding pen) sat a boarding stables called Jess Clark Farms, whose clientele was thoroughbreds and race horses. For the entire time that we lived out on Adobe Canyon Road (now Fredensborg Canyon Road), just the name of Jess Clark struck a blind fear in me. How could I, a 9 year-old horse lover, stay away from Clark's white fences, where his charges grazed on tender green grass, their tails swishing lazily at flies? Huge, sleek, apollonian and proud, they were nearly otherworldly to me. The attraction, as it is for many girls at that age, was overpowering. (Go back to your pipe, Dr. Freud. This was True Love.)
|Horse ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.|
At last, after a number of such visits, Clark decided it would be easier to allow me access to some of the horses under his strict supervision. I was allowed to start mucking his stables (free labor for him), to groom the less expensive horses and, eventually, even to exercise them by leading them about by a halter and lead. I was in heaven! There was a groom there (probably all of 22, but he seemed old to me) who taught me everything I needed to know and kept an eye on me. I spent the entire summer at this unpaid job, which resulted in my being allowed to ride the horses around the exercise track the following year. My parents bought me some dressage boots; I'd arrived. I was a tiny puckish thing, short, wisp-thin and never destined to be very big, and some of the horses were so tall, I could stand beneath them, my head barely brushing against their chests. To mount, I had to climb a fence. I loved them and they loved me. I became attached to one in particular, a grey that everyone called King. I'm sure his racing name was something longer and more impressive. We rode like the wind—I'm positive he never even felt me on him as I opened him up and let him wear himself out.
|Lori Martin & King.|
"Girls can't be jockeys."
"But, Mom, Velvet won the Grand National!"
"That's TV. In real life girls can't be jockeys. You can either be a secretary, a waitress, or a salesgirl. Or you can always get married."
Of course, my parents couldn't afford riding lessons or dressage gear (with the cute little velvet riding helmet that I coveted so badly), much less a horse and its upkeep. We were lower middle class (my dad was a TV repairman and musician) and college had never been open for discussion, much less consideration. The following year we moved from the ranch and I took up pop music as my career choice. There were plenty of women there, and doing quite nicely, thank you very much.
I never did get a horse, although I continued riding for years. The last time I rode was in 1982. It's a long time, but if I could afford a horse I swear I'd get my seat back and ride like the wind one last time!