I’m the author of Here Comes Exterminator! which is about the 1918 Kentucky Derby winner. I write about horses and racing history for various publications. I’ve been riding since I was very young, didn’t ride enough through high school and college, and then got all the way back in in 1994, when I moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Today, I have a little Paint mare named Sugar who lives on a beautiful farm not too far from my house in Washington, D.C. She’s 26, a terrific sport and just about the gamest trail and all-around horse ever. She taught both of my children to trust horses and she and I are very close. My five must-haves are:
Ariat Black Zippered Paddock Boots
I think these may reveal that I got way back into riding in the mid-90s, but I haven’t ever gotten tired of them and just keep replacing them. Did they always call them “Heritage?” That is certainly how I feel about them. I don’t ride competitively these days, so these are what I wear all the time. They are great. When it’s really cold, I have a winter version, which are truly the same pair I have always had—they don’t get as much action, but they’re very warm.
Du-Mor Horse Treats, Molasses Flavor
You get these at Tractor Supply and horses love them. I always have a bag in my truck, and that’s what I’ve given my horses as treats forever. In my household, we call them cookies, which is what my horse Romeo’s barn manager Bruce called them when he introduced me to them. He always had some in his truck for the horses. The packaging has changed over the years, but the cookies (I think) stay the same. A crowd-pleaser. There are horse cookie crumbs in the pockets of most of my jeans.
I feel like an outrider in this—that is, resilient and knowledgeable, like I can handle anything, horse-wise. It’s dark green and has a Keeneland logo on it. I bought it—of course--at Keeneland—they have a terrific store but it feels like something I have had forever. (It has that 1980s boxy anorak look. I have an anorak that’s actually from 1986 or so and it’s the same sort of thing.) And the big front pocket fits plenty of treats. (See above.)
Midweight blue Rambo blanket
It is at this point that I have to admit that I sort of dislike blanketing—well, I should say, I don’t like how owning blankets makes me feel in the sense that I never know if it should be on or off, no matter how many times I run the cold plus wet algorithm through my head and consult with my friend Kitson who keeps her horses at the same barn. My horses (until this year—we decided that 26 years old deserved a stall) have always been out 24-7, and often, a thick coat is plenty for a Mid-Atlantic winter. But Kitson has lent Sugar the most wonderful Rambo. It’s this perfect mid-weight blanket, it stays on, and it is the exact perfect thing for our climate. It does say “TAFFY” on it, because that is Kitson’s cob’s name, and it used to be his, but it fits Sugar perfectly and she likes it as much as I like my anorak.
My beloved gelding Romeo died in 2008, when he was 15. I have never gotten over this, and have no plans to do so. I’ve hung onto his old leather halter. It has his show name on it—When in Rome—and is very scuffed up. (I like using a leather halter for everyday and he wore it all the time.) In the years since he’s died, I’ve learned that this is called a “linking object,” which makes sense, because it does have some connective power. But I’ve also talked to a lot of horse people about loss, and I think while we have a matter-of-fact understanding about the fact that horses die, we also let each other talk about our lost horses in a way that I find provides a constant connection, too.