My Grand Father ~ James Milam Leavens
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I had only one horse ally in my family, my paternal Grandfather, James Milam Leavens. He loved and respected horses and it was he who introduced me to different breeds and horses of quality.
One Saturday morning, Grandfather came over unbenounced to my parents, to pick me up. I was up and dressed at daybreak anxiously watching for him out the window. I was privy to the scheduled events for that day and could not have been more excited. We were going to the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show! This show was held once a year at the infamous Pin Oak Stables and was considered by most to be the social event of the year for Houston, Texas.
Crowds of people flocked to the rings, men wearing suits and ties and the ladies in their Spring finest. Hats, matching dresses, bags and shoes completed with wrist length gloves. With a back drop of laughter, amid the chatter, most of the conversations were centered around a favorite contender. It had all the elegance of high tea with the exception of a few awkward steps to avoid any horse mishaps.
It was here that I was introduced to the world of horses at their finest. Showcasing each individual breed and their talents, I was not only able to experience the horses, but so many disciplines of competition as well. Arabians, Tennessee Walkers, American Saddlebreds, Thoroughbreds as well as Hackney Ponies were all there. Horses cleared jumps I could not see over. Arabians and their riders costumed in vivid colors captured everyone’s attention. Grand carriages being pulled by perfectly matched pairs as well as Roadster Ponies flying around the corners so fast, it had the crowd gasping and waiting for the jog carts to flip over! Class after class opened me up to new worlds of horses and riding styles, but the class that left the biggest impression on me was the Saddleseat American Saddlebred class.
The Ring Master lifted his horn beckoning the show horses through the gate. Trotting in a fashion I had never seen, in came the most breath taking creatures God had ever created! Heads held high, long refined necks and longer legs with a knee popping trot and a confident fire in their eyes captured my heart like no other breed ever had. Hardly able to breathe, I soaked every moment of it into my soul, just knowing that I would relive this day in my mind a million times over. Every rider, no less elegant that their mount was dressed in day suits with matching Derby hats. Their long riding coats were slit in the back and seemed to glide over the back of the horses as a cape would if the wind had captured it. I fell madly in love with American Saddlebred horses that day; a passion I am sure to carry with me to my last breath.