My own love of horses seems to come naturally from my Maupin roots. The photo here shows me as a girl enjoying my favorite mare, Fleet.
When I began writing the book about my great-great-grandmother Martha Maupin, I first tried to draw on my own knowledge of the Maupins. I grew up on the farm Martha bought in 1868 after the death of her husband, my great-great-grandfather Garrett. The Maupin I remember best was Edith Maupin Edwards, the eldest daughter of Martha’s son Cap. All of Cap’s children grew up on this farm too, and if Edith was an example, as I believe she was, they all loved horses.
Much of my information about Martha came from Edith’s younger sister, Florence, who wrote a 75-page story of the family, in which she describes the Maupin love of fine horses. I knew horses had to be part of the scenario.
I’ll never forget watching my own father ride. We had an old mare named Dusty that my folks bought for my sister, Nancy, when I was five. Gentle. We could climb over and under her, and when we rode she carefully plodded along. Then my father would get on and she became a different animal. Head up, neck arched. Proud. She’d drop about ten years off her age. And he rode with grace and rhythm, moving as a part of the animal. I never saw a man sit a horse the way he did. It’s what inspired me to describe Garrett Maupin’s style in the book.
When I was nine, Edith and her husband Bill brought a stallion to the farm in hopes the old mare would foal. The offspring was to be my horse. A beautiful little filly was born in the middle of the night. Nancy and I slept outside that night near an improvised corral by the house, because old Dusty had seemed restless. In the wee hours Nancy woke me. “She’s having a colt.”
I mumbled, “Who’s having a colt?”
Nancy rushed to wake the folks, and I finally came to my senses. With flashlights we watched the birth. Such a thrill. Dusty had been a fairly silent mare, but when the foal came, she nickered in a low, sweet sound that touched my heart. I named my filly Fleet, and we were pretty inseparable for many years.
Edith planned to help me with training, but I kept getting impatient and one thing led to another. First, the halter, then when she was old enough to ride, the bridle, then the saddle. Once I had her all saddled she just stood there, so what was I to do? I got on. Nothing happened. She didn’t move. Later, she showed her spirit so I seldom had to press her to go. It was more a matter of holding back. I loved that spirit.
Through her papa, Fleet was related to one of Senator Wayne Morse’s fine animals. I showed him a picture once on a visit to Washington, D.C., and he knew immediately she was out of Kentucky Bourbon (I think that’s the name; it comes out of an old memory, but I’ll never forget his delight). I believe that was the American Saddlebred part. She also had a bit of Thoroughbred and enough Tennessee Walker to have the smooth, fast walk. Tall, sleek, feisty—like her papa. But gentle in nature like her mama.
Part of the Maupin legacy.