Lisa King, 44
Lisa King and Lady, a registered quarter horse who stands 15.1 hands, go way back. All the way back to the beginning for Lady, who was born in King’s stable in Kennebunk.
“Lady was foaled right here in her stall,” said King. “I had her mom, too, who was a similar color but smaller. She was a great horse and so is Lady.”
As King skillfully groomed Lady’s glistening brown coat, blonde mane and tail, she talked about her early experiences with horses and how showing and working with them has become a large part of her life.
King grew up in Shapleigh. She got her first pony when she was 8 or 9 and has been riding ever since. While she had no formal lessons, King took to riding and the care necessary to own a horse right away.
“It was a bit of trial by fire at that point,” said King. “But we did have people in the neighborhood that had horses and they helped me out a lot. We trail rode through the woods all the time. It was a nice way to grow up.”
King said that many people along the way have helped her and given her pointers, not just on riding but also about caring for and showing horses.
When King moved to Kennebunk in the early 1990s she became a member of the Mousam Saddle and Harness Club, also in Kennebunk.
King got involved in competitions with the club, which hosts eight to 10 shows a year. She began with competitive trail riding and moved on to other events, including Western pleasure, a competition that judges horses on their manners and responsiveness and on being a “pleasure” to ride. King, who is now co-president of the club, also competes in the grooming class.
King and Lady have won a number of events, not only at club shows. Lady took first and second place at a Maine quarter horse show in Skowhegan when she was a young horse. Since then, the pair have gone on to win and place in events throughout Maine and New Hampshire.
But for King, horses are not just a weekend hobby. They are part of daily life, as well as what she does for a living. She has worked at Spring Creek Farm and Carlisle Academy in Lyman for 13 years, as a stable hand, horse handler, carriage driver and teacher. King became a certified instructor last April and no/w teaches English and Western techniques. But everything King does revolves around care for horses, whether her own or one she works with.
“It takes patience and a lot of dedication to what you are doing when you work with or own a horse,” said King. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I have a horse, let’s go ride for an hour.’ It’s not fair to the horse, or to your body. Horses take time and care, and there’s a lot to think about before riding.”
King pointed out that having a horse requires a financial commitment, as well, including veterinary care, food and, if you don’t have a stable or land, boarding expenses. The job of a horse owner also calls for a strong back.
“You have to be prepared to haul 50 pound grain bags around and clean stalls,” said King. “I have to get 250 bales of hay in for Lady – you need to have the strength to get them into your truck and then stack them in the barn. Horses need grooming. A lot of physical stamina is needed to do the work of care, and that doesn’t include the riding.”
King says her work helps to keep her in shape for riding, as she is walking, cleaning stalls and on the move all day long. She also takes occasional belly dancing lessons, as she has found the isolation movements in the practice have helped the muscles needed for riding.
Despite the long hours and hard work, King can’t imagine her life without horses.
“I’ve been riding since I was a kid. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a horse in my backyard,” she said. “It’s relaxing to me. I come out to the barn in the early morning to regroup and get ready for my day. At the end of the day I’m back in the barn to unwind. Some people come home and take their dog for a walk. Mine just happens to weigh 900 pounds.”