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By Jenny Johnson
Sometimes the stories we hear from our grandparents sound
like tall tales. They tell us about “the way things used to be” and
about walking fve miles to school, uphill both ways in rain, sleet
and snow. Yet sometimes stories come along that make us long
for the good ol’ days of the older generations.
One such story comes from Carol Ahlf, of Sunny Valley, Or-
egon. At age 81, Carol has her fair share of memories from a
bygone era – a time when children were free to roam until the sun
went down (or even later!) and when hard work was required to
get something you wanted.
Carol’s love of horses began as far back as she can remember.
Her father occasionally paid 25 cents to the local pony man so
Carol could have a 10-minute ride. When she turned eight, her
father purchased an old ice cream wagon horse named Babe.
Since Carol didn’t have a saddle, she immediately fell off when
Babe started trotting downhill. That fall didn’t deter young Carol;
she hopped right back on and became determined to be a good
Unfortunately, within six months Babe became lame and Carol
found herself without a horse. Instead of giving up her dream,
Carol set out to earn her own money for a new horse. “I wanted a
horse so badly that I got a local paper route, delivering 145 papers
every day in the hilliest section of town, earning $13 a month. I
would have done twice that amount if I had to,” Carol recalled. “I
saved all my money until I had $150 and was able to buy an old
palomino mare, Goldie, and a saddle.”
The days that Carol and Goldie spent together are some of
Carol’s fondest memories. She and her friends called themselves
the “Sunny Hills Posse” and spent countless hours roaming on
horseback. Since her parents let her ride as much as she pleased,
it wasn’t unusual for the Posse to ride on through the afternoon
and into the evening after the sun went down.
“The Posse used to ride all over the hills and through the oil
felds with the well pumps going,” said Carol. “The horses got a
little spooky with the noise but it was lots of fun. I can’t believe we
rode through there in the black of night!”
Through her hard work and dedication, without the help of high-
priced instructors or the internet, Carol was able to become an
accomplished equestrian as a young lady. Horses remained a
constant in her life and became a passion she now shares with
her daughter and granddaughter.
As she recalled how different life was when she was young,
Carol refected on today’s young equestrians. “They have a much
more structured horse experience. They take lessons,
which are good, but they don’t have the freedom I had as a
child. Having that freedom gives you much more confdence
and balance as a rider.”
Carol’s advice to the next generation of riders is to break
away from the routine work of your discipline. She said,
“Ride as much as possible on trails in addition to taking les-
sons in a structured way.” Take it from someone with a life-
time of experience made up of hard work, dedication and a
lot of fun along the way.
About the writer: Jenny Johnson is the Administrative Director at The
Dressage Foundation in Lincoln, Nebraska. In addition to that full-time job,
she also has the full-time job of being a wife, a mom to three children, and
“mom” to her 20-year-old Quarter Horse who she’s owned for 19 years. 
The Dressage Foundation’s Century Club is a program
designed to honor senior dressage riders and their senior
horses. To become a member the ages of the horse and rider
must add up to at least 100 years and they must ride any
level dressage test before a judge or dressage professional.
For more information on the Dressage Foundation, please
The Sunny Hills
Posse Rides Into
the Sunset
In 1948, a 17-year-old Carol stands with her Saddlebred named My
Conie, a mare she trained herself.
Carol at her Century Club ride in September, 2012 at the
Woodbridge Farm Show in Petaluma, California. She rode her
daughter’s 20-year-old Selle Francais gelding Hoppi. They are
Team #117.
Photo by Marcie Lewis Photography