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Monday, 09 August 2010

Sweet Memories of Mabel Cook, Malibu's Horseback Riding Instructor

By Maureen Moore

I was so tickled to read the post by Ann Berger which was, in part, about taking riding lessons with Mabel Cook in Malibu, California. Mrs. Cook was like a second mother to me. I met her when I was three years-old when she became my riding teacher and baby sitter. She was born on January 2, 1900, and I hoped she would live forever.

I spent many happy days, weekends and summers at her house riding horses, competing in horse shows and learning so much about life from her. She was quite the character and she taught me much about life. My parents' marriage was very troubled and they eventually divorced. Going to Mrs. Cooks house was like a beam of light for me.

Because I spent so much time with her, I learned to ride quite well at a very young age. She had a number of students who had fiesty, difficult horses and kept them at their homes. Mrs. Cook loved to take me along with her to their lessons.

After the students had fought a valiant war with their horse, she would come and get me out of the car and throw me up on these horses and have me ride them. I was lucky I didn't kill myself. But under her magnificent tutelage, anything was possible.

I'd actually get on and put those horse through their paces. She had taught me how to deal with most anything they would throw at me. People were shocked. It was all due to her, believe me.

What was really impressive was to see her jump on some rearing, skittish horse at her advanced age. She rode it without a lick of trouble.

However, when she was way up in her 80s, I remember trail riding with her when something scared the horse she was on. It reared and she fell off. I ran over to her. I was about to have a coronary when she stood up, dusted herself off and said her little finger hurt.

That's all - just her little finger. Then, as she had always counseled me to do, she got right back up on that horse and rode on.

She loved to talk about horses. In fact, that was ALL she wanted to talk about. If we went to a dinner party and the conversation wained from horses, she got very quiet until it returned to horses. Every year the Rose Parade came on, she watched intently just to see the horses. They were her constant companions and she took exquisite care of them.

She is gone now. She was with us until she was 92, I believe. She was one of the great characters and great women of all time. Thank you for being my friend, Mrs. Cook.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Maureen - Wonderful story!

My "Mabel Cook" was my grandmother Dickson. She raised Morgan Horses, and always had a flock of kids hanging around waiting to ride. (She was late to her own wedding because she went for a 'short' ride and lost track of time!)

My grandfather was not a horse enthusiast. At a Morgan Horse function, after grandma had delivered a lengthy dissertation on the breed, the master of ceremonies asked if he had any thing to add. Grandpa rose, looked around the room, and declared, "My role is to feed Mrs. Dickson's horses", and he promptly sat back down. - Sandy

Hello Maureen,

I enjoyed reading your story about horses and especially about Mabel Cook.

I have never riden a horse because I was a city girl and never had the opportunity, but I have always loved and admired them.

You'll laugh, but what I admired most about the horses was their memory.

The only horses I ever saw belonged to our milkman and breadman in the city. The milkman's horse knew all the customer's houses. When they came on our street of row homes the milkman would jump down from the wagon and grab two bottles of milk and set them on the customer's step. The horse would move very slowly to the next house while the man picked up the empties and grabbed another bottle or two of milk. By now, the horse was waiting for him at the next customer's house.

This went on for blocks and the man never had to guide the horse; he always knew where to stop.The milk was kept in shaved ice and the kids were allowed to jump up on the back step and take a sliver of ice. The horse never moved if there was a child on the step.

I think Mrs. Cook would have admired the Abbott's Milk Horses. Perhaps she had a milkman,too...

My mother was a horsewoman and was the First Queen of the Rodeo in Colorado Spring, CO. I assumed it was a hereditary talent. When I nearly got bucked off of a horse I discovered that I was wrong. I did learn to stay on a horse and enjoyed riding, but I never had the stately carriage that my Mom had when on a horse.

Darlene, Sounds like you have a good story there--maybe a book?


You should tell Lyn about the guy you DID help out one year and who DID write a book.

There's a good story..

Nancy--Loved the story about your milkman and that sweet horse. It's a wonder that horse knew when to move, let alone to not move when a child was on the step. Thank you for sharing.

I'm SURE Mrs. Cook had some milkman stories. I do remember her telling me about her mother putting her and two of her small siblings up on their horse on school days. Mom would pat the horse on the back and off it took them to school where the horse would wait all day for them to be loaded up on it's back again. It knew they way, they just had to get on board.

I always marveled at that story because horses tend to want to get back home as soon as possible. Unless you have a well-trained, well-seasoned horse, if you are riding home and they know that, they would just as soon break out in a dead run for home. When you resist their sense of urgency about getting back to their nice paddock, their horse friends, their cozy stall full of shavings or straw, and most importantly, whatever is on the menu for the next meal, they fight you all the way.

Clearly Mrs. Cook's family horse was exceptionally sweet, trustworthy and not in a hurry!


"Getting back on the horse" is without doubt the greatest lesson I have ever learned. Of course, it doesn't actually have to be a horse.

Mabel's way with horses spread happiness to enough people to fill a series of books, Maureen.

For Mabel's 90th birthday, I had the fun of co-producing "Galloping into the 90's" for Santa Monica Television

Auntann-- So you actually know Mrs. Cook??? I guess I missed that television program. What was it about? Yes--Even I could write a few books about the life I knew with her....

Thanks for your response.


Wow! Flashback! Maureen Moore and Mabel Cook!
Just came across this lovely post.

I think of Mrs Cook often. It's been 48 or so years since my days at her place in Malibu. Maureen I remember being about 10 or so and we would break from riding, bathing Nd feeding the horses so that we could all go inside to be with Mable and watch.. Soap operas during lunch ( don't remember which one it was but it was a must do). I remember her tidy little house like it was yesterday.

I had an albino horse Shady Lady , and my mom, Barbara Judy and Mabel Nd often you Maureen, would spend days getting her ready to show; we would lady Clairol Her main and tail white, add bluing the next day and then was it all out a few days later.

What fond memories I have of those days! What a wonderful wonderful childhood with 'Mrs Cook' and you Maureen. I idolized you Maureen and would pray at night that you could be my Big Sister!

Anyway. So neat to come across this post.

God Bless all those here and in heaven (with horses,of course!)

Maria Judy

I just stumbled upon this post and had such a happy flashback! I met her when we bought a horse and she was with me all his life. I loved Mabel Cook with all my heart - what an amazing, inspirational woman. I was just looking at photos from when she rode my horse in a bareback class at a TRR horse show - and of course won the trophy!

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