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Four-legged friends lead Airman to stable relationship

A girl in a red shirt and black ball cap hugs a brown horse with a white stripe down it's nose while smiling.

Airman 1st Class Samantha Purdy, 19th Security Forces Squadron visitor center clerk, hugs Runaway, Feb. 14, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Purdy boards her two horses, Pistol and Runaway, at the Little Rock Air Force Base Stables while she lives in the base dormitories. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A girl walks away from the camera holding onto two leads attached to a white and a brown horse.

Airman 1st Class Samantha Purdy, 19th Security Forces Squadron visitor center clerk, walks her horses Pistol and Runaway to a pasture Feb. 15, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force, Ark. Purdy boards her horses at the Little Rock Air Force Base Stables where a stall, a runout and unlimited pasture is available for her to use. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A young girl wearing  riding helmet it riding a horse that's being held on to with a lead by a woman in jeans and a brown t-shirt.

Airman 1st Class Samantha Purdy, 19th Security Forces Squadron visitor center clerk, teaches Bailey Davis, a student rider, riding techniques March 15, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Bailey is one of Purdy’s first horseback riding students she’s had since arriving at LRAFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

A hand wearing a gray shirt with flowers is holding a brush with red thistles and a rainbow strap.

Bailey Davis, a student rider, brushes Pistol, Feb. 14, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Bailey learned how to groom care for Pistol before her riding lessons once a week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

The gate hinges creak as she shuts it behind her. Her boots, frayed from use, create a small dust cloud with every step as she walks toward her favorite part of the day. A smile erupts on her face which is matched with a greeting when Airman 1st Class Samantha Purdy, 19th Security Forces Squadron visitor center clerk, finally sees her horses for the first time after a long stressful day of work.

As a single Airman living in the base dormitories, Purdy spends most of her time with her two horses, Pistol and Runaway, at the Little Rock Air Force Base Horse Stables.

“The stables here are great for space, and I can ride anywhere on base,” Purdy said. “You get a stall and unlimited pasture for $65 a month. That’s unbeatable anywhere else.”

Every day Purdy is off work, she rides to Burger King for a snack, laughs with her friends as they brush the extra fuzz off their horses or trail rides around base listening to the birds chirp and whistle of the wind. The stables are her home away from home.  

Purdy’s parents decided she could ride alone at the age of four, which raced off her lifelong love of horses. For seven years in 4-H, she competed in western games such as barrel racing and pole bending.

Horses weren’t just a 4-H project, riding horses was a way of life for the Purdy family. Whether it was work or vacation, Purdy’s family always had a reason to hop on a horse and ride.

“I always say a love for horses is born in your blood,” Purdy said. “You either like them or you don’t. Once you like horses, it’s a way of life. You can’t really get away from that.”

Purdy’s leisure time was sometimes spent horseback riding up the mountains of Washington State to camp for days at a time. She also helped her family out with cattle drives of distances of about 15 miles at a time.

Hooking her dusty boots into the stirrups almost every day of her childhood and creating memories she’d never forget, inspired Purdy to continue with her hobby after becoming an Airman.

When Purdy arrived at Little Rock Air Force Base, she knew she wanted to own horses, and the stables made that easy for her. She bought Pistol, and a few months later she bought Runaway.

Pistol and Runaway became Purdy’s outlet. The amount of stress that went away when with them could not be matched by any human.

“If I have a bad day, I don’t think about calling my friends first, I think about going to see my horses, and after calling my friend,” Purdy said.

Just like people, her horses have unique personalities. Despite Pistol’s harsh name, the white quarter horse patiently obeys Purdy during riding lessons with children, but every once and awhile she’ll get a bit of a sassy attitude.  

Runaway is a thoroughbred that once was a racehorse. Some racehorses are trained using fear and Runaway was one who was. Since Purdy has had him, she dedicates his training sessions to brushing his body with the training whip showing how it’s not harmful. When he’s wearing a halter, he’ll listen to Purdy perfectly, but as soon as she takes it off, he’ll run around the pen as many times as he wants no matter how many times Purdy tells him to walk.

Two months after purchasing her first horse, Pistol, and boarding her at the stables, Purdy met a friend, and fellow horse owner, Hailey Lucas, a Little Rock Air Force Base Stables horse boarder.

A young girl with wearing a gray shirt with pink flowers on it looks and pets a white horse.
Bailey Davis, a student rider, spends time with Pistol, Feb. 14, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Bailey learned how to take care of Pistol before her riding lessons once a week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)
A young girl with wearing a gray shirt with pink flowers on it looks and pets a white horse.
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Bailey Davis, a student rider, spends time with Pistol, Feb. 14, 2018, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Bailey learned how to take care of Pistol before her riding lessons once a week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)
Trail riding and horse training developed an inseparable friendship between the two, so they decided to start teaching riding lessons together. Currently they have one student, Bailey Davis, to whom they teach western-style and English-style riding about once a week.

Despite all the hard work, Purdy’s favorite part of teaching Bailey isn’t the techniques, it’s showing Bailey the peaceful lifestyle of a horse owner.

“I can’t explain the way horses make me feel, but I can show someone else,” Purdy said. “To watch someone else flourish on a horse and learn makes me happy. I love letting other people experience the joy of horses.”

Every Airman has their own form of resilience. Purdy’s was crafted from her home life in the form of two four-legged friends who give her the opportunity to teach others and discover friendships she otherwise would have overlooked.

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