I just got an email from the mom of one of my lesson kids. Nearly every Saturday she hauls her daughter and the family's pony out to Sue's, where I spend an hour or so helping the young girl finesse the pony's flying lead changes. She also works on properly bending him through the turns and just genereally coercing him to conform to the regimen of a structured lesson. Because he's a relatively small pony, I rarely hop aboard for a schooling session. But when I do it's a memorable occasion because then The Pony is Not Happy. Why? Because Auntie Cindy means business when she hops in the saddle.
In the email I received, the mom wrote to tell me that they wouldn't be coming for a lesson today because her daughter had taken a tumble off the pony. Fortunately, she suffered only a sprained shoulder. But she also had a pony hoofprint on her back.
I've always felt that ponies, perhaps due to their indomitable characters, leave indelible impressions on us. In this case, this particular pony literally left an impression.
I'm sure both kid and pony will be back under my tutelage soon. But in the meantime I got to thinking about all the other ponies I've dealt with in my life.
When I was very young, my weekly treat was taking several spins around an oval enclosure at the local pony ride near my aunt's house. My cousin Susie and I would argue over which one of us would lay claim to Donut, the fat dappled Shetland with the bushy flaxen mane. He had the fastest trot, so he made you feel like you were flying when you zipped around the pony ring. At least that's the way a pony can make you feel when you're all of five or six years old.
Then my very first horse, Honeybee, was a large sorrel pony. She was only half-tame and very wily. I'd watch the lessons given by the professionals at the equestrian center where Honeybee was boarded, and attempt to mimic just what they were doing aboard their fancy Thoroughbreds and Quarter horses. Then, at the equestrian center's monthly shows, I'd dress up in my very low-end western attire (spray-painted straw cowboy hat included) and compete in western pleasure and trail. If I had enough Honeybee left at the end of the day, when the gymkhana games started, we'd race around the barrels.
One of my friends and co-competitors at the time was a little blond girl named Debbie Ryan. She had a more stylish pony than Honeybee, a bay Welsh with splashy markings named Flannigan's Falling Star. Our moms would chat while we'd struggle through our slate of western classes. Eventually the two of us became emboldened and ventured into English riding aboard our not entirely compliant ponies.
It's amazing, sometimes, where ponies can take you. I ended up going the hunt seat equitation route. And that little blond girl's name would become Debbie McDonald, and she'd ride a Hanoverian mare named Brentina to a medal in dressage at the Olympics.
If you'd like to read more tales about ponies, and perhaps contribute one of your own, just click here: Have I got a Pony Tale for You! It's the latest offering of HI Spy that I wrote for Horse Channel. I promise you'll also have fun reading what others have written about ponies they've loved... or feared... or both.