Monday, May 29, 2017

Fearless Little Girls and Fearless Little Ponies

Someone posted a video this morning on Facebook of three little girls riding three little ponies, jumping them over a pole they'd put between a fence rail and a tricycle! God bless ponies! My daughters had ponies who taught them to ride and to take chances. I am sure there were many of those chances taken while I wasn’t looking. The amazing thing was that they survived, both the ponies and the little fearless girls.

Ponies, and horses, are the great equalizers for little girls. They give them speed, strength and stamina. On pony-back little girls can out run, out jump and out maneuver the little boys in the neighborhood. Perhaps the lessons taught by their ponies is why my little girls grew up believing they could be equals in a man’s world.

Good, long-suffering, dependable ponies are worth their weight in gold. My little girls’ ponies were named Mary and JB. I had an old gelding, Pal, and the four of us (two kids on one pony, one on the other) would take off on Saturday mornings to go trail riding. Now, JB wasn’t as “long-suffering” as the little Shetland pony, Mary. When he got tired he was known to lay down and take a roll, ousting his rider in the process. Quite often he’d choose to do that in a watery spot. And when the girls would take off riding while I did work around the barn once or twice JB came home by himself, his dumped rider trailing behind on foot. She’d be madder than a wet hen, but didn’t take it out on her pony. I guess she knew she deserved whatever punishment he doled out.

One day we were all riding in a field, two daughters on one pony. We were galloping in between rows in the field, me in the front on ole Pal, the ponies coming along behind. We were almost at the far end of the long stretch when I heard one of my children yell, “Wait for me!” I stopped and looked behind. There sat the little girl who had been riding behind her sister in the dirt. She’d bounced off the rump of their pony and left behind by the rest of us.

Those were some fun times, etched in our memories. As an instructor, I valued a good pony above any “show horse”. I always had one or two in my lesson barn. They were short enough for the small students to reach to groom and tack up by themselves. If they did fall off, it wasn’t that far to the ground.

Puddin' Tain and a Student
One of those precious lesson ponies was named Puddin’ Tain. I wrote a chapter book about her. Puddin’ Tain was the perfect school pony. She stood still for grooming and tacking, obediently lifting her foot to be cleaned, took the bridle without fuss and waited patiently for kids to scramble onto her back. They learned to walk, trot, canter, maneuver through trail obstacles, and jump little X’s with Puddin’ Tain. We hauled her to shows (entering Western and English classes) and took her on trail rides. She did it all.  Puddin’ Tain was a confidence builder for the children who became fearless riders because she was a fearless pony.

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