Judge pony by character, not its past

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“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

–Sir Winston Churchill

I never would have believed that there is such thing as a perfect pony, but I have witnessed it long enough now to know this is not a fluke. This is the real deal. And I am the last person who would have ever believed this to be possible.

Topper, a shiny black Welsh pony, came to be ours about four years ago. I knew this gelding was a good one the first time I laid eyes on him. It was a chilly, rainy day as we looked over ponies being offered for sale. The unnamed gelding stood calmly with a group of others, most showing signs of a special brand of craziness that has always made me wary of ponies.

Special pony

One stood out from the group, though, and I told my husband if he was really in the market for a pony, that black gelding resembling a small horse was the only one he should consider. While he talked with the woman who owned the lot of ponies, I headed for the truck.

When Doug jumped in and began driving home, he didn’t say a word. We were about a mile down the road when I said, “His name is Topper,” not knowing if Doug had actually struck a deal on a pony or not.

Doug turned the truck around, smiling the whole way back to the horse farm. “I just wasn’t sure you really wanted a pony at all,” he said. To tell the truth, I wasn’t one bit sure. But, I knew the little kid in him desperately wanted one. He envisioned offering pony rides for the neighborhood kids and our adorable great-nieces and great-nephews.

Crazy pony

Having grown up as a dairy farm kid, I had only known a few ponies and horses in my life, and none of my experiences were at all good ones. My older sister Sher had begged for a pony pretty much from the time she could talk, and finally Dad gave in.

We ended up with the craziest Shetland pony in the universe, of that there is no doubt. For some unknown reason, we named her Beauty and the colt by her side we called Trigger. Beast and Brat would have been more appropriate names, as it turned out. Dad just called them both hay burners.

Determined to ride

Sher was determined that Beauty was going to be a nice pony. She brushed her, walked her, lunged her. That pony would screech for her colt, her eyes bugging out of her head with a look of sheer lunacy until Sher took her back to the barn and her colt. I realize now that was our first mistake, of which we made many. My sister tried to convince me that Beauty was great to ride. I did not believe her. I’d been bucked off a horse or two by then, and another time knocked off by a wild horse flying under a low tree limb just to get me off her back, and really didn’t see the fascination.

Wild ride

I tried to be a good sport, and one day when no one was looking, I decided to give Beauty a chance. I threw the blanket across her back, then the saddle. I knew how to put the bit in her mouth, and to hold the reins while I jumped on. Beauty cooperated, moving at a nice trot out across the open field. She began picking up speed, perhaps because I was digging my heels in to her belly with increasing terror. I had never flown like this, and I did not like it one bit.

Suddenly, she came to a screeching halt. The saddle, which I had not cinched tight enough, flew forward, throwing me with incredible velocity straight over Beauty’s head. I landed with full force on my face. Then she turned and bolted, flying away from her bloody-nosed rodeo rider. It was not exactly a joyous occasion.

Good gelding

From the minute Topper arrived here, there were no signs of that high test tension I had come to associate with ponies. This gelding moved with quiet confidence, actually showing signs of grace. He exhibited sweetness, remaining calm even in the midst of all sorts of potentially-upsetting interference.

I watched. I waited for what I considered the arrival of the inevitable bad day. I now have all sorts of good stories and not a single bad one.

(Next week: A few good Topper stories worth sharing.)

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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