“It excites me that no matter how much machinery replaces the horse, the work it can do is still measured in horsepower…even in this space age. And although a riding horse often weighs half a ton, and a big drafter a full ton, either can be led about by a piece of string if he has been wisely trained. This to me is a constant source of wonder, and challenge.”
— Margauret Henry
When Topper the Welsh pony came to our farm, he stepped out of the horse trailer with his head held high, looked around with a calm sense of purpose, then went to work being the boss of the place. At that time, there were several draft horses being boarded here, and though Topper was obviously the little guy on the totem pole in terms of his size, he certainly didn’t realize it.
Ruler in no time
Topper became the ruler of the pastures in no time flat, and to watch him made me shake my head in wonder. He was not one bit mean, just incredibly, strongly assertive. Our pasture was dotted for a time with ponies, some in foal, a couple of rescued ponies that were needing room to roam and healthy pasture to enjoy. Topper seemed to know that these were the ponies that needed the extra grain, and he would stare down any beast who attempted to invade their feeding space.
Topper, broke to ride and drive, has always seemed happiest when he is pressed in to service. While getting the saddle cinched one summer evening just outside the barn doors, a cat fight suddenly broke out, and the screeching sounds of a horror movie came flying right at us. Topper never lifted a hoof. His temperament is as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen.
First pony ride
Topper has provided many kids their first pony ride, and he is a gem. He seems to sense apprehension, and he steps slowly, evenly. The few times he has been asked to move a little faster, he glides with great care across the fields of the farm. He exudes calm confidence, making even first time riders feel they know exactly what they are doing.
Mallory, my 4-year-old great niece, took a turn on Topper after her older sister Laine had dismounted. Mallory looked out in to the big pasture where two gallant Quarter Horses were running about, enjoying the summer morning. She said, “I think I am pretty good at this. I am ready for one of those big horses now.”
Late last summer, an Amish neighbor was here looking over some carpentry work we wanted to hire him to do. He brought his young son, Reuben, along. Reuben pushed his straw hat back, his eyes suddenly bigger and brighter, when he spotted Topper looking at him from the pasture gate.
“You have a pony! What are you going to do with him?” We explained that Topper was for riding and driving. “If you would ever need someone to train him, you know, keep him working right for you, well, I could do that,” this little boy offered with great sincerity. So, this spring, whether he needed it or not, Topper went to stay for a time with Reuben.
As part of his tune-up, Topper was ridden every day, and when he wasn’t being ridden, mostly full-steam bareback, he was hooked up to a little cart in which Reuben would offer rides to his younger sisters. When their chores were done, every day became a happy little circus in which Topper was the star.
The night Doug went to bring Topper back, there were a few tears. “If you ever need me to train him a little bit more, I would be glad to help,” Reuben said, trying hard to remain a stoic little businessman.
No matter where this pony lands, he seems to bring joy. It is a thrill to witness.
Sharon Ralls Lemon once wrote, “The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and fire.”
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