Part two: Freedom on horseback

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closeup of horse grazing

Beauty was a Shetland pony with a colt by her side, and my sister had finally been heard after asking for a horse only 10,000 times, with three other sisters chiming in to back up the request.

“I will take care of her! I will brush her and feed her and ride her every day, and I’ll work at training her colt, too,” my sister promised on the day we went to look at the pair.

The deal was made, and now it was just a matter of getting the two transported to our farm from the one that had been home to Beauty throughout her lifetime.

The days crawled by, our anticipation growing to unbearable, giddy heights. I envisioned sitting on the back of this lovely pony while my sister brushed her and braided her mane and tail. Beauty was about to be our every wish come true, and Trigger was a gorgeous bonus.

Dad knew the colt needed to be weaned from the mama, and he was told to separate the two upon arrival to our farm. Our father was not a horse lover even in an infinitesimal way; he had grown up with horses and said tractors were, hands-down, the very best invention in the modern age.

Beauty was placed in the horse stall my sister had so carefully prepared for her. It had the horse door, the bottom door secured with a sturdy hook, the top door open to the east so Beauty could lean out into the morning sunshine and fresh air. We had high hopes she wouldn’t be inside that barn very much, only when we weren’t riding or grooming her. It seemed a perfect place for our new love.

Trigger would be placed in the pasture on the opposite side of our home from that barn. He would need a halter, and the simple walking and lunging work would begin.

The big day finally came

Beauty was not nearly as thrilled with her new place as we thought she should be. Trigger paced and bellowed and hated being separated from his mama. “It will get better with a little time,” said the man who sold the pair to my parents.

When my brave sister saddled Beauty that first time, it was one scary sight. The mare was determined to get to that colt who was crying out her name. My sister stuck to her guns and handled her like a pro. Riding away from the barn, fighting her head with just the right touch, it wasn’t a smooth ride, but a successful one. I felt such pride watching this all unfold.

Sher turned the mare to return, and suddenly there was speed in that pony that didn’t seem possible. My sister held on, even as we watched her zip right past the barn. That mare didn’t stop until she reached the pasture fence where her colt continued to beckon.

The mare and colt both suddenly looked just plain scary to me. My big dream to lie on the back of that pony while my sister braided Beauty’s tail and mane disappeared like a tiny puff of smoke on a very windy day.

My sister convinced me to ride after she had settled Beauty down with lots of work, and it was so much fun. Just when I was settling into the saddle, it was time to turn the pony around. That’s when the most frightening lightning bolt seemed to crack that pony into a gear my wits and my wishes couldn’t keep up with. I went one direction and Beauty was off to the races without a rider.

I learned many things over this whole experience, which really is what life is all about. I learned a boring, one-trick pony should be appreciated, after all. I watched my sister keep her promise to work endlessly with both mare and colt, but the wreckage in the soul of that little colt could never be unraveled. Her determination to make Beauty a riding pony paid off, and there were lots of fun times, but much more hard work than fun in the long run.

The biggest thing I learned? Be very careful what you wish for 10,000 times because it just might come to roost on your doorstep and buck you into oblivion a time or two.

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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, and three grandchildren.

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