Sunday 27 May 2012

Checkpoint 2 - The Ponies

First, I must apologize - my comments got their first dose of spam. I guess it was only a matter of time, what with the references to porno and hot plate and what have you.  Sorry about that to anyone who clicked and got redirected to sites focused on riding things other than horses. 

If it is any consellation to you, I did click the offending link while using my company laptop, and so will now probably spend Monday in HR trying to explain my passion for blind porno dressage, and how it will in no way interfere with my ability to do my job in an effective manner.

I am still going to leave comments open, partly just because I am too lazy to vet them all before publishing, and also because I know it is just not as satisfying to post a comment without being able to see your witty banter up on the screen immediately.  Should things turn ugly again, I will reconsider.

Anyway, back to the story. Where was I... oh yes, the ponies.

Checkpoint 2 - The Ponies

Now I know that after my bad experience with the Platypus and my rants regarding the pathetic state of the hunter pony world, some of you probably think I have some bile spewing hate vendetta going on against ponies in general. 

Seriously, I don't at all.  I love ponies. 

Ponies are, for the most part, the cynical curmudgeons of the equine world.

If I was an equine being, I would be a pony.  Not only because I am short, but because I have the right outlook towards work.  My motto at more than one of my many jobs has definitely been "I will do it, and do it well, but don't expect a fucking smile", and this pretty much sums up the attitude of many ponies as well.  If aliens came to earth and began gathering humans for personal use on their home planet, I think this might be my schtick. 

(Which brings to mind a particularly awkward moment with fellow graduate students, while doing my Masters.

A practical minded Nigerian PhD candidate, fresh off the plane and eager to make friends by way of interesting and thought provoking conversations, was hypothesizing about each of our relative values should aliens come to earth to harvest us for assorted human breeding programs back on their home planet.  Being large and sturdy, he assumed he would be chosen for meat or draft purposes.  I am small, but muscular - he felt I might be suited for meat production as well, especially if resources did not support the growth of larger framed animals.  All seemed very logical to me. 

However things turned ugly when he eyeballed another female grad student and announced to the group "if mammary size is genetically linked to lactation potential - you will most certainly not be chosen for milk production.  And you would not be good to eat.  You had better hope for "pet".  

Let's just say she wasn't happy with his assessment, and I had to spend some time with him afterwards explaining the North American fixation with breast size or lack thereof). 

If shit flows downhill, as is often quoted, the very best ponies are situated right at the bottom of this hill, mouths open, ready to receive the very worst that this world has to offer - beginner children riders.

At least beginner adult riders typicallly know that they suck.  And, fear and self preservation generally keeps them from doing anything too extreme with their patient school horse mounts.  If they can trot over 3 poles and an X in an uneventful fashion, they are happy as clams, and eternally grateful to these horses for not trying to kill them.  Because as adults, we know that if they decided to do so, they undoubtedly could.

Nine year olds on ponies, especially in today's world of entitled "everyone's a winner baby" parenting style - feel they are entitled to not die. Regardless of what it is they as riders do, or don't do, while riding around on the automatrons they often consider their ponies to be.  And so as they spank, crank, yank, ride over hill, dale... the gold standard of ponies is one who will suck all of it up and come back for more.  Who can blame them for having surly looks on their faces, or being generally cantankerous and ill tempered. 

Should a pony go renegade and say "thanks, but I'd rather not..."  well, their future career choices are pretty limited.  With a horse, you could potentially find a talented adult who would patiently engage in a debate with the horse regarding pros/cons for years to come (trying chiro, accupuncture, new saddle, reiki etc. all along the way) and work tirelessly to eventually find a middle ground.  Not so much with ponies - parents have no time for this, children are only short for so long.  If the pony can't suck up the terrible riding to some degree, their future is pretty bleak - the child will outgrow them and move on to obsessing about Justin Beiber long before they actually learn how to ride well enough to deal with any problems.  And no one wants to buy someone else's problem pony. 

I think if you want to see how truly saintly the best ponies are - you  have to stop by a Prince Philip Games competition some day.  At least the pretty barbie doll ponies with "big steps" and "tight knees" wind up in the hunter ring where sure, they have to jump stuff and do lead changes, but really the gig is pretty good. 

At PPG - you will see where the ugly, relatively unskilled, yet unbelieveably patient ones wind up.  It is kind of like watching the meth addicted, street walking hookers of the equine world in action - they are willing and functional at what they do, even if what they do is nasty, hard on the eyes and entirely lacking in any glamour.  You want to hang off of my mane with your foot on my ass while I gallop around because you can't actually vault your lumpy 11 year old butt up 13 hands - be my guest.  Whack me in the head with a flag or pole with a wooden fish on the end?  Why not.  Yank on my face until I come to a sliding stop so you can drop random vegetables into a bucket - sounds fun.  They do it because they have to do it, because there is no other choice.  The fact that they put up with any of it at all is truly incredible.

So, long story short - really, I have an incredible amount of respect for ponies, because the deck is really stacked against them.  They are damned if they are good, damned if they aren't.

The ponies in the Land of Lilliput were New Forest Ponies, and this was actually quite appealing to me.  Our family had owned a New Forest Pony when I was young.  He was not "my" pony, but my sister's, and for those of you who happen to know both of us, this was fitting. 

My own pony was an Arab / Hackney cross, who was hot, freaky, opinionated and likely to stomp off in a huff at the slightest provocation.  Like me.

The New Forest Pony was a more Spicoli like in his demeanor - unflappable, chilled out, and relatively oblivious to the world about him.  More like my sister.  He just trucked along, kept on keeping on, and got the job done.  Dum-de-dum....Although this is not at all what I look for in a horse long term, this sort of "whatevah", bring it on personality seemed like it might be a good fit for my current situation.  I was feeling mentally challenged enough

So I was pretty optimistic based on my perception of the breed.

(What?  n=1?  And so it means nothing?  Seriously people, get on board. This is the Internet, and so you should totally respect and agree with my anecdotal evidence, giving it as much clout as you would if the results were from a clinical trial at a major university, published in a leading edge, peer reviewed journal).

And in fact - this is pretty much what I found.  There was 3 solid and athletic medium ponies for me to choose from, depending on the lesson of the day.  None of them were "hunter ring" Barbie dolls, or brain dead children's ponies - they were more the type which you would feel entirely confident heading out on a cross country course with - functional, bold, and forward.  All were actually eventers, not dressage ponies per se, but that meant they had all put in some half decent dressage tests somewhere along the way, in front of real people and an actual judge, and weren't just classical legends in their owners minds and backyards.

Yes, this could definitely work out fine.

Now how about that coach...


  1. A child of 60 to 80 pounds bouncing around is a heck of a lot better than a 160 pound woman finally fulfilling her dream of riding at 50.
    My child's pony could only be caught him, none of us adults no matter how many treats we tried luring him with, and we never rode him, but he was just fine being caught by his kid that did.

  2. Hear hear for ponies! I love a little 'tude that dosen't make me feel like I'm about to die.

  3. I have a pair I picked up for 40 USD a piece with their harnesses.. shetlands.. probably half brothers...
    They came with the names Prince and Albert... I kid you not. We wanted one for our niece, although I am their "owner". So we have one and a spare... LOL
    Prince got dubbed Prince Charming, my niece was 6 when we got them last year. he is flashy, bright chestnut with a nice blaze and a flaxen mane and tail.. he won't hardly BUDGE unless led around. A child can kick, plead and use a crop and he just WON'T go...
    Albert, we renamed Altare (for a star), is plain, chestnust, has a little flaxen coloring in the mane and tail... When we first started to lead kids around on him he would crow hop, just enough to throw the kids up on his neck.. so we stopped.. and started to think that he needed a new home...
    We found a light weight adult to try to ride him a very short distance to get him to stop crow hopping... to no avail... then I tried a training technique taught by an Australian race horse trainer who lives in Japan, he is now doing limited clinics here in the U.S., NZ and AUS. WOOT... well that had some limited success..
    well it turns out the secret to riding this pony... he has a gender identity crisis...
    A friend brought his niece and nephew out to ride, and the girl, albeit at least 9-10 yrs old wanted to ride a "girl" pony... well.....
    I went and got "Alberta", and said 'come on sweetie, there's a good girl'. And poof the pony was a gem to ride!!!
    We have proper childrens saddles and bridles, I use their half cheek driving bits and we use the anti-grazing gizmo to keep them from trying to eat the grass, both ride and drive but it seems they only drove as a pair.. and are sort of lost if driven alone...
    But now my niece rides "Alberta" by herself in the arena/oval shaped round pen. And giggles constantly about calling an obvious boy pony, by a girls name and calling the pony a "her"...
    So now she has her "practice pony" and her "challenge pony"...
    Oh..I should mention that she REALLY REALLY likes pink and purple... so her bright chestnut pony has a hot pink western saddle blanket, a lilac purple western saddle, a hot pink with electric blue pin stripe headstall and pink/purple rope reins... bleh!! She also loves Hello Kitty... although we did get her to say AT her birthday to me.. (she received ALOT of Hello Kitty stuff) VERY loudly "Hello Kitty is NOT EVIL!!".. I tend to say that all the time.. LOL
    Gotta love them ponies!!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Anonymous, your comment didn't even make sense. At least if you are going to post something bitchy, try to make it coherent.

  4. Most of the ponies I've known definitely have 'tude. And most have been "smarter than your average bear," as well.

    But the ones that work willingly for kids, even if it is in the "put the veggies in a bucket," classes are worth more than their weight in gold. Gotta love 'em.