What Do Ponies Really Teach Children?
I've often heard many a horse person through the years say, "Don't waste your time on a pony - go straight to a horse." Then they add with an exacerbated sigh, "Ponies are such brats. It's just not worth the effort."
I respectfully disagree. One of the best teachers I ever had was Peanuts. A little, unassuming, brown Shetland Pony who was as smart as they come. A gift to me from my Uncle, horseman Dave Frey, he was my first pony and I was his first victim!! As both of us grew up together, I would ride him in the back acreage all by myself and he would routinely leave me out on the trail. And trust me, he wasn't one to wait after you fell off. He had to have chicken wire on the upper portion of his box stall as he was adept at hopping out when he was bored. However, the more we each grew, the more reliant we became on each other. Fortunately, I didn't know enough to let him discourage me. It was aboard Peanuts that I won my first ribbon and first place. It was aboard Peanuts that I learned about diagonals. And despite the fact that his mane was the most unruly mass of hair I've ever seen, I was able to learn to braid him in his signature yellow bows (it was the 70's).
Flash forward to Licorice. Licorice came to our daughter Lizzie when Lizzie was 2 and Licorice was about five. A gift to Lizzie from my Mom and Dad. Licorice is a black Shetland pony who stands (up on her feet) at 10 hands. But don't let her 10 hands belie you. She is the leader of her pack. Just ask all of our dogs and especially the Percheron Girls. Now having been with us for over 10 years, she is wise beyond her years. She and Lizzie have learned together. Lizzie was a toddler and Licorice had really only been a driving pony when she came to us but what they have accomplished is amazing. And now that Lizzie is off riding substantially bigger ponies, she still is able to drive Licorice and practice all of her braiding on her. In fact, Licorice is now learning a new repertoire of acrobatic tricks.
And Licorice and I have learned a lot about each other as well. I've seen her through losing a full-term foal at birth and the aftermath of a septic placenta (when we purchased her she was in foal). She is the only founder case I've ever seen and it was this summer. My husband and I took turns sleeping with her in the cross-ties with her feet covered in ice, so she could escape permanent damage. In turn, she has given us years of enjoyment, companionship and activities, without asking for anything in return (with the exception of a few whopper vet bills).
Lizzie has learned about unconditional love. Ponies don't decide to be your friend one day and not the next; they are always there for you. Licorice has also taught Lizzie about discipline and responsibility. We always take care of our animals first - Licorice can't ask for what she needs - we have to anticipate it. She's also taught her worry, as she sat with me through the founder scare. She's taught Lizzie triumph in the show ring, that hard work pays off and that you have to be humble, because just when you think you've got it al figured out, those ponies can throw you under the bus in a heartbeat. Lizzie has also learned about persistence, life lessons and taking risks outside of her comfort zone - all aboard this tiny 300 pound pony.
There have been many people who have tried to buy Licorice from us; they say that Lizzie has outgrown her and that we are done with her. But I beg to differ. Licorice is still teaching us every day and she's a part of the family. She's home and not going anywhere else. Lucky pony!