Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The art of pony-riding

OMG… my sister posted this video on Facebook and it brought back flashbacks of a wonderful time. I laughed so hard thinking about the times when we-little-me enjoyed many of the same antics as the boy in this video. Learning to ride on a Shetland is a real life-lesson. But I guarantee that the little boy in this video is one hell of a horseman today. Ponies are the most singularly stubborn, devious and rotten creatures in the world! They will try to scrape you off on fences, they will do what you see Ed doing in this video, the quick-stop-head-drop, which throws the rider onto the neck and hopefully (if they’re not sticky) onto the ground… They will stop and roll you off, they will buck and kick you off, and they will run forward and then in a flash, veer off, leaving you still going forward. Ponies are evil. Penny (the one pictured in this post) was so round, that her little saddle would slide forward onto her shoulders and neck, and before we went out and got a crupper to secure it to her tail to prevent the sliding, she would constantly do the quick-stop-head-drop so I’d go sliding onto her neck and pitching forward with comic slowness into the dirt. Her favourite tactic to get me off was to veer into the center of the ring at a canter, stop short, and then try to roll me off. I had to learn to predict this behaviour and keep her on her feet.

Penny and her progeny, Eva.  Yes, we bred the bratty evil.  But luckily,
she was sold to another young victim by then.
Penny and Pinto, Viking and Ugly were all wonderful teachers. I fell so much, that falling doesn’t scare me (even when I’m now old and fat). They taught me to feel that particular tightening of the spine that occurs before your mount is about to do something rotten, and they taught me to not be a big baby about cuts, bruises and even the occasional bone fracture. Riding kids are tough little things… Riding mommies don’t go running fretfully into the riding ring when little Sally falls. Riding mommies purse their lips and say: “Go on, get back on… don’t let him get away with that!”

I rode my ponies everywhere. When we had them at home, I would ride them to see some friends whose family owned lots of land nearby, and we’d all hop on our ponies bareback and wander the countryside and invent adventures. I would play ‘Hobbits' at home when I was alone, and ride around our expansive back yard with its tunnels of rhododendrons and dark, sunken paths, and imagine I was on Middle-Earth, riding a pony on an adventure, I would ride my pony to the store to get a Kinder-Surprise chocolate egg and a cold Gini. I would ride my ponies to the traveling carnivals and all over town. Whenever things got rough at home, I would ride my pony away.

I started instructing ponyclub when I was about fourteen. It was really fun. Ponies are so much fun! I wish I could have one again.. I wish I could teach ponyclub again! I loved the little competitions with all these kids dressed in jods and blazers with their ponies all shiny and braided. The last pony I ever owned but was too big to ride was a pony named Lady. She was a Shetland/Welsh mix, and she was pitch black and beautiful. She was the first pony I trained to cart, and she was a perfect carting pony; unflappable and calm. I would drive that little carriage with her just about everywhere. I was training a young girl to ride shortly before we moved back to the US, and I trained her on my full-sized horse until she became comfortable, and then started letting her ride Lady. I let her ride Lady in a competition, in which she did fairly well in as a novice, and it was then that the parents and the little girl fell in love with Lady; and asked me to allow them to buy her. It took a lot to let her go.

Lady and I, giving rides to people at the Brussels American School gym track during the
1988 or 1989 July 4th celebration.

I have decided that if I am fortunate enough to get pregnant… that this will be the excuse to get a little squat, ornery Shetland again. I look forward to tiny saddles, and tiny bits, cruppers and itty bitty jodhpurs and paddock boots. I think it’s a wonderful thing for a child to do… and it’s full of great lessons. And you can’t put a value on the memories of growing up around these amazing creatures. Yeah, it can be dangerous. So is crossing the street, and you can’t get moments like that video above doing that.


Fickle Cattle said...

I loved ponies when I was a child. I'd usually go riding through mountain treks with my siblings and some tour guides. Wonderful adventure.


the Goodwife said...

Oh dear! LOL! I have a 22 year old grade gelding that I've had for 10 years. He isn't a pony but he's built like one and acts like one at times. I call (the quick-stop-head-drop) "swallowing his head" and that is Champ's motis apperandi! I just rode yesterday and of course he tried it. I love when the little fella in the video is standing in his stirrups pulling on the reins as hard as he can to keep that little poop from getting his head down. I've been there and will be again on Champ! LOL!


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