From about 4 until the age of 13, I grew up with a horse and a pony. I know, every kid, especially girls, dream of having a pony in their youth. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. And no, I’m not whining about the chores I had to do to keep them. I did nothing. My Dad did all the work including shoveling out their shed and feeding them regularly. All I had to do was to, sometimes, when I felt like it, bring down a scoop of oats to the horses.
No, what I am complaining about is the temperament of our two horses. The first day we got them the pony kicked me. I was four and I don’t remember but everyone older does. The horses were in a small enough of an enclosure that they ate all the grass (which they preferred to hay) early every year. So, once done that, they would reach over the fence and and all the grass within reach would be mowed much shorter than the other grass. As a kid, I remember trying to make friends with the horses and ripped off some grass further afield and gave it to the horses to eat. I knew the proper way to feed horses, which was to place the food in my hand, palm flat. The pony bit me.
The pony wasn’t broken (this was much before the horse whisperer) and ridable. So my second oldest sister’s friend (who was very much into horses) tried to break the pony. Breaking is such a strong word. What is actually meant by this is that the rider climbs on the horse or pony and stays on long enough that the horse gives up. What happened with my sister’s friend, is that she ended up being bucked off enough times that she quit.
A few years later, my third oldest sister had friends also into horses. Two of them heard about the unbroken pony and offered their services. I don’t know what this pair did that was correct (I was probably 11), but they succeeded. So for a couple years we had it so both horses were ridable.
The horse could only be ridden by a good rider or when led. Outside the enclosure, she was given to taking off suddenly. Or she would ride slowly away from the pony, only to charge her way back. The two were good friends. In the enclosure she was prone to try to swipe people off by going under a tree branch or (as we learned with my fourth oldest sister’s friend who was into horses) try to go back into the low shed if the door was left open.
So if you wish to buy a horse or pony for your kids, make sure you pick one with a nice temperament. It is worth the extra cost.
Anyhow these horses escaped our enclosure about ten different times. I don’t remember the adventures they had when I was little, but when I was about 12, I was expected to get or help get these horses. Because they were very close, if you captured the horse or the pony, the other one would follow. So that made the work easier.
But what really made the work a lot easier is that they didn’t flee for the nearest hills to be amongst their mustang relatives. The call of the wild isn’t as big as the call of the garden for horses.
When they got loose they always ended up there, in the vegetable part of the garden or the neighbours’ garden. Sometimes when you would go to try to catch them they would flee to the other garden. But I think they were ready to come in after they got their fill of flavourful vegetables.
It usually only took about half an hour to get those horses back in their enclosure. To live their safe boring lives eating hay, oats, a salt lick and bark off the trees. Indeed, my family called their enclosure the orchard. But after a decade of horses eating bark to horse height, all the trees died. And that is my final lesson about horses that I am going to give you today.