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The thought of having to sell my pony has crept closer and closer in recent years.
Every time the topic came up, a feeling of dread washed over me, and I would shut down because I didn’t want anything to change. But recently, the perfect opportunity came up for my pony, Saucy. She is an older, 12.2-hand Welsh cross pony. We bought her when I was 9 years old, and we have had her ever since. I did everything with her, from hunters to eventing, and she taught me so much. I owe her everything, and she owes me nothing in return.
Saucy is the kind of pony where no one ever really believes how good she is until they see her in person. She is sassy (hence the name “Saucy”) but she isn’t anything like the pony you grew up riding who would buck you off every time you tried to canter or who would relentlessly drag you over to the nearest patch of grass. She will make sour faces and pin her ears at everyone unless they have treats. But underneath that, she loves trail rides, being groomed, and on top of everything, food. And best of all, she will happily and safely pack a little kid around who is still learning to post.
I outgrew Saucy a few years ago. She was living a semi-retired life at my friend’s barn where she would go on the occasional trail ride, but she needed more of a job. She needed a little kid who would groom her regularly, love her, and learn to ride on her.
Through mutual friends, we heard about a little girl named Emma whose pony suddenly passed away the week before, and her mom was casually looking for a new pony. It was such a sad story — the little girl had just cantered for the first time ever on that pony, and then he passed away the next day.
My mom, who loves Saucy as much as I do, set up a time for Emma and her mom to meet Saucy. Emma was so excited when she came to meet and ride Saucy. Her big blue eyes were bright and filled with joy, her fiery red curls were bouncing as she bounded down to the barn to see Saucy, and that big smile with the missing front teeth never left her face. Right away, Emma wanted to get Saucy out of her stall, groom her, and feed her carrots. She put her tiny saddle, helmet, and vest on and headed out to the ring.
Emma immediately felt comfortable on Saucy. She walked, trotted, went over poles, and even cantered with me leading her. Her happiness was contagious. As I watched her trot around the ring laughing while she tried to catch her sister, who was running on the ground, a smile slowly started to spread across my face too.
When we got back to the barn, Emma announced that Saucy was her favorite out of all the ponies she had tried, and she was prepared to buy Saucy with her own piggy-bank full of money if she had to. Emma left the barn with her sister and mom, who seemed to also like Saucy. Emma’s mom contacted us a little later in the evening and said that they wanted to lease Saucy.
After seeing Emma ride Saucy, I didn’t feel any dread, sadness, or reluctance at all. Instead, I saw a little girl who loves ponies have her dreams come true, and my pony was going to have a gentle job where she will always be loved, happy, and have another enthusiastic child to teach. I was so genuinely happy for Emma, and I am eagerly awaiting all of the updates and pictures of them together.
Note — it was extremely difficult to choose one picture that encompasses all of the memories that I have with Saucy. After a solid 30 minutes of searching through all the pictures I had available, I was able to narrow it down to 25…
Read more from Grace at her blog, murphyslawofriding.wordpress.com.
I had so much in store for the summer: going to Tryon for Pony Club Championships, moving back up to Novice with confident cross country rounds, actually being competitive at events with improved dressage scores, maybe even thinking about a Training move up next season…
And then comes the feeling most of us know all too well.
You’re warming up your horse for an everyday ride. It starts like any other, but after a few steps, you start to notice that his steps aren’t falling quite right, and the next thing you know, you’re out of a horse for the next few weeks — or even months.
It couldn’t have been more perfect timing. Right before my qualifying event for Pony Club Championships and during the last week of school, with the whole summer stretched in front of me, but a lame horse to spend it with.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself because I was out of school with time on my hands, but without a horse to ride. Wow. My summer was off to a great start. Scrolling through social media seeing everyone’s fancy ribbons, adventures with their horses, and travels to far away competitions made the empty feeling in my chest grow even more.
At first I liked having time to binge watch Netflix and connect with friends I normally wouldn’t have had the time to talk to over the summer. But in the back of my mind I was growing restless.
That’s when I started uncovering some of the silver linings of having a lame horse.
My friends offered me their horses to ride when they heard about Murphy being lame. With these new opportunities, doors opened for me that I wouldn’t have been able to go through before. I got to go to my Pony Club’s Show Jumping Rally, riding a borrowed horse, not worrying about qualifying for Championships. I had a smile on my face the whole day, even when a storm came through and cancelled the last half of the show, because I was sitting under the tent laughing with my teammates, something I never would’ve been able to do without a lame horse.
All my life I’ve put so much pressure on myself to make the most out of the effort, time and money I’ve put into my horse. But now all of that was lifted off my shoulders, because I realized there weren’t really any expectations attached with someone else’s horse.
With others helping me so much with my less than perfect situation, I got the chance to pay it forward. I started helping out with a young horse’s training at my barn. I was able to put all of my own training to good use and give a young horse and his owner more confidence.
If I would’ve been competing every weekend, I wouldn’t have had the time to do any of these things. As I replay the events of this summer in my mind, I can’t believe how many irreplaceable memories I’ve made.
As a bonus, Murphy is now sound. I brought him back slowly from being out of work. The first week I could only walk, and then in the following weeks I carefully added the trot and canter. I am savoring the everyday rides 10 times more because of the many days where all I wanted to do was get on and ride, but couldn’t.
I am enjoying the freedom of not having to stick to a rigorous schedule solely focused around competitions. I have become much better at reminding myself that it is good to go on trail rides and hacks several times during the week, and to balance out my lessons and practice with mental breaks for both of us.
Admittedly, it’s been hard to completely avoid feelings of jealousy, guilt and sadness as I see other young riders moving up the levels, winning blue ribbons and competing. These stressors pressure us to think we have to follow what everyone else is doing in order to succeed. I’ve learned to get so much more satisfaction from focusing on my own training, which is something that I hope other young riders make time for.
Recently I rode Murphy bareback for the first time in a while. He’s a very sensitive horse (Thoroughbreds, right?) and he definitely would not have tolerated this a year ago. In fact, the first time we attempted a bareback ride, I fell off because he took off the second I put my leg on.
My recent bareback ride probably wasn’t “social media worthy,” but you know what? I had fun. Which is the biggest silver lining of all this summer.