My Throw Away Pony

She was a throw away pony. The kind that would likely end up in the kill pen in today's market. Hard to catch, hard to trailer, ill-broke, borderline dangerous and too old to get away with it.

I grew up on a family farm. My sister and our family in one house, my grandparents across the orchard, and my aunt, uncle and 3 cousins at the back of the property. It was a pretty great place to grow up. I was the oldest of the 5 of us kids, and when I was 8 my mom and blissfully horse-crazy aunt decided it was time we had a pony. So my parents went in halves on a $325 pony they found in the local paper.

I still remember the first time I saw Shasta. I was getting off the bus after school, and glimpsed a splash of white behind the big walnut tree. My aunt was hurrying to hide her back in the barn before my cousins and I saw her.

When they finally unveiled her to us later that day, I couldn't believe my eyes. She was white, with big brown eyes, a long silky mane and tail...14 hands of beautiful...just like all the princess ponies I had dreamed about! All my dreams were coming true!

And then I rode her.

I'm pretty sure they could not have bought us a more naughty, mischievous, ill mannered pony if they had tried. Shasta knew every trick in the book. She was an expert at rearing, rolled while being ridden, could swipe a kid off on a low tree branch, fence, stack of hay bales... whatever was handy, never missed a chance to take a chunk from your backside when you weren't looking, and bolted full speed across pastures and back to the barn on more than one occasion. Needless to say, it wasn't long before my sister and 3 cousins decided the white beast was not for them, and she became my pony.

Turns out she was probably the worst pony ever. Turns out she was also the best pony for me.

Every time she dumped me in the dirt, after I dusted myself off and wiped away the tears, I was more determined than ever to climb back on and give it another go. It's a miracle that we both survived, but somehow we did. My patient mom spent countless hours overseeing the situation, helping me catch the little white monster and giving me a leg up when she would again toss me into the dirt. And then there was my Aunt Beth. The lady that probably knew how to ride before she could walk. To this day I know she would gladly trade an hour in the saddle for a day at the spa, and whose contagious love for horses infected me and has never been cured. Between Aunt Beth and me that pony didn't stand a chance.

It wasn't long before the rearing, rolling, biting, swiping episodes became fewer and farther between and eventually Shasta became a fairly civilized pony. By shear determination and alot of blood, sweat, and tears that snotty pony and I became a pretty good team. And once it was discovered that she wasn't going to kill me the sky was the limit! We rode english, western, did endurance rides, gymkhana, 4-H... she even became a pretty great little driving pony. Not to say Shasta's sassy side was ever truly quelled. I remember going threw the entrance gate for Bareback class at County Fair with my arms around her neck as she had decided to enter on her back legs! And then there was the time she slipped her halter at Area Fair and was missing for two days while friends and family frantically searched the country side. Only for her to walk up the middle of Main Street and surrender herself to a random construction worker at 6 AM two days later. She was always quite the character.

Eventually I outgrew Shasta and moved onto my next horse. But the lessons that pony taught me will stick with me the rest of my life. Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around that pony. Some of my happiest memories ever.

My daughter Railey got her first pony at the age of 3. Suzy Q was the polar opposite of my Shasta. Suzy Q was a saint that wouldn't hurt a fly. I used to throw Railey on Suzy to ride while I did barn chores as that pony would patiently walk and trot her around the field and keep her occupied and out of my hair. One time Railey lost her balance and fell off the side, but her boot stuck in the stirrup. Every parent's worst nightmare! That Suzy Q pony stood there and didn't move a muscle while Railey hung upside down until I noticed her crying and came to her rescue. I'm not really sure how long she stood there waiting for me, but I do know that pony had a heart of gold and took such good care of my little girl. Suzy Q was the best first pony for my girl, and is now living with a good friend of mine and raising more kids.

Our latest Facebook contest is for ponies, and seeing all the picture submissions I can't help but remember the great ones that have been a part of my life. I'm so grateful for the little buggers that have packed us, and pack the next generation.

Do you remember your first pony? Did you have a Shasta or a Suzy Q? I would love to hear about your first pony...

Until next time ~ Jess

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