Lexington, Ky.—Aug 10
Many of the ponies at the USEF Pony Finals come from a long line of champions. Their sire and dam pairing was carefully considered, and they’ve been primed for the moment they canter around the Walnut Ring their entire lives.
S’More Fun is not one of those ponies. Instead his riding career began far from the show ring, without neat braids or fake tails. The 9-year-old Quarter Horse of unrecorded breeding grew up on a ranch, riding the fence lines and working cattle before farrier Randall Sessions purchased him at a fair for his sons to learn on.
And instead of cattle, “Gray Pony,” as he was known then, had new charges: the sheep and goats Sessions’ sons roped at fairs. When they outgrew him, Gray Pony was put out in a field of cows, until nine months ago when trainer Amy Center began searching for a pony for her daughter Hayden Center.
“She wanted to go to Pony Finals, and mom, the trainer, doesn’t have the millions of dollars, so we were looking for options,” said Amy, of Tallahassee, Florida.
Sessions, Amy’s farrier, told her, “I think this pony can jump.”
“And that was nine months ago,” said Amy. “We brought him over, and we put [my assistant] on him, and he’s pretty scopey, and now she’s qualified and here.”
After nearly a year out to pasture, the biggest challenge was getting the newly renamed “Marshmallow” back in shape.
“The transformation from when we first got him until now [is amazing],” said Amy. “Now he actually looks like a show pony. When he first came, he was slopey and no muscles, and now he’s round and fat and kind of looks the part.”
“He’s very comfortable, which is surprising because he just came out of a cow pasture,” said Hayden. “He’s really fun to jump, and he’s pretty easy, except for going away from the gate he’s really naughty.”
Marshmallow took to jumping immediately, but Hayden, 13, experienced a learning curve as she switched to riding a green pony.
“She still struggles every once in a while with leads, and he came up western, so it’s a slight difference [when asking],” said Amy. “He’s done very well, but it gets a little confusing, and she’s still green enough that she gets confused.”
“I learned how to actually ride when it’s not just handed to me,” said Hayden. “And I learned more about riding than I thought I could learn in one year. It just surprised me.”
They took Marshmallow to a few local shows to start, progressively moving up from 2’ to 2’9” before diving into rated competition, eventually qualifying for Pony Finals in May.
“He’s very scopey, so he was pretty easy,” said Amy. “He had already done so much in his life that coming along he had a good brain about it and was like, ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ That’s kind of nice. He’s far from being a made pony and far from being the fanciest thing out here, but he is a good soul, and he’s going to test her enough. He’s smart enough to try a few things, which isn’t always a bad learning experience for these kids.
“We have no expectations,” she continued. “This is fun, and it’s a great experience, and he’s a sweet pony, and she’s learning to do right by the horse.”
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