The Christmas gift of a helmet camera turned 11-year-old Keira O’Connor-Reichert and her pony Pine Creek’s Snapdragon into a viral sensation in April, but not because it captured a spectacular fall or amazing save.
Instead, the 7-minute video charmed viewers by letting them eavesdrop on the fifth-grader’s nonstop conversation with her pony — sprinkled with gales of giggles and morsels of course analysis — as they jumped around stadium and cross-country. The helmet-cam footage, from an unrecognized event held April 17 at Loch Moy Farm (Maryland), shows the petite, bobbing ears of “Flower,” O’Connor-Reichert’s 11-year-old, 12.2-hand Welsh pony, as they swivel between the course ahead and her rider’s upbeat commentary.
We went behind the stall door with Flower, O’Connor-Reichert and her mother, Debbie Reichert, to learn more about the pair behind the video, which has been viewed more than 385,000 times.
• This Flower wasn’t always so sweet.
“When we got her, she was bigger than a handful,” Reichert said. “Keira started riding her, and she started coming off. Flower would bolt out of nowhere. She had a lot of anxiety and trauma going on. It took the better part of a year for Keira to really develop that trust with her. Flower has always been a super-talented pony, but the problem was that she was not easily controllable. As small and as good a rider as Keira is, if she would bolt, Keira would come off.”
O’Connor-Reichert had to learn some new skills to ride Flower. “She had to learn to stop her with one rein, and she had to learn how to control her speed and pace.” Reichert said. “Flower’s idea of doing things was running at them. It was a lot of patience on Keira’s part, a lot of hard knocks on the ground and really putting in the effort. I will be honest I do not know any kid that would have stayed with that pony and continued on due to the amount of times Flower would just dump her.”
• Now, however, O’Connor-Reichert and Flower are best friends.
“Basically, I just ride her all the time, play with her and do ground work with her. We just hang out,” O’Connor-Reichert said.
• Voice is a big aspect of O’Connor-Reichert and Flower’s relationship.
“Most of the time, I talk to her,” O’Connor-Reichert said. “She then focuses on something else instead of looking at how big the jumps are or how scary they are.”
“Keira loves to sing and groom Flower,” and the pony responds, Reichert added. “She loves when Keira sings and talks to her. That is, like, her favorite thing.I think that the calmness of Keira’s voice, as you can hear in the video, is what Flower needs.”
• Groundwork also was key to helping Flower overcome some of her anxiety.
“Keira would take her out, groom her, put her halter on and put her back, so she would recognize that even though she put her halter on and took her out of the stall, it did not mean she needed to be anxious,” Reichert said. “Sometimes she would even just take her into the ring and play with her. She loves to hop on bareback, so she does not really ride in tack much.”
• Flower lives at home on the family’ farm in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. She’s a princess in the field, where you can usually find her snoozing. “She loves to lay down and sleep in the sun.” said Reichert.
• “Rise and Shine, Flower” is one of the phrases Flower responds to most. It means, “Let’s go!”
“We started doing that when I would ride Flower and my mom would walk beside us. We would race, and we started saying, ‘Rise and shine, Flower!’ and she would start trotting down the road.” O’Connor-Reichert said. Now the pony knows, when she hears that phrase, that it’s time to go.
• Flower is a typical pony: little body, big personality. “When we take her on trail rides, she does this sassy head move thing. She flicks her head to the side about five to 10 times, and then she stops,” O’Connor-Reichert said.
“It is her way of trying to tell the other ponies not to come near her or bother her,” Reichert added. “It is really funny.”
• Once Flower overcame her anxiety, she blossomed into an event pony.
“She loves to run, jump and play, so she loves cross-country because she is zooming around and goes over everything,” O’Connor-Reichert said.
“We always say that cross-country is Flower’s jam; this is what she likes to do,” Reichert said.
• Flower was a challenge for a first event pony, but she taught O’Connor-Reichert valuable lessons about horsemanship, and patience in particular.
“Keira learned to ride on Flower. Flower taught her everything she knows as far as how to use her seat and leg,” Reichert said. “She has to be super kind with her hands because [Flower] goes in an elevator bit, so she really had to learn tactfulness with her hands, which most kids do not learn with a pony.”
“Being patient and keeping going were the ways we got through it, even though she was being fast and dragging me,” O’Connor-Reichert said. “We just kept at it.”