Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

A Pony Still Tops My Christmas List

The author always wanted a horse for Christmas—but this year that wish is a little bit different.

As Christmas rolls around for what will be my 34th try at it, I find myself in some sort of déjà vu-riddled, space-time continuum sort of thingy. When I sat down this afternoon to have a stab at my Christmas List for the year, I almost surprised myself when the first word to appear on the paper ended up being “Pony.”
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The author always wanted a horse for Christmas—but this year that wish is a little bit different.

As Christmas rolls around for what will be my 34th try at it, I find myself in some sort of déjà vu-riddled, space-time continuum sort of thingy. When I sat down this afternoon to have a stab at my Christmas List for the year, I almost surprised myself when the first word to appear on the paper ended up being “Pony.”

Now keep in mind that for more than 27 years my Christmas Lists have been pretty redundant, consistently starting with the same word from year to year, that word being “Horse.”

My arm would be exhausted if I shook a stick at all the stalls I’ve ever cleaned, horses I’ve groomed, bales of hay I’ve thrown, etc., to be able to afford access to (other people’s) horses since I began riding at age 7. I had the proverbial lesson per week for a couple of years, and then I started working off leases and lessons until college.

I never owned a horse of my own until I was three years out of college. He died of complications of Potomac Horse Fever three years later when I was pregnant with my daughter, Emily.

Since she was born I have been a stay-at-home mother and sometimes horse leaser/lesson taker. Money for lessons and board has been tight since we dropped down to one income, and I’ve been so busy with Emily that it has not even been feasible for me to think about a horse, until now.

We are currently in the market for land. Well, my husband seems to think we are in the market for a house, but I’m working on that one. He thinks it’s funny to tell friends we are looking for a four-stall, one-bath ranch with a first-floor run-out. I keep my mouth shut, but, of course, in my eyes, that sounds just about perfect.

Don’t let my gleaming eyes and tendency to drool right now fool you, I am pretty wound up about the whole idea. It’s not so much the land as what the land represents. What shall we do with all that land?

The mind boggles at the merest thought of it. Spacious stalls, green pastures with safe fencing, little Welsh ponies and big, silly Thoroughbreds—these are a few of my favorite things.

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Pony Time

You’d think after years and years of riding an average of five days per week and now a few years that were sparse in the horse department, my first concern would be a horse for myself. Well, you would think that if you weren’t the mother of an almost 4-year-old who (in your completely unbiased opinion) adores horses and is ready to, literally, take over the reins and start learning to “really” ride.

This kid rode in-utero. She’s gotten loads of trips to the barn and plenty of time riding double with mom, or along on the leadline. She got a helmet for her second Christmas, little size 4T breeches last summer; she’s got paddock boots and a plethora of pony toys.

She knows where to stand (and more importantly where not to) when mom is working around a horse or when one is coming down the aisle. She knows how to feed treats, and not fingers, to the horses. She has a little bitty manure fork all her own, which she is very ineffective at using (“put a little on mine mommy”), but darn it’s cute.

Yes indeed, it’s pony time (music plays, crowds cheer).

Ever since I went in for my ultrasound and I found out I was having a girl I have perused the online sales sites for ponies. I’ve seen ads for pretty ponies, ugly ponies, nice ponies, naughty ponies, big ponies, little ponies, and lots and lots of expensive ponies.

I know some of you are thinking, “Don’t push her into things, she’ll just push back” or “She’s too young.” All I can say in my defense is that I don’t think so; I think she’ll love it. And, yeah, so will mom.

Of course, I really want her to love horses like I do. Every time I get a catalogue with a little girl on her super-cute  hunter pony with her long braids flying behind her and the pony’s knees up to his eyeballs, my heart skips a beat and my eyes get all misty.

I know it may not happen, and she may end up not liking horses. But I don’t ever want it to be said that I didn’t give it a good shot!

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Family Support

I’ve spent most of my life watching other girls get horse after horse while I’m riding green lease horses that get sold as soon as they get some mileage on them. Emily is going to ride, if Emily wants to. And Emily is going to have her own pony. We won’t be spending winters in Florida or heading to Calgary every summer, but she will be supported in as much as our budget allows.

It’s not that my parents didn’t support my riding habit. I would be foolish to think the years of driving me to the barn every day, the hours at dusty horse shows just waiting for my class to start, and the financial support they could give, didn’t mean anything. And Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, thanks!

But it was always hard to be cheerful and upbeat on Christmas after the last present was opened and there was no horse for me in sight. I can distinctly recall saying all of the requisite thank-yous and smiling, seemingly thrilled with the year’s take, then sneaking off to my bedroom for a good, gut-wrenching sob on my pillow. The cold, hard facts are that I never got the “Horse” listed at the top of every Christmas List since I was 7, and it was all I ever really wanted.

I wonder what kind of rider I might be now if I had begun jumping earlier, if I had gotten this horse or that horse before they were sold off, if I had boarded at a big show barn.

“Water under the bridge,” you say. I know, I know; I can’t let my kid live my dreams for me, but I can make the offer and see what happens, even if it does end up all being just a pipe dream.

I have these glorious pictures in my head of Emily and me showing together, Emily winning the medal final, Emily and me cantering down a woodland path in the fall. But just because it might not happen is no reason not to make the attempt.

So it’s almost Christmas, and we haven’t sold our house nor found the replacement. But it’s out there somewhere, waiting to become a home for my beautiful family and one beautiful pony. Even if the pony ends up being cow-hocked, ewe-necked, sway-backed and just plain ugly, I don’t mind. It will still be one of the most beautiful things in the world, just because it’s Emily’s.

Oh yeah—as for where a horse for mom lands on this year’s list? Well, let’s just say it came in a strong No. 2.

Susan Ferguson

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