Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pony Up!

Richie's great niece is already a championship equestrian which is not really a surprise as her mother and grandmother are both champions.  The tack/feed room of their barn is very nearly wallpapered with blue ribbons.  She has a pony - her second, she outgrew the first - and her mother has a show jumper.  They have a barn, a corral and their own yard.

She recently celebrated her 12th birthday and Richie picked up a couple of books on horses, ponies, riding, and so forth for her.  I thought it was coals to Newcastle but then I got to leafing through them and ...

"Horse and Pony Fact File: An Essential Guide to the World of Horses and Ponies"  This really is  A to Z coverage on Our Friend the Horse/Pony starting with breed types - the Connemara is described as a strong, sturdy riding pony with good paces. and I liked it due to a dappled grey color.  I've been a grey horse sucker for as long as I can remember.  At the track, if a grey horse came stumbling to the gate, dragging a hind leg, I'd still bet it.   

The  practical side of horse/pony ownership is described - how to muck out a stable; what to feed the animal and when, picking out hooves, making sure the pasture is free of any poisonous plants; what the rider is to wear and where - show clothes are much fancier than hacking around outfits (jeans and a sweatshirt and a riding helmet).  Never get on a four-legged beast without a riding helmet.  Never. 
"Horse, the Essential Guide for Young Equestrians" has pop-ups, with additional facts including "run your own pony show" complete with an envelope of blue ribbons. 

If your little girl is begging to have her own pony, remind her that riding is not just saddling up and going where the wind takes her and her mount.  Tell her she will be expected - every day - to:

7 a.m.  feed and change water.  Muck out the stall
9:30 a.m. saddle and exercise the animal - if you have to be at school, can exercise when school is over for the day
11 a.m.  unsaddle, give water and hay, turn out to the pasture
12:30 noon - give a look out to the pasture
4:30 p.m. Pick the hooves, re-water, give second feeding
8 p.m.  Give the third feeding and close up for the night.

Who knew?  Horses often drink 12 gallons of water per day; the equivalent of 128 cans of soda.
Horses  have small stomachs and are considered "trickle feeders" eating all day; in fact, a horse will often graze for 22 out of 24 hours.  They need roughage (hay, grass,) concentrates of oats, barley, sugar beet cubes and succulents - apples and carrots, BUT:  cut the carrot in strips; coin-shaped can catch in their throats and choke them. 

Wanting a pony or a horse is a very common thing in young girls.  When I was 8 or 10, I started riding at a near-by stable as often as I could con a parent into taking me.  One of my birthdays was held at Benjamin Stables and everyone got to ride, followed by a barbecue.  It took some time for the parents of the other girls to forgive my parents for presenting this very expensive activity.

Why the enchantment of horseback riding to young girls?  Looking back I think it's the power of controlling some 1,200+  lbs. of horse with a flick of a rein or a gentle heel in the horse's side.  That's power, babee.    Learn it young and never forget it.   A girl that grows up riding is almost never going to need another person's help. 

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