If you happen to remember my posts from two years ago, Ian went through a short phase when he loved to get Reggie out and take short rides around the field on her. Despite Reggie’s stellar performances as a lead-liner, her size just made me too nervous. Letting Ian ride her required one adult at Reggie’s head, and another walking alongside Ian and holding on to him just in case the worst should happen. This required two adults to be present for every ride, and I still worried that somehow Ian may hit the ground from such a height. So we bought two Shetland ponies who had spent portions of their lives abroad.
After acquiring suitably sized mounts, Ian pretty much lost all interest in all things equine. Every now and then he would ask to play with the ponies, but more often he didn’t. When I would get the ponies out, Ian would always come pet them and maybe even lead one around for a little bit, but that was the extent of his interest. I had resigned myself to the fact that my kid doesn’t really care for horses, and that’s okay. Riding doesn’t have to be his thing. It’s my thing. Ian doesn’t have to share all of my hobbies. But then things changed. To start with, we lost the grey pony late this summer. In August he took a negative turn, and didn’t come out of it. Given his sudden change in coat texture and thickness, I’m guessing Cushing’s was the culprit.
Despite his recent lack of interest, we still expected Ian to feel sad about losing his pony, and worried a little about how to explain death to him. Fortunately Ian’s goldfish had died just a week earlier, giving us a great basis of comparison. Ian did seem disappointed that Sam had died, but was able to process the entire event really well for a kid. Maybe it has something to do with raising his own beef?
Once a day I put a halter on Badger and pull him out of the fence for Ian. Ian runs the poor pony for laps around our yard and makes Badger run up and down the small hill by the basement door. Have you seen the old cartoons where the animated horse goes down a hill so steep he has to sit down and slide? This hill is not quite that steep, and it’s only about 6 feet long, but Badger comes close to sitting down. With this increased work load, and new strain to Badger’s hocks, we started Badger on joint supplements a few weeks ago. Now Ian’s daily chores include helping to feed his pony every morning. After I put Reggie in her pen, it’s Ian’s job to take Badger his feed pan with its tiny handful of grain with glucosamine and MSM sprinkled on top. He feels so important to provide his pony with breakfast, and has not tried to beg off when I’ve announced that it’s time to feed.
Badger has also found himself as the satisfied recipient of many carrots, lately. It’s a good thing that Aldi frequently run sales for the big bag of carrots (sometimes as low as $0.50 per bag!) because we’re running through them! Often during his walks with Badger, Ian will decide that Badger is hungry and needs to take a break to eat some carrots. This may be why Badger now comes so willingly to the gate every time he sees a human walk out the back door.
Carrots are a universal favorite with our small herd, but unfortunately Reggie cannot have a treat unless she works for it. She gets a little too full of herself, otherwise. When I want an excuse to give her a carrot, I typically just get her to bend from side to side and to her chest to do her “carrot stretches.” Ian’s been watching Reggie’s carrot yoga, and has decided Badger should do this everyday as well. Earlier this week I caught him cranking his pony’s head around with a carrot. We had to have a little chat about not using the halter to deepen Badger’s stretching.
This week Ian has decided that he’s ready to start riding Badger more. The only problem is that he made this decision on his own and didn’t wait for any help. Usually during his Badger time, I put Reggie in her small pen so that her big hooves are not a concern for a little boy. Yesterday Ian slipped out to the field on his own without telling Brinn what he was up to. I got a call at work later to explain the whole story. After a while, Brinn heard Ian yelling outside. Because Ian has become Mr. Bossy Britches, we’ve been trying to work with him on not yelling and expecting his parents to come to his beck and call. So Brinn ignored the yells…until he heard Ian say “Hey Daddy, look at me!” At this time Brinn flew out the back door fearing the worst. He found Ian sitting astride Badger…with no helmet, or shoes, bridle, or even a halter. I’m pretty sure this pony is trying single-handedly to reverse the naughty reputation that most ponies have worked hard to establish.
After equipping Ian with his helmet and some footwear, Brinn asked Ian how he managed to climb on his pony by himself. Ian was only too happy to demonstrate. There is a special place in heaven for this pony. I have even forgiven him for laying down and rolling in the dirt at Terri’s arena.
We may end up causing Badger to founder, but as far as I’m concerned, this pony can have as many carrots as he wants for the rest of his life. A few people have asked me what we’ll do with Badger when Ian outgrows him. We may consider letting some of our closest friends borrow Badger for a year or two when their little ones are ready for a pony, but otherwise Badger will be in my field. He’s putting in a lot of overtime to count towards his retirement. I fully intend for the pony to be buried beside Reggie.
If you happen to come out anytime soon, Ian will be happy to introduce you to Badger. But be warned, Ian will ask if you want to hug Badger. And when you do, he’ll also insist that you have to give Badger a kiss when you hug him.