Making Lemonade from Lemons: Bettering Our Pony During the Pandemic

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If I have a fatal flaw, it’s that I (often naively) gravitate towards the positive side of a situation. When my youngest was hospitalized a couple years ago, it was a scary situation for all of us. I told him that I was just so grateful that we happened to be in the right place with the right doctor at the right time to get a correct diagnosis and prompt treatment. 

After listening to my spiel of positivity, he finally looked at me and said, “Momma, sometimes I just want you to say this sucks and stop telling me what’s good.” 

He was right. I glossed over that it was a truly crummy situation for him to be in, but I still believe that there is a silver lining to just about anything. Sometimes you just have to stop looking, and let it find you.

When the pandemic first started, we had just purchased PonyKid’s new pony. PonyKid was eager to hit the ground running, do some shows and show what they could accomplish. But, as often is the case with ponies, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows right away. Our new pony came with some quirks (which is how we could afford him) and what the kid wanted—but the pony needed—didn’t exactly line up at first. 

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Even though he was eating a quality diet, he needed to gain some weight. He could be lazy, reactive and sometimes nervous. He had a habit of hollowing out his back and getting behind your leg. Overall, he might have looked a little common… but we could tell there was a nice division pony hiding in there. We just had to find him.

Within the first couple weeks of having him home, we took the pony to the show and noticed some issues. We had our farrier adjust his shoeing and had our saddle fitter out to make adjustments. But there was a nagging feeling there was something more going on. Without a lot of history with the pony, we did not have a solid answer for what the issue could be. But this is where the pandemic silver lining comes into play. 

It was a crummy time when the shows started cancelling and barns closed their doors. PonyKid was crushed that things didn’t go according to her plan, but it gave us the gift of time. 

Time to investigate what was really going on, and with no show dates looming on the horizon. Time to address the underlying issues.

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The first week of quarantine, we scoped for ulcers. Our suspicions were confirmed. Pony was acting the way he was because he was uncomfortable. He wasn’t gaining weight because he couldn’t gain weight. He was stressed, and without being able to properly absorb nutrients, his coat was dull and his top line was weak. It would have been easier to try and fix things the fast way. Inject hocks and be back to showing the next week, but this was not a quick fix. If we had tried the “quick fix” we would still have this massive underlying issue.

Pony spent the entirety of quarantine being treated for ulcers following our vet’s recommendations. For the four weeks the barn was closed to boarders, he also had 4 training rides (or lunges) a week. Honestly, having no shows due to the pandemic was the best thing that could have happened for him. It gave us the time and the freedom to do it the right way, and the proof is easy to see. He has become a truly lovely pony that I am proud to call our own.

We didn’t need a worldwide pandemic to do what we did. We very simply got back to basics. The pony jumped nothing for four weeks. Followed by 3 weeks of focused lessons. Lots of flatwork, lots of lateral work, lots of transitions, lots of very basic horsemanship. This was a true team effort, and in my experience, the more knowledgeable people you invite in and the more people you have working towards a common goal, the better the results. How many horses and ponies (and riders too!) could benefit from a month of basics “bootcamp?” Funny that it took a global emergency to shed light on something so simple. 

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A very wise horse person once told me that when a horse or pony meets his person, they get prettier. And as much as I give the credit for the pony’s #glowup to our trainer, vet, farrier, and saddle fitter, I have to give the PonyKid huge kudos as well. I believe that our ponies know that we are looking out for their best interest. I believe that they do, in fact, get prettier when they meet their person, because having someone put their trust and heart into a partnership makes them glow in a way that nothing else can.

Now I look at a pony that has blossomed. He has a topline and a true presence now. He will probably never be an “simple” ride, but that’s okay. He looks so proud to carry his kid around a course. He will give her extra effort and trust her when she asks him to try something new. 

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And the kid has learned that she can accomplish hard things. She has figured out how to ride the difficult parts, and how to effectively communicate with him so that the harder things don’t seem so difficult after all. She has gained faith in herself and her abilities to lead. That confidence transfers to her pony. Above all else though, she has learned that when you open your heart and allow yourself to become the pony’s person, they will move heaven and earth for you when given the chance.

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This crummy pandemic, while a huge issue and problematic in so many ways, was actually lemonade in the making. The ability to pause and take the time to get to the root of the issue, might not have happened without the lack of shows. So, while I can take a lesson from my youngest and admit that it really does “suck,” I will still remain grateful for the good that came from it. I will always remember this time as a gift, that allowed us to remember that taking it slow, and doing it right, is often the fastest path to success.

About the Author: Ponymomammy juggles her roles of mother (two human, two ponies, and three doggos), wife, and perpetual amateur in Camden, SC. When not shuttling kids, or riding, she can be found feebly attempting to clean or cook, usually in dirty breeches from an earlier hack. Both she and her daughter enjoy showing on both the local, and A rated, show circuits.
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