BY JENNIFER TAYLOR
When I see someone searching for a pony and they want something under 15 years old, I often think, I will take the ones OVER 15. I will take them at 25!
I have often wondered why people retire ponies early, especially ones with successful careers. Maybe they just needed a break… because you know what—I have retired from this lifestyle 3 times myself. I needed a break. But turns out, I am a really bad quitter!
People say the ponies don’t owe them anything, so they retire them. But if the ponies like kids and attention, don’t the owners owe it to them to let them keep going? They might not owe you anything, but you may still owe them the option to have a kid if they’re still happy and healthy working.
The ponies that are great at their job want to keep doing their job. If they are sound, who are we to tell them they need to be done? I currently have several ponies over 20, and a lot over 15. Below are some of the special ones that cover that 15-25 age group in descending order.
Ramblin’ N Gamblin – 25 year old Welsh/TB by Benlea Rambler
He doesn’t always wear the happy ‘ears forward’ face, but God put his ears backwards for a reason… you must earn them forward. How? Snuggles, treats and appreciation. Well, we also recently learned that he does tricks (bows, shakes, gives kisses). Doing tricks makes him young again. He nickers the sweetest nicker every day. How will I know when he is done? Maybe when he doesn’t nicker throughout the day.
He does still love to show. In 2020 I am not sure if he went to a show that he didn’t tri-color in large Short Stirrup divisions. He was also Grand Champion at the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show. In 2021, he already took my son to the Children’s Pony Equitation Champion at WEC – Ocala. If someone wants to borrow a pony I will send him in a heartbeat. I know he won’t miss a change, and I know he won’t stop (well he is 25, when he has to poop he isn’t going anywhere… they all have their thing). Each year when his riders need to move onto another, people ask why he doesn’t do the division with them instead and I say, “Because he is 25,” and they get really big eyes.
My Heart Forever aka Rain – 25 year old Pinto pony
She has gone home to her owner after a couple leases and within a month her owner calls to say she thinks the pony still wants a job. The confidence this pony has given so many people is off the charts.
Rockport – 23 year old Warmblood Pony
In 2020 he brought home Champion at WEC – Ohio in the Short Stirrup. He brought happy tears to a child that was afraid to jump cross rails barely 6 months before that win. Pony Finals accolades include Top 10 Model/US and Overall in 2011, 5th Overall 2012, and 11th in the USEF Pony Medal out of 160.
Goldfish – 21 year old Warmblood pony
Goldfish does not want to live outside or retire. He wants in after 4 hours of turnout every day—unless it is exactly 70 and sunny. If he had a bell he would ring it to come inside. He still wants to work and go to shows, loving the Walk Trot and Crossrail life.
I have lived with him for 3.5 years and he is happy—as long as he gets his way. In the last 3 years he has still qualified for Pony Finals twice. He took my son to his first Pony Finals (just to hack and model since he just did Short Stirrup at the time), and he has taken countless kids to their first shows and first tri-colors. He also still moves like a freak! He has many Pony Finals accolades including winning the under saddle in 2012 and 2nd in the Under Saddle Championship Class in 2013.
Rollingwoods Sticky Situation – 21 year old Welsh pony by Sleight of Hand
She still has the stride that gave her that name, and can do the horse step in the Short Stirrup if she wants! She will be showing in the Short Stirrup this year – and could also do the Childrens Ponies, but I know in her heart she would rather still be doing the division.
Waterlily – 19 year old Crossbred Pony by Hidden Creek Rain Fox
Short Stirrup/Childrens pony deluxe with the heart that only comes with a great mare. Tri-colors with her latest rider at the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, Tryon, and most recently WEC – Ocala. In two weeks at WEC, she was Champion in 11 & Under both weeks, Short Stirrup Hunter one week and Short Stirrup Eq the next, as well as the Classic winner. She even doubles as a Walk Trot pony at times with her rider’s younger sister, and is happy to teach her current rider’s parents the ropes as well.
Tantallon Co-Captain – 18 year old Welsh Cross by Lemontree Sea Captain
Currently doing the Short Stirrup, he won the 11 & Under over fences and the SS Challenge at Tryon with his newest rider at their first horse show and will likely step her up to the Childrens Ponies soon. This pony has gotten top 3 ribbons in the model at Devon, many ribbons at Pony Finals, has been Champion High Score VPBA at Pony Finals twice, and Reserve Champion at Pony Finals in the Regular Larges. He wears his ears forward all the time, and I am not sure he ever met a jump he didn’t like. I will never forget the day he won a National Derby against professionals in Aiken almost a decade ago, even with adding in some high options! It was the coldest show I had ever been to. We literally had our cars pulled up to the ring. He really is the definition of a trooper!
Merlin The Magnificent – 18 year old British Riding Pony
Currently successful in the Short Stirrup and Walk-Trot with 2 sisters. In 2020 he won the Short Stirrup Classic with his newest rider at their first show at Tryon, was Champion at Blowing Rock Charity Horse show and so far in 2021 he won 5 tri-colors during 2 weeks of WEC – Ocala in great company in the Walk Trot and the Short Stirrup. When Merlin was ready to step down from the division, I knew I would have plenty of options for him. That doesn’t mean you won’t see him at Pony Finals maybe one more time in his career, but he adores his kids and is still so handsome. He is one that I think gets better looking with age.
Penelope Cruisin – 16 year old Welsh Pony
The youngest of this bunch and my son’s favorite. Recently, they were Reserve Champion out of 32 in the 2’ Open at WEC – Ocala. The pair had many tri-colors in 2020. Penelope also doubles as a Walk Trot pony some days and loves that job. When it comes to Penelope – they really don’t get much cuter.
These ponies all have my heart. They are so special in every way. I feel like when people shop for ponies they shop for what they can live with, but I only shop for the ponies I feel like I don’t want to live without.
While I know there will come days they will break my heart, my heart is currently full. I know they will all tell me when they are done. But right now they are telling me they are not. Listen with your heart. Check on your ‘not so old’ retired ponies. Are you sure they don’t want to come back and get groomed and loved on and all braided up for a show?
Don’t disregard that old pony. It might just be waiting to go to a show. Waiting for that hug during or after the model at Pony Finals, that smile when their kid opens their stall door, that trip to the winners circles all braided and shiny like they’re ready to walk into the model (they know they won and they don’t mind they only had to walk and trot).
They are not that much different than us. They love a massage or spa day as much as you or I do. The only real difference is we don’t take a massive roll in the shavings before we eat dinner!
Photos courtesy of Cathrin Cammett, Andrew Ryback Photography, Heather Gaydeski, Sadie Anderson Photography and Jennifer Taylor