When Santa Brings a Pony: Stories Past and Present from Adult Amateurs

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

You are never too young (or too old) to ask for a pony for Christmas. Many of us still have that on our holiday wish lists, year after year. Though a horse is a special gift any time of year, there’s a little extra magic to come out on a cold December morning and see the red bow around that pony’s neck. Adult amateur riders from The Plaid Horse Adult Amateur Lounge share their stories of holiday horses.

“I got my first show pony, Pistol Pete, on Christmas in 1989, and it truly was the most magical memorable day. 

I was born and raised on my parents’ Hunter/Jumper farm in Charleston, SC. In September of 1989, Hurricane Hugo hit the Charleston area and caused massive and devastating damage. Our farm was in the middle of the Francis Marion National Forest, so trees were our biggest concern. Thankfully my parents designed the main barn (the only barn on the farm at the time) with hurricanes in mind, so the only damage was to the roof. They were in the process of adding on to the old house when Hugo hit, and although there was damage, it wasn’t a complete loss. It took my parents and one of their friends a few days to cut through the trees that had fallen on the few miles of dirt road around the farm before reaching the main paved road. It was a mess to say the least, and the forest was forever changed.

On Christmas of 1989, Charleston had a large snowstorm. On Christmas Eve, I remember I was with my dad in our little Chevy S-10 going to the feed store when the snow started falling. It’s incredibly rare for Charleston to get any type of winter weather, so a significant snowstorm was a huge deal. It was really crazy to have so much snow just a few months after a devastating hurricane.

I remember on Christmas morning, we were sitting in the house while my little brother and I opened presents and just spent time together as a family. The barn was across the dirt road from the house and you can always see cars coming and going from the farm. I noticed a horse van had driven by and pulled up to the barn. I was totally confused and asked my parents why a horse van was there, on Christmas, in the snow no less! They said “let’s go down to the barn and see who is here.”

So, we walked down to the barn. As we got to the front of the barn, the driver of the van had opened the doors and dropped the ramp. I was still not sure what was happening! Then all of a sudden, I see little Pistol Pete, a very small (I think around 11 h or even smaller) pinto pony in a heavy blanket walk down the ramp and into the deep snow. I just couldn’t believe it when my parents said “he’s all yours!” It was the most magical thing in the world and something that could’ve been straight out of a movie. It was perfect!!!

Pistol was the BEST first pony. I showed him in the walk/trot, tumbled over his head countless times when he would eat grass, learned to canter in a small paddock by the barn (falling off quite a bit in the beginning due to no fault of Pistol), and eventually cross rails. I moved up to a different pony for the Short Stirrup when that time came, but Pistol stayed at our farm for the rest of his days. I did show him in one 11 and under class just for fun once I moved up to Short Stirrup, and those 2’ jumps looked HUGE on such a little pony!  He actually showed in the Small Ponies when he was younger and even competed at Palm Beach, so he was more than capable of showing that height. 

At one point, we had 3 of my old ponies that we aptly named The 3 Old Men. The group consisted of Firecracker, Pistol, and Tio. Firecracker was technically my first pony, but my parents only led me around on him when I was very young. He was also like my babysitter while Mom was working in the barn every day. He lived well into his 40s, and he sure was a Firecracker! Then there was perfect Pistol and Tio, an old Arab cross large pony that I showed in the Short Stirrup briefly before leasing my incredible SS “hony” Mikey. We eventually let all 3 ponies roam loose on the farm because they weren’t going anywhere, and even if they tried, it wouldn’t have been at a fast pace! They absolutely loved getting to roam around. They were the best of friends and always together.

The 3 Old Men lived very long and happy lives, and each one played a huge part of my early riding career. I was so lucky to have them as well as my amazing parents for giving me an opportunity to have such incredible ponies that taught me so much.” – Haley B

“[my daughter’s] first pony was a total surprise. Wrapped a halter with a nameplate and a picture. We only do 3 presents (bc baby Jesus got 3 presents and if it’s good enough for baby Jesus, it’s good enough for you) and every year, one of her 3 presents is a picture of her current horse/pony. Our agreement to pay for said horse/pony for another year is something that I don’t want her to lose sight of the value of.” – Sarah S

Photo courtesy of Maya S

“My heart horse was a (week late) Christmas present when I was 12. Of course, the first year I didn’t put “a pony” on my Christmas list. He was 4 turning 5 and I had been riding him at my barn for a few months. Top pic is from 2005 when I was surprised with him, bottom pic is from 2014. We had quite the glow up.” – Maya S

“My first pony, Popcorn, was a Christmas present when I was 8. Total surprise. I had never even had a lesson. My sister had ridden at Woodlawn stables where Poppy was an unsuccessful school pony. He was famous for escaping and trolling for food at a local 7-11. We couldn’t afford a saddle for the first 6 months we owned him. I am pretty confident he was a Halflinger/Shetland cross and very naughty. I adored him. I got married on his grave.” – Karyn C

Photo courtesy of Grace M

“I just bought myself this one and will probably say he’s from Santa. Santa is good to moms who are in charge of everyone else’s Christmas.” – Grace M

“My dad gave my brother a palomino on Christmas Day tied to a long ribbon. Later it bucked my dad off and it went back. My brother never really liked horses.” – Barbara B

Photo courtesy of Maddy S

“I got a pony for Christmas one year! I had absolutely no clue and was so surprised. I had been riding the most adorable paint pony who had been at the barn as a sale horse for a few months and sometimes would ride when he was shown to potential buyers and I would always secretly hope they wouldn’t buy him so that he would stay around longer. I was a little obsessed with him and would draw pictures of him all the time haha.

Skipping forward to Christmas, my parents would always let me open a couple gifts on Christmas Eve and so the first one I opened was a heavy winter blanket that was bigger than my current pony’s size which I thought was odd since my mom was good about always getting the sizing correct. So I said something and she gave me another present to open. It was a wooden box with a picture of me and the paint pony on it and inside there was a note that said he was my Christmas present. I was in total shock and couldn’t wait to go to the barn Christmas morning! I still have Tucker, the paint pony, to this day and he is currently leased out to the most adorable little girl who is the age as I was when I first got him. Can definitely say that was the best Christmas gift ever.” – Maddy S

“My grand mother wrote a poem about a horse that helped Santa deliver presents and his reward for his help was his own little girl…me! That was 20 years ago, still have the poem and the horse.” – Torey F

“I got my first horse when I was 11 for Christmas. It was a huge surprise. She was given to me during our local Jack Frost parade. It was a Christmas I’ll never forget and still so thankful to this day that my parents were able to get her for me. She was 8 months old. She was one of the foals out of my trainer’s lesson horse. My trainer get we were the right match for each and with her guidance and training along the way that it would work. And it did!” – Miah M

Photo © Emily Randolph

“My parents suggested stopping by the barn to give my pony, Silver Belle, some carrots on our way to my grandparents’ house and there was a big bow on Nattie’s stall door. He was 3, I was 12. Now 21 years later, he’s happily retired on my farm and still the best Christmas present ever.” – Christie D

Photo courtesy of Paige B

“We gave WEEBISCUIT to Izzy (my daughter for Christmas one year) no other presents at all… it took her a minute to figure it out especially when she didn’t have anything under the tree! It was her favorite Christmas present ever by miles!” – Paige B

“My first pony was a Christmas gift from my grandmother. Under the tree was a stall nameplate with the pony’s name & my name as the owner. I was in the 4th grade & it will forever be my most epic Christmas. Maybe one of the reasons I’m obsessed with Christmas lol. I still have the stall nameplate somewhere.” – Brook A

And if you’re still waiting… don’t fret. You never know what this holiday season could bring!