Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ponies: Madera

When I was a little girl I was like hundreds of little girls everywhere. That is to say, I was horse crazy. My greatest wish at the time was to own my own horse. That didn't happen until I was a young adult. I never blamed my parents, because even then I understood it cost money to keep a horse.

I think as a parent you always want to give your kids the things you wanted but couldn't have. So when you are an adult if you are able then you have the tendency to get them those things. That's why after Carli was born I promised I would get her a pony when she was old enough.

We had a thoroughbred filly that was just weaned when I told my riding instructor I was looking for a pony for my daughter. I was willing to buy or trade for the filly. Carli was four at the time.

My teacher hooked me up with some people that had an elderly pony. They were willing to trade for the filly. I drove the filly to Tulare County where they lived. The trade was made, and I came home with a pony named Madera (another California county). He was allegedly a cob type of Welsh pony.

Giving Madera a bath.
His only vice was that when out for a ride he would head for the nearest patch of green, pull his head down and commence to munching. Good luck pulling that head back up to continue on the ride! I thought we would be able to work around that little problem.

A chalk portrait of Carli and Madera, by our neighbor at the time, Ann Iaun.

Madera and Carli hit it off right away. Off course there was that "little problem". We set about trying to find a way to fix it. Carli wasn't strong enough to pull his head up. Even I could barely pull him up before he'd just yank the reins out of my hands again. I taught Carli how to use a crop (riding whip), but even that didn't phase him. The next step was a stronger bit. The snaffle was way too mild for this headstrong pony. I didn't want to go too harsh all at once, so I started buying a progression of different bits. The Pelham worked for about, oh, a minute. This pony was tough!

Whooping it up in the back.

Finally I came to my last resort. It was the bit off a bridle I had bought when I got my first real job here and leased a horse for a year. I bought a saddle and double bridle that were actually for a saddlebred. The saddle was uncomfortably hard and I got rid of that after I bought my own first horse, but I kept the bridle. The bits could always be changed out. I knew the thin snaffle would be useless for Madera, but I had my eye on the curb bit with the eight inch shank.

Well, wonder of wonders! I instructed Carli how to be very careful with this bit, since it is very strong. It could be likened to a host of pulleys. You know how that works: one pulley works well, but the more pulleys you have the easier it is. I think Madera was rather shocked that we had found a way to overcome his little sport. But from that day on, he was a dream pony.

At a little fun show in Keene.

We never knew how old Madera was, but it was obvious that he was very old. I think the vet had said when we got him he was well into his twenties. He was with us for about three years.

One cold February morning before I left for my newish job as a grocery store checker I gave Madera his annual shots. I left him out of the pen so he could wander around and munch on any grass he might find. When I came home for my lunch break I looked out back and saw him laying down by the gates that go from the drive way to the pasture and the backyard to the pasture. He was suspiciously still.

I ran out to check him and he was dead. It looked like he just lay down and died. I always had these nagging doubts that maybe I put the shot in the wrong place, or maybe I should have never given him the shots in the first place. I felt guilty because I wasn't there for him. The only thing that made me feel better was knowing that at least for his last few years of life we had given him a good home.

TOMORROW: Madera's replacement.

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