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I say “can” because many are willful, crafty little rascals that simply aren't well-trained.
If you're thinking of gifting your child with a pony or horse — in my opinion one of the best gifts possible — please exercise wisdom by buying a well-trained pony that's already proven itself good with children.
Sugar was one such Shetland pony.
She came into our lives in her 20s as a confidence booster for my niece, Brooke, then 8, after our other two ponies, Snowball Express and Goldie Boy, proved too willful for her to handle.
Yes, other children had ridden both ponies before we bought them, but I quickly discovered that didn't indicate they were obedient to their riders.
Goldie's always demonstrated himself a dream pony in every way except when he wants to eat, and he wants to eat all the grass he sees all the time.
At the time, I didn't know I could correct that problem by running baling twine from each side off his bit, up the bridle and attaching the end to the saddle horn.
That contraption prevented him from pushing his nose forward, pulling the reins out of Brooke's hands and putting his head down to eat.
Earning his name
Snowball Express earned the name Express because of his lightning-quick ability to scoot out from under his young rider, thus leaving a scared, crying youngster on the ground.
After Brooke gained confidence on Sugar, she quickly gained the confidence and ability to control Snow and Goldie.
Many readers probably know Brooke went on to become a champion barrel racer with Sequim High School's equestrian team.
Sugar also helped her younger brother, Wesley, gain confidence in the saddle.
While he never had much desire to be a horseman, he did have a passion to be an adventurer like the fictional movie character Indiana Jones.
Frequently, I'd see him in the backyard, dressed in his Indiana Jones hat and outfit, riding Sugar on some adventure through our big cedar and hemlock trees.
My favorite memory is of him galloping little Sugar in the lower yard with his arms outstretched to each side, eyes up at the sky while grinning from ear to ear with a look of sheer joy on his face.
By the way, Sugar loved it, too, and Wesley never ran her for long.
Be aware, however, that even the best-trained pony can sometimes pull a little shenanigan.
Once, on a family trail ride in the Cassidy Creek DNR, Sugar decided to make a quick dash for home.
On that ride my youngest nephew, Keaton, 4, was riding Sugar, Wesley rode Snow, and Brooke rode Goldie. I was riding April.
On all other rides with Keaton and Sugar, I was able to release Sugar's lead rope on the journey home, and she'd follow right behind April.
This time, as soon as I unsnapped the lead rope, Sugar took off running for home.
Fearing if I suddenly urged April to run in pursuit that the other two ponies would join in and I'd have an out-of-control stampede for home, I urged April to a quick trot while lightly singing out to the screaming-in-fear Keaton to pull back on the reins and ask her to “whoa.”
Wesley immediately responded to Keaton's cry by spurring Snowball into a run, thus managing to quickly catch up with the smaller and slower Sugar, grab her right rein and bring her to a halt.
“Why didn't you run after them?” he asked me accusingly.
OK, so I felt foolish for not immediately spurring April into action to stop Sugar, but experience has taught me that if I had spurred the lead horse to run, I may well have had three out-of-control ponies running for home.
Thankfully, a quick-thinking Indiana Jones, aka Wesley, saved the day.
■ 5 p.m. Friday — Back Country Horseman Peninsula chapter Christmas party at Lincoln Park's Loomis Lodge in Port Angeles, with a potluck dinner and dancing. RSVP to Jennifer Reandeau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-928-3824.
■ 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday — Freedom Farm show practice, 493 Spring Road in Agnew. Phone 360-457-4897.
■ Noon to 3 p.m. Sunday — Freedom Farm cow-working class. (See entry above.)
■ 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 — The Jefferson Equestrian Association annual meeting and membership drive at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St. JEA's Horse Park will be a multiuse facility for equestrian and other outdoor activities such as biking, walking and dog events. For more details, visit www.jeffersonequestrian.org.
Karen Griffiths' column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.
If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at email@example.com at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.