Something In the Night Awakes Me


Something in the night awakes me.

Blinking my eyes slowly, I struggle to see through the darkness that surrounds my bed.
My breathing is shallow and quick and I can feel my heart as it begins to pound heavy.
Soon I am gripped by fear, completely unable to move, as I realize that my sister and I are no longer alone in the dark.

There is an evil shadow in our room with us.

I can feel him watch me in the dark.
Every muscle in my body is tense.
I want to stand up and bolt from the room yet I can only manage to move my eyes in a failed attempt to scan my black surroundings.
Then I feel the evil crossing the room towards me. I tightly shut my eyes, it hovers over me. I can feel the dark presence around me. Surrounding me.
It begins pressing against my body causing me to sink farther into my bed. I feel heavy with the weight. The air is getting thicker and the force of the shadow pressing down on my chest makes it increasingly difficult for me to find my breath.

My mind is racing now.

Why is he here again?
What does he want with me?

Soon I can barely breathe and I take a couple desperate gulps for air. I can feel my heart pounding thru my chest. I am frozen in fear now, unable to move or call for help, unable to catch my breath.

The shadow grows all around me.

He presses harder on my chest then reaches down deep inside me towards my soul.
Crushing my throat, choking me until…………….

I cannot breath at all


Pony Finals!! The suspense is killing me

It has been a fun adventure this year for one of my students and her darling Small Pony Hunter, “Lovey”
Lovey cropped

Lovey is a barn favorite, a small pony with quite a large personality. He loves to be fawned over, brushed, bathed, and generally expects to be pampered at all times. He is a Star with a celebrities ego and he LOVES to perform for the world. Lucky for us, Lovey actually seems to always know what a good performance should entail and puts his best hoof forward, always thrilling the judges.

Lovey and his child have spent the last year climbing the ranks. He has been an amazing teacher for her and she has worked hard to compliment his natural Hunter jumping ability. When the parents announced to me “We would like to qualify for National Pony Finals this year” I had mixed emotions for sure. I was thrilled at the prospect of well deserved fame for Lovey and his girl but intimidated by the process and expectations that lie ahead of us. I also realized that while trying to help them achieve their goals I would be balancing a whole barn full of other students and horses, my family and home life, and all while homeschooling my 11 year old son. Seemed a bit daunting at the time.

Ultimately, my staff and I agreed and we set out on an incredible journey together.

Having never had the chance to attend Pony Finals before we were coming into the scene as a nobody, the under dog, and we all had a steep learning curve ahead of us.

First there was the intense training for both rider and pony, the goal being to eventually achieve a flawless course of Hunter fences. This part can be hard for some but this is what I do best on a daily basis. If there is one thing I know, it is how to bring out the best in a pony and a child.

Next, there was the ever tweaking and polishing up of those skills. As the chances to qualify grew closer we studied our competition, even right down to the trending apparel for riders in the Pony Hunt classes of 2014.
We left no detail to chance.

Second we set forth an aggressive tentative show schedule of top rated shows all over Southern California for chances to qualify in the Small Pony Hunter division. To our pleasant surprise, Lovey and his little girl nailed it at a competition in Thermal, CA and qualified right out the gate.

There were whispers in the wind that day…. Who is that pony? Who is the kid? Where did they come from? Even, Who is the trainer?
And within hours we had offers to buy our precious Lovey right out from underneath us. Everybody just HAD to have that pony!
Politely rejecting, “I’m sorry, this pony is not for sale” Yet, the offers grew in value for this pony that seem to come out of nowhere and pretty soon there were extra digits tacked on to the price tag being offered.
Yet still we rejected. For the family, this was all about the journey and they were determined to see it through to the end. I was relieved that Lovey would be staying on with us.
So we pushed forward.
Cleaning up every little detail while balancing this daily competitive routine with plenty of fun for both pony and rider.

After many months, many shows, and too many ribbons to count the day to fly out to Pony finals in Kentucky had finally arrived. The excitement around the barn was palpable and all the kids and staff gave their Good Luck wishes. Regardless of the ending outcome of Pony Finals, such a huge accomplishment was just about to take place. Our Goal was simple: To attend and represent well.

My assistant travelled with Lovey to the airport and they both endured a very chilling 4 hour flight on a jet that transports Equines. They arrived in Kentucky one week early than Pony Finals in order to properly settle in and get the lay of the land. Lovey’s little 11yr old partner was not far behind.

The first day of competition was the “Pony Model”. This would count towards 25% of our overall score.

As the title implies it is a class about modeling the pony in front of a panel of judges. Since my barn is generally more action oriented this was the class that we knew the least about. But feeling confident in Lovey, our research, and all our hard practice we approached it with our best efforts.

Lovey SHINED!! And when I say “shined” I do mean literally 🙂 after all the hours of grooming and primping and posing he also ended up,the only pony of his 12 pony group, to land a spot in which the sun beamed brightly down upon him. Almost as though he was chosen to be spotlighted by a higher power.

Lovey model

Lovey is pictured modeling in front on the far left. The only one in the sun.

He WON the Model class of his divided 12 pony section. And for the Grand Overall of 103 of the best ponies in the Untied States he scored 8th!!!!
8th of 103 in the Model, not a bad start for the unknown “under dog”

News spread fast and pretty soon everyone back at home was sharing the cheers and success of Lovey and his girl.

On the second day they have the next competition called the “Under Saddle”.
This class also counts for 25% of the overall score.

As the title implies, this class is judged on everything under the saddle. That would be the Pony themselves. But unlike the stand-still Model, this class is conducted with the pony ridden at the walk, trot, and canter. The judge is looking for the most classic “Hunter” with the best natural flowing Hunter type movement. (To go into more detail would take an entire post in and of itself, but you get the general idea)
Lovey is disciplined, fancy, classy and has beautiful classic Hunter form over jumps but falls into a more “average” category when judged in the Under Saddle class. Knowing this was our weakest class we were still crossing our fingers and urging Lovey and his little girl to simply do their best. Assuring them we would be proud either way.
Not surprising, Lovey scored in the middle of the pack. 69th of 103. Still proud, everyone congratulated each other and Lovey went back to his stall for plenty of well deserved Cookies, Carrots, and pampering love.

By the Third day of Pony finals the suspense was really building. Much like watching the last few minutes of a tied sports game, everyone at our home barn was on the edge of their seats. Excitedly waiting to hear any new news or updates from the show team in Kentucky.

The Third and final competition would be worth 50% of their overall score. The hardest of all 3 classes. It was the Hunter over fences. (The jumping course)
Being an action based barn, this was the moment we were waiting for. It was time for Lovey and his pilot to truly show what they were made of. They would be expected to memorize a course of 8-10 jumping fences and would then have only one chance to step into the arena and show everyone what this mystery duo was really made of. A whole year of blood, sweat, and tears coming down to these 3 minutes. The pressure was immense for the little girl. Every thing she had revolved her life around in this past 52 weeks came down to this one final moment. Hundreds of eyes on her, peers, her trainers, other trainers, her family and friends that had all flown in to Kentucky for this special event. Even her pony had prepared so very hard for this moment to have her pilot him correctly and he was dancing with excitement.

Stepping in to the show arena a calm and peace settled over her. She immediately focused on her job and solid as a rock, this young 11 year old piloted her pony flawlessly thru the challenging course of jumps. Once again Lovey SHINED!
Stepping out of the show arena everyone was silent, waiting for the 3 judges scores to be announced and averaged. The score that would soon become the last 50% of the overall for National Pony Finals.
First the voice announced… 80.15
(She clenched her fist in excitement)
Next…… 82.57
(Now she looked like she was going to faint)
And lastly ….. 83.99
(Starting to sway, my sister had to grab her and remind her to breath)
Everyone was ecstatic!! These were exceptional scores and she was now sitting in 2nd place with just 40 ponies left to see.

The score board with Loveys jumping scores.

With all their showing done and the hard part behind them, Lovey’s fan group hunkered down in the stands to watch the rounds and anxiously await the remaining scores.
Meanwhile, back at the barn everyone was hovered around their phones much like you would see many years ago, baseball fans all gathered around a radio that was announcing the current baseball game. We were receiving minute to minute update texts and pictures with running commentary.

The suspense was killing us!!!

Each round that would go by….. 79.10, 78.55, 76.01
Then …. 60.2, 60.3, 61.25
One after another. 17 Ponies left to see and Lovey was still in 2nd of 103 ponies for the Jumping phase.
Finally the end was nearing and, believe it or not, Lovey’s score only got bumped ONCE. Lovey and his girl ended in 3rd place out of 103 Top United States Small Ponies, for the jumping phase!!!!
Woohoo!! – the crowd goes wild –
There was so much excitement, both from Kentucky and from the fan club at home in San Diego.

Again, the precious girl looked like she was going to faint. Then with bewilderment and surprise quickly followed by joy and excitement she said “We did it!!”
“I just went in their and I pushed out any thoughts of other riders, other ponies, and scores. I pushed that completely out of my mind. The only thing I focused on was the job I had to do and I did it!!!”

Averaging all 3 scores together, Lovey ended the United States Pony Finals in 8th place of 103!!!
He is the 8th best Small Pony Hunter in the whole Nation!!

We are all so incredibly proud!!!

** Additional announcement. After many inquiries and offers to purchase Lovey; Mom, Dad, and child have decided that Lovey will remain a part of their family and will be returning home to San Diego soon. I can’t wait to give him a great big hug and a bowl of his favorite vegetables and fruits!!


Here is a picture of Lovey receiving a well deserved pat from his rider.



Horse Trainers, A MUST read about CA Laws regarding Horse Sales


These are not NEW laws but I have found that they are widely unknown or intentionally over-looked laws regarding Horse Sales and Commissions.

Dear Trainers,

      Being an old and wise Appy, with extra large ears, I hear an awful lot of Barn gossip and drama. One topic that has come to my attention recently was the wide variety of practices amongst trainers when buying or selling horse’s for their clients. I might not be the most popular Appy for bringing this sensitive subject to my Blog but I’ve never claimed to be terribly PC in the first place.

      We all know that helping a client to purchase or sell a horse can sometimes lead to treading on uneven footing. Whether it is a matter of simply not understanding the California Laws or having to work with a less than ethical agent on the other end, things can get stickier than my favorite Molasses treats. Furthermore, with a Trainer’s labor intensive job that tends to be underpaid I realize it can be very tempting to accept incentives that may be offered to entice you towards a certain horse for your clients over another. This causes a “Conflict of interest” and believe it or not, IT IS ILLEGAL. (unless you fully disclose these amounts to both parties ahead of time, more about that later)

Here are some Quick Spot points for starters that Trainers and Agents NEED to know when buying, selling, and representing:

SPOT # 1. You MUST disclose your commission, IN WRITING, to your client.
This includes ANY monetary gain that you will be making from the sale or purchase of the horse.

SPOT #2. Be careful when accepting a payment that will be going directly through you because again, you need to remember that ANY monetary gain that results from that horse’s sale or purchase MUST be disclosed in writing to your client.

SPOT #3. Double dipping is ILLEGAL.
This is when a trainer or agent accepts a commission from the seller as well as the buyer. It is an obvious conflict of interest and the only way this is allowed is if both parties, the seller AND the buyer, show their consent and knowledge of the arrangement IN WRITING.

SPOT #4. Standard commission for the horse industry is 10% – 25%.
Though, any monetary compensation can be arranged so long as all parties are aware and consent to the arrangement, IN WRITING.

SPOT #5. Next, if you’ve ever been wrangled up by the law (or even watched a TV show) then you are familiar with the phrase “What you say can and may be used against you in a court of law.” This means you should be careful about intentionally misrepresenting or even being overly flamboyant about your claims of said horse. “It’s a perfect beginners child-safe horse. I’d trust it anytime” Yet the whole barn down the street from yours knows how many times it has left your arena at a bolt and come running into their property with a screaming child attached to its back. Hey, maybe it IS a wonderful child’s horse when it is in a small enclosed space, under supervision, after a 1 hour lunge and with the gate shut. I have known some great horsey friends of mine that just need to come with a few pointers from their previous humans to be successful. Just please remember, the truth is always best.

SPOT #6. Failing to obtain written consent from your client for your monetary gain off the sale or purchase of their horse can be punishable as a FELONY. (see the court cases [2] and [3] below as examples)

SPOT #7. Be smart. Protect yourself, your reputation and your client. Create a transparent contract and relationship with them. Include the sale price on the Bill Of Sale and have the Buyer and the Seller sign it themselves.
I know, I know, I feel like this may be a touchy spot and unpopular point that I am making. But if you really do not like this point perhaps you should re-read Items 1-6.

Current CA Laws:
For general purposes I will outline 3 important statutes that exist in California, Florida, and Kentucky. These are the 3 states that currently have laws specific to the sales of horses. But of course, I am not a lawyer, just an Appy Pony. So if you want up-to-date laws please search your own states laws carefully and if you want legal advice, please consult an Equine Lawyer.
1. A written Bill Of Sale signed by both parties that specifies the purchase price of the horse.
2. Written disclosure to both purchaser and seller of sales commissions (if the amount or value will be $500 or more; and
3. Written consent by both purchaser and seller if someone is acting as a dual agent.

To give a few easy examples of encounters I’ve witnessed:
I do not mean the type of padding that get’s stuffed under my neighbors shoe every 6 weeks.
You know what I am referring to….
Let’s say a trainer’s client, Lady NoLuck, asks him to sell her horse, Breakneck Bert. She tells her trainer that she wants to get $50,000 for Bert because of all the wonderful things he can do. The trainer has a friend that has a client that was searching for a horse exactly like old faithful BreakNeck Bert and has $75,000 to spend on this new horse of her dreams. The two trainers decide that it is a good match and that they will sell the horse for $75,000 but only give Lady NoLuck her asking price of $50,000, splitting the difference between them. Neither Lady NoLuck nor the daydreamy buyer are aware of this. THIS IS A NO-GO and is against the law

I recently had a common case of Dual agent in my own barn. There is a wonderfully fancy, yet entirely too egotistical pampered show pony that lives a few stalls down from me. Always prancing about and flaunting his many show ribbons up on the tack room wall. We will call him “Mighty Might” for this discussion. Anyways, Mighty Mights young child rider was sadly outgrowing him and facing the inevitable possibility of having to sell him. Being so impressive he quickly attracted the attention of other children in the barn and was purchased right away by another client of the same trainer.
No surprise there, sometimes I feel like he is all they can talk about. <rolling my eyes>.
The point is that the trainer acted wisely. She made sure that both parties understood that Dual Agent was unavoidable and that she was obviously representing both sides. She chose to act with complete transparency, discussing the merits of the pony, the pro’s and the con’s and made sure that all vet records were open for the sharing. She also let them know that there would only be ONE commission in total. This would be a 10% commission to be paid to the trainer, which would be split between both parties. After the buyer was satisfied and sure that they indeed needed to have the famous “Mighty Might” for their child rider then all parties consented to the arrangement in writing and the transaction was completed.
Now, you do not have to only accept one single commission of 10%. In fact, the law doesn’t even care if you charge BOTH your clients 110% each BUT it will need to be in writing and consented to by BOTH parties prior to the transaction.

Okay, last example but a very common mistake. Desperate Duey cannot pay for his horse, Two Buck Chuck, anymore and sends it to a trainer to take “on the cuff” to sell for him. “On the cuff” means that the trainer will incur some or all of the expenses for a time while selling the horse. They make an arrangement that Duey expects to get $15,000 for the horse even though the horse is worth more. He tells the trainer to sell it for whatever more he can get and that he is welcome to keep the rest. Sounds like an amicable arrangement given the risk and burden that the trainer must take to keep the horse while for sale. Also, so long as it is in writing, the Trainer is on the up and up with Duey and all is fine. However, here comes the sticky Molasses part. You see, Silly Sally rides at this same ranch and falls in love with Two Buck Chuck. She is a client of the same trainer and has just started looking for a horse of her own. She has $25,000 to spend. Silly Sally is relying on her trainers expert opinion and knowledge as to whether to buy this horse but the trainer stands to gain additional monetary value from representing the seller, Duey. So this is also a conflict of interest and falls under Duel Agent. It is a common and likely scenario, after all, the trainer must have liked and believed enough in the horse to be willing to take him “on the cuff” in the first place. Probably even more so than a monthly paying sales horse. Ultimately the trainer sells Sally the horse for $25,000 and pockets the $10,000 difference. Maybe the trainer is even feeling that the moral thing to do is not to charge Sally a commission at all, since he was technically making one from the seller.
But without disclosing the profit to Sally this is still ILLEGAL.
WHY? Because as Silly Sally’s trainer, the trainer owes the client something called “fiduciary duties.” Duties described as Loyalty, Good Faith, and Fair dealing. The trainer should not profit from the transaction without full disclosure of the profit to Sally.
You are probably thinking “WHAT? How am I suppose to make money in this business legitimately?”
Never fear, Appy Pony is here.
A solution to this would be to disclose your arrangement that you have with Duey to Sally. Add up the training, board, extra feed, advertising, transportation, grooming etc etc that you have put into Two Buck Chuck and that Duey now owes you out of the sale. Count that as reimbursement for services owed by Owner. Make sure this is carefully documented and true. Then let Sally know that Duey will be paying you a ___% commission for taking the horse on the cuff and selling the horse and this is why you do not feel the need to charge her an additional commission. It is not necessary to disclaim the low ball amount that Desperate Duey was willing to take for his homeless horse in his time of need, that is completely between you and Duey. Your discount for being in the right place at the right time and for being trusted by Duey does not need to apply to Sally. BUT it is necessary that Sally understands the profit, if any, that you are making from Duey to represent a horse that you are now selling to her.
Just like any other Duel Agent circumstance.
If we worked thru this it would look something like this:
Fair market Value of horse is estimated at $25,000 (and please be sure that this is the true approximate fair market value, after all you are negotiated a deal that is a conflict of interests. It is smartest to be fair to all parties involved) Maybe Duey owes you $5,000 in back expenses on Two Buck Chuck and is paying you a 20% commission on the sale price.
20% of $25,000 is $5000.
(20% – 25% or even higher is a common arrangement for a horse taken “on the cuff” because it can be risky for the trainer and is essentially a favor to the Owner as well)
The Trainers calculated “Profit” would be $5,000, that is the commission. 
This is what needs to be disclosed to Sally.
Sally is likely getting a great deal. She is buying a horse that she loves, for the right price, a horse that her trainer believes in, and she is saving a big commission off of it because it was in-house. Duey is getting a great deal because he couldn’t pay for the horse any longer and so would not have been capable of promoting it for sale himself. He would never have found Sally if not for you being willing to take the horse on the cuff. $15,000 is better than giving it away due to hardship at the end of the month.
Finally, the trainer has made a fair amount of money to reimburse for expenses and the leap of faith he took in the horse.
A win win for everyone and completely legal.

Courtesy of my Owner and the internet, here are some Example court cases for you to look at that show the gravity of ignoring these laws:

[1] Neal v. Janssen, 270 F.3d 328 (2001) In 1997, internationally known dressage trainer Sjef Janssen was commissioned to sell the Neal family’s horse, “Aristocrat”. In their agreement to one another the Neals were to pay Janssen a 10% commission on the sale price. A typical commission for the Horse industry. Once finding a buyer, Janssen told the family that he could only get $312,000 for Aristocrat. Janssen actually ended up selling the horse for $480,000 but did not disclose to the Neals the difference in price. Jansseen profited $168,000 plus his 10% agreed upon commission for $31,200. Later, the Neal Family learned the true sale price and sued Janssen for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.  A jury awarded the Neal family $250,000 in compensatory damages AND $250,000 in punitive damages. This was not only unethical but ended up being a $500,000 mistake by Janssen.

[2] United States of America v. Kenneth Berlin, U.S. District Court, Richmond Virginia, Case #3:03CR0042-001 (2004) and
[3] United States of America v. Joshua Cardine, U.S. District Court, Richmond Virginia, Case #3:03CR00424-001 (2004)
The federal government successfully prosecuted criminal cases against Kenneth Berlin [2] and Joshua Cardine [3] in 2004. Both were Hunter/Jumper trainers located in Virginia.  Mr. Cardine and Mr. Berlin were alleged to be involved in numerous horse sales schemes in which they sold horses on behalf of their clients and then remitted only a portion of the proceeds to the clients, and in some cases remitted none of the proceeds. Both trainers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and swindle of livestock in interstate commerce.
This is a felony.
Josh and Kenneth were sentenced to 18 and 21 months in federal prison, followed by three years of probation. The court also ordered the trainers to make restitution to their clients, or victims, in the amount of $94,300.

I hope my Horse Trainer friends found this helpful!!

Love and Carrots,

Appy Pony

I would like to give credit to the following websites which helped me in my thirst for more knowledge.
– Equine Legal Solutions: BTW, they have some great contracts that you can purchase, if needed.
– Alison Rowe: Equine Law Blog
– HG Legal Sources

Finally, My Very Own Pony

         When I was 7 years old I overheard my Mom speaking to a friend in the entry way of our house. The friend was looking to re-home their beloved outgrown pony. I stood with my back to the wall and my ear pressed as close to the hallway corner as possible, not wanting to be caught eavesdropping. The lady explained that her daughter had outgrown the pony many years before but that they had been unsuccessful finding a permanent home for her. She explained that the pony was talented and educated but that she was testy with the children and could be difficult to ride. After failing to work out as a lesson pony at one of the local competitive barns the pony had been put out to pasture to be used for breeding and had sustained an injury to her left eye by a stray piece of wire on the fencing of the pasture. The vet had proclaimed that she had lost most sight in that eye with the exception of possibly seeing vague foggy shapes. For these reasons the Owners were only looking to sell the pony for $1.00 to the right permanent home. That word permanent was all I needed to hear. I sprinted to my bedroom to grab the allowance I had been saving. This was my chance to have my very own pony, a pony that my Mother COULD NOT sell. I didn’t care how hard she was to ride or what her eyesight was like or how old she was. All I cared about was that she would be MINE and stuck in a deal between friends to never be sold, a deal that my mother would HAVE to honor.

      Perhaps I should explain. You see, my mother was a Horse Trader. This means she made her meager living from buying and selling horses. She would often pick up unwanted or untrained horses for very little money and turn around and sell them later for a profit. My sister and I were part of this family business, whether we liked it or not, and were used to train the horses in whatever riding discipline suited them best. Our small ranch did not have any staff but us. We cared for them, fed them, groomed them, bathed them, cleaned up after them, and tamed them. 7 days per week. If Mom saw a profit to be made in a horse, she took it. Time and time again my sister and I would break these young horses, tame them, hit the dirt, hit the dirt some more, and hit the dirt again until they began to come around to become gentle riding horses only to come home from school one day and find their corral empty because they had been sold. And of course, each time they were quickly replaced by the next wild animal. With 21 horses in the back yard you would think that I would not be excited about adding another but now you can understand why I was sprinting for my allowance to buy myself a pony that I could keep forever.

9 dimes and 2 nickels.
I ran back down the hallway and abruptly interjected myself into the conversation. Just in time to interrupt my mother’s polite rejection to the Owner. Cutting her off mid-sentence I confidently proclaimed “I’ll take her!”. Then I reached out my hand and dropped the $1.00 in change into the ladies palm.
My mom looked at the lady and the lady returned her glance quizzically. Then after the brief silence was over the lady must have clued into my desperation because disregarding my mother she bent down to my eye level, placed her hand on my shoulder and said “I believe you will give her a very lovely home. It’s a deal”. Standing back up she asked my mom when the pony should be delivered. My mother exhaled and waved her hand in the air, “Fine, fine. Whenever is convenient for you.”
I was so ecstatic that I almost forgot to ask her name. Not the ladies name, of course, because that was of no consequence to me but I needed to know the ponies’ name. “What’s her name?” I asked excitedly and the lady replied “Springtime”.

“Springtime…….” I contemplated for a second, “that’s beautiful”. Little did Springtime know it, but this was going to be the beginning of a very incredible relationship, I could feel it.

        For the next 2 years Springtime and I had many amazing adventures together. For instance, Springtime thought it was very fun to watch me run around the pasture for 45 minutes chasing her to catch her. I believe she thought it was particularly entertaining when I would throw the halter and lead rope on the ground and start stomping up and down on it or when I would collapse exhausted against the tree for a break. But never once did I give up and eventually Springtime would take pity on me and make the clear decision to stand perfectly still after the 45 minutes allowing me to halter her. Each time I would be so excited to ride her that by the time I lead her up to the barn to tack up I would have completely forgotten about the past 45 minutes of chaos and all was forgiven.
She was MY perfect pony.
Riding proved to be fairly interesting at times as Springtime would often decide that she no longer wished to go anywhere I wanted to go or even go at all. Yet, on other days, she would get a wild hair and decide to go everywhere I didn’t want to go and go there very fast. The blindness in her one eye often took a bit of negotiating on her riders part because it caused her to be spooky on that side. It was also important to pay attention if the trail dropped off on the blind side because Springtime would not know of the dangerous terrain to her left. One of the many things Springtime did not care for was mud. I remember one trail ride with my sister where we came to a mud crossing that we could not go around and I was determined to get Springtime through it so we could enjoy the rest of our trail ride. After many determined attempts I came to the conclusion that if she refused to walk thru the mud, then I would simply make her jump the mud. Getting far back for a running head start I galloped her towards the mud crossing with all the confidence I could muster. Springtime must have felt my sheer determination because upon reaching the mud crossing she decided that I must surely and truly want to get to the other side so she assisted me in my conquest by slamming on the brakes and catapulting me into the air to cross the mud all by myself. As luck would have it the inertia was not quite enough to propel me clearly across and I landed in a swan dive right in the center of the mud hole.
“Now you’ve done it Pony!!” I said spitting out mud.
I angrily pushed myself up and spun around to point my finger at her but to my surprise she was gone. My anger was immediately swept away and replaced with horror. I thought to myself “oh no, I lost MY pony” and I desperately searched the horizon. To my relief she was only about 100 feet away happily snacking on some luscious field weeds. “it’s a good thing she’s a pig or she might have been miles from here by now.” We then played our customary 45 minute keep away game while she picked new places to graze always just beyond my reach until I finally caught her. This time she had had enough playing around and walked right thru the mud and we had a lovely rest of the trail ride. I returned home covered in mud and couldn’t be more pleased with MY perfect pony.

       Soon I began to attend horse shows with MY perfect pony. I entered her in Hunter/Jumper events. My family did not have much money so I didn’t show often and mostly I wore hand-me-down show clothes from others and borrowed tack but I still remember the day that we finally beat “Foxy lady” in the walk-trot division. And later when my all illusive and diabolical competition “Cherry Berry Soda Pop” finally took 2nd place to “Springtime” in the Short Stirrup division. Onward and upward we moved thru the divisions together becoming a flawless team. I had my dreams set on one day competing in the Pony Hunter division like my older sister but I was willing to be patient and work towards that goal at the rate that Springtime would allow.

      There was a rule in our family that you had to be 8 years old before you could take off into the hills trail riding by yourself. I couldn’t wait. As soon as I was 8, Springtime became my solace. There were many chores that were mandatory on the ranch but one of them was keeping all the horses on your string exercised. I used this to my advantage. Springtime and I would take off into the hills together just her and I. Best friends on countless adventures into the safety of our solitude together. There was also a rule that we had to wear our helmets. So I got into a naive and dangerous habit of wearing my helmet off the property, once out of sight, I would promptly ditch it in the bushes until I returned. Of course, because Princess’s do not wear helmets, neither do Cowboys nor do Indians. So no matter which adventure I was on for the day, ditching the helmet was the first item on the agenda.   Hair flying in the wind, galloping over hills and meadows I had found my freedom. Sometimes I imagined myself as a Runaway Princess leaving my corrupt Kingdom behind to find my own freedom, other times I envisioned myself as Cinderella escaping my duties. A common favorite was to play “Man from Snowy River” (a movie I had seen about an Australian Cowboy). I would find the biggest and steepest hill I could and try galloping carefree down it to recreate an epic scene from the movie. Of course, no one told me that they actually killed a horse in the filming of that movie because it was such a dangerous stunt. Whether it was Cowboys or Indians, Princess or pauper, Springtime was part of my adventure and the key to my escape. She was always there for me to listen to everything I had to say, carry me around on my adventures and of course, to keep me humble with her comical antics.

       In turn, I was always there for her as well. Feeding her morning and night, cleaning her corral, endlessly bathing and brushing her white coat. I even soaked her bit in Strawberry soda the night before shows. Strawberry was her favorite, I was hoping that she would love it and work extra hard for me the next day at the horseshow. I listened to her, I respected her, I was dedicated to her and above all I loved her.

      One day, a few months after my 9th birthday, Springtime fell ill and my world started to crumble. We had the vet come out immediately to take a look. He was very perplexed with her symptoms at first. She had strange swelling around her groin area. After some blood work it became apparent that Springtime had contracted a very rare disease carried by flies. She had sustained a bite to her utter which is where the swelling began but once in her bloodstream it soon spread to other areas of her body. I asked the vet if he had seen this before and he stated “only two other cases.” I then asked him “how did they turn out?” and his demeanor immediately changed. He struggled for the correct words and finally he said “Both horses died.” He must have been feeling the complete desperation because he quickly followed it with “but they didn’t catch it as soon and they didn’t take care of their horses nearly as well as you do.” At this point I did not realize that he was simply trying not to crush a little girls dreams and was giving me hope where there was none to be given. I nodded in understanding, for I was absolutely positive that I could do it. I could be the one to take such great care of her that she would pull through, unlike the other two horses. The vet spoke with my mom in private. I could tell she was not very happy but the only words I could pick up on were “I understand, but I also can’t afford to have you here everyday nursing her for who knows how long.” My heart felt pained and sank into my stomach. I couldn’t speak past the large knot in my throat, my legs became weak and I felt as though I might lose my lunch. Up until now, I had been able to provide for all of my ponies physical and emotional needs but I did not have any money to pay a Doctor for her necessary medical needs. I knew money was tight in our household, and realistically paying a vet to make a house call everyday was out of the question but still I did not want to hear those words come out of my mother’s mouth. We had animals in the past that had “cost too much money medically” and had been euthanized. Sometimes without even giving us notice first to say goodbye. I instinctively stepped closer to my pony providing a protective barrier between the adults and her. Not this one, not MY pony.

       When they were done speaking the vet walked back to me and he kneeled down so that we could speak eye to eye. Not an adult to a kid but one concerned person to another. He said “Your pony is going to need everyday care. In fact, she may need around the clock care and I am too busy to make it by here everyday. So you are going to need to be my assistant and take care of her when I am not here. I will teach you how and you will need to be in charge. Can you do that?” I sucked back the tears and quickly nodded, Yes. I was still emotionally a wreck that Springtime was sick so seriously but I was definitely relieved to have a chance at saving her.

      Over the next couple of days the swelling increased and expanded forward towards her lungs. The Doctor taught me to administer Springtime’s twice daily Intra-muscular shots myself for pain and inflammation. He explained that if the swelling was allowed to harden that it would make it difficult for her to breath and soon hot compresses were prescribed to be applied to the edemas every few hours, 24 hours a day. As it travelled nearer her throat it became difficult for her to swallow and a food substitute with warm bran mash had to be prepared for every meal and hand fed to her. Luckily it was summer time and I did not have school to attend. At the tender age of 9 years old I stepped up and committed to an around the clock caregiver routine. MY pony needed me too. I stuck by her side all day and all night. Applying hot compresses, administering shots, listening to her heart rate and taking her temperature. I prepared all her meals and fed them to her myself. Always encouraging her to keep fighting the disease. I sang to her and I read books to her to pass the time.

       Soon I was allowed to move a cot into Springtime’s stall to sleep in at night. Her breathing was becoming raspy as her lungs were filling up with liquid. I became accustomed to the sound as I would sleep and knew that if she stopped breathing it would awaken me. I applied the compresses even more often and I made them so hot I would burn my hands while holding them against her coat.
I was determined to save my best friend.

       Time blurred after a while of care and I am uncertain if it was merely 2 weeks or as many as 6 weeks later that my Mom announced the family would be taking a trip to see my grandparents in Oregon. I was shocked and confused.
“But I can’t go anywhere right now!!” I shouted pleadingly. “Springtime needs me. There is no one else that can care for her like I do”.
My Mom sat me down at the table and said “Now, now, calm down Wanda. The trip is only 1 week long and I have hired the young lady that use to own and ride Springtime before you did. She is going to move into the ranch temporarily and house sit for us. She is the best person I could think of to take care of your beloved pony.”

       I took some time to contemplate this. My mom was very clear that this trip was for sure happening and as much as I hated leaving Springtime, I also knew that it was not an option for the family to leave a 9 year old home alone. I was however, pleasantly surprised that my mom had found an acceptable solution. After all, if this was the last little girl that had experienced the same kind of relationship that I had with Springtime then there was really no one better to take care of her in my forced absence and until I could return. Reluctantly, I attended the trek to Oregon.

       It took two days to arrive in Oregon but it was just as beautiful as I had remembered it. My Grandparents have 40 acres well off the beaten path and in the middle of a luscious forest. There are Blackberry bushes that you can walk right up to and pick off fruit to your hearts content and plenty of magical places to find yourself alone and happily lost in an imaginary world of adventure. It was so nice to step out of the camper and take in a big breath of fresh forest air full of scents from all kinds of trees, plants, grasses, and the smell of damp earth after last night’s light rain. It seemed to wash away part of the dark cloud I had been living under for the past few weeks. The nature around me lightened my spirit and began to make me feel like a kid again.

       On the third day of our trip, just a few hours after we arrived at my grandparents, the phone rang. I remember it sounded alarming because it was a very old phone with a loud clattering ring to it. As usual, my grandmother answered it. But less usual, she shouted across the porch “It’s for you Mary”(that’s my mothers name). Instantly, I was ripped from my new adventure and my gut told me I should be filled with dread. I sprang from my dreamy state in nature and ran quickly towards the house to eavesdrop. As I reached the house I moved stealthily inside. My mom sat at the phone with her back to me, nodding. With a sad tone but lacking any shock value, my mother said “uh huh,…. uh huh,….. okay then, it’s done?” Now admittedly, that phone call could have been about anything. But somehow I knew. I knew in my gut and in my heart what that phone call was about. And in that very same moment I realized that I had been set up and betrayed. This vacation was a ploy to get me away from Springtime so they could end it.

         I gasped, causing my mother to spin around suddenly realizing that she was not alone in the room. All I could think to do was run away and that is exactly what I did. I ran out the door and off the porch. I ran into the thick welcoming forest and kept running. I didn’t want it to be true but I didn’t need to wait and listen to know that it was true. I ran down to the creek that runs thru their property and back tracked a bit along the edge of the creek until I came to the old wooden bridge. Tucking myself up into a nice hiding place underneath the rickety old bridge at the creeks edge I collapsed in a heap of despair. My body was convulsing and heaving with each sob that it let out and I struggled to catch my breath between the out pours. My tears streamed down my face and fell into the mud around my knees. Eventually I curled up on my side drawing my knees to my chest and my body fell silent.

       It must have taken them a while to figure out what to say and who to send to do it, but after some time passed I started to hear my name being called from somewhere near the house. For fear of punishment, I was typically a well behaved child but I had no desire to answer their calls today.
I remained silent.
After failing at attempts to call me out from the house I began to hear more than one voice calling for me and soon the voices were coming from different directions of the forest. I suppose I had been missing for a pretty long time by now and it was getting dark. By the sounds of it they were sending out a search party. Yet still, I could not bring myself to my feet to retreat back to my betrayers nor could I muster up any kind of answering call from the distance.
So I remained silent and hidden.

       When the sun was almost completely down I gave in. I crept out of my hiding place and climbed up the bank of the river to the roadway. I could not find the strength to walk myself all the way into the house but I figured I would meet them halfway. I walked back into reasonable view and sat down in the swing that hung from a tree just 50 feet from the front porch.

     My father was the first to find me and he softly spoke to me in an attempt to explain. Apparently I was not meant to over-hear that phone call and they both wished I could have had a wonderful vacation first. They planned to inform me on our way home or once we arrived home.
This infuriated me.
I wanted to scream “But our hearts are connected!! You don’t think I wouldn’t feel when hers stopped beating? Do you really think that I would want to go a week in ignorant bliss while my pony was already dead?!” but instead I stayed silent just staring at the ground beneath my tennis shoes. I was so caught up in my own head that I could only hear some of what he was saying. Of course he spoke about the suffering of the pony and pointed out that it was the only right thing to do. And deep down in my heart I knew he was right about that but after everything I had been thru with her I felt that I deserved the respect of being present with her when it was done.
I wanted to hug her, tell her I would see her on the other side.
Explain to her that she wouldn’t hurt anymore.
I needed to be there when the light went out in her eyes. I owed her that.
But that was all ripped away from me in a well-intended decision to spare me the pain.

       Most of that week was a blur of tears but I was grateful to be able to retreat alone into the beautiful peace of nature each day. Upon returning home I realized that my mom had not saved anything related to Springtime. In an effort to avoid drudging up feelings there were no more memories to be readily found of her. Her corral and been cleaned spotless and her tack was already packed away. Had I been given the choice, I would have kept hair from her tail to look upon when I missed her.
This “cover-up” was exceptionally painful for me.
Instead of honoring her memory it felt like everyone was trying to erase her.
Trying to make me just forget her.


       Reflecting back as an adult I realize that my parent’s intent was to spare their nine year-old daughter what they deemed to be unnecessary pain. As parents we all hope to be able to shelter our child from many of life’s great tragedies. Often times we look for the quickest way thru it or around it so we can continue on with our lives pretending it doesn’t exist. But I can honestly attest that even from my young 9 years of experience I knew better with regards to what I could handle. My parents unknowingly created more discord in my heart and between my relationship with them then if I had been allowed to take the tough decision that needed to be made into my own hands and met it head on.


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