Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do Ponies Ever Grow Up?

I had always dreamed of owning property with acreage so that I didn’t have to board my horse, Goslovich. I didn’t necessarily enjoy “visiting” him at a stable. I wanted to see him every day, all day, if I wanted. I wanted to keep him home with me, to be the one who fed him, and to be able to walk outside my front door, hand him a carrot, and say hello. That dream finally came true about 10 years ago when we first moved into our current home, several days before Christmas. For me, it was the best Christmas present ever – to pull the horse trailer up our driveway and unload Goslovich into a pasture that would serve as his forever home.

Wanting to share that dream with my 4-year-old daughter, and to give her something I had only wished for as a child, I set out to buy her a pony for Christmas. What girl wouldn’t want a pony to wake up to on Christmas morning? Every girl’s dream, right? Of course she was excited and loved the pony. What’s not to love? But there are varying levels of love and excitement – and duration. I’ve come to the realization, 11 years later, that Elena liked the “idea” of having a pony more than she actually liked having the pony. She did eventually inherit a horse and do some riding, but she lacked that intense passion I have for horses.

At her request, I have kept her pony, Hannah (and our other pony, Smokey). They have basically been pasture pets for the past several years and recently, I decided that their needs are going to come before Elena’s wants. The very thought of giving up a pet is troubling. They become a part of the family, bond with the other animals, and have a home. But, I do believe that there is something innate about ponies and their need to be around kids who adore them. Smokey used to be a summer camp pony for kids, and Hannah “lights up” when she sees a little girl. I imagine that ponies are like the toys in the movie Toy Story - they never grow up and always want a kid to play with them. Our ponies had been moved to the top shelf and I was about ready to take them down and dust them off.

Surprisingly, during this dusting-off stage, I realized that part of my reluctance to give up these ponies didn’t have anything to do with upsetting my kids or keeping the ponies as part of the family, but my own reluctance to accept the fact that my kids are growing up. Ponies stay small forever, have a youthful quality about them and “talk back” in their own special way, just like a kid. Although Elena has a youthful quality about her, she isn’t small anymore. Just this year, she has surpassed me in height. She is only 14 years old and now 5’9 ½” tall - and growing. It is slightly unsettling looking up to my daughter, literally. She is finishing up her first year of high school, part of the Associated Student Body, rows competitively, takes advanced placement courses, and actively researches colleges to attend. And, unlike what other people have told me to expect, this has been truly an amazing year. She wants to spend time with me and the family, appreciates and understands both the limitations and expectations that my husband and I have placed upon her, and is unbelievably confident and independent. I have grown to admire and respect her in ways I cannot even begin to explain. I could not have asked for more in a daughter – well, she could have enjoyed the horses a bit more.

As far as the ponies are concerned, it wasn’t as much trouble as I expected. I did find them a new home with a family that lives in the neighborhood. A young boy and his younger sister are now the proud owners of Smokey and Hannah. The ponies are happier, the neighborhood kids are ecstatic, and our own family transitioned well. I’m guessing that this was a warm-up exercise to bigger issues I’m due to face. Like moving the ponies to a new home, Elena will soon outgrow us and she will be off to college, ready to begin her new adventure with new friends and experiences that will shape her life and her future. And although we will always be home to love her with open arms, we won’t get to see her every day, feed her (more than just carrots) or say hello whenever we want. She will have grown up.


Laura Crum said...

Verna--I can understand why you would want to place the ponies in a new home. But if you have owned them for eleven years, they must be fairly older ponies by now. Having placed many older horses in "good" homes, I would suggest that you continue to check on these ponies as time goes by. Sometimes the new home works out and sometimes it doesn't. And it is very sad to find out that it didn't work when its too late to help. Hopefully the new owners will love and care for the ponies when their riding days are done--or the children tire of them. But its worth checking on.

Alison said...

Good advice Laura! As for a child leaving for college I went through two of them and it was TOUGH! Both went to school nearby (two and a half hours) and came home alot and still do, so you would think the impact would have been lessened, but I had still have trouble dealing with the shift in my role from full-time to part-time mom, despite the fact that I had/have a full life. Both are coming home for Easter and expect an egg hunt, so fortunately some things don't change. Still good luck working up to that transition--you have many years to get used to it yet. (Only when it hits it is still hard.)

Why We Ride said...

Hi. Actually, the kids see the ponies about once a week. Erich, our youngest son, mostly since it is his best friend who has his pony, Smokey. We use the same farrier and vet and our vet is also a neighbor. Small community, so it isn't like they are very far away. It worked out well for everyone and they are very well taken care of. I wouldn't have done it otherwise - it had to be a perfect scenario. And, the agreement was that they return the ponies if for some reason it wasn't working out. Got it covered.
I think it works the same with kids going off to college too....if it doesn't work out I think they come back home! LOL Verna

Laura Crum said...

Good for you, Verna. So many people pass their old horses to a new home and neglect to be sure they have a safety net in place. Sounds like your ponies are among the lucky ones.