We have a pony on our farm.
I have had many pets through the years, cats and dogs and birds and fish, but an equine pet was never on my list of “things to own in my lifetime.”
We moved to the farm when Zoe was two years old. The same age my dad was when he moved to the farm in 1952. He grew up here with cows and horses and pigs and rabbits. He inquired quite often as to whether or not we would ever get a horse. I have never ridden a horse and, quite frankly, they sort of always freaked me out with their giant heads and big teeth.
Zoe had a real love for horses that started soon after we arrived on the farm. I don’t know if it was the barn in her backyard or the large areas of open grass areas, but she developed a love for horses that I never had as a little girl. Her 4th birthday party was a horse party, complete with a cake with a large plastic horse stuck right into the top layer of the green-as-grass icing.
When she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, two weeks after starting kindergarten, our world became overrun with hospitals and schedules and drugs. A horse was the last thing we thought about.
But, it was the first thing she thought about when The Make-A-Wish Foundation came knocking on our front door.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes to children under the age of 18 who are suffering from a long-term or terminal illness with a special gift to keep their spirits high. Many children ask for trips to Disney World (I think it’s their #1 wish that’s granted) or Hawaii. Some ask for bedroom makeovers or shopping sprees or meet-and-greets with a celebrity.
We were met by a team of brand new wish granters in our living room one afternoon when Zoe was bald and skinny and in the middle of a two-year chemotherapy treatment plan.
We had been told early on in the process that she would need to think of TWO wishes. They ask for two in case they can’t fulfill one wish, they will have a backup. So, she began to think and think and think…
When the rookie wish granters showed up at our house and got their pens and papers out to write down what this little sickly girl was going to throw at them, they got quite a shock when she said “I would like a pony or a trip to Ireland to see castles.”
Pencils and hands froze in midair.
Mouths opened into an “O” shape.
The rookie wish granters were floored.
“Don’t you want to go to Disney World?” they both asked.
“Nope, I’ve already been to Disney World” she proudly stated.
They were shocked and I wonder if they even still work with the organization after this humdinger of a first wish that they had to fulfill.
It took a while, but they eventually found the pony. Zoe had been VERY specific in what kind of horse she wanted. It had to be a girl and it needed to be white with brown spots.
The girl has always known what she wants.
The pony was actually living in a barn not too far from our house. And it was owned by a teenage boy who didn’t have too much interest in her anymore as he was into sports and friends now. He agreed to give the pony to a sick little girl who lived a few miles away. The pony lived on his aunt and uncle’s farm and they all came to drop the pony off the day the Make-A-Wish dream became a reality.
Before the pony came, my dad and Man-Farmer had to construct a pasture (they actually fenced in two large areas to make two separate pastures) and they needed to construct a stall for the pony to live in in our barn. Our barn hadn’t housed large animals in YEARS, so they had to construct a living area for a pony and two goats. We got the goats from our local zoo to be companions to the horse. And, in case you’re wondering…a pony is a horse, just a smaller sized horse. A pony is not a baby horse. A baby horse is called a foal. Ponies and horses have foals. And the foal will grow up to be a horse or a pony, depending on its breed.
All of this pony business happened at the end of August in 2011. The pony, who Zoe named Buttercup Luck, was 11 years old when she arrived to our farm. She’s now 18 years old. She’s been a very good pony. Gentle and full of love. She loves visitors and gobbles up treats of all kinds. She’s been a healthy girl, too. She had a gash appear on her forehead a few years after owning her. We still to this day don’t know how she cut her head. The farm vet came out and fixed her up. She has had her teeth filed down by the vet and she gets shots to stay as healthy as a horse.
We have heard that ponies can live to be 20-25 years old. Sometimes older than that! We have a tall pony, she’s bigger than ponies that you see at fairs or festivals that give kids rides as they walk in a circle…around and around and around. We really don’t know how long she will be with us.
The other night, we went out to a high school football game at our kids’ school. It was Homecoming and when we got back home, it was almost 9pm and had been dark for quite a while.
We lock up our chickens and baby ducks (who aren’t really babies anymore!) at night in the barn and we close the pastures up. There’s a small gate going from the barnyard area to the front pasture. The back pasture has a larger gate that separates it from the barnyard.
The horse had been out grazing in the front pasture and we didn’t lock anyone up before we headed out to the football game. It was 6:30 when we left, still light out. A late lock-up isn’t uncommon on the farm. Occasionally we are out past dark and it’s all okay…the chickens roost on their own when the sun sets and the ducklings will put themselves to bed with the chickens when it starts to get dark. No problems.
Last Friday night, we arrived home and the girls and I headed inside and Man-Farmer headed to the barn to close up the chicken coop and to close the gate to the front pasture. Usually the horse has already exited the pasture on her own. But, not last Friday night.
She was still out in the front pasture, chowing down on fall grass that can’t taste all that great. We do not have a bright light out in barn area. We had thought many years ago about putting a sensor light on the barn. Just so that we can see better on our way to the main door. But, I thought that it would just randomly go off all night long when cats, raccoons, or opossums wandered by. And it wouldn’t shine into the barnyard or pasture areas at all. So, it was pretty dark out when Man-Farmer went to close the gate and Buttercup was still in the pasture. She heard him coming and, as she is prone to do sometimes when she’s feeling crazy, she ran at full speed OUT of the front pasture.
She ran full speed OUT of the pasture
and ran SMACK into the fence at top speed.
She had missed the gate opening.
Man-Farmer heard the hit, but didn’t see the actual contact.
He came back into the house to tell me that the horse had run into the fence and now wouldn’t walk through the gate. She had spooked herself and she wasn’t going anywhere near that area.
By the time I got out there, she had managed to walk through the gate opening (I can only imagine the scene…a sloooooow and thoughtful walk between two fence post openings as opposed to the full on high-speed assault that she had already tried and failed at) she was in the barn stall and Man-Farmer was looking at her. I was still outside closing the gate up and I heard him yell “she’s hurt herself!”
I went into the barn and looked at her. A couple of big scratches on her face. She hit the fence with her big horse face.
The next morning I found evidence of the fence attack on her face. There was a large clump of her muzzle fur stuck to the top of the fence between two fence posts. One of the fence posts has been stuck into the ground by concrete. Good thing she didn’t hit that or she may have completely knocked herself out.
“I don’t think she can see so well anymore” said Man-Farmer.
“Well, she’s an old gal now, so maybe not” I responded.
We both agreed that we need to make sure she’s OUT of the pastures in the evening BEFORE the sun has set all of the way, at twilight.
She’s our twilight pony now.
Our old gal pony that a sick little girl needed to love in order to heal.
Our pony who is in her twilight years…may now need a seeing-eye dog.