The Scruffy Brown Pony
Author's note: "I always saw pictures of Audrey and her beloved Gizmo, but never did I think that Paso Fino's... Show full author's note »
What I FoundThe next day, my mom had a message for me to listen to.
“Gail called about you riding Gizmo. She said she’s really happy, and I want you to listen to the message.”
Smiling, I took the phone and moved to messages, listening as my trainer’s voice filled the phone.
“Hey, it’s Gail. So I heard about Audrey leasing Gizmo! I’m so glad. We’ve been worried about them selling him but he’s really such a good pony, and hopefully now he won’t be sold! Anyway, I was thinking that next week for the lesson, we could go down to the cross country field with Sheena and Monica. Oh, I’m so glad she’s leasing him. He’s such a good pony and she is good with him. Okay, well, I’ll see you guys next week! Bye!”
The message, and knowing I got to ride Gizmo, nearly brought me to tears. I listened to it two or three times before it really sunk in.
Time has a funny way of slowing down when you’re truly looking forward to something. And so it did that week, crawling by until the Saturday we were going cross country.
I was just about ready to jump out of my skin when I jumped into the car on the way to the barn. As a last minute thought, we'd grabbed the camera, but we weren't sure how much battery was in it.
I leapt out of the car almost before it had stopped moving and power-walked to his paddock. He was still little, still plain, and he still failed to react to my presence. Nonetheless, I walked up to him and kissed him on the nose before leading him back into the barn. Suddenly, he was special to me. I wouldn't say that I quite loved him yet, and he certainly didn't know who I was, and I had no idea what the future had in store. But I did love him in the way that we was adorable and fun, and while I didn't know him as I would come to, I enjoyed his presence.
Neither Gizmo nor I had ever been cross country before, and he was excited but relatively calm. I was immediately proud of him; every other pony stopped immediately and periodically to munch on grass, and he made it clear that he was exceedingly mature by not once attempting to eat grass.
The first task was the attempt at a small log lying on the ground. It proved too much for his fearful mind to handle. He stopped a few feet away, and we allowed him to stand and sniff it. However, no kicking could coax him over the terrifying, monster-ridden jump that was really only the size of a branch. We gave up on the log and moved to something slightly less horrifically scary. We moved to a 6" step up. With little hesitation, Gizmo stepped up. We acted as though he had just completed a marathon, because for a pony who was terrified of everything and had never jumped over a foot, he practically had done so.
The next journey was over the steps. The steps consisted of two 12" steps and one 18" step. They looked huge. However, the pony was fearless, now, it seemed. He was hardly worried and, in fact, has never refused a step in his entire life. Once we had completed both 12" steps, I asked my trainer if we could attempt the 18" drop. She agreed and Gizmo flew down them, nervously but willing. Because of Gizmo's lack of experience, going down the line was a huge accomplishment. I was so happy, I was proud of him just for that. I felt so special to have taken him down and I would consider it a success.
As we walked the ponies back up to the barn, I turned to my trainer.
"Was that his first time cross country?"
"Yeah. He really hasn't done much. You did such a great job!"
"That was my first time, too." I was beaming. That day was probably a prediction of the next two years; hard, but wonderful, successful with some losses in between.
It was only a few days later when he followed me for the first time. I was on my first free ride, walking, trotting, and cantering around. He was spooked by a mounting block, and so I swung my leg off and walked towards the mounting block to move it. By then, I had the knowledge that a vast majority of school horses will not gallop around a ring if you are not riding or holding them. Sometimes they will begin to wander off, or aim towards food, but frankly, unless they are terrified of you, they have no desire to go running off. Knowing Gizmo would probably stand still as I moved the mounting block, I left him standing calmly to move it.
To my surprise, when I moved forward, he followed. I had never had a pony follow me out of its own intentions—that is, without me pulling its reins or holding a treat. I was surprised and pleased.
Later, I found out that when he had been rescued, the lady who gave him his health back had had several children who took pony rides on him. He was so used to following a leader for pony rides that he followed everyone—besides this, he simply loved people and as long as there was no food elsewhere, would freely follow them. He wouldn't trot after people, all though eventually I became the only person he would walk/trot/canter/jump after.
Gizmo had jumps which, for no reason, he would spin to a stop at—sending me flying off. He also had jumps which he bravely conquered. Either way, he slowly made my position go backwards, until I would nearly be standing over jumps. If my position moved forward, I stood more chance of falling off.
In the first few months, anything above a cross rail was an accomplishment. I fell off at my first ever oxer, and when we managed to succeed I was sure we had just ridden a two-foot oxer—when in reality it was probably about a foot high.
Maybe the weirdest thing about it was my confidence. Ever since leasing Nicky, my riding confidence had been a roller coaster. I went from having the greatest confidence level ever to being terrified of canter, back and forth just about every week. With Gizmo, though my confidence took a great hit, I always acted as though I was the bravest person in the world. This has always been my view point in riding. Regardless of whether or not I was certain I would die, I have always had trustworthy instructors. I would do anything they asked of me, and never admit to being afraid of it. This made me different from the other girls in my group because they hadn't had the experience of leasing a horse—aside from one, who was just leasing her first horse then—and knew even less than I did. They were wary to try news things and often voiced it—even when riding horses that would clearly have no trouble, whereas I was all confidence on a pony who stopped at probably sixty percent of the jumps he was asked to go over.
It was a journey I had never expected. Until now, I had hated fast horses. In reality, when I started riding Gizmo he was only slightly forward. As the weather got cooler, I simple learned to accept his race-pony tendencies.