Sometimes you have to WHOMP life with your spurs!

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Andy (Be Bop Deluxe) and I at Cornerstone Farm, circa 1987-ish.

When pony shopping for their child, most parents first make a list of traits the pony must possess and things that are absolute deal breakers. These “must haves” may be presented to their trainer prior to looking for a suitable mount. The trainer, in turn, will promptly ignore any and all so-called “restrictions” on their creativity and immediately search for the exact opposite. Frankly, this is what the child probably also wants, but that’s another story. But the parents’ list might read something a little like this:

Mrs. & Mr. Smith’s New Pony Requirements

  • Safe
  • Must not try to kill or maim our child
  • No biting, kicking, rearing or other unruly behavior
  • Must never let her down, disappoint her after months (years) of hard work
  • Will help build her self esteem, bring her joy, be her best friend
  • Would be great if it didn’t need a lot of vet calls
  • Did we mention safety first?

You and I know how absolutely ridiculous and not based at all in reality this list is – c’mon, you’re shopping for a pony!

My parents’ list, however, was more goal-oriented – as in, the goal was to find something that fit our budget. Which is how we ended up with Andy.

Andy (Be Bop Deluxe) was the oddly colored untamable strawberry roan large pony that I got after my Medium pony Astro (Taylor Made) passed away unexpectedly. Being pony-less was not an option, so off we went in search of my next partner in crime. Oh, how true that statement would ring…

Most of the ponies we found in those days were initially housed at a run-down rag-tag breeder/collector’s paddock not far from Somerset Farm, the show barn where we boarded. The proprietor, one Ms. Joan Martin, had a knack for finding great ponies – but you had to dig out the diamond in the mud, only to find sometimes they were just cubic zirconia

We arrived at the farm with my trainer, Kerry, and there were three ponies tied inside the teeny indoor round pen. One was a former broodmare with a neck the size of Texas, named Mrs. Cupcake Sparkle Pants, or some such nonsense. One was a skinny chestnut with wild eyes. And finally, pawing at the stall to which he was tied, was this white bodied large pony with flaming orange legs and a head to match. He was aptly named Bumblebee.

I immediately took a shine to Sparkle Pants. She was sweet, lazy and seemed safe. The chestnut was too crazy, but I hadn’t yet ridden the roan. I got on this supposedly child-safe animal and things seemed to be going okay until we tried to canter. And then I fell off of him.

Not once, but twice.

You know the rest of this story – we brought him home, of course!

I begged for the calmer pony, the one that hadn’t ejected me multiple times the first go ‘round. But my dad loved this horribly colored animal (he has a weakness for loud and obnoxious) and he must have fit my mom’s price range, because the next thing I knew I was the proud owner of one Maddock’s Bumblebee, who was promptly renamed Andy.

The years I owned and showed Andy were an exercise in both perseverance and heartbreak. He taught me to never let my guard down, even when I thought things were going our way. He demonstrated time and again that you can’t ever wear down a pony, no matter how hard you try or how long you ride it. My mom would occasionally have to punch him for biting her or generally just being a bratty pony. But Andy also had moments of pure brilliance and we had more than our share of success in the show ring. The pony had a deep reservoir of talent, a great stride and tight knees over the jumps. We won medal classes and pony hunters and tons of ribbons. Yet the moment I relaxed and thought “we’ve got this one” he’d nail me for resting on my laurels and teach me a lesson in discipline – don’t count your ribbons before the last jump.

We were often penalized greatly due to his color, as this was way before “loud” was en vogue and roan was a class better suited to 4-H or the backyard. He could put in the most show-stopping course of his life, outshining the pretty grays and bays, and we’d still pin near the bottom at the rated shows. Or he could be a brat, you never knew which pony you were going to get on any given day.

He once stopped dead still during a flat class. Pissed off, I took my foot out of the stirrup and gave him a good WHOMP on the side. I ended up pinning second in the class and was angry that I should have taken the blue, since he was usually a hack winner. Afterwards the judge came up to me and said, “You had that class won until I heard you kick your pony. Always remember, you need to pretend your pony is being the best he’s ever been, even if that’s not true. That’s the sign of a truly good show rider, to present their pony in the best possible way.”

I took those words to heart. Maybe we could all do a little better and try to present ourselves in the best possible way.

Or maybe sometimes you just need to WHOMP life with your spurs to get it moving again!

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Andy at the Minnesota Fall Charity Horse Show (my favorite). He performed flawlessly. We pinned last in every class.

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