Friday, July 29, 2016

The Oldest Surviving Pony in Sullivan County,Tennessee

I mentioned Shakespeare few days back. Now I'm thinking I ought to get some blog posts out of the old boy while I still can. He is, after all--according to my vet, and after the recent demises of Patty Pony and Clyde, both well-loved and personally known to me--the oldest surviving pony in Sullivan County, Tennessee. This just may be because he is too cantankerous to die.

I love Shakespeare. He was awesome to my children most of the time, and even now is pleased to be charming to my small nephews. He's an excellent turnout partner for Syd, the large Thoroughbred who lives on our farm and seems to have always wanted a pony of his own. He doesn't cost much to maintain, though more than he used to now that he's down to only one tooth and I have to make him two buckets of mush every day. I love Shakespeare, but he doesn't love me. Mostly when he refers to me it's, "Yo, wench. Where's that mush?" (Sometimes he uses saltier language, but I'm trying to keep this a family-friendly blog.)

We got Shakespeare fourteen years ago, the summer after we moved to our farm. We had built house and barn on what had been open fields. We moved into the house in March, when it was still under construction, because our old house sold more quickly than we expected. Then we moved the horses over in April, when the barn was still very much under construction, because I promised the friend I was boarding them with that we'd be gone in February, and she had a waiting list for the stalls. We didn't have doors on the  new stalls yet (or a center aisle, or a tack room) but we made do with plywood and stall guards; we had one field fenced out of what would eventually be six. At the time we had three horses: my very old retired hunter, Trapper; my brand-new horse, Gully; and Hot Wheels, a sweet red pony belonging to my seven-year-old son. My daughter was four. She rode Hot Wheels, quite often, and groomed him and helped take care of him, and she was extremely salty that she did not yet have a pony of her own.

I'd just finished building a house and a barn and was going to have to put in a driveway and a whole lot more fence. I was not up for buying another pony. I told my daughter so, emphatically. She could have a pony eventually. She could join pony club when she was six, like her brother had.

There were six stalls in the new barn. As the crew was finishing construction I gave them a bunch of bucket hooks to hang in the stalls. After lunch that day, one of the workmen asked me when my daughter's pony was set to arrive. "We aren't getting a pony," I said.

The man burst out laughing. He took me into the first stall on the right side of the barn, one that we weren't using yet. There was a row of new bucket hooks--but they were hung about a foot lower than the hooks in the other stalls. My daughter had gone into the stall with the workman and explained where the hooks needed to be hung. "Because my pony is little," she said.

My daughter at this age quite often spoke to creatures--animal or human, I never knew--that only she could see. Her conversations were private; whenever I asked her about them, she glared at me. But one day I came upon her talking softly to herself in a corner of the kitchen. She leaned forward. "Hurry, pony," she said.

Okay. We still couldn't buy a pony, but I sent a call out to the universe that we were looking for one. (I've done this with every horse I've ever had--envisioned exactly what I wanted, then waited. Last time my requirements were so specific that a riding friend asked, "And would you like that in unicorn?" Actually, I would have liked it in bay gelding. I got it in grey mare. But I digress.)

Two weeks later my farrier (the man who shoes my horses) came into the barn. He said, "You want a pony?"

I said, "If it's small, elderly, broke to death, bombproof, rideable, and free."

He grinned at me and said, "Yep."

That was Shakespeare. That was the beginning.