Note to Readers
This book is written for those of you who hate to love your ponies. Ponies fill our lives with laughter, frustration, love and fun. If you, the reader, have ever owned or worked with a pony before, you know they can really be little pests. You know they are lazy, bratty, fat, and annoying. You also know they get away with being those because they’re just too cute. You love them no matter what, and curse yourself for doing so. Sometimes it seems like your pony is the worst pony in the world and that everyone else’s pony is better behaved than him. But in truth, no ponies are perfect; most have funny, annoying, or awful quirks that make them who they are. Of course, when your pony is acting more like a jackass, you sometimes forget all the good things about him, and how lucky you are to have him.
While some have bad tempered little fiends, others are luckier and are blessed with perfect little angels. You know, the kind of pony you could trust with a toddler, ride bridle less in the field without a helmet, take anywhere and know he’ll be good. Unfortunately for some of those little cherubs, they weren’t so lucky in the beauty department. Wherever you go, you hear some sort of comment about your pony’s not-so-great conformation, his jug head, his swayed back, his ugly Roman nose, etc. You get tired of it after a while, but you feel better when your pony sits politely in the lineup while “pretty pony” over there is flipping over backwards.
No matter what kind of pony you have, how he looks or how he acts, deep down you love him and deep, deep, deep, waaaayyyyy down deep you know probably your pony might love you a little back, too.
Your Fellow Pony Lover,
Chapter One: Meeting Ugly
I was driving back from another job interview on my way to the barn on a Friday afternoon when I saw there was an auction going on at the live stock market. Usually I don’t like going to auctions. They’re just too loud, too crowded and there aren’t ever any good horses there. For some reason which I’ll never know, I decided to go check it out.
I turned into the long graveled driveway lined with black painted fences and pulled into the crammed parking lot and parked my car next to an old red and blue ’53 Chevy. I got out of my car and pulled down the hem of my shirt concealing my stomach (God forbid if anyone saw that). I shoved my calloused fingers into my loose (weaver?) jeans pocket and pulled out a pack of bubble mint gum and popped a piece into my mouth. I walked towards the big (metal) barn where I could hear the swift voice of the auctioneer inside. I opened the side door and realized it was way more packed than I thought it’d be. After I bought a ticket, I somehow managed to squeeze through enough people to see what was being auctioned.
For the first half hour I was there, all they auctioned were a bunch of goats and a few pigs. When they actually started selling the horses, all that was there were old and crippled horses. I was about to leave when someone herded this skittish little appy pony into the pen. The bid started at $20! I couldn’t understand it, even the lame horses were getting auctioned in the hundreds! The place went quiet; everyone was “awkward coughing” and glancing around. No one wanted this little pony, who I later found was destined for slaughter. The auctioneer was about to have the pony drove out when I raised my number.
As soon as I heard the gavel pound, I regretted it. What the hell was I going to do with an unbroken, jumpy little appaloosa pony? I hated appies and I couldn’t afford board or training! I sat down, dumb struck. When I finally snapped out of my trance, I thought about what I could do with the little guy… or girl. I remembered my trainer saying something about needing a lesson pony. Surely she’d be grateful to get one for free, right? After the auction was over, I went to the stables to find my new pony. As I passed the horses in the stalls, I noticed they all had little tags on their halters with their names on them: Blacky, Blaze, Lightning, Dancer, Star, Pepper, Candy, Lady, Thunder, most of them very cliché horse names.
When I came to my pony’s stall, I saw him standing awkwardly in the corner… licking the wall? Great, I thought to myself, a bright one. I couldn’t see his name tag from the angle he was standing so I tried to call him over to me by making a kissing noise and clucking my tongue. I guess that startled him because he flew his head up and tried to wheel around, causing his rear to crash into the wall with a loud thump! He scared himself, and started making small circles in his stall, randomly stopping and snorting or looking around frightfully, showing the whites of his eyes (which, since he’s an appy, already shown, making it look like his eyes were about to bulge out of his head.) I was really embarrassed for him.
Finally, he stopped freaking out and looked over at me. At last, I could see the name tag on his halter: Ugly. Well, that name really did fit him. He was a brownish grey roan color with appaloosa and pinto markings. His rather large head was sprinkled with pink and white speckles and crowned with a meager feathery flaxen forelock. He had one bright blue eye and one amber color, both unflattering to his face. From where I was, I couldn’t see his tail, which undoubtedly was very thin and short, I noticed how slight his frame was. He didn’t look to be much older than two. After a while of staring at me, I suppose he figured I wasn’t going to eat him so he turned and faced the side wall and tried to look over to the horse on the other side. That’s when I saw how disproportionate he was. His head was as long, if not longer than his neck, his shoulders were wide enough for a draft horse, he was very severely “built downhill” and yes, his tail, if one could call it that, was very, very short. When he lowered his head, he looked over at me, cocking his colossal head slightly. He would have been almost sort of cute if he wasn’t so ugly.
It was then I realized, I had no way to get him home and my parents would be furious with me for buying a horse without asking or even telling them about it first. I thought about who would have a trailer and a place to keep a pony for a few nights, no charge. That would have ruled everyone out except for friends, and the only friends with farms I knew of were Holly and Paul AND since Holly’s trailer didn’t work, that left Paul. I dialed Paul’s number; it rang a few times, and then went straight to voicemail. I dialed again and glanced over to Ugly while it was ringing. He was standing right next to the stall door looking at me. He was so funny looking it made me laugh. His mulish ears were flopping all around, warding off flies while his fat hairy lips wiggled in an effort to reach me. I had to admit, he was kinda cute.
With one hand holding my cell phone, I touched his nose with my other one. He grunted in surprise and his head flinched away. I heard Paul’s voice on the other line say hello and I asked if he could come pick up my new horse and if he could stay at his barn for a little bit.
“You didn’t ask your parents before you bought yourself a horse, Evie?” He asked in shock amusement.
“I paid for him all by myself,” I said in an effort to dignify myself.
“Yeah, but can you pay for his board?” he asked sardonically.
“Ugh. Just would you mind keeping him for a couple days before I can find him a new home?” I asked, annoyed with his mocking tone.
“Yeah, I’ll be over there in a few, bye,” he said, then hung up before I could say anymore.
I heard a weird sloshing noise coming from inside Ugly’s stall. His face was all the way in the bucket playing around in the water, or drowning. I panicked and kicked the stall, hoping to freak him out of the water. It worked. He took a large, extremely audible breath, and then commenced making circles again.
When Paul arrived, we had one huge issue: getting Ugly onto the trailer. He was terrified of people and was probably never halter broke. Not wanting to burden Paul any further, I told him to wait outside while I went to go get the little angel. I took the cheap lead rope that was hanging on the front of his stall, opened the door and braced myself. His was eating when I stepped inside and jerked his head up quickly when he saw me. I halfway crouched down and slowly put out my hand for him to sniff. He perked one ear towards me while the other hung out to the side. They looked like bunny ears.