Through the years, we had many different horses pass through our stable. There was Lightning, the Pinto pony that tossed me onto the cement in front of our old barn. Folly was the dapple-gray Arabian Gelding that my family leased for a year and there was Amy’s Moe, aka Jughead, the Standardbred mare that stood on my hand, one day (don’t ask). It was a little chestnut pony, appropriately named Goldie, who I would form a quick and inseparable bond with… and it would be this one little pony, who would teach me what riding a horse was all about.
Goldie wasn’t meant for me. Following a rather painful lesson with a rank Pinto pony, my parents had gone out and leased a well-trained Arabian gelding for me, named Manor Hill Folly. I was only about 5 years old at the time and, while I knew the basics of riding a horse, I was far from experienced. Folly had been shown by the Haar kids for years, and he knew the ins and outs of the show ring. A gentle-natured gray gelding, he’d seemed the perfect match.
Unfortunately, while I could ride him in the show ring, it became apparent that he was too much horse for me to simply go out and ride. How my parents survived it, I’ll never know – but one day, I’d come home with gravel embedded in my face and hands because Folly threw me off in the neighbor’s driveway. There was also the fun time that I was riding Folly in the back yard and he ran away with me. After my father jumped in front of the running horse, with arms outstretched, Folly and I parted ways – He went up the embankment and I went down…the long way. This earned me a trip to the emergency room and some x-rays.
I don’t even recall who my father had gotten Goldie from, but the idea was to take this little pony up to the auction house and sell her. Because it was a while before auction time, Goldie came back to our farm and that’s when my father lost all opportunity to sell her. I took one look at the little red pony (the same color as my hair, if that wasn’t sign enough!), hopped up on her back and away we went.
“Wh-wh-wh-whooooaaaaa Gooooollllldieeeee,” was a commonly heard echo around my neighborhood through the years. A small example of a Welsh Mountain Pony, Goldie may have been built like a little horse, but she had a trot that was like trying to sit on four high-speed jackhammers – and boy, if she knew you were starting to slip, that little girl could pour on the steam. My mother and our stable hand, Claudia, were always snickering… One minute I’d be riding with them and the next, I’d be sliding off to the side until I ended up running alongside of my pony, arms still wrapped around her neck as I tried to stop her, still pleading, “Whoooooaaaa Goldie!” She never made it easy on me, but I was equally determined – eventually, I became better at keeping my balance and strengthened my leg muscles, but if she got the opportunity, Goldie loved to make me run with her. I swear, to this day, that pony was grinning the whole time.
Exercising With Goldie
To say that I rode Goldie a lot would be an understatement. To give you an understanding, let me say that she was about half the size of our smallest Arabian horse, yet she ate more food than most of the adult horses on our farm – and there was not one ounce of fat on that pony. She was pure muscle, from head to toe. On most days, we got up at dawn and would take off, not returning until the sun threatened to set. We literally traveled for miles, each day – up and down dirt roads, paved streets, across streams and through the woods. We were inseparable and we were barely still for an instant.
As I became more experienced with riding and grew older, I made friends with some of the kids further away. This opened up a whole world of opportunity for Goldie, the Equine Prankster. While her owner had become skilled at surviving the teeth-rattling trot, most of my friends had not – and they were always clamoring to ride my pony. She delighted in every opportunity to unseat an inexperienced rider and, if luck was with her, high-tail it for home. Oh, that was great fun! The first time my pony came home without a rider, my family was concerned… but as it happened more and more, they learned to just ignore it. Conversations commonly went something like this:
Guest: “Oh my God, is that your daughter’s pony?”
My mother: “Sure is.”
Guest: “Is she okay? Shouldn’t you go look for her?”
My mother: “Oh, she’s fine. She’ll come stomping down the road in about an hour or so.”
Goldie was health-conscious like that – always making sure I got plenty of exercise.
A Double Dip or a Double Dump?
CJ was probably my friend that lived furthest away and, strangely enough, we seemed to have the largest number of mishaps that resulted in me hoofing it home. It never failed that he’d slip off while we were riding double and he’d drag me right off with him. I will never forget the time that we were riding and Goldie went up a little ditch. It was like something in slow motion – that dragging sensation I could feel as CJ held onto my waist even though he was slipping backwards off Goldie’s hindquarters. I tried to grasp for mane.. for reins.. anything to hold on, but to no avail. There was that brief hovering sensation before everything seemed to fall away and, with a thud, I landed on top of CJ, who’d landed on the ground. Together, through the cries of dismay and the giggles, we watched Goldie’s backside as she galloped for home – that little red backside growing smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the dust that was left in her wake.
Apparently we’d forgotten – it was time for our daily walk.
The Nicest Pet
I learned a lot of the hard knocks from riding Goldie, but there were definitely a lot of good times. Not only did she teach me balance, patience and the basics of horseback riding, but for all her mischievous ways, she was a sweet little girl. In addition to giving rides to the neighborhood kids, she also did great things like attend Humane Society fundraisers and local parades – She was even put in the newspaper and awarded the prize of “Nicest Pet” at a pet show, just for giving rides to raise money for homeless animals. So many wonderful memories of my childhood involve that little chestnut pony.
As I grew older, I got too big to ride Goldie and, for all her times trying to make me walk home, she really seemed disappointed in this. My feet literally dragged on the ground and, still, she’d try to get me to go for rides. In the end, even though it hurt to part with my old friend, I gave her away to a family who had another little girl who was just learning to ride. She lived out the rest of her life there, enjoying the things she’d always enjoyed – teaching another little girl about the importance of friendship.was just learning to ride. She lived out the rest of her life there, enjoying the things she’d always enjoyed – teaching another little girl about the importance of friendship.