Articles

Not What I Signed Up For

This is the letter that started it all.

Many years ago when my middle daughter was about eight years old, she asked us if she could have a pony. We said no. She persisted. Next, it was a goat. We wavered. Big mistake.

Thinking we were older, wiser, and smarter…than our eight-year-old, we told her our land wasn’t zoned for agricultural so a pony was definitely out. A goat, however, was a possibility we were willing to gamble on.

What we failed to take into account was our daughter’s persistence and the kindheartedness of the township supervisor who instead of nixing the whole scheme, encouraged it.

Katlyn decided to follow-up her letter with a phone call soon after she wrote the township with a request for permission to have her goat (pony.) What followed was an amused reply to her polite persistence and an okay from the supervisor as long as no complaints were issued by our neighbors (we don’t have neighbors…our land is surrounded by farm fields on three sides and a family relative owns the house far afield to where the goat which became the pony she wanted in the first place) would be housed.

Before we knew it, Katlyn had permission to get her pony. Now, she had to come up with the cash to buy it. Another kindhearted horse breeder took pity on our daughter and allowed her to buy a six month old Shetland (another grave error we were soon to discover) for only $200.00.

In matter of a few short weeks, Katlyn had her permission, her pony, and we had to build a small barn/stall to house it (which became the beginning of buying straw, mucking stalls, and keeping a farrier on retainer.)

Shaking our heads in dismay, and knowing we couldn’t break our promise, Katlyn got what she wanted and we were quickly thrown into the world of all things related to horses and ponies (and as one longtime horse owner whispered to me…welcome to the money pit.) He was correct.

I remember looking out my bedroom window on more than one occasion and seeing that dratted high-spirited pony getting out of his pen (he was an escape artist in disguise) in the early morning hours and thinking, this is not what I signed up for, as I hurriedly put on a coat/boots/gloves and ran out to try to corral him back where he belonged.

We had that pony for about eight years and believe me, I learned how important it is to demonstrate lots of confidence when you enter the pen, otherwise, this pony would run you down and keep going. I have oodles of memories about those years of owning a pony…some good, some not so good.

But one thing sticks with me, horses have to know who is boss. They want to know who the “lead” horse is…and you have to earn their respect or they won’t listen to a word you say.

Our little pony would face off with us, challenging us to mean what we said or he’d buck (literally) the instruction (and us) and then it would be time for the round pen…where we’d make him run in little circles until he was ready to obey and fall in line again. Interestingly, he was much calmer after issuing his little challenges and then being reminded we were the ones holding the reins.

Whenever I see photos of ponies, I’m reminded that frequently situations/relationships/jobs aren’t what we signed up for…and just like the equine in our lives, we humans feel/need some structure and guidelines and definitive instructions sometimes to calm us down and get us back in line.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m in over my head, I rest a whole lot easier when someone I respect offers me a word or two of firm guidance to help me get back on track and stay there.

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