How to make the perfect first pony?
Take equal parts patience and naughtiness, fold in a dozen years’ experience, general good nature, and a kind heart. Add a healthy dollop of sturdiness and a sprinkle of smarts. Mix gently with strokes, treats, and a child’s adoration.
And voila. You have the beginnings of an equestrian career.
In his beautiful and illuminating book THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES, horseman Jonathan Field shares the story of his first, perfect pony, and how his early years bonded to a little buckskin were the reason he strives for horse-human harmony today.
“I was lucky enough to be born into a horse-loving family,” Jonathan writes. “My mother was a dressage enthusiast and my father a working cowboy, farrier, and colt-starter. Horses were a part of family conversation as long as I can remember. where my parents grew up, sometimes they actually rode their horse to a one-room schoolhouse!
“My earliest memories are of being around horses, hanging out in the barn cleaning stalls, and traveling with my mom to shows on the weekend with my first horse, a beautiful buckskin named Wee Mite Buck. Mite was the best horse I could have had as a kid. My parents did the right thing and found a really quiet, well-trained kid’s horse. Mite was a sweetheart!
“I remember on my way to my first show as we drove into the show grounds and I saw all the horses, trailers, and people, I said to Mom, ‘I never want to do this again.’ I was so nervous.
“We got Mite unloaded from our little two-horse straight-haul and ready for our first class, a flat hack-style class. Thinking the worst, I reluctantly entered the arena, but I listened to the announcer and followed his directions. He would say, ‘Trot please, trot,’ and Mite would trot; ‘Walk please, walk,’ and Mite would walk. When we all lined up and my name was called to get my first-place ribbon, I began to think this showing thing was actually pretty good fun.
“It was no different in the Western and trail classes. As we drove out of the show grounds that evening, I was holding that big high-point ribbon in my hands, and I thought I was pretty good. Of course, Mite was the real star, but I didn’t know it at the time. And leaving through the same gate I had entered with such trepidation earlier that day, I couldn’t wait for my next show with Mite!
“Looking back, Mite did more for me then I could have ever imagined. She was so good that she made showing fun for a nine-year-old boy—one of only two boys on the show grounds that day. All my friends had taken up other sports, but I had Mite—and lots of girls to hang out with, too.
“For the next several years, Mite helped to build my confidence and solidify my commitment to horses. My next horse, Cody, made me realize how little I actually knew. It took everything I had just to stay on him and survive the day. If my first horse had been Cody instead of Mite, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here sharing this book with you. Without my knowing, Mite had inspired me to become a horseman.
“For years after Mite, I longed for a relationship with a horse similar to one I had with her. However, I couldn’t reproduce it with other horses no matter what I did. But my closeness and connection with Mite showed me what was possible with a horse, so I always kept trying…It wasn’t until I played with horses at liberty 20 years later that I got back the pure excitement and joy I had with Mite.
“My experiences have enabled me, many times, to ride off into the sunset with a happy and willing partner–my horse–and I would wish that for you, too.”
Read more stories about the horses Jonathan has worked with over the years, as well as learn for yourself how fun and beneficial playing at liberty can be for you and your horse. It can be the first step to connection like you’ve never experienced before. THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.