Yesterday, I drove past a paddock with several Shetland ponies grazing in the sunshine. Their stumpy little legs firmly on the ground, rounded tummies and their thick, oversized manes created a picture of quaint beauty. They almost betray the horse name, it’s as of they should have a name all to themselves. Horses are tall and strong and are prone to prancing and galloping, they hold the viewer at bay but often in awe. Whereas, Shetland ponies tend to conjure up a very different reaction, people want to approach them, pat them and talk to them as if they are children or some type of novelty to be petted and admired. Well, maybe not…
When we were kids, my sister and I had a Shetland pony. We lived on a very small farm and were delighted when ‘Cuddles’ arrived after much nagging about ‘why can’t we have a horse’. Neither I or my younger sister could ride, I was about ten and my sister was six at the time. ‘Cuddles’ a pre-loved pony (he came to us from another owner), wasn’t all his name built him up to be. He was prone to be snappy, and couldn’t be trusted to always stand still whilst a small person climbed on his back. He was stubborn with a mind of his own and he made it quite clear that he wasn’t much interested in a couple of kids who clearly didn’t know the first thing about horses or riding.
I recall once, getting a bridle over his head, fastening it and then attempting, very gingerly to haul myself across his bare back. He kicked his short legs in the air and threw me over the other side before I knew what had happened. There were the times when he would accept grass and food bits and act friendly, then as I relaxed he would nip my hand with his oversized teeth. I soon lost interest in ‘Cuddles ‘ or should I say my confidence to manage him was rock bottom. Not so for my younger sister, she was (still is I suspect) the braver sister and she persevered with the cantankerous little creature. I remember when our father drove a small flock of sheep to a property about ten kilometres away for shearing, my little sister rode ‘Cuddles’ all the way, I drove in the car with my mother…
Now it’s not that I don’t like Shetland ponies, I actually do, in fact I would love to own a Shetland pony (a friendly one) but I’ve got memories of a bad-tempered brown pony, shorter than me, whom I was never able to overcome my nervousness over. Maybe I’m one of those people who actually say…I love horses but I don’t like to be too close to them. My mother was one such person, she was petrified of horses as was her own mother…come to think about it, is it any wonder that ‘Cuddles’ had such power over me?
Well anyway back to the stocky little horses. It seems these little creatures have credibility on their side. Originating from the Shetland Isles in Scotland, these small ponies were used in tin and coal mines and pulled peat carts for the crofters. They were considered strong and sturdy and with good temperament for the tasks required. They were renowned for living long lives.
After our move from farm to town living, our stocky little ‘Cuddles’ went to live on a farm not far from our previous property. For many years we would see him grazing in a paddock and were amazed by his longevity. We were adults by the time that old pony died. And I never did learn to ride a horse…
Thank you for the beautiful story of Cuddles. I loved riding Shetlands when I was younger, no saddle, no bridle, galloping up the hill at the pony ranch I volunteered at. I love riding, haven’t been for 2 years and need to get back into the saddle! I remember when I was a teenager, writing 300 times, please can I have a horse and slipping it under my parents door…it never happened. 😦
You were also braver than me…such a wonderful thing to do, I suspect, ride without fear and to just enjoy the moment.
It is a wonderful feeling, riding, the wind in your hair so to speak. Sometimes it can be scary, I have had my moments, but thankfully haven’t fallen off yet 🙂