I remember the old man who gave me PJ with fond memories. He was old when I got to know him well. He had always had the mini horses that so fascinated the town of Riverton in the parades every year. He was the grandfather of my high school square dancing partner. (Yes I belonged to the square dancing club in my town the Howdowners.) This man had grown old and all of his children lived far away. His wife was senile and often thought I was one of their children or a visiting nurse come to take care of her. Their bird was obnoxious to say the least. He swore like a pirate and said “Hello” repeatedly. But what drew me to this couple was the mini horses in the back yard. The old man Wayne was so proud of his little treasures. The team that pulled him and his wife in the parades was probably about twenty years old. They were palomino, a plain color for a mini, but they had the personality to make up for it. He owned a paint stud that was just a touch on the wild side and a whole handful of mares to go with him. Each year the foals, so tiny and sweet, graced the small pasture with color and hope. I went several times a year to help him with hoof care, vet care and other various tasks he needed done for these horses. When my children saw the babies they cooed and coddled over the new arrivals each year. One day I received a call from this dear old man who had a problem he thought I could solve. His bum lamb had broken a leg. As he told me the tale and begged me to come and help him set it, I can still hear the near panic in his voice. He had no money for a vet and was afraid the little lamb would die. Having set many broken goat and lamb legs in my time I raced to his rescue. He told me that day that he was planning to sell a couple of his brood mares and asked if I would like first pick. I had always liked a little sorrel appaloosa mare that he had decided to let go and I agreed to buy her for a whopping one hundred dollars. She was with foal and had a foal at her side. She was wild as a march hare and reportedly was near five years old. I thought there was hope. He said he would throw in the foal for all the help I had given him which in my mind wasn’t near what my help was worth. This was a plain palomino foal, to me he looked like a gruella as he was a mousy brown, but I have been assured repeatedly by many people that this color in a mini is considered a palomino. It turns out that the mare had had trouble foaling the previous year and she died giving birth to a still born foal the following year, but the foal by her side became one of the most loved little horses in history. When he was two my girls decided that it was time to “break” him. My oldest was nine and she and her best friend decided that they were up to the task. My other two girls ages eight and seven decided that this was a grand idea and before I knew what they were up to they had him trotting around the round pen without a hitch. They were all covered in sand and had eaten the dirt a couple of times but they had taught our little PJ to be ridden. They thought it was so funny that they patterned him on the barrels and poles and when my little Lilly was five she started riding him. He was the first horse that my little kids were independent on. He has competed in barrel races (and always came in dead last) and horse shows (where he was passed by all the big horses several times) and has been on uncountable trail rides. When I was teaching my young son to ride at age four I had to get out the driving reins because little PJ had learned that he could take advantage of this new inexperienced rider. When Taylen got over his fear and learned to be the boss they made quite a team. Taylen rode PJ for four years before he graduated to an older bigger horse. Now it is my little Isabel’s turn to learn to ride. Last summer I gave riding lessons to a young girl and Isabel; who is a year younger than this little girl, insisted on being a part of it. Once a week she would go catch PJ and saddle him herself. In the round pen she tried to steer him and control him. This summer I expect her to take off like a shot. She is five and that seems to be the magical age of independence on this little guy. The age where their legs and their will are strong enough make little PJ mind. I have grown to love this plain little horse. He has been such an inspiration to all of my children, from my oldest that broke her first horse with him to my youngest that is just learning to ride on him. He is ten this year and I know he has just reached his golden years. PJ’s strong head has taught my son to be a great rider. I have always thought that to begin life on a horse, in the saddle of a pony, makes it so a child can ride almost anything. PJ is typical of a pony in that he has his pony moments. He is strong headed and stubborn, and just quirky enough to keep you on your toes. But at the same time I know he will keep the little ones safe. He may not always do what is asked without a lot of encouragement, but he has never been mean. I know I can put a child on him and the worst that will happen is that he will wander to the haystack and refuse to budge until an adult comes to rescue them. This is one little horse that all of my children will remember for the rest of their lives. They will look back and know that this pony was the one who inspired them to love riding horses. He has been the best friend a child can have to all of my children and will continue to be for as long as he lives.
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