My experience in the show ring began with a horse trade, one of my most rewarding Pony Tales.
Like most all things I learned as a young boy, I gleaned it from my father, the horse trader. I grew up believing that bartering was the currency of choice. There were a lot of horses that exchanged hands, but seldom did I ever see any cash.
Such was the assigned agenda for purchasing the first calf for my 4-H baby beef project. Dad told me to ride my pony Sunshine, and her colt over to our neighbors about two miles up the road. Our neighbor, Lee Carter, had a reputable herd of Angus cattle, from which I was supposed to select my first calf. Little did I know that Lee was going to fall in love with my pony’s baby, a foal named Trigger.
Mr. Carter said, “You can have your pick of any calf in the herd for an even trade for Trigger.” Trigger was pretty special, so it had never entered my mind to trade him off. But my Dad had already ingrained me with the philosophy of never falling in love with livestock. According to him every four legged creature on the farm was for sale for a price.
Determining value and getting your price was a lesson well learned and still being taught today.
I wasn’t very old, but old enough to know that I was getting the better end of this deal. So I knew it was an offer that I would have to accept — even if it meant giving up the only foal my pony ever produced.
The upside of the deal was that Trigger would still be close to home, and I would probably be able to continue a close relationship with the pony. Little did I ever envision just how close that relationship would be?
On a beautiful summer afternoon my best friend, Myril Shultz, stopped by to play. Without any agenda, we saddled up a couple of horses and went for a ride. Before we knew it we were at the Carter Ranch and chompin’ on the bit for more action. That’s the way it was when you traveled with Myril – always looking for more action, usually mischievous. This time it was "let’s break Trigger to ride", meaning grab a lariat and head for the pasture. With him it was always “you take the big one, I’ll take the little one”. So with a wide loop and colt in tow, we were ready to ride.
Snubbed tight to the saddle horn, Trigger was fighting with all his might, and at just the right moment Myril was on his back—only to endure more buck, kick, and strike until one leg got tangled in the rope.
Needless to say, this turned into a disastrous moment in our lives. The leg was broken, our spirit was broken, and we still had to meet Mr. Carter, for whom we had never received permission.
That ride back to the Carter house was the longest ride of our young lives. We were scared! How were we going to explain this?
Lee was the kindest man in the world. He simply said, “Go get the ol’ H International. Hook it on to the stone boat, and let’s all head back to the pasture”.
So we loaded up Trigger, and back to the barn we went. Mr. Carter was like the community veterinarian, so it wasn’t long before the leg was in splints, wrapped, and the pony hobbling around—-almost acting frisky. “There, he will be good as new, and you guys meant well, so all is well that ends well.” These were Lee’s exact words as he gave us a little shoulder to shoulder snuggy.
It was one of life’s greatest lessons, as the pony healed up almost as good as new, and the chosen calf went on to win the championship at the Burke County Fair. Was it fate or did the judge get it right?
"PONY TALES by" Ponty is written by Ken E. Knight, the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in the "Farm And Livestock Directory" every month.