I learned to ride on a pistol of a pony named Peanut. He was a 13.2hh brown Paso Fino pony, with fire in his belly and a spark in his eyes. Always quick on the draw, I fell off of Peanut more times than I could count, but he taught me the importance of always getting right back on again. We still have Peanut, who is in his early twenties now, with a grey-streaked mane and a snowy forehead, and he enjoys his retirement simply munching on grass and basking in the sun.
Peanut and I got into all sorts of trouble when we were both youngsters. We would gallop through woods, branches slapping our sides as we raced around the corners of the trail, oblivious as to what was on the other side. We would play round-up with the horses in the pasture, chasing them around and hollering until all of the animals were snorting with their eyes sparkling and tails raised like flags in the wind. That pony jumped like nobody’s business, not counting the times he pulled his classic shoulder drop maneuver right in front of the jump, sometimes dumping me gracelessly on my face in the dirt, other times leaving me clinging to the side of his neck like a monkey. We sailed over 3′ gates at a young age (too young, if you ask for my Dad’s opinion) and we loved every second of it.
After Pony Club, foxhunting, jumping, and galloping trail rides, I wanted to try something new. At our barn where we boarded, I had seen other riders racing around poles and barrels, their horses leaning in deep and their hooves kicking up dirt as they crossed the finish line. I was hooked. I knew Peanut would be terrific at pole racing- his small frame allowed him to make extremely tidy turns with precision. So when the barn hosted a small show, we entered him into the pole racing and barrel racing classes. I dusted off our old, dingy western saddle that I had first sat in when I began riding Peanut, and strapped him into this new device on the day of the show. Heart racing, I wasn’t scared. I knew Peanut and I would win, there was no doubt in my mind that I had the fastest, leanest, meanest barrel-racing pole-dodging pony in the barn. Even though we would be up against a well-known barrel and pole racing champion, her horse hasn’t been tested against my Peanut.
I traced the cloverleaf pattern in the air with my tiny gloved hand as I waited for my number to be called. I was only up against a few horses, so it didn’t take long until I was at the starting line. The whistle blew and we were off like a shot. Peanut galloped hard, but didn’t know which way to go (of course, we hadn’t practiced any of this before), so I pulled and leaned as hard as I could until first one, then two, then three barrels had been rounded. We swung a little wide on the last one but came thundering home. It took me fifty feet past the finish line to pull my steed up. And when placings were announced, we got……. second place. Almost a full second’s worth of time behind the western champion. I narrowed my eyes at the pair as I gave my pony a pet. We would get them in the pole racing, which was next.
Peanut and I waited, me concentrating, Peanut trembling slightly, always ready. When the whistle blew we exploded past the start line and galloped to the poles. Peanut dodged each one like a pro, jumping in and out at what seemed to be the speed of light. All too soon we were galloping across the finish line, and out of the arena, and down past the barns. He did not want to stop! I grinned triumphantly as we trotted back, and guess who took home the blue that day? The one and only Hilary and Peanut, the dynamic duo that could leap tall fences in a single bound, and gallop their way to victory. It was with a proud and happy heart that I took that little Western saddle off and put it away. That small horse show was certainly a day I will never forget.