|Mr. Toffee the Pony
Liza de Sousa
© Copyright 2007 by
Liza de Sousa
Mr. Toffee the Pony is a non fictional easy reader for children about pony care.
THE FIRST LESSON
My story begins when I became Andrea’s flashy pony. Let me describe myself to you, unfortunately you can’t see how beautiful I actually am so this will have to do! My soft coat, glittering mane and tail is a toffee colored brown. I sport a spectacular blaze and four dazzling white socks. When I stand next to a grown-up my back reaches their waist.
I’ve never had a bit in my mouth before nor have I had a saddle on my back I’ve not been ridden either so I’m referred to as a “green” horse (that ‘s a description not a color!)
Fortunately for me, Andrea’s mom contacted a knowledgeable person about backing me and basic horsemanship skills. She also informed her that I needed a soft but firmly bristled body brush to keep my coat, mane and tail satin soft and a dandy brush for gently brushing away mucky mud and stubborn sweat marks. She also educated her about my yummy feed, a feed bin and clean water that’s always available to me.
She also informed her about the vital care of my hooves and that I’d need a certified farrier to trim my hooves every four weeks. After all, no hoof no horse! She described the ticks, worms and all the parasites which do affect and make life very horrible for me.
Thank goodness Andrea’s mom doses me every three months to make sure that I don’t have any of those horrid creepy crawlies. Andrea’s dad asked the vet for advice about my health. He gladly helped by telling him all about the care of my teeth, necessary inoculations and any signs and prevention of me getting sick.
Please listen to me carefully boys and girls! NEVER EVER keep a pony that you can’t afford to take care of properly; we may’ve been given to you but usually, your parents buy us. The cost of buying us is low compared to the cost of keeping us, no matter what type or size the pony is!
When everyone realizes that we’re too expensive to keep, we’re tossed out into a bare paddock like a grubby bag of garbage. We don’t even have adequate shelter we lucky if we get a little food and are forced to drink yucky water and usually we’re all alone! We become full of parasites cold thin and grumpy!
That was my life before Andrea and her parents rescued me from that awful life I’ve heard some ponies are not as lucky and spend their entire life in that miserable existence!
Anyway enough of me for a moment and let me tell you about my friends! I live on a pretty farm with two little ponies (they are smaller than me and not as good looking) and four splendid horses. All the paddocks have no sharp objects lying around that we can hurt ourselves on and are enclosed with a sturdy wooden fence. I stay in one of these spacious paddocks with the two ponies.
The one pony is called Dainty; she’s really well mannered and extremely well behaved. She loves children. The children can do anything to her apart from hurting her of course. No pony likes that!
(Please remember that no matter how well behaved we might be we all kick! It might be for a fly or something equally as trivial and kick out and can accidentally hurt you!)
The other perky pony is called Jam this pony is a little boy pony and he‘s very mischievous and playful. Dainty and Jam are both chestnuts as well but not as flashy as me!
In another paddock there are two horses, they’re bigger than ponies and grown-ups usually ride them because they’re too big and difficult for kids to ride. These horses are called Gambit and Sunshine.
Gambit’s a stern dark brown horse. He’s quite old and a serious chap who enjoys lecturing us on how we should eat like not to gulp down our food or play with it!
Jam and I try to stay away from Gambit’s boring lectures and if we have to only listen to him with one ear. I think that Dainty’s the only pony that listens to him properly!
Gambit needs extra care than any of us younger ones his owner has to ensure he’s extra warm at night and has a higher quantity of highly nutritious food. A vet also has to check his teeth every few months.
Sunshine’s a pretty brown horse with a glossy black mane and tail. She belongs to a girl called Annie. Annie spends a lot of time grooming her, that’s how it should be you should spend time with your pony and do all sorts of other things with us rather than just riding us all the time. We prefer that!
Then there are two more horses in another paddock. There’s a beautiful dapple gray horse called Silverna. With her in the paddock is a huge black horse called Sultan. He’s a show jumper and his owner often takes him to shows.
Now that you know us I’ll explain how they backed me but first let me tell you about the tack that’s needed for this.
Gambit told us that sometimes the bridle is homemade; if this is the case please ensure that the bridle doesn’t pinch us or that the leather isn’t so broad that it rubs the corner of our eyes. The brow band (that’s the piece of leather that goes around the forehead) mustn’t be too tight or too small. The bit must only be bought from the pony shop, preferably stainless steel and never homemade. If you don’t have a stainless steel bit ask the person in the pony shop about the care of your bit.
The reason for this being that the metal on the bit does rust flakes off and cuts our mouth. Ask them about the size of the bit as well because if it’s too small it’ll pinch us! If it’s too big it will slide through our mouth! The saddle and girth (the broad strap that goes around our tummy and fastens to the saddle) can never be homemade either, ask someone who knows about the fitting of them to show you how to fit it correctly
The saddle and girth, as well as the bit and bridle are called tack and if they’re fitted incorrectly make dreadful sores which take a long time to heal!
Andrea quite obviously loves me a lot as she spends ages talking to me and grooming me until my mane, tail and coat are gleaming in the warm sunshine like a newly minted coin! She’s always bringing me a yummy tidbit to eat so when I hear her whistle I gallop up to her as I know I’ll get a tasty treat!
Once I had settled into my new environment and old enough they began to back me (I’m four years old and at the correct age to back me; my mind is mature enough to accept my new role as a dependable mount and my bones and tendons are strong enough to carry weight).
Two experienced adults are needed to help back me and later a light but experienced rider joins them to ride me for the first time! They led me out of my paddock and into a solid round pen and once I was settled they introduced me to my bridle and saddle. At first I had to get used to the head collar. Once I was used to it they exchanged it for a light bridle with a kind and soft bit.
One of the adults softly patted my neck and the other spoke to me soothingly while she opened my mouth by pushing her thumb onto the broad space on my lower gum between my sharp incisors and crushing molars and gently tickled the side of my tongue. It was quite ticklish so I opened my mouth to hopefully stop it. Before I knew it the bit was gently pushed into my mouth. Luckily for me she had warmed it up in her hands first so that I wouldn’t get a shock when cold metal was slipped into my mouth.
Next is the saddle which is slowly brought to me from the front for me to smell it over. It’s rather scary when it’s brought to you quickly, especially from behind. We don’t know what it is!
The numnah’s the first thing to be put on my back (this is the piece of fabric that goes between my back and the leather of the saddle, therefore protecting my back from the saddle). The saddle’s very gently eased upon my back.
Lastly the girth’s tightened. It’s tightened very gently at first only enough to prevent the saddle from slipping. Gambit agreed with this as he said that I’d have panicked and probably kicked out when I found that this strap around my tummy prevented me from breathing out properly!
The people holding me were talking and reassuring me all the time and the sound of their soft voices and their gentle touching of me made me feel calmer. I wasn’t so afraid!
The stirrup irons are tied to the girth with a piece of string so that they can’t flap and give me a fright when I move around. After I’d been led around a few times they untied the string.
After a few days I was calm and confident. I was ready to have someone upon my back. Before she mounted she reassured me in a soothing voice. Slowly one of the adults eased her upon my back while the other firmly held my bridle.
She was lying across the saddle on her stomach, her head was on one side and her feet were dangling on the other side. As the girl was lying across the saddle she stroked gently patted and spoke softly to me.
The girl slowly eased herself upright upon the saddle. At first I was a bit frightened but the sound of her voice and the gentle touch of her soft hands reassured me. When I was relaxed she slowly slid off my back. She then stood patiently beside me and spoke and patted me again.
Then she put her foot in the stirrup iron and hoisted herself up onto the saddle again. She did this to me about four times until I was very relaxed.
When I was moving along with ease the girl rode me without any assistants! I’d done it! Yippee! I promised myself that I was going to be the best pony that Andrea ever rode!
Gambit informed me that kids shouldn’t get ponies that haven’t been broken in before; we’re not aware of how dangerous we can be and can hurt our young riders, this is usually because the owner or their parents were impatient and rushed the backing of a pony, and therefore the pony hasn’t been trained properly.
I’m glad that everyone had loads of patience with me so I’ll never hurt Andrea!
Finally I was given the grand name of Mr. Toffee.
One day Delight, Jam and I escape from our paddock. Silverna and Sultan see us and call us over, “What are you doing out of your paddock?” asks Sultan.
“Someone left the gate open of our paddock!” I cheerfully reply.
Sultan and Silverna shake their heads, “Please don’t go off the farm! It’s very dangerous! Ask Sunshine about her friend that also ran out of his paddock!” says Sultan gruffly as he angrily snorts and stamps his shiny black hoof.
I can’t help but notice that Sultan’s coat gleams like burnished ebony and Silverna’s looks like liquid silver as she moves.
After admiring them for a while we neigh our goodbyes and briskly trot off towards Gambit and Sunshine, they leave the shade of the big tree and gallop up to greet us, “Hello!” they chorus.
“Hi!” I greet them, “Sultan told me to ask you about your friend Sunshine that also escaped from his paddock?”
Sunshine shakes her pretty head and looks sad as she answers me, “He ran out onto the road. A truck hit him and he was badly injured!”
We all gasp in horror!
“We’ll never do that!” we promise them.
Gambit and Sunshine are also glossy and well fed; they aren’t stabled at night but live in their envious field that’s surrounded by thick, tall hedges that keeps the cold wind out.
Their owners never brush the dirt and oil from under their coats because they know that’s nature’s natural warming blanket and raincoat that’ll protect them against cold and rain. Every day they brush them with a body brush so they sparkle in the sunshine and their long manes and neat tails are free of knots and look as smooth as silk. They’re both well cared for!
Andrea and her parents find us standing there chatting away to our friends and lead us back into our paddock.
I’m glad that I spoke to Silverna, Sultan, Sunshine and Gambit and I know that I’ll speak to them again when Andrea takes me for a ride!
I qualified at Stonyhurst Horsemastership College-
affiliated to the Association of British Riding Schools, 1989, in the following
subjects: Riding Instruction, Stable Management, Equitation and Lungeing
(incorporating the backing of horses and ponies).
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