Sometimes your dreams do come true.
Goldberry (and me) approx, 1980
How I became a Horse-a-holic. When I was growing up we had horses. I got a pony for my fourth birthday and was hooked. When I outgrew Pony (yes, that was his name), we went shopping for a “next level” pony. My mother & I tried a few large ponies, but most intimidated me. Then we came across a Connemara pony named Landgate Goldberry. Yes, from The Hobbit (book, not movies). We called her Berry. She was young and green, but so kind and sensible. Standard Connemara traits. They are a tough breed of pony from the western edge of Ireland, Galway Bay. They are sturdy and hardy and not fancy. We hit it off right away. I was twelve, she was four. She and I learned how to really ride together. We did Pony Club, horse shows, hunter paces, trail riding, we even went to polo camp and to the National Games Rally after our team won our region. Twice.
She was born on a farm near us that I used to ride past frequently and her Grandmother, Inver Grey, was a coveted mount for pony club kids without a pony of their own. I knew the breeder, Anne Frey, a noted Connemara breeder and importer and she told me the story of how Berry came to be. She wasn’t a planned foal, her father jumped out of his stall and into a field with his mother. Eleven months later, there was Berry. Surprise!
As I approached sixteen, I wanted more of a challenging horse, I wanted to compete at higher levels and felt Berry wasn’t fancy enough for me. (I know, what a brat.) And at that time my mother’s Thoroughbred that she had donated to the 3-Day Olympic Team was coming home: Presh. He was big, very talented and athletic horse but he just couldn’t stay sound for the highest level competitions. He almost went to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, but had an injury that kept him out of the competition. I had started doing some dressage and low level 3 Day events (Dressage, Cross-Country jumping and Stadium Jumping) on Berry but she couldn’t get the high scores in dressage. SO …. I rode him.
At least until it was time to go to college. Presh was ready to retire, I was going to NYU and had no time for horses. We gave him to a great home.
When I started riding Presh, we bred Berry to a lovely Thoroughbred stallion and she had a really nice foal that I named Bartholomew. I had trained him and he was ready to go. He looked a lot like Berry, just a little bigger and finer. I sold him to a very nice family who kept him his whole life.
That left Berry. I couldn’t bear the thought of selling her, so I found a young girl to lease her while I was in school. It worked out perfectly for me. Once I moved down to Virginia and had my own farm, I went and got Berry. I had so many grand plans, breed Berry, sell ponies have a successful horse farm. And I would have a Berry replacement for me!
Alas, there were no more foals for Berry, she was past her prime for breeding but I loved having her at the farm. Too old to really ride but she was the leader of the herd: funny and tricksy and sweet. She lived to be 29 on our Virginia farm and is buried in the back field.
By this point, I had worked on a Hanoverian breeding farm and thought that might be the horse business I could get into and figured out quickly why everyone wasn’t doing it. I bred a couple of mares and sold one of the foals but it just wasn’t a very good business model. And those giant, super athletic horses were intimidating to ride (I mean, they could be scary!) so I lost my nerve.
A couple of years ago, I started looking for a pony to ride, I wanted to get back into riding and have a pony for my niece and nephews to have fun on as they got older. I saw the Sherlock Holmes movie where Robert Downey, Jr rides a Shetland pony and thought: That’s about my speed now! When I was a kid, you could find Shetland ponies everywhere, for just about nothing. My sister’s first pony was a shetland that was $20! or was it $10? But the popularity of miniature horses seems to have ruined the shetland pony market. So, I started trolling the Connemara listings on the web. Nothing struck me until I saw a posting on Facebook for a free lease of a Connemara that looked A LOT like Berry. And he was in Virginia, not too far away. We clicked instantly. Yadda, yadda, yadda, I bought him and brought him home last month.
My new pony, Snickers, 2015
Then I met with his breeder and got his full story:
Snickers (GlenMeadow Chocolate Chip) was born in 2003, (Berry died in 2002) in Louisa County (where we lived then & now). The breeder bought his mother not knowing she was pregnant at the time and her farm used to belong to my very dear friend. There are so many coincidences. I am hoping to develop a similar relation ship to Snickers that I had with Berry. And I know now that my niece and nephews will get a great introduction to riding. I am looking forward to a 2016 full of new adventures with my old soul pony. He has a great attitude and is super friendly, loves people and attention. We are going to have a lot of fun learning together, again.