A Small-Town Preacher Desperately Wanted 2 Ponies for His Horse-Crazy Daughters. His Neighbors’ Generosity Will Warm Your Heart.

The girls had no idea what really went on behind the scenes.

CXsep16_Cole01Courtesy Country Extra Magazine

Getting a pony for two horse-crazy little girls was unlikely for a small town preacher living in the parsonage and raising a family on a meager salary. But our father did it. My heart still jumps a beat when I recall the night he told my sister and me that he wasn’t able to buy us a pony, but he did find one for us to ride. Our neighbor, Mr. Dubbs, had purchased a pony for his granddaughter, and he would let us ride it whenever we wanted. All I could hear was “pony!”

We knew nothing about riding but soon learned. Blackie was a cute but ornery little Shetland. He had an amazing drop-and-roll routine when he wanted free of his rider. And, like most ponies, he loved to get going, slam on the breaks and send the rider toppling over his head. We were not daunted and loved every minute.

A few years later, when we could barely fit into the little pony saddle anymore, we were elated when Mr. Dubbs bought two horses: Rex, a beautiful sorrel that my sister adopted, and Maize, a palomino that became mine. To say we were in heaven is an understatement.

What I didn’t realize then is that Mr. Dubbs bought those horses for us. His granddaughter had long ago lost interest, and he didn’t ride. I wish I could thank him now, but sadly, two years later, Mr. Dubbs died, and the horses were sold. We were heartbroken.

Around the same time, my father was transferred to a new church. But he came through a second time with horses for us to ride—Sparky, a tri-colored paint, and Dolly, a palomino. A local farmer, John Hunter, bravely entrusted his horses to us even though we sometimes did foolish things.

I remember the day I took my boyfriend on a trail ride out to the island in Tymochtee Creek. Given the horses’ reticence to crossing water, I let them graze untied as we ate. Big mistake. A heron flew up, and off went the horses, galloping 3 miles to home. I learned that some things are scarier than water.

Horses have trotted in and out of my life since then. Now, as an adult, I have two quarter horses, and I enjoy watching my granddaughter learn to ride. Every day I count my blessings and remember that without the generosity of others, this unlikely cowgirl would still just be dreaming of owning her own horse.

I am now training to compete in a horse and rider versatility challenge. My farrier, Dane Johnson, who is a nationally known reiner, lent me a hand to get my clumsy trail horse, Jacy, into shape to maneuver with speed and control.

This competition also requires me to develop new skills, like jumping fences. My granddaughter’s trainer, Patty Saunders, kindly took me under her wing. And the owner of the stables, Robert Wayner, modified his arena and created a dozen obstacles for me to practice with during training. The small fee I pay is not nearly enough to compensate them for their efforts.

When I enter the arena to compete, I will pause and whisper a prayer of thanks to the many people who have shared their love of horses with me.

Brenda and Jacy won first place in their trail class at the Michigan Apple Blossom Classic, one of their first horse shows together.

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Originally Published in Country