Passing the Baton

Belle joined our tribe just over a year ago. She is a retired brood mare, miniature version. Her last birthing did not go well, physically injuring her, and thus bringing to an end her usefulness in her assigned profession. No worries. We needed a care mate for Boo; Miss Belle was just the girl — she is in his age bracket (late teens) and likes to hang out and eat food. That is Boo’s chosen profession.

Boo and Belle eating
Eating, that’s what we do.

Boo used to do a number of things. That was when he was younger and also when his feet didn’t hurt. He has been a care mate to big horses needing transition from work to retirement. Filou and Legs both did stints with Boo, learning how to just hang out and eat food, together. Boo is an excellent mentor of those skills.

Legs and Boo first day
This, Big Guy, is grass. Put your head down and eat until she calls you in for dinner.

Boo’s greatest skills, though, are in the small people category. Boo loves the little ones, even those unsure of little ponies.

Amanda and Boo 3
I am very safe to be with, little one. No worries about me.

Boo came into our lives when Reagan, granddaughter extraordinaire, was just a wee person of 2-1/2.

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That’s my little pink princess up there.

It did not matter that Reagan was unfamiliar with horsey etiquette: whatever Reagan did was alright with Boo. We, the big people were required to approach him at just the right pace with just the right energy to have a chance of catching him in the field and it usually involved grain and begging. Reagan could call his name from the house and Boo would be at the gate before her own little feet could get her there herself.

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Of course, having the proper apparel is essential.

Boo was sturdy enough to ride and patient enough to tolerate flailing legs and arms — and the squealing and laughter that accompanied it.

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We’re doing pretty well here.
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The squealing and laughing part.

I carry these memories close to my heart so that, if I manage to get too old to do anything but sit around and remember, I will be remembering these moments and I shall have a great, big smile on my face, maybe even tears.

Also, Boo was famous! His steady skills with the little people landed him a photo stint for a Wonder Bread ad campaign. The photo shoot was in December in the warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis. I hauled Boo there in the big horse trailer, awkwardly parked it in the back of the business parking lot, and trundled little Boo out. As we walked our way across to the building, two young women came out a door and one exclaimed: “Santa, you finally answered my letter! All I ever wanted for Christmas was a little, white pony!”

Stand back, ladies, this little white pony is all mine.

Boo''s big ad campaign 2006.
Boo’s big ad campaign 2006.

Boo was trained to pull a cart and that was a fabulous thing because it enabled us, the big people, to participate in the adventure. He was cute as heck in his rig and we trotted around our too-suburban-for-horses cul-de-sac like it was the cool thing to do; because, it was.

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We are too cool for words.

I tell you all of this now because of Belle. Belle didn’t have any of those experiences, didn’t learn any of those skills, but she has become such a puppy dog of a pony, following us around, poking her head in doors, that I got the idea that Belle might enjoy a slight tangent in an otherwise steady professional career as care mate and eater of food. So, we set up an obstacle course of sorts in the small pasture and I’ve been playing with her, asking her to weave between cones, walk across a bridge, jump jumps, and push a ball bigger than her. She actually seems amused by all of this. Except the ball. She is not as amused about the ball, but that is coming.

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What the heck, mom, seriously – What. The Heck?

Then I got the idea that maybe Belle would be interested in pulling a cart, like Boo used to. You know, the new grandkids extraordinaire — Clara and Simon — are two now and coming down for a visit at the end of February; wouldn’t it be great to go for a little ride around the neighborhood, so to speak?

We have to start from the very beginning of the learning curve because Belle has never been ridden, does not know about bits and bridles and such things. So that is what we are doing now. She wears the bridle part of the pulling harness pretty willingly, chewing on the bit with great enthusiasm. Gordy says it’s because it’s the only thing Bell has had in her mouth that isn’t edible and it blows her mind. Maybe so.

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Chewing on that bit.

Belle will follow me anywhere, but the trick of driving is that the horse actually has to go in front of you to make the whole thing truly functional. I needed an assistant to conquer that part of the learning curve. You know who that fell to.

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Sure, this is going to work out just fine.

Gordy held Belle’s lead as I walked behind her getting her used to the movement of the leather reins against her body and also that a big person was creeping around behind her. Gordy’s job was to keep her steady. I don’t think he got stepped on too many times and, because Belle is such a smart little thing, we were walking around in no time.

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The view from behind.

I have two months to get the whole pull a cart business in order and, so long as Belle remains curious and confident about what we ask of her, I think we’ll get it done. In the meantime, Belle has taken on the additional role of ambassador to small people. Our neighbor’s grandchildren were here for Christmas and Brooke, the five year old, is pretty proud of her horse whisperer skills administered through the fence. She was ready for full-on introductions, so her grandpa lifted her over and Brooke took Belle on a lead to “teach” her how to use the playground. Across the bridge, around the cones, over the jump, and even pushing the big, green ball; Belle did everything, because Miss Brooke asked her to.

Brooke and Belle
I like you too, Brooke.

Make room on the trophy shelf, Boo, there’s another star in the family.

Writing about what sings to me from a life made full with animals.

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