For those of you who don’t know me I’m the Pony Lady, aka the Howarth Park pony lady, a title I have been aptly named and known as for the last 28 years. On October 25 we closed the barn door on yet another successful Howarth Park season and to commemorate this auspicious occasion I called Mr. Jim Grady of KZST DJ Hall of Fame to request a shout out of thanks to all of our loyal family following and the kids that make our pony corral go round. Grady of course opted to have me do it myself and quickly had me on-air at which time he began peppering me with pony ride trivia questions such as how long had I been in the business of horse business and during that time how many pony rides had I given?
In doing the math I came to the somewhat shocking realization that 28 years in the business of pony ride business equated out to approximately 560,000 pony rides. All of the sudden I felt really tired like maybe it was time to put me out to pasture. Over ½ million pony rides not including the almost three decades and two generations of birthday parties, company functions, downtown markets, riding lessons, pony camps and the many other misc. activities that The Pony Express has been a part of over the years. It’s no wonder that I too, began feeling a bit long in tooth, not unlike many, most of my equine herd and in need to be put out and into a permanent pasture of my own. It was then that I got to thinking about my humble horse beginnings and after almost three decades of making my passion my profession where I had been and how and where it would, could go from here? Good questions with somewhat interesting answers that I will share with you.
I don’t know that anyone actually grows up with the intention of giving pony rides for a living. I know I didn’t. But what I did do is grow up with a passion for horses that dates back to my earliest recollection of a life living with my family in the Montgomery Village area. Back when kids could roam the streets with abandon I did just that and found myself at Howarth Park at the tender age of eight. Captivated by the pony corral which was at that time manned, or wo-manned I should say by then proprietor Ms. Delores Bible I immediately signed on as a volunteer. The rest is history, or more accurately my horse history.
I muddled my way through school with my equine interest leading me to become active in Future Farmers of America. From there I followed one of my favorite Ag teachers, Mr. Jim Porter, over to SRJC to study equine science. My determination to make my passion my profession was a bold and daring move that one can only make when you’re young and don’t know or care that many, most businesses fail. I would succeed.
Starting a horse business with no horses, all the while living in an apartment on Mission Blvd. with little more than an idealistic idea bordered on unrealistic. At that time I had to literally walk a mile just to draw in the dirt, much less find enough dirt to put horses (and ponies) on. But I did and what started out as a two-pony show soon grew to be a double digit herd with both horse and pony power to go.
Upon successfully bidding on the contract for my old stomping ground, Howarth Park, I was soon participating in local fairs, downtown markets and every and all things pony. Within two years I managed to buy my own mini horse ranch that included one acre with a (very) small house located on Middle Rincon Rd., next to a condominium complex. At times I would have as many as fifteen ponies (remember they’re small) on my one acre. They would routinely get out and I would have to engage the neighborhood kids, along with my kids into helping me round them up and out of the condo complex. I was thankful that many, most of the kids (and parents), in the neighboring neighborhoods liked having us as neighbors and tolerated the occasional suburban stampede.
And speaking of kids, it would be my love of working with and for the kids, not just the ones that rode the ponies but those who like me- just wanted to be around horses and ponies that would keep me going all these years. Horse crazy kids, not unlike myself back in the day, and to this day that somehow found their way to the pony corral, just as I had found my way to Howarth Park, my home away from home for nearly three decades.
Over the years there have been literally hundreds of young people who have been active in the pony corral, young girls mostly all with one thing in common; a passion for horses and a desire to pursue their passion. The corral would become an outdoor classroom of sorts and the horses and ponies teachers, dispatching valuable life-skill lessons such as trust, respect, communication, and team work along with the need to be both accountable and responsible in an environment that developed confidence and helped many to grow their self esteem, all the while allowing those in need a place and a space to indulge their passion and hone their horsemanship skills. Even on the worst of days there was a lesson to be learned making them all, the best of days.
The Pony Express has experienced a year of monumental growth and change in order to create more opportunity for more kids to experience more life-changing experiences. We are now officially known as The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth (EASY) Program, a 501© 3 non-profit organization with our emphasis where it has always been, on the kids and the horses and the amazing relationship that develops whenever, wherever the two shall meet. As it is through this relationship of horses as teachers that miracles happen providing our valued youth with the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons in an authentic learning environment. For it is in our passionate pursuit of a journey into making our own horse history, that we might just make history happen…in our life and in the lives of others. I know I did.
To our young equine audience: Do you have a favorite horse story about the relationship that you have developed with your favorite horse? If so, please share it with us in the hopes that we can share the good work that you too have accomplished in partnership with your equine partner.