Thursday, June 18, 2009

Miscellaneous Stuff and the Story of Norman

I realize I haven't said too much in these posts about Norman the pony, but before I get to that, a few interesting things have already happened today.

As I was going to the barn to feed early this morning, I saw deer run across the road. They stopped in the prairie area below the winter dry lots, and I got a closer look at them. There were four bucks - three were young deer with only spikes for antlers, but one was older and had 6 or 8 points - I wasn't close enough to see. We've been seeing more deer lately - the weather must be producing more of the browse they like.

Today has that "Wizard of Oz" weather feeling - very humid, gusty wind starting cool but rapidly getting hot, sun and cloud mix - in fact we're supposed to get severe weather this afternoon into tomorrow. Although we rarely get the type of severe weather that the plains states to the west frequently get, we do get some this time of year. Since the gelding herd would have been in a far-away pasture, I opted to move them to one of the closer pastures in the event we have to bring in early due to bad weather. The idea of trying to move horses quickly in down the deeply muddy slip-'n-slide that's our aisle to the pastures wasn't very appealing.

After I was done feeding and turning out, I walked over to my vegetable garden - we have a community garden very close to the barn. I discovered this handsome caterpillar on one of my dill plants:

I brought it home on the dill twig it was clinging to, and looked it up - it turns out this is a caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly - one of our most beautiful. So I took the caterpillar back to the garden and put it back on the dill - I have lots of it and can spare some for butterfly production!

Now on to Norman. We've had him for a while - since February of 1998. My younger daughter was 7 at the time, and had been riding regularly for almost 6 months. At that time, we were at a hunter/jumper show barn, so we were looking for a horse or pony for her to show. Our trainer at the time found Norman for us. My daughter showed him for a number of years, until the fall of 2002 when she was 12.

Norman is pretty small - 12.2 hands. He's an overo with a partially bald face, and is an unusual color called champagne which comes with metallic highlights, amber eyes and almost chocolate legs and a beautiful multi-shaded mane and tail. He's a handsome fellow, and is very proud of his looks! My daughter showed him in hunters - he has exceptionally fine movement on the flat for a pony and fabulous form over fences. Even though he's a little fellow, he could motor along - he could do 4 and 5-stride lines adding only one stride. My daughter won many awards on him, including in her last year three overall divisional championships (two of which were against horses) and reserve high point horse of the year.

Here is a picture of Norman and my daughter in one of their earlier shows - he's basically galloping over this tiny fence from a long spot:

And yes, for those who follow George Morris's equitation columns, her leg has slipped way back and there's no way she should have been jumping at this point, but Norman took care of her. Here they are later in their show career:

Norman has that true pony personality - feisty and opinionated. He also came to us with some serious issues - we believe, based on his behavior, that he had been abused before we got him. He showed extreme fear and aggression towards people, both in the stall and on crossties - when we first got him he would attack people who came near him in either case. You might legitimately ask what we thought we were doing getting a pony like this for a child, and you would have been right. Over time, his behavior has improved as he learned that he would no longer be abused. He never has liked small children, and was never "huggable". But my daughter learned to work with him, and love him.

When my daughter outgrew him - he can only carry about 100 pounds - we thought about selling him, as he was quite an excellent show pony - but we just couldn't do it. In the show world, ponies often pass from hand to hand until they are too old or too sore to do anything but be lower-level school ponies. I've seen well-treated school ponies, but I've also seen lots of sad ones. Norman would have been extremely unhappy to end up as a school pony, and we were also afraid that he would end up back in the hands of the person who we believed had abused him. So we decided we would make sure he was taken care of for life.

From time to time, we have had share-boarders for Norman. But due to his small size, the children who ride him need a lot of supervision and in effect training. Our barn isn't really set up for that, and neither my older daughter or I have time for that now. He's in his early 20s, and has also started to get arthritic, particularly in his hocks. So, Norman is just hanging out. For a while he was going out with the gelding herd, but our grass is so rich that he quickly became obese, and now goes out in a dry lot. He's missing out on the socialization that he enjoys, but really he cares most about food!

Here is, waiting to come in - and eat more!

Norman says life's not too bad when someone makes sure you're taken care of:


  1. I love Norman! What a sweet story. It goes to show, yet again, that abused horses can be taught to trust and love people again.

    It also goes to show that you don't have to sell a horse just because you've outgrown him. Other horse people have tried to tell me that I'll want to sell Panama (who is 14 hands) and get a bigger horse eventually, to which I respond that I can't sell my best friend.

  2. Norman is adorable and I've always loved a pony with personality and he's sure got one. He's done his job and is now enjoying a peaceful retirement, it's what they all deserve. I don't blame you for not selling him, I've seen too many sad school ponies too. I'm sure he appreciates his life and all you've done for him.

  3. He's so cute - good for you guys for sticking it out with his problems so that he made a great pony for your daughter. I think you are right - so many ponies get passed around and discarded as their kids outgrow them. Sounds like he has earned the nice retirement you guys are giving him...

  4. Norman is really a great looking pony! I am sure him and your daughter really turned heads in the hunter ring.
    It is nice to hear that you are fortunate enough to be able to give him a wonderful retirement. He deserves it!

  5. Lovely shot of the soon-to-be butterfly, and I enjoyed reading Norman's story. Ponies get such a bad rap sometimes, but they sure can be wonderful. He's lovely, and how great that he has a home with people he can count on.

  6. Norman sounds like a big horse in a pony body! What a lovely (and very lucky) boy!
    I love your wonderfully descriptive posts! I nearly added a veg plot pic to my blog today ... Millie the lab lying in the potatoe furrows. But by the time I got my camera she'd moved!

  7. Norman sounds like such a wonderful pony! Reminds me of Arthur who we recently adopted at the young age of 24. He'll never show, but the confidence and learning he'll pass on to my 3 and 5yo kids will be priceless. Thanks for sharing! (Love his colors!)

  8. Beautiful and well-proportioned pony, he is.
    As you say, it is not easy to get share boarders that are young and also can handle a more advanced pony. But for a small and talented rider, what an opportunity to ride a well educated horse!

  9. Gorgeous caterpillar, but even more gorgeous Norman. Somewhat alike I think. Each an undervalued creature turning into a magnificent butterfly! Norman must have been stunning in the show ring.

    I am so pleased to hear he has a forever home with you. So many people are far too quick to cast off horses they no longer have use for. I wish more people had hearts your size.

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  11. Ha ha Kate, love the picture with the googly eye he's giving the camera! So Normanesque!

  12. Norman is adorable! I'm glad he found you.

  13. Hooray for Norman and for the kind, wonderful life you have given him!

  14. Norman is cute as a button, and looks like he was an excellent show pony. He is lucky to have come into such a kind family to look after him so well. Since I am catching up on your posts backwards...he will be happy in his new retirement where he can be social once again, but I can see why you'd miss him.

  15. Norman is crazy cute! Love his eye color.


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