For as long as I can remember, I had been asking for a pony. Every birthday, every Christmas, every Easter…every day. My poor parents. I remember getting SO mad when they bought my oldest brother a computer. Surely if they could afford a computer, they could afford a pony! Of course, at that time we lived in the city and had no place for a pony; paying board was out of the question. It wasn’t until our family moved to Pike Road in 1983 that we actually had the acreage for a pony or two.
It would be a while before my pony, aptly named Buck as I would find out later, could come live with us. We had to put up fencing and build a barn. There were preparations to be made. The days dragged by very slowly waiting on my pony to arrive. In the meantime I took lessons at a local barn and rode with one of my girlfriends who was lucky enough to have several horses in her own backyard.
Buck lived with my Uncle Buddy, but was actually owned by Buddy’s neighbor, Arnold. The neighbor didn’t approve of Buck “chasing his cows,” so after he filled Buck’s behind with buckshot, Buddy said Buck could live with HIS cows. My uncle has a very soft spot for animals. It definitely runs in the family. During the time Buck lived at Buddy’s, they formed a great friendship. Buck was more like a dog than a pony and Buddy allowed him free range of his property. Buddy was in the process of building his house and Buck kept him company, even standing inside the house before the walls were finished. This meant extra work for Buddy, as he had to keep all the nails picked up off the floor! They spent a lot of time together. For fun, Buddy’s boys would saddle Buck up and take him out into the field. I’m not sure what Buck’s background was, but he sure could buck. Whether it was out of fear or fun, I’m not sure. But he could buck with the best of them. He even bucked one of my cousins off and broke his ankle.
I drove my parents nuts as we tried to ready our place for Buck’s arrival. Finally my parents gave in and took me to visit him in Chattanooga, Tennessee the July before he arrived. Buck was the cutest pony I had ever seen! He behaved very well with me, even though I drove him absolutely crazy. He didn’t have a minute to himself the whole time we were there. It was so hard leaving – I wanted to take Buck home then!!
It was October 1985 when Uncle Buddy called to tell my folks he was bringing Buck to Pike Road. Fence posts were in the ground, but there was no wire. Buddy promised to help Dad get the wire up when he arrived. That was a loooong day, waiting for that horse trailer to pull up. They finally arrived during the early evening, about an hour before dark. I could hardly believe it!
So, Buck spent the night tied to the truck and I believe by the next evening the electric fence was complete. Finally Buck had a pasture to run in. He ran a lot and whinnied a lot. He needed a friend desperately. After a few days of Buck settling in, I began to realize this pony was NOT like the ponies in the storybooks I had been reading. Buck had been abused in his past. He was hard to catch, I couldn’t ride him because he bucked, he coughed, he hated dogs, and he was very lonely. I was beginning to not like this pony I always dreamed of having. When our vet did Buck’s vet check, he pulled my Mom aside and asked why in the world did they buy me a pony. A nice quiet Quarter Horse would have been the appropriate choice. We were told that judging by Buck’s teeth, he was around 12 years old. He also had sad news about Buck. My pony had CPOD. Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease, also known as heaves. No wonder he coughed and wheezed! Mom’s response to Dr. Crum was that my Grandfather bought me this pony, he was my pony, and please talk to my daughter about what this pony needs. So, Dr. Crum did. He explained CPOD the best he could to a 10 year old. I listened the best I could for a 10 year old. Dr. Crum and I developed a wonderful teacher/student relationship that is still strong today.
Dr. Crum explained that Buck would need a special diet; I couldn’t let him get too fat, his hay had to be soaked, he couldn’t be in dusty conditions, he had to be administered Dexamethasone orally as needed, and he couldn’t be over worked. Wow, this was a lot to take in. The time that passed over the next year is a blur. I believe I rode Buck some, but it seems like he just kind of existed in the field on his own during this time. The next monumental event was the purchase of Maggie on March 22, 1986. I remember that date well because my friend owned Maggie and she decided to sell her to me. The transaction took place on this day and since my friend didn’t live too far away, we rode Maggie over to my house. Susanna decided she wanted to ride Buck to see how he would behave. Usually he did fine under saddle at the walk and trot, but when the pace got faster, he would buck. We decided to canter along the fence line of our property. As soon as Buck got fast, he started bucking. Susanna came off and couldn’t stand up. Later we would find out her ankle was broken so badly, she had to have the growth plates removed from BOTH ankles. This required several surgeries and a LOT of time in casts. She showed her horses, so she was not happy with me or Buck…I was mortified.
There was an Open Show put on by our 4H Club coming up in April 1988. Maggie and I worked hard practicing for this little show. I rode Buck in between rides on Maggie. The week before the show I had bathed and clipped Mags to get her ready. She looked like a million bucks. Then I tied her out on a long rope to graze in the yard while I cleaned tack and did other things. When I went to catch her, she turned towards me and the rope got caught around her right hind pastern. When it tightened, she sawed and sawed back and forth in panic. It was a nightmare. To this day I get sick to my stomach remembering this moment. Somehow I got the rope off her and she put her foot down. She could hardly put any weight on her leg the rope burn was so bad. It was so bad it didn’t bleed. It was just white. Dr. Crum came out as quickly as he could. The news was not good. Maggie would be out of commission for many long months; I had to doctor her pastern twice a day with different salves. However, this was a major turning point in my relationship with Buck.
I had been riding Buck often enough to have him in fairly good shape, so I decided to take him to the Open Show.
He behaved like a perfect gentleman. He did not buck one time! It was a miracle! We didn’t take home a lot of ribbons because he was a 12.2 hand pony showing against horses and the pony classes were for children 12 and under. I was 14 at the time. The judge even told me she would have placed Buck first in one of the classes, but that since he was a pony she could not place him over the horses. The compliment was nice, but it was disappointing not getting a well-deserved ribbon. She had NO idea the accomplishments Buck made on that day. He also earned a new show name, “Hold on Tight.” My mother entered his name as such – I had no idea until I did get placed in an open class and they called out his name! It stuck.
Working with Toni, we discovered Buck’s love for jumping. During one lesson, she set up a two stride in-and-out with small verticals about 2 feet high. She instructed me to trot Buck into it. I did.
In June 1988 we went to our second Hunter Show held at Oak Mountain in Birmingham. Toni wasn’t able to go, so my parents borrowed a truck and trailer from a wonderful sweet friend and we headed out.
Uncle Buddy and Aunt Sandra came to watch this one as well!
No blue ribbons, but we ended up with two seconds (money classes – we won $25 for each 2nd place), one 4th, and two 5th place ribbons. It was definitely harder with Toni not being there, but one of the other hunter trainers took me under her wing and coached me for the day. She really liked Buck and wanted to know if he was for sale!
(Stay tuned for Part 2...)