My child teaches me some horse sense

When I was 9 years old, what I wanted more than anything else in the entire world was a pony. Specifically, a black-and-white pinto pony who would come when I whistled and whose greatest delight would be carrying me on her back.

My dream didn't quite come true. Sport, a plump and plodding Percheron, was the only horse on our farm. By the time I came along he was ready for retirement to the pasture he shared with a herd of cows.

I loved Sport dearly, but he was not fleet of foot. He did not come when I whistled. On the other hand, he was very clever when it came to opening gates and avoiding pesky kids who wanted to ride him.

When I had my own daughter, I knew that she must have a pony.

"When you are 10," I told her, "we'll get you your very own pony. Won't that be wonderful?"

"Uh-huh," she replied, picking up the cat and giving him a cuddle. Such an affectionate girl and so good with animals. She'd be great with the pony, I thought.

When she was about 9-1/2, her father and I began looking for a pony. The shed on our acreage would be perfect for a pony, as would be the little pasture which, for the time being, a neighbor was renting for a few of his cows.

When I was 10, I remember going to a livestock auction with my dad. A perfect black pony, complete with a black-and-silver bridle and saddle sold for $100. I hadn't kept abreast of pony prices, but I figured that, even allowing for inflation, we should be able to get a nifty, child-safe pony for oh, around $200.

Was I in for a surprise.

While I was still reeling, a neighbor gently brought me up to speed regarding the price of hay, veterinary care, the tackiest of tack, and so on.

Three weeks before my daughter's 10th birthday, I realized I would have to do the unthinkable: I would have to break a promise to my child.

Feeling lower than a slug, rattier than a rat, I sat down with my daughter and explained that there ... wouldn't be a pony for her birthday. There would be a pony eventually, though. Not right away, but for absolutely, positively sure by her 11th birthday.

Then this child looked me in the eye and said, "Well, OK, Mum, if you want. But what I'd really like is another cat."

Of course she got another cat. I happily provided several cats. But parents are slow to learn. I made sure she got a pony, too. A sleek black pony with a single white star on his forehead. Fleet of foot, long of leg, and he comes when you whistle.

He has the life that Sport would have loved: loads to eat, a few cows for company - and no pesky kids ever try to ride him.

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