Off to the land of ponies and dreams

Maybe it was a memory of that first pony farm visit that made me take notice of the little Welsh pony now sticking to my side.

When we boarded a plane for London last summer, I didn't intend to buy a pony. Even when we'd arrived in Wales and our hostess, Bronwen, informed us she'd made arrangements for us to visit a pony farm, I thought it would be a harmless tourist activity.

As we approached the island of Anglesey, off the coast of northern Wales, a suspicion of something more crept into my thought. Bronwen had gone to considerable trouble to arrange this visit – with breeders she didn't even know. I had told her in a letter that I enjoyed writing about horses. Maybe that was all she expected.

We arrived at the hilltop farm just as the sun was slanting its burnished rays across the wind-swept pastures. Passing through an iron gate in the stone wall, we approached "Bryn Coch," a stone farmhouse with white trim and lots of glass overlooking the Irish Sea. Waiting for us in his brown tweed jacket and cap stood the farmer, Robert Owens.

"Very pleased to meet you," he said, his voice rising and falling in unhurried cadence. With those few words, I felt the pastoral calm of the place. As we strolled past neat barns and sheds toward the back pasture, I took out my notebook and began asking questions. I didn't want Mr. Owens to think he had hosted us for nothing.

With my husband and Bronwen in tow, we slipped through the pasture gate. Owens called to the ponies grazing in the distance, and, to my surprise, they galloped toward us.

What a sight! Thirty mares and foals surged across the field, their small hooves pounding the ground, while the setting sun turned their waving manes and tails to gold. The very curious herd moved among us – nuzzling, sniffing, and eyeing us. While the foals – their eyes bright under long lashes – lifted their spindly legs in play, the mares sought out our company. I was amazed at how gentle, intelligent, and sociable these ponies were.

"If you take your time with them and don't rough them around, they'll be tame forever," Owens said, stroking a half-grown filly.

Suddenly I became aware that the pony next to me hadn't moved in a long time. I looked down at her – a light golden chestnut with large, quiet eyes.

"What's this one's name?" I asked, stroking her smooth neck.

"That's Golden Dreams," Owens said.

Fitting, I thought.

As we talked some more, the pony stayed planted by my elbow. I ran my hand along the crest of her mane and kissed her tawny neck. Oh! She had the same sweet pony smell of my childhood pony, Prince. Something clicked.

When I was 3 years old, my parents took the five of us girls to visit cousins in another state. Our cousins lived near a pony farm, and one evening we drove over to see the ponies. Predictably, my sisters and I fell in love with the darling creatures, and Dad – an old softy – had a hard time arguing against buying one.

"But we have no way of getting one home," he pointed out.

"You could use my trailer," a cousin offered, as the five of us crowded adoringly around a yearling colt.

My dad conceded, and the pony farmers pushed and pulled Prince into the back seat of our station wagon for the journey back to our cousins' house. Nothing my dad ever gave me – before or since – made me happier. My adventures with Prince bred in me a love of horses that still won't quit.

Maybe it was an unconscious memory of that first pony farm visit that made me take keen notice of the little Welsh pony now sticking to my side.

She was clearly too small for me to ride, so I pictured her pulling a pony cart up our dirt road. Yes, I could use her for driving – or just as a pet.

"I want to bring her home," I announced half-seriously. My husband voiced no objection, and Owens and Bronwen smiled broadly.

That night, I dreamed Golden Dreams, and the next morning we went back to the farm. I was ready to write a check, but Owens wanted to sell me a pair of foals instead. He'd made some calls and found the cost of shipping a mare to the States was prohibitive. He also didn't think Golden Dreams was good enough for the breeding farm he hoped I would start. He showed me foal after foal, while my favorite pony drowsed in the sun some distance away. We finally left, saying we'd think it over.

A couple of weeks after my husband and I got home, still thinking of Owens and his charming ponies, I went online and found it was the centennial show of the Welsh Pony and Cob Societyof America. They were planning a big celebration in Illinois, with a 100-pony parade.

"Want to fly me to Illinois this weekend?" I asked my pilot-husband, telling him about the event.

"Sounds like that could end up being a very expensive trip," he replied. "And anyway, I don't think a pony would fit in the back seat of my plane."

We didn't go to Illinois, and I didn't buy a Welsh pony. Walking through our empty pastures now, I'm just as glad. I have to admit, it wouldn't have been practical.

And I don't mind. I want a bigger pony or horse – one I can ride. Certainly there's a medium-size Golden Dreams somewhere on this side of the Atlantic just waiting for me to visit her farm.

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