What Price for a Plain Pony?

He was a homely lit­tle guy with kind eyes, a huge heart, and plenty of “kid miles” left in him.

Horse & Rider - - Your Stories - By Karen Pando

It was warm and sunny that first day of spring in 2014, with new growth sprout­ing ev­ery­where. Spring sig­nals fresh be­gin­nings, but for sev­eral of us in the ru­ral neigh­bor­hood of Al­toona, Florida, it was a sad day. On that day, March 30, we buried CeCe.

Four­teen years ear­lier, in 2000, my friend Sue Rogers had needed a pony for her then- 4-year-old son. Sue liked at­tend­ing horse auc­tions, and at one she spot­ted a non­de­script sor­rel-and-white pony in a pen. Hum­ble in ap­pear­ance, the lit­tle geld­ing had an ex­tremely kind eye. No one seemed to know much about him—what he’d done in the past or even how old he was.

‘Can’t Be­lieve It!’

Sue had a feel­ing about him, though, and de­cided to take a chance. She started the bid­ding at $100. Other of­fers were slow in com­ing, and for a while she thought she might get a bar­gain. Then the bid­ding picked up. When it was done, the thought in her mind was, “I can’t be­lieve I paid $800 for a grade pony!”

CeCe had a new home and a new job. He and Sue’s son, Richie, bonded from the begin­ning. CeCe rode qui­etly in a hack­amore and was a nat­u­ral kid’s horse. He took his job se­ri­ously, and un­like those many can­tan­ker­ous ponies we hear about, CeCe never of­fered to bite, kick, or buck. He ac­tu­ally seemed to try to keep Richie in the sad­dle. We’d be go­ing down the trail and Richie would start inching off to one side, and CeCe would shift over a bit to get Richie cen­tered again.

After a few years ob­serv­ing how well CeCe took care of Richie, Sue changed her mind about the pony’s cost. “That was the best $800 I ever spent,” she told me.

Even­tu­ally the time came when an ado­les­cent growth spurt meant Richie could no longer ride his beloved pony. So, for a short while, CeCe had a break from work. Then Sue found some other young boys in the neigh­bor­hood in­ter­ested in horses. CeCe went back into ac­tion, teach­ing a new batch of kids how to ride. They’d put him on the cross ties and groom him, tak­ing ex­tra care with his thick, two-toned mane and tail. CeCe loved the at­ten­tion. Then, after an hour of groom­ing, the boys would go for short rides.

Our trail-rid­ing club has a per­pet­ual tro­phy awarded to the best trail horse each year. In 2011, it was awarded to none other than plain lit­tle CeCe. He truly de­served the des­ig­na­tion, that year and ev­ery year, ac­tu­ally. It was a proud mo­ment for Richie and ev­ery­one who loved the pony.

That Look in His Eyes

Even­tu­ally CeCe started show­ing signs of aging. He needed more feed to main­tain his weight, and he was be­com­ing arthritic. We asked our den­tal vet­eri­nar­ian about CeCe’s age, think­ing by then he must be about 30. The vet laughed and said, “Nope, he’s on the other side of 30—more like 35-plus.”

As the vet worked on CeCe’s teeth, I had to won­der about this lit­tle horse’s life. Specif­i­cally, how did such a won­der­ful pony even end up at an auc­tion? Where had he been be­fore that? What had he been do­ing for the first 25 years of his life?

I looked into his deep, kind eyes, wish­ing he could an­swer me. His ex­pres­sion told me it didn’t mat­ter. He was happy.

Ul­ti­mately, the time came when he be­gan to lose in­ter­est in eat­ing. Some­times he’d lie down and couldn’t get back up. The look in his eye had be­come dis­tant. An­i­mals seem to have that way of telling us it’s time to go. It’s our hu­man na­ture to want to deny it, to self­ishly keep them with us. But Sue lis­tened to CeCe and made that de­ci­sion we all dread.

With Richie by his side, CeCe was hu­manely put down on that warm spring day. The 40-year-old pony’s work was done. He now lies buried un­der the oak trees on Sue’s ranch, Emer­ald Acres, next to the rest­ing places of his equine pals Ranger, Morn­ing Glory, Apollo, and Mixer.

Over the years, Sue had re­ceived many of­fers from ad­mir­ers want­ing to buy her plain lit­tle geld­ing. She’d de­clined ev­ery one. After all, you can’t put a price on pony like CeCe.

Karen Pando lives in Al­toona, Florida, with her hus­band, two dogs, and two Spot­ted Sad­dle Horses. Re­cently re­tired from 45 years in health­care, Karen writes a weekly col­umn ti­tled “Horsin’ Around” for the lo­cal news­pa­per. Other ac­tiv­i­ties she en­joys in­clude trail rid­ing, horse camp­ing, and kayak­ing.

CeCe’s value was in his gen­tle dis­po­si­tion.

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