This picture brings up so many memories of my first years as young professional.
When I first started showing Pongo in the Pre Greens, people laughed. I did all of my grooming, braiding, and prep work.
One day while I was in the ring jumping, a fellow professional’s dad turned to my mom and said, “Do you know why people show spotted horses?”
My mom said, “No.”
He said, “Because they are too broke to buy a nice horse and too proud ride a cow.”
My mom politely smiled and said, “We will see,” as she walked away.
Pongo was the first horse I trained up through the 4′ Regular Hunters. The judges often looked away when he trotted in the ring until he slowly and effortlessly curled around the first jump, pausing as if he was posing for a picture mid air. He was a small hunter with a massive stride, standing only 15.3 3/4h tall. Under those spots (which included a perfect heart on his shoulder, and a set of Mickey Mouse ears on his bum) was a well bred Hanoverian/Thoroughbred horse.
The other professional’s dad was right, my budget as a young pro was limited. It’s true that I am not a fan of riding cows, so Pongo was the perfect fit for me.
People stopped laughing that first year and started watching. He was featured in newspapers because he had such an incredible personality and so much talent in a tiny colorful package. I remember walking into The Keg restaurant in Langley and there was an enormous picture of Pongo and I jumping at the old Thunderbird show grounds on the wall.
The server told me, “That’s the owner’s daughter.”
I said, “That’s a gorgeous horse!”
The last time I saw him he was heading to his forever home with a lovely adult who had a farm in California. That was 15 years ago and he was 12 at the time. It was time for him to be famous elsewhere.
I do not know if he is still with her or has crossed over rainbow bridge. What matters is how much he taught me, and to trust the decision to follow my heart.
About the Author
Heidi Snider Kauffman is head trainer at Hillcrest Stables, a full service hunter/jumper equestrian facility in Woodinville, WA. A certified USEF trainer, she has 20 years of riding and training experience in hunters, jumpers, and equitation and has served on several equestrian committees, past and present, including the USEF Zone IX, USHJA Horse Welfare, WSHJA (Vice President), and WSHJA Horse Welfare (Committee Chair).