By Linda White

- Lilly came into my life when I needed a companion for my riding horse.

I was determined not to go the "extra riding horse" route again. For many years, I had kept a second horse so friends could ride. However, the cost of feed, tack, vet and farrier services added up until I began to question the wisdom of providing a horse for other people.

When old Beau died, I started to look for a cheap horse or pony whose only job would be to provide company to my mare. A miniature horse seemed to be the perfect choice, that is until I saw the price range.

Then one day I came across an ad: 10 month old miniature horse, going well under fences, $200. I flew out to the farm and was charmed by a tiny grey hairy beast who was half miniature Appaloosa, and half Shetland pony. She was adorable and I had to have her. We fixed up an extra strand of electric wire on the pasture so she couldn't get out, brought her home, and settled into enjoying her.

I knew nothing about ponies but I caught on fast. On the plus side, she was eager to learn and played the Parelli games exactly how the videos had promised - my other horses would cooperate but had never viewed them as fun. She was sweet around children, loved attention, and was pretty hardy.

On the negative side, she has a big personality - big and loud. While my mare nickers when I come with hay, Lilly squeals, winds her neck up rudely, and stands on the side of the feeder, letting me know I should have been there sooner. When my big mare tries to stick her nose in somewhere she's not welcome, it only takes a look to make her back off. With Lilly, I spend a lot of time flapping my arms and shooing and, yes, swearing, to keep her out of off-limits places. It is impossible to give her a needle without the help of two strong men, and she challenges the farrier about every third time he works on her.

When Lilly was 4, I yielded to peer pressure and organized tack, a cart, and a trainer to start her in driving lessons. We proceeded slowly, and Lilly seemed to love having a job. We had gotten to the stage where I was driving from the cart, she was pulling without the trainer walking at her head, and we appeared to be blissfully under control.

Then came the day when it all fell apart. We made two changes that day - never a smart idea during training. We moved her back a tiny bit in the shafts, and I trotted her for the first time while I was in the cart. For a good 300 feet, it was textbook driving - and then it turned into a rodeo. She let out a huge buck and began to gallop across the field, kicking out with her back legs at the same time.

I really wasn't worried at first. She weighs 300 pounds and I had stopped runaway horses weighing 1200 pounds, so I simply pulled on the reins. To my surprise, there was no response. I escalated through several levels of force, finally sawing at the bit, something I hadn't done since I was a green teenaged rider. Despite fearing the bit would come out of the back of her head, I recognized I was having no effect on her speed.

In the background my trainer was yelling, Bail! Bail! But I'm no quitter. OK, if I couldn't stop her, it was time to circle the horse. As she started to come around, I realized she was, in fact, picking up speed. Suddenly I could feel the cart starting to lift and finally I came to my senses, stood up, and did a dive roll onto the ground. (Make your children take gymnastics at an early age). Lilly came to a halt when she was good and ready to.

I sold the cart and the harness, said goodbye to the trainer, and now Lilly's main job, once again, is to be a companion to Belle. On special occasions, she becomes the darling of my granddaughters, city girls who are nervous around big horses, but can get eye to eye with Lilly and have fun grooming her and taking her for walks on the lead rope. She's nothing like any large riding horse I've ever owned, but I love Lilly and she will stay here until that bright fierce light inside her eventually burns out.



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