Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I Got A Pony!.. What?
By Frankie Lovato Jr
Something you would expect to hear from a horse crazed eight year old child that gets the greatest birthday present in the world, not the case here. Would you ever suspect a 47 year old retired professional jockey that's ridden thousands of race horses for years and years? That's me! And yes, I actually got a pony!!! The greatest father's day gift in the world from my wife Sandy. Whether you know me well or not at all, everyone's reaction is the same, “why in the world would you want a pony?”
Well to start off, I must clarify one small stipulation, I have to share the pony with my 4 year old grand daughter Allison and I promised I would share fairly (wink) OK, so if you have read this far, you are still wondering why in the world would I want a pony, I can explain and you can decide if I lost my marbles?
(photo on right, is Allie practicing with Popcorn & Sandy (Grammy) for the county fair)
So here goes, I have always wanted a pony since I was three years old, where we lived in New Jersey and my dad raced, (who was also a jockey), were not able to have horses especially a horse to "bond" with. My childhood was short though as at age 13, I left home to work on a thoroughbred horse farm in Ocala Florida to prepare for my career as a jockey. There were not ponies but lots of big strong strapping race horses. There was never a time for me to have my own horse at all and as I started racing professionally at age 16, a pony or any horse was the furthest from my life. My career would take me to New York to ride at tracks like Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga. Riding races year round (barring injuries), an active jockey literally may ride a thousand different horses a year between morning workouts and races for many different stables, but never a time to raise, bond and care for a horse of your own. My wife and I started our family in Long Island NY approximately 25 miles from New York City, tough place to keep a horse, our 3 children did not show much interest in horses so there was never a priority there.
My wife Sandy however grew up in small town Norwalk Ohio where from the age of 8, had her first pony named “Cindy” Cindy was a Painted Shetland that Sandy could show at the county fair and ride off into the sunset for years of her childhood. Sandy then had her quarter horse gelding “King” as she got into her teen age years to do much of the same. From the photos and conversations Sandy and I would have made me yearn for passion and relationship and that "bond" she had with her horses.
Doing the math, I figured I have ridden approximately 40,000 horses in my life time, not one of them my own or any time to bond with really. So maybe I am starting to make sense of why I would want a horse, but a pony?! Well, I think I can come up with a ton of reasons that would make sense. Of course there is the old “bucket list” of things I always wanted in my lifetime, also, my 4 year old grand daughter has a love for horses that Sandy and I both would love to see her with a pony. The next thing is once I retired from racing, we did move from New York back to Sandy's home town in Ohio. We do live in the country about five miles out of town but the property we purchased was conducive for our Equicizer business. Not quite a horse farm but a wooden horse farm where I build my Equicizers with an acre and a half with our home and shop in the back yard. Maybe not big enough for a horse, but for a pony!
There is another part of the story that really kicked this dream to reality, and that is our Stampede Of Dreams Therapeutic Riding Program. There we have horses that are specifically trained and have the right disposition to conduct riding lessons for the disabled also know as equine assisted activities and therapies. Sandy is a NARHA Certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor. The sessions are conducted and the specifically trained horses are on a small farm that is not at our property. The horses also belong to the program and not for our personal use. Recently, Sandy was doing an evaluation a mini paint mare someone wanted to donate to our Stampede Of Dreams program, I went with Sandy to evaluate this pony and those feelings came back to me as if I was a child.. As we drove away from that barn, my heart was right back to where it was when I was 3, “I want a pony!” For weeks after, I would stare into our backyard visualizing and muttering the words out loud (was my answer to everything partly being humorous) “I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony”
Father's Day was coming and Sandy initially planned on getting me that new grille we needed, but my constant “I want a pony” had her change gears. I was not sure if I could really get a pony, I was fine with waiting realistically for a better time, after all, I have waited this long. I just knew I wanted one someday in my life. For the hay of it, Sandy searched online, there she found Greener Pastures Equine Rescue in Mt Pleasant Ohio. There was posted, a yearling Palamino Shetland named “Popcorn” needing a good home. He might as well have had a big red bow on him. Sandy showed me the listing and asked me, “you want him, he's yours!” I was frozen in my tracks, can it be that easy? Then I thought how could we fix up the yard for him? Make the shed in the back into his barn? How can I make a little paddock for him? Will I be a good father? Ha ha! YES! I can do it all!!
So it's official, Popcorn is officially ours, he's at his new home and he is amazing! What a wonderful job they have done at Greener Pastures Rescue, Popcorn is the sweetest pony and not a thing in the world seems to faze him. When he came off the trailer, he took a quick peek around and started grazing, was about 10 minutes he let out a little whinny. After a bit of walking him around letting him graze and look around, we led him into his new pen and barn and unsnapped the lead, it was as if he was there all along. What a great feeling that was!
So now this 47 year old jockey has his first horse to "bond" with and the adventures have begun! The other day, Popcorn was laying in the shade taking a break as a living lawnmower duties, so I went and sat with him caressing his forelock, mane and back, talking to him telling him all about my life, Popcorn was so relaxed, he actually laid all the way over on his side and fell asleep, I swore he was snoring! I know I am a new be at this so let me ask you, did we just "bond" or did I just "bore" him to death? Stay tuned!
Photos below shows Frankie & Sandy Lovato with Allie & Popcorn showing at the 2010 Huron County Fair.
Allie did a costume class with Popcorn
Sandy(Grammy), Megan(mommy), Allie & Popcorn
Frankie Lovato is also the creator of the Equicizer. For More Information visit
Equicizer.com or Email: Equicizer@aol.com