By Louise Davis Blankinship
I have thought awhile about writing a story about the history and life of my best friend and trusty ACTHA mount, Norman aka My Little Pony. My friends that own a Haflinger talked me into trying out ACTHA since they said how friendly and fun it was doing the obstacles while riding casually on a trail. I was game to try something new since I was totally burned out on horse showing.
I found Haflinger on Craigslist, in his photo he looked thin and not intimidating, we set up a time to go see him. The lady that owned him said his registered name was Nakota Norman. My favorite childhood gelding was named Norman, but he was 16.2. We decided after seeing him that we couldn’t leave him there no matter what. He was very thin, could see every rib, had sore feet and when the owner threw a saddle on him, he went wild. So for $500, we bailed him out and brought him home. My friends Jacinda and Cody Jesse and I decided we would go in halfs since we didn’t want to leave him rotting in a pasture. We decided, if he could be broke and childsafe, the Jesse’s would buy me out and keep Norman. If he wasn’t safe enough for a child, I would buy them out. That was on my birthday last year. June 17, 2012.
From the horrible condition that Norman was in, we knew he had not been vaccinated or dewormed lately and he was 7 years old. So, after only having Norman at my house for a few days, he moved in with Jacinda and her kids. Cody ponied him everywhere, the kids laid all over him and worked on desensitizing him. He was so quiet and lethargic. After vaccinating him twice over a 5 week period and deworming a few times. He came back to my house for training. I took him to my vet and complained about him smelling and being so thin. Dr. John sedated him and found out that he had a fractured, abscessed tooth, the stink about knocked us over when he pulled out part of the tooth! When Doc asked me what his name was, I laughed and said, write down “My Little Pony” as a name since I only ride tall horses.
After antibiotics and lots of good feed, he started filling out and looking kind of cute. I started saddling him and went to training him to ride. He was wild, he would bolt about every 3 or 4 strides or if you sneezed or moved your hand quickly or wiggled in the saddle. To say he was goofy is an understatement. So, after keeping him a month and trying to get him broke to ride, I decided it was the right thing to do and bought out Jacinda’s half so she could use that money towards buying the kids a kid safe horse.
For 4 ½ months, Norman and I would try to ride on the farm or trail ride down the street from my house. Everyday, he would bolt with me at least 100 times each ride. My fiance, Rex, would tell me to just take him to an auction and cut our losses. He was tired of feeding and vetting a phycho runaway pony! Everyday, I was determined to make something out of this little pony. He is 13.2 and little enough that he didn’t scare me too much. But, on the flip side, he was always so bold and brave! He would do just about anything for me, but the bolting continued. I switched saddles and pads so many times, but nothing seemed to help him. But, every now and then, there was flicker of hope. I competed in my first ACTHA ride on him on September 30, 2012, My best buddy, Cody and her Haflinger Emmy, rode with me and kept Norman quiet for the most part. He only bolted a few times that day. He was 5th out of 30 and I couldn’t be more excited. I think I have found my new ACTHA mount! I found the right pony to compete on and I was having the time of my life! I have met so many friends along the way and really enjoyed learning from all the Open riders. Rex and I decided to get married at an ACTHA ride on December 1, 2012 since we had met so many friends on the trails.
After 4 ½ months of Norman bolting with me, he was finally settling down and getting broke. He was consistently placing in the top 3 in the pleasure division every time we competed. It’s like a light bulb finally went off in his head. Pretty soon, I was 4th in the state of Florida, then 3rd, but I knew there was no way that I could catch up with Lewis Baber since he was in first place by at least 20 points or more. I kept working hard with Norman, praying we could slowly keep catching up. Lewis was so encouraging and kept telling me how proud he and his wife Donna were of me and all I had already done with getting my pony broke!
I really wanted the opportunity to be put into the drawing for the 2 horse trailer at the end of the season. I have to honestly say, where there is a will, there is a way. I kept dreaming of Norman not bolting and being a good boy for me. We started absorbing training and information like a sponge. I learned how to ride a trail horse, he learned how to be my partner. We started winning and I gained confidence in him and he started gaining respect for me. Many times, the open riders would come over and help me learn how to cross creeks, cross mud puddles, go up and down hills. I am so thankful for all the wonderful Open riders that came over to help a Pleasure rider on My Little Pony!
We are currently ranked first in the state of Florida and 7th Nationally for the Pleasure Division. If ever a dream could come true, it sure has. My Little Pony is priceless and has a forever home. He will never wonder when he might be fed, never miss a meal, always have proper veterinary and hoof care. He has gone from rags to riches and it’s all because I wanted to ride the trails with ACTHA!
I want to thank my husband, Rex and best friends, Cody and Jacinda for listening to me almost everyday complain about my little pony being so good and bad. I want to thank Lewis and Donna Baber for all the encouragement and kind words that have helped me tap the potential of this wonderful Haflinger. Most of all, I want to thank my mom for encouraging me to follow my heart. When I decided horse showing wasn’t for me after doing it for 25 years, ACTHA trails are my perfect avenue for happiness. I enjoy trail riding a few times a week and look forward to meeting new and old friends at each ACTHA ride that we attend. My Little Pony has sure made tons of friends wherever he goes. It’s like he has his own fan club! So, when you see the cute little 13.2 Haflinger at an ACTHA ride, come over and say hi. Norman has gone from not broke to really broke in 8 months and has earned 92 points in the Pleasure Division this year. I am so proud of our achievements! Thank you ACTHA for the ride of my life!