California Riding Magazine • January, 2012

Horsey Humor:
The Reluctant Pony Girl

by Bob Goddard

She wanted a piano, but she got a pony. The pony was not her second choice or even her third. It was, in fact, not anywhere on her list. Eight year old Renee Vindaloo really, truly, and actually did not want a pony. At all.

Allow me to review:
1. Eight year old girl.
2. Did not want a pony.
3. At all.

What madness was this? A normal 8 year old girl would gladly give up an eye or an ear to have a pony. A normal 8 year old girl would really, really promise that if she got a pony she would never, ever ask for anything else for the rest of her life. She would reinforce the Really-Really Promise with a Very Big Promise to never again slap her little brother on the back of his head because she likes the sound he makes when she does that. And if she didn't get a pony? She just knew something awful and terrible would happen. And not necessarily to her.
But little Renee wasn't doing any of this. She just wanted a piano. And lessons.

The thing about a pony is that the novelty soon wears off and the burden of responsibility sets in. For the genuine horse crazy kid – the one with the gene – this hardly matters. She accepts the work, even embraces it, often to the neglect of other things like homework, household chores, and yes, general hygiene. She is enamored with all things equine, the barn is her realm and she doesn't care much what the rest of the world is doing or expects of her.

For the pseudo horsegirl, the one who wants the fantasy but gets handed a muckrake ("What's this thing for?"), the pony and everything associated with it soon becomes a bother. She moves on to other pursuits and her parents find themselves with a new and unwanted hobby.

While the reality of equine care and maintenance separates the true believers from the pretenders, Renee Vindaloo defies categorization. She was not interested in either the fantasy or the reality. Yet she ended up dutifully taking care of a pony for four long years. How did this happen?

The Master Plan

The pony, Nellie, was actually a part of Renee's father's Master Plan. He originally intended to get Renee's 12 year old sister, Kim, a pony in a fatherly attempt to help the shy girl out of her shell. To keep things fair and the universe in balance, Renee was to get a pony as well. He was hoping that this would be something the girls could do together and help foster their relationship.

On the way to pick up Kim's pony, Renee sat in the back seat of the family car, taking in the rural scenery and practicing key combinations on her sister's toy organ. She had no inkling the part she was to play in her father's Master Plan. When the family arrived at the tiny barn and there were two ponies in the stall, she still had not caught on. It was only when Kim balked at the pony idea in favor of a full sized horse that Renee learned she was to be awarded Nellie.

Here was the moment of truth. Renee had no interest in the pony, but she didn't see a piano in that stall. So, she did what any quick thinking 8 year old would do when a parent offers something the kid doesn't have to work for: "Sure, I'll take one of those."

An opportunistic coup, no doubt. But not a well thought out one. Renee was soon to experience the relentless daily grind of the feeding-watering-mucking routine. If that wasn't bad enough, there was a fence to be built. A huge, WPA sized project in which Renee was assigned the task of primary post holder.

Trying to make the best of her situation, the reluctant horse girl attempted to bond with Nellie. As she groomed the pony, Renee told stories with no particular beginning or end and Nellie turned her head as if she was listening. But this was as close as they got. Nellie wouldn't allow Renee to ride her, dumping the girl at every opportunity. Renee did her chores and took good care of Nellie, but they never established the kind of connection that Kim did with her horse.
Finally, after four years of hard labor, Renee's sentence to barn purgatory was commuted when Nellie was sold to another family with children.

At age 16, Renee's father got her a piano. Lessons were not included with the deal, so she taught herself. Teaching yourself how to play the piano is not easy. It requires patience, perseverance, and a willingness to forego more frivolous distractions. I wonder where Renee developed these traits.

Today the piano sits in Renee's living room. Renee is thinking about having her nine-year-old daughter, Tuori take lessons. Tuori will accept this offer, no doubt. Meanwhile, Tuori and her horse crazy friend Rachel are making some pretty heady plans regarding some property in Colorado. And they don't include a piano.