Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tiny Tots on Pint-Sized Ponies

Beautiful horses, dapper riders, and skilled horsemanship abound at a horse show like the Evergreen Classic in Carnation, Washington.

But one of my favorite events is the lead-line class for the smallest riders, the ones whose legs are still so short they can do little more than perch atop their ponies.

In a lead-line class, the person holding the pony's lead line is in control. The rider's job is to concentrate on having good riding form and exhibiting a certain amount of poise.

Each rider is asked a few questions, generally simple questions such as "what's your name," "how old are you," "what's your pony's name," and the like.

The child is interviewed while the pony's standing still and then demonstrates sitting at a walk while the handler leads it back and forth or in a circle.

They're terribly cute, and, being so young, often surprise the interviewer with their responses.

One little girl, for example, upon being complimented on her purple coat and the purple ribbons in her hair, announced cheerfully to the world that her underwear was purple, too.

Another girl, asked what kind of a class she would like to ride in when she's a grown-up, replied, "A BIG lead-line class."

(I love the idea of a bunch of adults on giant horses being led into an arena for a "big grown-up" lead-line class.)

One child, asked if she knew her ABCs, proceeded to sing them heartily.

This inspired the next few tots to recite their ABCs, too, including one girl whose version had something of the hesitant, breathy quality of Marilyn Monroe's rendition of "Happy Birthday" for President Kennedy due to the microphone's amplification of her breathing.

One chipper little lass, so ebullient as she entered the ring and awaited her turn, abruptly burst into tears upon being interviewed (a visiting-Santa-Claus reaction that has no doubt occurred in many a lead-line class worldwide).

Nearly half of the kids either looked off into the distance and said not a word, or giggled into their shirt collars. The baby below had a very good reason for not answering: She was only 18 months old.

It's hard to believe that someday they could be galloping around on giant horses and leaping over fences more than 4 feet tall, though of course I never thought my own child would one day be big enough even to ride a bus all by herself. They surprise you that way.

Unknown competitor on what looks like a mount with some draft horse in his background, Evergreen Classic