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  • She was my first love, that fat little Shetland pony with the bad attitude that belied her sweet name, Sugar.

    My Dad got her from a pony ranch, probably a grumpy reject from one of those sad rides where real live ponies carry kids around in a circle all day. He'd picked up the little black saddle that didn't have a hope in hell of ever fitting that fat barrel. It was shaped like an A on top of a pony shaped like an O.

    So naturally when I went down hill that little saddle would tip forward on its pivot point. She'd drop her head and speed into a trot hoping it would dump me right off the front. One time I came off and she ran home, leaving me in the mud. Another time she trampled me.

    Sugar was my pony because nobody else in the family wanted to touch that nasty little mare, much less ride her. She'd run from me in the corral when I wanted to ride. When tied up outside the store she'd rub her bridle off and go home without me.

    But that pony won me a dollar bill marathon once, where we rode around the ring with other riders, a dollar bill stuck underneath my butt. In the end we alone had our dollar.

    I rode her until I grew too big. I am still riding today when I am old because Sugar showed me in such unpleasant ways how important it is to keep the horse between me and the ground. That pony taught hard lessons about respect and preparation and understanding.

    Ask any horse crazy woman and she'll tell you a similar story of her first love: a paint horse, a palomino, or perhaps even a mule. It is a consciousness-changing bond. It lasts a lifetime.
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