Mine was Buttercup. Plump little stout pinto pony mare with a dirty white coat and big splotches of burn orange. I can even still remember what some of those splatters of color looked like. She had a sideways ice cream cone across her butt, with her fluffy dirty tail dividing it. And on the left side of her neck a chestnut ghost rose up. In the winter she was so fluffy!
Buttercup was the beginner's horse. Almost everyone started out on Buttercup and then moved on to more challenging horses as they learned about balance, and legs and rein aides. But it was that little pony that started us all out. She was a good packer and did what she was told.
Except speed up. Each of Buttercup's gaits had one speed, and it wasn't all that fast. As we got better and better at riding, we wanted to trot and canter faster, but she wasn't having any of it.
"Use more leg," our trainer would shout out and we would kick with all our might.
"Use the crop," our trainer would say and we would smack her little shoulder.
Finally our trainer would roller her eyes at us, "Hit her behind the saddle! Make her move out!" We would oblige and smack that poor little pony's butt. She would respond with a little buck.
Buttercup knew who was in charge, and it wasn't the little kids she was packing around. She never bucked hard, and never more than once per tap, but she would make her point. As I gained in confidence, but maybe not to much knowledge, it because fun to make her buck.
Tap, buck, tap, buck, tap, buck.
Poor little Buttercup, would take it all. Of course, like everyone I quickly out grew Buttercup and moved on to more challenging horses. I was still always drawn to that little mare. I never failed to stop by her tie stall and give her a peppermint and a scratch or two. Even after I left High Style Stables and got a sorrel mare of my own, I never stopped thinking or loving that pony.
In college, I ran into one of my old stable mates from High Style. She has gotten her own horse and kept him at High Style. One winter break, we stopped by the stable. It has been sold and renamed. All the old schoolies had been sold, but one woman bought several of them and still used them for lessons. She had Buttercup. Now she was in a box stall, so that was a step up. I was so happy to see her, just had to sit on her one last time. The old mare was just as sweet and gentle as I remember, but much older. We just walked around the arena one last time.
Thinking back on Buttercup, I'm filled with mixed emotions. She has a hard life living in a tie stall, no turn out, and hauling around little kids everyday. Kids that bounced on her back, pulled on her face, and smacked her with a crop when her weary little body was too slow. There must be a special place for those ponies that taught us to ride. Although she is long past now, I like to think that she spent her last days earning a reward of turnout and peppermints.