It is fun to make Christmas magic happen. Like the old saying goes–it is better to give than to receive. In the case of the Christmas pony, this certainly rings true. Especially if it’s a very naughty pony.
When my daughter, Tory, was about five years old, I wanted to fulfill her dream (or, maybe it was mine?) of receiving a pony for Christmas. She had been taking riding lessons and we lived on a small horse farm, so it wasn’t as outlandish a goal as it may seem. For months, we shopped for a pony without much luck until we found one just a month before Christmas.
I arranged with the owner to ship the pony to me a few days before Christmas. As luck would have it, the weather turned brutally cold so my daughter did not linger outside poking around the barn and pasture, and I kept the pony penned up behind the barn and out of sight. Fingers crossed, he would not be discovered before the Big Reveal.
On Christmas Day, my husband, mom-in-law, and Tory trooped out to the barn on the pretext of finding Dad’s hidden gift out there. Yes, I had two presents hidden in the barn, and the one for my husband was a comfy recliner. The barn has always been a great place to hide things…since I’m usually the only one who goes out there. After Dad found his gift, I slid open the back door and as if on cue, Buddy the Pony stepped into the barn, strode right up to Tory, and nuzzled her.
Was she surprised? Yes! Was she thrilled to have Santa bring her a pony? No! My logical and science-minded (she is now a physician) kiddo concluded the pony was lost and it was our duty to find his rightful owner. She was upset, not excited over the gift she was sure was a mistake. She concluded there was no way Santa’s sleigh could hold a pony and–as she pointed to the halter with a Southwestern design on it as further evidence–he was probably a long way from home. When she wouldn’t listen to me trying to convince her the pony was hers, I promised to look for the rightful owners. Sigh.
In the meantime, I told her, you need to take care of the pony and ride him. How does the story end? It turns out we kept Buddy the Pony for over eighteen years, long after my daughter outgrew him. Buddy was a medium, chestnut pony with a crooked leg, a wickedly smart mind, and a big heart. He’d had a rough start in life, we learned from the owner, who recounted how she found him when her car had a flat tire beside a horse pasture. Buddy was in that field, looking so bad that the woman felt compelled to come back and buy him.
That good luck and something else special followed Buddy all his life. When my daughter outgrew him, he was leased to a lesson barn for a short time. One day I felt compelled to bring him home again and arranged to do a few days before that farm’s barn was destroyed in a tragic fire. Buddy was a naughty pony, as many are, and challenged my daughter to tears on occasion early on. But she gained confidence and learned to be persistent.
Last year, Buddy went on to his final home across the Rainbow Bridge, but the year before that my daughter surprised me with a thoughtful Christmas gift. She dug up the original picture of her and Buddy on that first Christmas day and posed with him again in the exact same spot and position but now as a grown-up young woman. She placed the two photos side-by-side in a frame.
Buddy, the Christmas pony, was a gift that kept on giving.