Holiday Ponies

I know I’ve been pretty lax in my posting lately.  I have plenty of excuses, but none of them are especially convincing, so I won’t insult anyone by listing them here.  The truth is I’ve probably just had too many other things on my mind to put much thought into posts anyone might remotely want to read.  I’ve got limited time and space in my brain these days, which is a really bad combination.

I’ve also been feeling a little grinchy in general.  I got my Christmas shopping out of the way pretty early (for me) and did a minimum of decorating.  I didn’t even bother with a tree this year.  Instead I got a dumpster and decided to tear apart my house, garage, barn, loft, feed shed and equipment shed and finally get organized—kind my gift to myself this year—so it seemed counterproductive to drag a tree and decorations out into the middle of the chaos.

I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder or anything, but I have a definite knack for hanging onto semi-useful stuff that’s past its prime with the well-intentioned rationalization that:  I’ll find a use for it in the barn somewhere!  And I seldom do.  So ripping through closets, tack trunks and every other nook-and-cranny for unused junk and tossing it has been kind of liberating.  On the flip-side, it’s also been great rediscovering stuff I’d put away and sort of forgotten about a long time ago, like the awesome blanket with the horse head on it my grandma knitted for me when I was about seven; that deserves a special place somewhere.

But aside from a few fond memories, I found I was able to be pretty ruthless about ditching stuff to get rid of the clutter.  Which is why one incident from this last dumpster day kind of surprised me.  Up in the loft I had our little blanket room piled with bags full of old linens and things.  While sorting through them I came across one of those plastic zipper storage bags full of little stuffed ponies and other critters from who-knows-when.  Now, I’m a long way off from being a kid, and I’m not the kind of adult who still plays with stuffed animals.  So I thought, “what on earth am I doing with these things?”  I thought for a minute my little nieces might want them, but they have tons of their own stuffed toys, so I decided to toss them.  Into the back of the pickup they went, I drove over to the dumpster and I started chucking stuff in.

But when I was done throwing everything into the dumpster, I looked over and something about those little stuffed ponies sitting on top of the trash heap just looked so wrong to me.  I couldn’t stand it.  Sure, I had no real use for them.  But I couldn’t throw them in the dumpster, either.  So, I admit it:  I went dumpster-diving after them.  I fished them out and put them on the seat next to me in the pickup.  And I sat there and just looked at them, the big goofy chestnut horse looking up at me, reminding me half of Nate and half of one of my favorite Christmas-time characters, the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit.  I can never remember what the entire story is about with all the scarlet fever and the fires and woodland bunnies and nursery magic; I mainly just remember this quote:

"It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
-The Velveteen Rabbit

For me, in an odd way, they're words to live by.  And, as I look around my stable, it’s largely a herd made up of other people’s throwaways—by “people who don’t understand.”  Horses others had given up on.  Horses they told themselves they’d “outgrown.”  Horses they believed had no purpose or reason to exist.  I struggle every day to make sure each of those horses knows how much they are loved and wanted, and I can’t imagine not loving each of them enough to keep and care for them no matter what. 

So, yes, I’m a sap, but I’m keeping my ponies.  All of them.  

I’m sorry I don’t get to visit and chat with all of you more often, but it makes me happy to know there are so many Real people out there!  Happy holidays to all of you and your critters! 


  1. I love that quote, and have attributed it to my herd, too. :)

    I have a suitcase full of old stuffed animals in storage somewhere. I keep telling myself I'll dig it out and have them donated, but I can just never bring myself to do it...

  2. I'm surprised those ponies landed in the dumpster in the first place but not surprised at all that you went in to rescue them. Our throwaways are our REAL treasures and the people who didn't love them enough are poorer for their loss.

  3. Hi NTAT - funny how that works, isn't it? i thought i could do it, but i guess not... oh well. glad i'm not the only one!

  4. GHM - i couldn't agree more! :-)

  5. What a beautiful, delightful post! We used to read The Velveteen Rabbit out loud when my children were young and I would end up slightly teary at the quote you shared b/c I felt the same way about it - it has to do with maturation and spiritual growth, I think.

    We have bags and a few chests full of stuffed animals b/c my SON won't let me pass them on. Much less toss them. I kept back the "special" ones - there were just so many over the years that a lot of them were decorative instead of beloved friends, but we have them all b/c I think in his mind the ones that weren't loved to pieces need us to keep them even more than the ones who were!

    I hope one day we get to do a writing retreat together - would love to read more of your work and have the chance to talk.


  6. A touching post... that Velveteen rabbit quote just slays me. Glad you relented on the stuffed animals.

    We'll take your posts whenever we can get them - they are always thoughtful and well worth the wait.
    I hope we both can find more mental space in the coming year! :)

    Enjoy the holiday, and I wish you health and happiness for 2012.

  7. billie - i agree about the quote, and always have the same reaction to it :-)

    i really hope we get to do a retreat together one day too. there is so much i'd love your feedback on, and so much more i'd just love to talk with you about!

  8. calm, forward, straight - thanks so much for your kind words. sometimes i feel like such a slacker at this! there is so much i want to post about, but i sometimes wonder if anyone will even want to read it or if i am just wasting my (and everyone else's) time. it means a lot when bloggers i respect visit, so thanks!

  9. The skin horse is right!! I am 55 yrs.old and my sock Monkeydoll has sat right next to me in every car I have owned. Her crisp bright orange cordouroy dress has faded some but not her bright button eyes or her happy smile. She is LOVED and has traveled everywhere with me.

    As for my horses the ones over the years that were deemed dangerous,unrideable,crazy,lazy or stupid by someone have all been JEWELS to me. They came to me in many different ways,some abandoned and injured,some afraid, some dumped in a kill pen.I'm no horse whisperer by any means but all of them I believe spoke to me or looked me directly in the eye and hoped I would see them and thankfully for ME I did. They then became LOVED and cared for and all were my stars in the show ring,my trusty friends in the hunt fields or on the trail,the "steady eddies" my non riding friends could get on to ride with me. They became part of my family and I a part of their herd.

    Merry Christmas Jaime!! Your post made my day.

  10. LuvMyTBs - i knew i couldn't be the only one ;-)

    you've expressed exactly what i was trying to get across in my post. thanks for doing what you do and for being a Real horseperson!

    merry christmas to you too :-)

  11. jme,

    Here is my most recent star and JEWEL!!Please go to this link and read all the stories then if you would vote for Billy (Young Lord) and 2 others of your choice it can be your Christmas gift to me and Billy.

  12. Let's make something happen in 2012. Maybe we can find a fun halfway point and a fun retreat cabin or something! And/or... you are always welcome here. We have a guest room (small and you will be inundated with felines) and also several nice b&b's in town if you prefer your own quiet non-farm space. :)

  13. billie - i would like that. maybe by then i'll have a first draft that i can inflict on you! ;-) right now i have over 400 pages and almost 160,000 words but am nowhere near done, so i think i could probably benefit from someone with your experience to help me get a handle on things and an outside perspective to help me see if i'm even close to being on the right track! sometimes it seems like the more i work, the more it gets away from me :-\ aaaahhh!!!

  14. This post is a keeper, as soon as I clear my eyes of the tears clouding my vision. I also have a basket containing a stuffed bear ("Smokey"), a dog ("Peanuts"), 2 kitties ("Sasha & Ashley," who were real cats but now over the Rainbow Bride) a pony (my "pony Macaroni"), a doll my parents gave me when I had my tonsils out when I was five years old. Years ago, when the apartment I was living in caught fire, I grabbed my cats, my purse and my basket of stuffed animals to save (apartment was okay) but it clarified what was important in my life.
    We may be shabbier for the loving but I would not have it any other way.

  15. oak in the seed - thanks so much. that's so great about your basket of stuffed critters! (it's been nice finding out i'm far from the only one with a collection ;-) and i agree, i'll take being a little shabby any day :-)

  16. You really have a knack for story telling! I really enjoyed reading, and frankly you sound a lot like me with the "hoarding" thing! lol

    Thanks for sharing

  17. hi liseanne - thanks, and welcome!

  18. Just stopped by from Grey Horse Matters' blog. Love your post and your the sentiments towards your herd.

    I still have all my stuffed animals from when I was little. I absolutely adored The Velveteen Rabbit.

    My horse was a "yahoo" trail horse who mostly sat in his pasture before there was "us". I met someone last year who knew him back then. She said that he was basically galloped on the trail recklessly. He has shown me basically that this is true, but five years later he is a changed horse. The person I met said something like "such a shame, he was a pretty horse". I took this to mean that he was somehow ruined forever and useless. Needless to say, I disagree completely and pity anyone who could not see the wonderful horse who remained inside.

  19. hi val,


    wow, someone would say that to you? somehow i'm not surprised. i've had people say that to me about some of mine too, especially the ones i've taken in as rescues/rehabs. but then i've also had the same people ask me later, 'hey, what horse is that? is he new?' and i have to tell them it's the same horse, they just don't recognize him anymore because, even though he may not be perfect now, he's happy and healthy and that's what's starting to show. that's all i care about. but it's sad how many people miss that part.

    and, btw, i stopped in at your blog and i think harley is adorable :-)


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