WR Double Tuff Toby: Toby is an American Paint horse who stands 15.3 hands tall. He is a full-sized horse with a full sized personality to match both his height and his boldly colored coat. Toby and I have been together for well over 20 years and have had endless adventures together. Toby has done it all parades, horse shows, rodeo pageants, trail rides, therapy visits, riding lessons for kids, first rides, birthday visits, photo shoots, and now he is the star of his first Children’s book. Toby has been my best friend for over 20 years and I cannot wait for him to become your kids best friend too! Toby is silly, sweet, kindhearted, and hard not to instantly fall in love with. Peppermints are his life and he will do anything for attention or peppermint treats. He is the first horse to run to me from the pasture, knicker when you walk in the barn, and nudge you with his nose to make sure you are paying attention to him. In fact, I’m not sure that he knows he is actually a horse. There aren’t quite words to express how special this spotted horse has been in my life, but I’m so thankful to have raised my kids with him in our pasture…there is no better soul to teach kids to love horses than Toby. A Spotted Pony Parade Day was born as a story I used to tell my children as a bedtime story, and I am so happy to be sharing it with children around the world! I hope they love Toby as much as we do in real life!
Can a single spotted horse change your life? The answer in an unequivocal, absolutely YES in my book! Read on and find out everything that Toby “The Spotted Pony” and I have been through together!
If you know me personally you know exactly why my book is named A Spotted Pony, but if not, you might wonder. So, to give you a little insight, here is the story of my life with A Spotted Pony!
This is THE Spotted Pony himself.
Actually he is not a pony at all. He is a beautiful 24 year old Paint Horse who my Mom and I have lovingly called a “pony” since he appeared in our lives well over 20 years ago. He is clearly not a pony at all. It is more of a term of endearment, sort of like calling a grown child your baby, I suppose.
I have been blessed to grow up around horses. Spending weekends and evenings in the barn and at horse shows was always the norm growing up. From the time I can remember my mom and I were always horsin around. I loved it with all of my heart, every single thing about it. That is me and my Mother a mere 30 some years ago.
It seems like just yesterday that we were dressed in our matching show clothes grooming her sweet black pony to perfection. I can still smell the hotdogs cooking, feel the over sized cowboy boots on my feet and the arena dust on my face. I have a plethora of fond childhood memories that all involved two things – family and horses.
Fast forward a decade filled with horses and the story of A Spotted Pony begins when I was 15. I had outgrown my very lively little thoroughbred pony and it was time for my first big girl horse. My mom and I were on the hunt for the perfect horse to add to the family.
Our first stop brought us to a big old barn. I immediately laid eyes on a loudly colored paint horse with big brown eyes. He was only 3 and huge, to me who was used to a delicately put together pony. The spotted horse was named Toby. He was gorgeous, so big and bold, with his striped black and white mane and black tail that were uniquely his. He was covered in big beautiful markings like a painting in a book. Everything about him was pleasing to the eye. This horse was tall and young, a scary combination for a new horse, and his gaits seemed huge and out of control compared to a short and choppy pony canter that I had grown accustomed to. It took but moments after laying my hand on his perfectly marked face to release all of my reservations. There was something very calming, almost magical about him. His big brown eyes were kind and expressive, like I had never seen. We spent a couple hours riding the loudly colored paint horse, and the drive home was filled with excitement. But… he was the first horse we had looked at, and my Mom and I promised each other we wouldn’t get the first horse that we saw. Weeks past and we halfheartedly looked at a few other horses.
I could not get that spotted horse out of my mind. We went back to see him again and, this time, took my Dad. Again Toby was calm and quiet as he did everything that we asked of him without hesitation. He was special. Looking into his eyes, it was as if you peering right into his soul. He had a certain charm and character that had engulfed us all. We got in the car and talked it over. My 15 year old heart was ready to burst when my Dad agreed that Toby was the one! Toby would be the newest member of our family. On Toby’s first day at his new home, there could not have been a happier teenage girl alive!
I spent the next 10 years of my life with that “Spotted Pony” as the center of everything. I rode, A LOT. I practiced and we both worked hard. We went to big shows and little, we won and we lost, we rode in parades, carried flags, rode into town, and went on trail rides spending countless hours together. We were never a very serious team and we much preferred to do things our own way, which developed into a connection that I didn’t know possible with any horse. I trusted him, I knew by the look in his eye what his mood was, and I could tell what he was going to do before he did it. I could manipulate his actions with simple and slight movements in my body. I could stand up on him, ride backwards, and sit on the ground right next to his 4 giant hooves. He was listening to me always, and we both loved the guidance and confidence that we had together. He seemed to be as pleased as I was to accomplish a task, and do his “job” perfectly.
I believe that to explain this horses personality is impossible, but he is much like a giant puppy dog. Big kind eyes – just looking at you and waiting for something, love or direction. He never passes up any type of love, and steals the hearts of every single person who meets him. Toby is a complete and udder goofball – always. One of the reasons that he is so fun to be around I think.
One of my favorite shows included us walking around the warm up arena laughing hysterically as Toby stood calmly with a bottle of Mountain Dew clenched between his teeth. He would flip his head up in the air in hopes of getting a taste of the sweet treat. I remember covering my face because I was laughing so hard that I was crying. He continued to walk around trying to figure out the darn contraption in his mouth as if there was nothing else in the world that mattered. He loves peppermints, cotton candy, shaved ice and soda. Over the years he has eaten nachos, snow cones, and drank my Dad’s beer. I always felt like he deserved a special treat after a long day. After washing and putting him in his freshly cleaned stall at shows I was always found sitting on a 5 gallon pail with the treat of choice for the day. I would giggle as he slurped a melted cherry flavored snow cone from his feed bucket.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Toby is not perfect by any means. He stands a little down hill and his gates aren’t perfect. He, after all these years, is so still terrified to get his hair clipped that he has a rearing, striking out, panic attack every time. He has days where he just doesn’t want to do things. But I learned some important life lessons because of his flaws.
I spent most of my weekends as a teenager preparing and going to horse shows. Friday nights I would come home from school to wash, scrub, shampoo, and condition Toby until he sparkled. Then I would braid or band his mane. Cover him from head to toe, and get the trailer packed. I would wake up at 4 am on show day to a horse who had rubbed his hairdo out, and covered all four white legs in manure. He was always a mess – sawdust stuck all over his freshly washed and shined mane and tail. I would clean him, again and head to the show with my family, only to have to clean his legs one last time before entering the show-ring.
Sometimes I look back and wonder what I was thinking. But…I know. Not a second was wasted when it was in the barn with my sweet and mild-tempered Toby. He was an amazing distraction from the difficulties of being a teenager. He made me happy, confident, and proud. He was literally everything to me and if I could do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same.
At the time, it was about winning ribbons, and doing well. Practice makes perfect, right? We practice every single day. I now realize how special those days really were, and not at all because of the ribbons or the thrill of the shows. It was time with my family, and involved us all working together for the same goal. We all did our best to make Toby sparkle and shine to perfection. There was nothing like sitting sideways a top Toby’s back eating a burger that my Dad had just grilled and drinking an Iced Tea before a class, laughing or discussing the judge for the day. I loved hearing my class being called and trotting off to the entry gate with a big smile on my face because I knew that my whole family was there watching, and waiting for me and Toby. I would look out to see my mom in the stands laugh and enjoy the company of friends that we had developed over years of showing and she would give me the thumbs up or thumbs down on whether I had the right lead or not (something I clearly should have not needed help knowing). Showing meant lifelong friendships that grew from common ground – a love for horses. We met the kind of people that were just as crazy as us to spend each weekend grooming bathing, trailering, and showing in the sweltering heat. It was what we enjoyed as a family and having Toby made it an experience that I truly wish every little boy and girl could have.
After a few years at the shows my family and I had become like a well oiled machine. We commemorated my final show years in 4-H with matching shirts that sported a paint horse and said “Team Toby”. It felt so appropriate after all of the years that we had spent together at the mercy of that spotted pony’s mood for the day. We all still proudly wear our shirts years later.
When I was done showing in 4-H and off to college Toby and I began giving riding lessons with a dear friend of mine and her trusty Arabian horse. We spent those days walking in circles around the arena for hours and Toby would carefully carry his tiny rider. Has has given so many people their very first horse ride with patience. He was still listening to me, and wherever I went, Toby followed. I loved sharing this special horse with kids who instantly fell in love with him just I as had.
As I grew older I began to relish the opportunity to introduce kids to the thrill of showing and riding horses. I can’t tell you the satisfaction that I got from hearing Toby’s name called in the show pen as the winner of a class with a proud little cowgirl in his saddle. I was more proud of Toby than ever before.
As our show days faded away, and lesson yielded to a full time job and a handsome husband, Toby quietly took a post in my parents horse pasture. He seemed to enjoy the break from his hectic show schedule and relish being dirty and free. Show weekends turned into trail rides at state parks with my mom or a random Sunday afternoon ride with a friend. Each and every time I was in the barn I got the same enthusiastic whinny from Toby, as if he was saying “Hello old friend I am happy to see you.” He never wavered from his silly antics and always performed as if it was show day, no matter how long it had been since our last ride.
As the years have quickly swept by Toby has been a patient and constant friend as I began my own family. Marriage, life, and two babies have left me with a heart filled with all of life’s greatest blessing. My children soon became my life and filled my every thought. Toby continued to wait patiently for me in the pasture until I had the time and energy for a brief but well deserved ride. As a mother I don’t get a lot of “me” time to relax and reflect, and that is okay. But, when I do get a free moment – You know exactly where I am headed. To the barn to steal a moment with an old friend who, no matter how long it his been, always treats me exactly the same. I always get that, I’m glad that you are here nicker, and rear-end nudge, the bucket dumping and spin in a circle while I try to get on Friend that is Toby. I get to have a peaceful moment to feel like the “old me” again and think about whatever crosses my relaxed and quieted mind. I am exceedingly grateful that I was given the opportunity to be moved so much by this goofy Spotted Pony and have my ever loving and ultra supportive parents to thank for that!
Toby now has a much more relaxed life – he boldly runs to and from his stall to get fed and gives the kids occasional rides around the pasture. He waits and watches as the kids run from the apple tree to the pasture to throw apples to him.
It thrills me to be sharing this amazing horse with my own children. I hope my kids understand what that scruffy dirty spotted horse in the pasture means to me, and through the experiences Toby has given them, I’m sure they do.
He carried my daughter to her first blue ribbons at horseshows, and guided her through her first fair. The sight of my little girl on his back fills me with more joy than I can explain. The way he has cared for her over the years is special beyond words. As if he knew that she was the most precious cargo he would ever carry.
When I look at my Spotted Pony I am reminded of time with family, of laughing and crying, and being together. That Spotted Pony has been such a pure source of joy in my life for so many years and although I have had to grow up and start a life where Toby isn’t the center anymore – he is still a source of great inspiration to me. I had no idea when I brought him home that he could move me so much, or inspire and heal my heart through whatever “life” has thrown me at any age.
Toby is an intricate part of my family – He is strong, steady, and loving without fail – reminiscent of the kind of Mother and wife that I want to be. He has taught me kindness, and patience, trust, and perseverance, and to be proud… but not too proud. Through him have learned that no matter how much time, effort, and work you put into something that your best laid plans don’t always turn out like you hoped, but that is okay – if I do my best it will benefit me in the long run. He reminds me to be silly, have fun, eat candy, and to take it slow, because in the end those are the things that make life full. Toby has been a tremendous influence in my life and something that has shaped me into who I am and has helped do the same for my children.
Thank you to my Spotted Pony for your the silly antics, the good times, for your unbridled love and for the hoof prints that you have left all over my heart!