Mary McCashin
Reatas & Recipes

Will One 

When most people are introduced to rodeo, think of roping, or envision ranch life, they think of riding across open fields on a stocky Quarter Horse. Well, here in North Carolina we don’t have 800 acre ranches (which is such a shame) and I personally don’t have a Quarter Horse. Yes, my job is based with the AQHA. Yes, I rope off my horse. But yet, I don’t have a Quarter Horse.

My trusty steed is Will, a 14h New Forest Pony.

“A what?!” “A New Forest Pony.” (Seriously, it happens every time.)

New Forest Ponies most definitely were not bred to roam the open plains, sort cows, or sport a western saddle, but mine does. New Forest Ponies are bred to be sport ponies – basically a miniaturized, surefooted, compact warmblood. They’re hot, extremely sensitive, and fiercely athletic.

Most people probably wonder why I ended up with one. When I was a much more naïve (read: would ride anything) 16-year-old I wanted to breed my hunter pony. I pulled out The Chronicle of The Horse Stallion edition, found a small 14h New Forest Pony, thought he had “spunk and personality”, and wham bam, two years later Will arrived into this world.

In my almost 11 years with my punk pony (a term of endearment I swear), I have had one trainer tell my mom she thought he was dangerous. I’ve had another seasoned trainer be too afraid to ride him. Both of these individuals were incorrect. Will would never dream of hurting me – the opportunity has certainly presented itself before, but he always sticks with me and our mutual trust is irreplaceable.

After my dad passed away in 2013, Will and I were lost. We had been the victims of a dirty fall in the field thanks to a gopher hold and both of us had confidence issues. I had no idea who to learn from, who I could talk to on a daily basis, and who would understand my pony. Will and I were struggling and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, though clearly it was a disservice to his talents.

Will Two

At the time I was living in Nashville and as fate would have it, I was boarding a farm where Alicia Byberg-Landman also boarded, trained, taught, saved people from impending doom, etc.

Alicia not only embraced Will and I, she helped save us. Our first lesson with her was a total disaster, but she didn’t give up on us nor did she declare Will dangerous. We were stuck and we needed guidance and it was Alicia who introduced Will and I to Wade tree saddles, 5/16” ropes, and Monel stirrups. Alicia was not afraid of my super sensitive pony, she loved him.

Somehow I felt like my dad gave it his okay, because things clicked – fast. Will and I got our groove back, but it was even more improved and more together thanks to Alicia. To this day I owe her a great deal of gratitude.

So while people love their Quarter Horses (and I love them too!), I know the potential of a New Forest Pony. He’s soft in the snaffle bit and a hackamore, you can rope off of him, drag anything, and then side pass across a hay field. He wants nothing more than to try and please his person, and his frustration is evident when he receives mixed signals. While he may not be a Quarter Horse, he’s the perfect fit for me.

So if you’re leaning towards the western lifestyle, don’t feel that you have to fit in a niche of owning a Quarter Horse. Own whatever kind of horse fits you. Own whatever kind of horse makes smile ear to ear when you ride. I have that and I promise you it’s a priceless feeling. It doesn’t always have to be a Quarter Horse…