September through January is my favorite time of year. I can’t wait for fall, and all of the holidays that follow it. Now that we’re well past Halloween and making the downhill slide to Thanksgiving, Christmas feels like it is practically next week. Ever since Darling Husband brought home that first little demonic pony, this is the time of year, I slow down with the big horses and devote far too much time to indulging little girl pony love. We began an annual family holiday tradition three years ago, and it’s one I really hope Offspring remembers when he’s older. The first weekend in November, before Belton Lake Outdoor Recreational Area (BLORA) opens its Christmas light display to the car driving public, the BLORA Ranch hosts a Christmas light trail ride for those of the equestrian persuasion.
Now I’m not going to gush over how the ride takes you through (I’m estimating distance) 7 miles of hundreds of Christmas light displays by the lake. I have other blog posts Here that you can read. I will say this year was the largest ride ever with over 100 horses and I have no idea how many people participating. This post really is about how awesome, my little pony, Dixieland Delight aka Moonshine is. The GHLHF wasn’t sure the ride would happen for us this year, but I’m sooo glad we decided to go. The in laws were visiting the few days before, and even though Darling Husband said he was going to do a test run on Koda through Christmas lights strung down our driveway in a controlled stress free environment, it just never happened. He decided to chance it, and despite a few hiccups that can be expected from a young/green horse surrounded by a crazy amount of equine activity, in the dark, with bright flashing lights, and no familiar older horses to boost her confidence, we did actually make it on the ride.
I had begun preparing Moonshine weeks in advance. I hadn’t driven her much over the summer due to my focus on the bigs, but started a little over a month before getting her in shape. The BLORA ride is a cake walk of a ride for a full size horse, but its a little more strenuous for an 11 hand (44 inch tall) pony pulling a cart, myself, and Offspring. On Halloween night, I drove Moonshine through the neighborhood during trick or treating, alternating my passengers between Offspring and Dressage Queen’s two little girls as they went door to door.
So we all, Darling Husband, Koda, Offspring, Moonshine, and I all loaded up to see if we could really make this thing happen. We arrived early, because BLORA ranch recommended it with the number of expected riders. The atmosphere was pretty charged when we arrived. Lots of people, adults and kids, were already mounted shooting everywhere as the trailers kept rolling in. Both Koda and Moonshine were amped when they hopped off the trailer. About thirty minutes before the ride started, I began the process of putting Moonshine to the cart, and Darling Husband tacked up. Since it had been Darling Husband’s first ride in a while, and Koda was high anxiety, DH took her into the BLORA ranch arena to mount and work her out a bit. That would have been a good plan, but Moonshine kept calling out for her friend. Between all of the activity inside/outside of the arena and Moonshine, Koda was not standing for DH to mount. As the majority of the riders began to drift out of sight, I was beginning to lose hope that the ride was happening for us, but Koda paused just long enough for DH to swing a leg over, and we brought up the tail end of the ride.
Just like previous years, once we got into the lights Offspring began to really enjoy himself. We sang jingle bells, and just had a leisurely ride for a while. The BLORA ride is awesome in that the first 2/3 of the ride is mostly flat on paved road, and well lit due to the displays. However, the ride leaves the front of BLORA ranch and returns on the backside in one big loop. The last two miles is essentially in the pitch black, on a gravel road. A good half mile is uphill, not a huge grade, but not exactly light work for a pony and a cart on a less than smooth road. I’m always overly careful with my animals. I watched her looking for any signs of fatigue. If at any moment she struggled, I planned to lead or ground drive her up the grade with no passengers in the cart. My pony however was like “I got this!” She dropped her head, threw her weight into the collar and trudged her little way up the grade. She never slowed, and I never once needed to ask her to step up.
When she saw the connecting road near the top of the grade, Moonshine picked up a brisk trot for the last little bit, and then went right back into her power walk back down the hill. Now we’re still in the pitch black, and the only light is the light coming from the decorations on my cart. We were almost crossing a cattleguard (covered with a piece of plywood) before I could even see it. Then we turned off the road, essentially through pasture on a makeshift road created from ATV and tractor traffic. It felt like we traveled a mile through the field, not sure of the exact distance, but Moonshine powerwalked her way, picking out the best path. When we came up on a 10 foot by 4 foot puddle that spanned the entire path, she went to the side, and thankfully there was enough solid ground for the cart to get around. Koda was behind us getting the benefits of the cart lights and Moonshine’s expert navigation. I barely picked up the reins the last mile and a half. My pony was totally on autopilot. Finally we could see the ranch lights, and Moonshine brought us in strong. I literally had to hold her back at the end.
I couldn’t be more proud of my little pony. Four years ago, when I purchased her sight unseen in an online auction due to connection issues/internet lag time and paid way more than I had ever considered for any pony, I could never have predicted how special she would turn out to be. On nights like this, I trust her with both mine and Offspring’s safety while working harder than most full size horses. She’s never let me down, even when she’s not fully in her comfort zone. I often joke about demonic ponies and mares. In many cases the reputations are well deserved. Not everyone appreciates ponies or mares. I however, love both. Once you’ve won them over they’ll walk through fire for you. The good ones, and Moonshine is definitely one of those, are more than worth their weight in gold.