Look Ma, No Hands!


I’m torn and unable to decide if I am against this photo on general principle (innocent child in a potentially hazardous situation), or if it’s a fine example of a future Olympic gymnast or movie stunt double in the making, or if I simply don’t care because I’m not that fond of children – thusly embracing my inner Charles Dickens hoping for a decrease in the surface population – and the pony looks too old, decrepit and underfed to want to budge.

Okay.  I’ve just decided I’m annoyed with the condition of the pony and the adult (presumably) behind the camera.

This pony sale ad photo certainly speaks to the genteel (defeated?) nature of the beast.  Of course, give it a few meals; some care and attention, and all bets are off…well, except for that lovely left knee.  What are the odds this one is sound of limb?

They do have a super, well-kept backyard, though.  I wonder if they have a full-time gardener.  Might I suggest a full-time stable hand instead?


56 thoughts on “Look Ma, No Hands!

  1. The cynic in me cannot help but point out that that may not be their back yard, or even anything at all to do with them! It would be nice to see the whole ad- how much is the pony, how old is he, what incredible training are they claiming, (Dressage potential!) IMO this ad would be credible if they were looking for an honest, forever home, at no expense, for the pony, and incredible if they were actually expecting someone to cough up real money for him. But the cynic has just pointed out to me that I am being way too optimistic…..

    • Unfortunately, I didn’t save the link for the ad. I will try to do so in future. If I recall correctly the pony was offered for sale for a hundred or two, and came with the expected verbage; gentle kid’s pony, friendly, used for everything, loves carrots…

  2. The condition of the pony is indeed sad. Unfortunate that the child likely has no idea of it’s condition or how it may be feeling. We see too much of this sort of thing!

    • I agree this kid likely doesn’t know, but i don’t think they should get a free pass either. By that age I knew proper and kind horsekeeping, as did my daughter. Even if you don’t have good instruction, there are these things called books where you can learn most anything, along with common sense and compassion. But it makes sense the kind of asshat parent that treats a horse that way, hasn’t raised their kids very differently.

      • I totally agree, my children before age 5 would point out poor condition horses, horses left with halters on, kids with no helmets, poor fencing ect. Because they didn’t see that sort of thing at home.. It was a big deal the first time my oldest realized that we had driven past a horse grazing in a field unattended with a halter on. She wanted me to stop and take it off for him..

  3. Seriously, I do not understand why there are so many horse ads out there showing horses with riders standing on them. Or even worse, the Stump Stand. Especially with gaited horses. Is that a thing? Did I miss something? Is that now a requirement for 4-H?

  4. This makes me think of an ad I saw on craigslist a while ago. Some family was selling their skinny old 29 year-old gelding because their ten year-old son decided he wanted something faster. Their advertisement photos showed a ten y/o standing not on the back where you are supposed to (i.e. in vaulting) but in the middle of the back with his feet resting on the poor thing’s very visible ribs. Plus there was no helmet. Just sick.

  5. This post reminds me of a recent comment on FB after a slew of “free, old, useless” horses hit the pipeline. All of a sudden, countless oldies are looking for a good home. As in, I’m tired of feeding a horse I can’t ride and want someone else to shuck out the money for this animal that gave so much but can no longer give cuz I’m a selfish bitch who wants to ride. A good-hearted reader laid out her thoughts more eloquently than I ever could and asked the inevitable – when a horse is too old or lame to work, why does it suddenly need a new home? Why are horses the throwaway pet?

  6. Poor beastie. Too bad the lawnmower got to the grass first. Looks as though he could have used it. Old guys deserve better than that. People are horrid.

    • I had two “useless” old mares a couple of years ago. I did very half heartedly, try to find them homes but, in all honesty, who wants a 23 year old mare that, through no fault of her own, has never been ridden or harness trained? Then someone in Germany offered to take her and was not wanting to breed from her and wanted to harness train her to go with her own mare. I pulled out and last year I had them both put down. I am certain the home she would have gone to would have looked after her, I knew the people but she had the long journey (she had not been off the field since she was a yearling) and then the harness training and she was not a mare that took well to change. So I think I did the right thing by her. I was there, I held her, she was gone, no fuss, no drama no harm.Why do people not realise this is a living, breathing thing they have on the end of the lead rein, not a toy, you cannot just cast it aside when you are done with it, you do actually have to live up to your responsibilities!

      • In January we lost our beloved 38 y.o. gelding to cancer. I had bought him over twenty years ago – as a 17 y.o. retiring from the Hunt – as a schoolie. When he retired from being ridden there was no question but that he would spend the rest of his days spoiled rotten and still running the place.

        We had an older TB mare put down last fall – there was no way I was going to take a chance on rehoming her: she had been a broodmare for us and I knew that anyone who would take her would very likely try to breed her again. She stayed here until her arthritis made her life too uncomfortable to go on. She was not special to us: we owed her that much.

        We have several ‘forever’ horses. The rest will be dealt with responsibly if they are still with us when they get too old for it to be reasonable to sell them to a good owner. I *know* I am very lucky to be able to do this: but it was part of what I knew I was taking on when I got horses in the first place.

      • Hoo4hearted, she did what she thought was best. We cannot judge her for doing what she felt was the best thing for the horses. A few years ago I adopted an old lab. When I got her she was malnourished and standoffish. I believe she had never been properly cared for. She only lived with us for a few months before I had to put her down. I felt terribly guilty until I realized I had provided her a small retirement with swimming in the lake, quality food, walks, and kindness. It is not for us to judge the very difficult decisions that Kirri made.

      • No, to clarify, one mare was no longer breeding sound and had “issues” and the other had founder problems that made it very difficult for me to manage during the summer months- in both cases I took them through one more summer to be sure. What I would NOT do was “palm” two elderly animals that had spent their whole lives with me, off on someone else, in the hope that they could live out their days with someone who did not know them. If it had been possible for them to live out their days (in peace) with me then that is what would have happened, but as my set up was then, it was not possible. Sorry- I did not make all the circumstances clear…..

      • “We cannot judge her for doing what she felt was the best thing for the horses.”

        We can and I will. I find people who use euthanasia as ‘convenience killing’ are morally bereft.

        In my opinion, euthanasia is more properly used to end suffering when there’s poor prognosis and massively reduced quality of life.

    • I don’t understand it either. I can keep two horses on my place and one is always the ‘retired chap’. Right now my #1 horse is a 20 yr old thoroughbred who is plenty sound and ‘up’ to be working. #2 is a 37 yr old Arabian who is still sound and in light work but he has a home for life, just like the other two buried on my property did. It does cost more to keep the old ones but, dammit, they worked for it. This old fellow worked for me for 27 years – and he and his antsy buddy are also provided for in my will – and that is as it should be. How can people cast them off to kill buyers or throw them out on a lean pasture to fend for themselves just when they need care the most?

  7. I am so sick of seeing horses used as ladders/jungle-gyms/balance beams. RIDE the horse!! Or buy a danged sawhorse.
    Why is it always western saddled people that like to display the horse isn’t capable of reacting to discomfort?!
    Like those WP folks that think standing on the horse while cantering is a major selling feature. I just don’t get it.

    Poor little pony. Hope he gets an upgrade.

  8. I for one am sick to death of this pose. Ill be a happy person when all the clinicians du jour realize most if their ” following” are young girls , middle aged women and most own horses that this would be a BAD idea to try on!!!! I can’t tell you how many trade shows we’ve attended where hundreds (literally) of people excitedly show photos of themselves standing on their horses, sitting on them tackless etc., ” just like Joe Clinican”. Same horse they bought the training videos for because he’s “been abused” read no manners, training etc, but saleable as an “abuse” case……sadly I’ve also been privy to the hundreds (literally) of horror stories at these shows from the second half of the group who tried the stunt of the moment with horrific results.

  9. I wonder how many of them know that a lot of two-bit, shit horse traders at sale barns kind of make it their little trademark to use this same stunt, and have for as long as I can remember? I’ve always associated this way of presenting a horse with that sort, myself.

    • Have to agree: it takes a certain sort to include this sort of stunt in their sales pitch, and yes I do associate these ads with those people. Yish.

  10. The child’s head is so far from the ground! What kind of mother would allow her child to put themselves into such a dangerous situation? This picture just tells me the horse doesn’t have the energy (most likely from neglect) to protest such stupidity. We all know that if the owner put the same amount of energy into the horse’s training as they put into the horse’s care then the horse is not trained to be a great child’s mount.

    • I have an acquaintance on facebook who posted a story a year or so ago called “I put her on the horse who killed her.” It was a story told by the mother beginning with bragging about a two year old doing a barrel pattern and ending with her horse rearing, falling and landing on the girl before she turned five while they were on a trail ride ON PAVEMENT. Nowhere in the story was there any mention of helmet, vest, anything. And the moral? That being a horse person means putting your toddlers on horses and the outcome could not have been helped. Because stupidity is a cultural thing.

      • Oops, my reply went to the wrong post (it’s below). Here is the story, BTW. The pictures with it a worth the proverbial 1,000 words… child so small her legs don’t come past the saddle, barrel-racing a full-size horse with all kinds of contraptions on its face.


        In my world, kids that little get to ride small elderly ponies with a responsible adult holding the leadline or the lungeline, while wearing helmets. Not barrel racing at three years old!

      • I read that story ages ago and, while I feel for the parents deeply – nothing compares with losing a child- I just think it was SO predicable and SO avoidable that I hardly know what to say to them! What on EARTH was a tiny child doing on a 15 hand horse? Was she out of her mind? Why on earth would you allow a four year old child to make that sort of decision and then….well the idea of a four year old with any sort of gun, let alone with a gun and a wish to kill something with it- words, again, fail me. Completely…does not happen often. Could this accident have happened with a pony? Possibly but ponies weigh in at around 300-500 pounds possibly less depending on breed and height, not 1100. Ponies are nearer to the ground so have a lower centre of gravity so, although they can flip over they are less likely to and anyway, what the hell was she doing off the lead rein? I am sure that all of this and more goes through the parents heads every single day, and yet, I do wonder if, should they have another child (and I really hope they do) they would have learned enough to do anything at all differently. There is a certain kind of “stupid” that has nothing to do with brain power and more to do with stubbornness and pride, and you cannot change it, not with a sledge hammer, not with laws and not even with the death of a child….

    • I remember that article about the little barrel-racing girl’s death. Such a sad story! However, I’m really sure if it’s a fair example for discussing helmet use. A very small child with a full-size horse (as I recall, it was a horse and not a small pony) landing on her… the bodily injuries probably would have been enough to kill her regardless of any helmet or vest. Safety gear simply cannot prevent all injuries. I think it is a fair question as to whether a child that small should have been riding a horse independently in those circumstances (I believe they were out on a ride, with the parent on another horse, therefore, with no ability to intervene when the girl’s horse started to act up?). I don’t think a helmet would have saved that little girl. I have, sadly, known of a few deaths in a few sports (snowboarding, hang-gliding, motorcycle racing) where the people were wearing helmets and appropriate safety gear, but the crashes were so intense that the body injuries were not survivable. Riding usually doesn’t generate crashes with that much force, but a full-size horse falling on a four-year-girl isn’t the typical riding fall.

      (And I am not saying that helmets aren’t good – I wear one every ride – but since I don’t think a helmet would have saved that child, I don’t fault that story for not including a message about helmets.)

      • OK, I read that story about the little girl. It is hard for me to believe it is true. If it is, it is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard of. Everyone deals with grief in their own way, I realize that, but something just does not feel right here.

    • Sure looks that way to me too…can’t get the site up at all. No word from Ontario on the blog after three weeks, I’m hoping Mercedes will post her article soon. Don’t know what the contract is but unless Mercedes has had contact with her, seems long enough to me.

  11. The fact that there are so many damn pictures out there showing someone standing on a horse ought to be a clue that it’s nowhere near so unique and valuable of a trait as people think. For some reason though, the standing-on-horse to show how quiet it is pose doesn’t freak me out nearly so much as the small-child-under-horse’s-belly pose.

    When I was a kid, my sister and I loved to climb all over our pony, to ride her double, to sit on her backwards and sideways and yep, stand on her too (but we were always required to wear helmets while actually ON the pony, and one of us held her for the other while we attempted our various foolish. She was a sweet, tolerant pony. However, she was also a sound, healthy, quality pony who rode well, jumped, pulled a cart. I’d want a pony just like her for my (hypothetical, future) child. I don’t think it’s actually that hard to find a pony that is good-natured and tolerant of children. “Allows child to stand on me” is a good quality in a pony, but if that’s the ONLY good quality, I’d pass.

  12. The pony certainly does look sad but he/she doesn’t look all that thin to me. It needs a good grooming but I don’t see ribs or a sunken hindquarter. There is a TB rescue in my state that has either picture or video of a little girl sitting on an OTTB out in the field while it is lying down. No halter, no adult right there to grab the girl if the horse suddenly gets up and everybody is commenting on the FB page about how sweet and cute it is. I guess they are exempt because they are a rescue but it is just an accident waiting to happen.

    • OK, I was holding back to see if anyone agreed with me that the pony does not look “decrepit and underfed”. I see two clean white socks and what may be a little grey around the eyes. It’s hard to really see the hooves, but from what I can see they look OK. This is not a show pony in full bloom, it’s a kids pony. What am I missing?

      • Don’t hold back. 🙂

        The pony is underweight and lacks conditioning. It’s not an ideal photo to see that, and the saddle hides a lot, but there’s a hollowness to the flank that happens when an individual is underweight. There’s also a significant mismatch between the amount of bone this pony carries, which is quite good, and how much weight its holding. This pony should be a rather stoutly muscled individual, and its clearly not. It’s quite possible he’s ancient, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about what’s going on, or that he’s advertised for sale.

      • Oh, I agree, the shoulder area looks terribly out of shape, but I don’t see this as a decrepit pony. Of course, many people here are actively showing and training horses, I am not. Another thing, I regularly see SO much worse on my CL every week. For me, in spite of the bad knee, this pony looks OK.
        However, I do get sick at heart when I see old timers for sale.

    • OK friends, if anyone happens to be on right now, go to CL Inland Empire, farm and garden, and look for pony-$650 (san bernadino)

      This is a decrepit pony.

      I am sorry I cannot provide the link. And this ad may not be up long, even around here some line must be drawn.

      • Decrepit: to be old and in poor condition.

        Don’t get stuck on one word. I understand you feel my use of the word was hyperbole, and I understand there may be another pony out there that is ‘more’ decrepit’ than this one. 🙂

      • I worry about people like you IF they’re involved with animals. Show a photo of one in poor condition and they come back and say “you call that poor, I’ll show you poor”. There’s something seriously wrong with your judgement and value system!

      • I would be happy to show you my dog, my cat and my one horse. All that I can handle at this time in my life. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

      • All totally irrelevant in the light of you showing a REALLY poor animal in an attempt to justify why the one shown “isn’t so bad”

        Clearly you miss the point!

  13. It doesn’t particularly bother me seeing kids standing on a pony. But then I used to work with a vaulting club.

    I’m more bemused by the fact anyone thinks it’s a good sales pitch! And it’s always on a horse that’s just going for meat money and is in shabby condition.

    • Sadly it works though. I was at an auction years ago and a nicely broke young horse came through… bidding was going well – I was just going to jump in as we were looking for a nice trail horse when the seller climbs up and stands on the horse… bidding goes crazy and horse goes for three times what I would have paid. So it works, I find it silly, but it appears to be a good selling point to some.

  14. Ok, so the big knee.. causes? I know a guy that has a horse with a big knee. It’s not quite this bad, but it’s obvious. It really doesn’t effect him in any way. He’s sound (for now anyway), and it doesn’t seem to be painful. Just curious.

  15. Of course no-one here knows the root cause of this or that swollen knee. Could be fluid. Could be fibrous tissue. Could be a conformation abnormality or osteo arthritic growth.

    But we do know that in the photo the lower leg from the knee is twisted and the toe is turned out. We also see the pony is not bearing weight evenly.

    Taking all that into consideration that’s not boding well for being sound for THIS pony.

    But what is wrong with THAT guy’s horse? What diagnostics have been done and what’s the cause, because that makes the difference.

  16. I had a pony that was the spitting image of that old guy, right down to the white socks and the brown tips on his mane. I hope this one goes to a good place.

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