The words “Rescue Pony” conjures up many images – as indeed does any type of rescue animal. It seems the words instill an image of neglect, abuse, starvation, loneliness, unwantedness, fear and overall an emotion of sympathy. And then you often hear the comments about the misconception SO many people have about rescued animals – difficult, dangerous, unreliable, contagious, hard to train.. and a lot of the time this is the case.. but, should an animal be written off as “unfixable” because of their past? Because a human chose not to treat them the way animals deserve to be treated? With love, respect, comfort, instead choosing to abuse them or cast them aside as unimportant? Because this animal was not educated in how to act like others in better circumstances are? In a word NO. The majority of animals end up being labelled “rescues” because humans have put them in the hands of these rescue centres.

Let’s take Peanut.  An 8hh miniature shetland that came to me with an attitude problem and stubborness that would put any teenager to shame 🙂 A little diva that came with a fore warning from her Rescue Centre on how they would be delighted if I took her, but that they would be expecting her to be brought back to them, as had happened multiple times before. The first time I met Peanut – she certainly didn’t welcome my affection,  her scraggly little forelock concealing a pony, that under her fierce demeanour, has proven to have the biggest heart, capable of giving more love than a horse 10 times her size, the bravery of a lion and most importantly the content she has found in having a loving home.  

Did she break my heart on multiple occassions? Yes! After spending an hour lying on the floor, only for her to finally approach me – willingly, even if it was for a treat, the euphoria of getting to give her a cuddle, would be instantly snatched away from me as she would turn her back and throw her hind legs at me. The high of her approaching me in the field – but only to bare her teeth at me – left me instantly low.  But perserverance, a LOT of treats and the help of my wonderful showjumper Cody, helped her to see over just a few weeks that she was safe with me – that showing kindess in return to my offered kindness did not have a backlash and soon, she came running to me when she would see me.  Handling, in particular grooming, offered harder challenges just to her fear of someone being around parts of her body like her little head – but again, using the softly softly approach, she soon came to realise that this could be an enjoyable experience. 

And as she started to develop into this beautiful coated, stunningly attractive pony – a far cry from the shaggy little blob that she had started off as – I wondered how she could cope in a showing ring?  And so her career started… local fun shows at first, then progressing onto bigger agricultural shows, where she consistently won or placed – trotting into the arena like she was born to do it- striding out in the trot ups- affectionately nuzzling judges or almost flirting with them as she had her conformation checks – she was blooming before my eyes – almost as if she was born to do it.  With her new found confidence, I wondered if I dared to enter her into a specialist miniature horse show…. so we headed for our first one, 4 hours drive away to Dreamacres Miniature Horse Show – upon arrival, I felt sick when I saw all these miniature horses – as if sculpted by the hands of Gods – I looked at the fat little shetland, at the end of my pink leadrope – who, although stunning beautiful to me – looked like she had taken a wrong turn and ended up at this horse show instead of a Weight Watchers class – but she didn’t seem to realise how odd she looked amongst all these highly bred ponies – so in we went.  

Peanut cleaned up – taking several first places, a few seconds and we headed home with the jeep laid down with sashes and trophys and rosettes… and whilst this is all well and good – they did not just mean a win to us – they meant that this little unsociable pony, mean and forlorn, had found her place – her confidence and her purpose in life.

In the last two years since I adopted her, Peanut has continued to strive in her showing career, last year being crowned Reserve National Champion Shetland Pony of Ireland.  But more importantly – Peanut has become a little ambassador for her rescue center Cobh Rescue Horses – raising awareness of the amazing work they do – helping to generate donations to help the others in their care – in particular from her generous sponsors and supporters, Zerofit, Sabbot Headwear and Packhorse Ireland.  

She thrives on her facebook page “The Antics of Peanut The Rescue Pony” – where her story is shared week to week – and people love the little bones of her – the little pony who no one wanted, to now being the little pony that people can’t get enough of. 

By Oonagh O’Brien.

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