I didn’t put two and two together to make four until the only solution to the problem was the Willowtrail Pony Express. An important package was coming in the mail, and a signature was required. The mailbox is a mile and a half from the house. We’re a one-car family at the moment, and my husband had already left for work and there was no cell phone coverage at the job site. Besides, he was towing our bulldozer on a trailer so wasn’t particularly agile.
I had two options: I could ride a pony or drive one. I had other plans for the day that involved harness work, so I opted for the Torrin-and-Lucky-Joe herd of three. I put a portable phone in my pocket to receive the call from the mail carrier saying she was leaving town while I packed a backpack with necessaries and otherwise made arrangements to be gone for an hour. When the mail carrier called, I told her I would be on horseback.
Torrin and Lucky Joe and I have been ponying, and the previous day we actually went part way to the mail box. I’ve been riding bareback, which I greatly prefer. This time, though, since we’d be going double the distance, I opted for a bareback pad to offer Torrin a little relief from my bony backside. I also thought the stirrups might be helpful since we’d had a bit of a rodeo the previous trip when snow machines came on us.
It was a beautiful winter morning, and I quickly found that I was overdressed. The boys had had just enough breakfast to be willing to participate in the adventure. Torrin and I have traveled to the mail box numerous times over the years, but this was to be Lucky Joe’s first time on the route and his longest ponying experience. I’m overjoyed to say that both boys did wonderfully.
Earlier in the morning I had heard snowmachines, typical for a winter weekend morning. We didn’t see a single one on our trip, so I didn’t have to help Lucky Joe survived being passed by the one-eyed roaring monsters. We met one car on the way out, and I dismounted just to be sure all would be well. It was so well that when we were on our way back, when a car approached, we didn’t even pause in our travels.
Between home and the mailbox is a cattleguard. In the spring and fall, when the cattle aren’t grazing, there’s a gate that is open and I can ride through. In the winter, the gate is open, too, but there is a snowmachine trail groomed through the opening. I dismount and lead the ponies up over the snow bank and on the trail around the cattleguard because the groomed snow, while smooth, is usually soft and causes the ponies to post hole (the snow momentarily supports them then gives way suddenly.) Sure enough, both ponies sunk in occasionally and inconsistently, so I was glad to have saved Torrin the extra weight on his back.
About 75 yards before the mailbox is a bridge over the middle fork of the Michigan River. This time of year, the river is frozen over, so I didn’t expect it would cause Lucky Joe much concern. As we crossed the bridge, though, I realized that while the water flowing beneath wasn’t necessarily obvious, the change in footing was. The packed snow formed a continuous surface, but hoofbeats echoed back to us differently on the bridge than they did on the road. Lucky Joe wasn’t bothered, for which I was thankful because I remembered my first ride on a Fell Pony when I tried to cross a bridge. Let’s just say I became a better horsewoman in order to calmly and confidently ride my mare across that bridge!
The mailbox came into view about 100 yards before we got there. I could see that the mail carrier was there. When we arrived, she said she’d seen us coming so had waited a few minutes; I was glad I’d told her I’d be on horseback. She commented on how beautiful the horses were, and I quickly explained they were technically ponies which are my love. As she pulled away, a motorist passed on the highway, enthusiastically waving to the ponies and me. It appears that the Willowtrail Pony Express brought as much joy to other folks as it did to me!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015
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