So together the princess and the ogre went in search of the perfect pony. They drove around town and to other towns to look at ponies. Each time, the princess was hopeful that she would find the perfect pony. Each time, she was disappointed. The ponies were too big, too small, too fat, too lazy, too inexperienced, or too political.
One day, they went to see a pony in a little town named Cove. The princess was very excited. Could this be the perfect pony? This pony looked like the perfect pony. She was a beautiful palomino with a very long mane and a flowing tail. Her gold color was as bright as the sun.
The ogre was very protective of the princess. He didn't care about a pony's color or it's breeding or how long was it's mane or tail or whether it was conservative or liberal. The perfect pony for the princess had to have a big heart and be willing to take care of something so precious as the perfect princess.
The ogre decided to try this pony. On went the bridle. On went the saddle. On went the ogre. Instead of going forward like good ponies do, this one went up like bad ponies do. It's a good thing the ogre is a cowboy. It was a short rodeo. The ogre stepped down from the bad pony, handed the reins to the owner, and said, "This is not the perfect pony for my princess. This is a bad pony."
The princess was heartbroken. Would they ever find the perfect pony? The ogre was more determined than ever. But where would he look? Why, he would look in the same place he found the perfect princess. The internet! The ogre searched site after site and found more ponies that were too big, too small, too fat, too lazy, too inexperienced, and too political.
But wait a minute. Here was a very handsome pony who was perfect! He was fit. He was the right size. He wasn't lazy. And he was raised on a ranch to work cows. But he was in Montana far away from Paradise. How would he get from Montana to Oregon? He rode on a cattle truck with a herd of cows on their way to Paradise.
What an exciting day it was when the cattle truck arrived at Paradise. Cows were bellowing, men were hollering and the perfect princess was waiting anxiously for the perfect pony. Finally, the perfect pony stepped into the sunlight. And the princess fell in love.
It didn't last long. This pony wasn't just perfect, he was headstrong, stubborn, and very fast. And spooked at everything - rocks, fence posts, tree stumps, and his own saddle blanket.
The princess was frustrated and afraid. Her pony didn't care at all about her. He only cared about food.
Then the ogre decided to take the princess hunting in a very remote wilderness where only horses and mules could go. So, they packed their gear, their guns, four mules, two horses, and two dogs and went to Idaho.
When they arrived at the trail to their hunting spot, the ogre was very happy. He loved the smell of his mules, the feel of his gun, the challenge of steep trails, and the thrill of the hunt.
There was just one problem. His princess had never packed mules, had never killed anything with her gun, and was afraid of her pony. Worst of all, the princess was afraid of heights. The ogre had forgotten this when he decided to take his princess hunting.
The perfect princess was petrified. She looked at the suspension bridge over the raging river. Her palms were sweaty. Her heart was pounding. Her pony was eating. "Will my perfect pony cross that raging river on a bridge that's swinging?" asked the princess in a very small voice. Without blinking, the ogre said, "He will when I get finished with him."
So, the princess went to pack her saddle bags and the ogre rode the perfect pony down the road to the swaying bridge. The princess was distraught. Would her pony buck? Would the ogre break his arm? Would the pony and the ogre fall into the river?
The princess heard the sound of hooves on the road. There was her ogre! And there was her very sweaty pony. The princess dared to ask, "Will my pony cross the bridge?" Without blinking, the ogre replied, "He will now."
The next morning, the mules were packed, the ponies were saddled, the guns were loaded, and the dogs were panting. Everybody was ready to start - except the princess. Her palms were sweating and her heart was pounding. Her pony was eating. He might go across the bridge, but could she? She sat square in the saddle, gritted her teeth and heard the ogre behind her, "Trust your pony." She focused. She sweated. She almost hyperventilated. Then, it was a miracle! Her pony stepped off the other side of the swaying bridge and they were both alive.
But things were not right. Gus the mule had refused to cross the bridge. He broke his lead line and was standing on the other side of the bridge with Axel the mule. The ogre would have to go back across the bridge. So, the ogre left the princess with her pony, two mules, and two dogs.
This is a whole other story for another time.
Finally, the princess, the ogre, four mules, two ponies and two dogs were headed down the long, winding trail to their campsite. It wasn't a short trail. It was a long trail. It wasn't a short ride. It was a long ride. It wasn't a wide trail. It was a very narrow trail. It wasn't a flat trail. It was a very steep trail. It wasn't a straight trail. It was a zigzag trail. And it went up and up. And the princess was afraid to open her eyes because her pony was just barely staying on the side of the mountain. Behind her was the ogre, "Relax. Trust your pony." The princess couldn't relax. She was using all her princess willpower to make her pony keep all four feet on the trail.
What a beautiful place! See the river far below? See the canyon in the distance? See the birds in the brush? See the eagle flying high? The princess didn't see anything. She was watching the trail.
The perfect pony never faltered. He climbed steep rocks, crossed bridges, walked through streams, and stepped over logs. He was always on the trail. He set a good pace and never slowed down. He carried the princess without complaining.
Just when the day was ending and the ogre, the princess, four mules, two ponies and two dogs were near camp, the ogre heard something. Bull elk were bugling. The ogre commanded the princess, "Get off your pony. Get your gun." And the princess did. The ogre stood next to the princess and whispered, "See that bull?" But the princess didn't. "See that bull next to the pine tree?" But they were standing in a forest of trees. The princess didn't know which exact tree. "Right there!" But where was there? "Fifty yards next to the tree!" How far is fifty yards?
Then the bull elk, next to the pine tree fifty yards away moved. And the princess saw his very big antlers. The princess loaded her gun and climbed the steep hill after the ogre. Surely, the bull elk could hear her huffing and puffing. Then the ogre commanded the princess, "Shoot!" And the princess did. But nothing happened. And the ogre commanded the princess, "Shoot again!" And the princess did. The big bull elk next to the pine tree fifty yards away fell down. And the ogre smiled very big, "Good girl!" And the princess cried real tears.
When the excitement was over, the princess was worried. Did her pony run away. Would she have to walk all the way back? No. He was eating.
The ogre and the princess spent a week in the wilderness. And the perfect pony always carried the princess without complaining. He carried her in the rain and in the dark, in the sun, and in the cold. And even though he was much smaller than the ogre's very big pony, he never fell behind and he was never too tired to carry the princess. And each time they came to the swaying bridge, he stepped across without hesitation.
And when the trip was over, the princess knew why this was the perfect pony. He had a very big heart and he took very good care of the perfect princess. And he was eating.
Editors note: My "perfect pony" is really not a pony. He's a registered Quarter Horse named Four Doc Dandy. I call him Dandy. He acts like he's afraid of everything so I'll take him back to the barn and he can eat. But I'm on to him. In his case, breeding is important. He has famous Doc Bar blood and was bred to be a cutting horse. He's amazingly fast, can stop in a skid, and turn on a dime. He absolutely loves working cows. I hope one day to be as skilled and brave as Dandy is.
I also have a few other "ponies". I have a draft cross that I got for my equestrian daughter, Alexandra. Her name is Nadesco (aka Beauty) and she gave birth to a mule this past summer. Then there's Grace who we saved from a feedlot two days before she was going to be shipped to slaughter. She's a beautiful, loving chestnut. And for my mom, I got Meg who is a dark bay and very quiet on trails.