This Much I Know About Bugsy

Bugsy arrived at the farm with a “kid safe” sticker stamped on his butt and a “return-if-unsatisfied” policy. But he came with no resume or bio.

If I had to categorize him in human terms, I’d peg him as the semi-retired guy you bump into at a party, snarfing down shrimp appetizers, and fishing cashews from a bowl, while waiting for a refill at the bar. “I did real estate for years,” he’d say, rattling the ice in his glass. “Commercial property, that is. But I retired a few years ago and now do some volunteer work. Just to keep the old noggin ticking.”

In reality, the little pinto was a games pony — he competed in mounted games that require speed and accuracy to race across an arena, weaving between slalom poles, or to sprint along while his rider lanced rings or planted flags in a line of cones. His owners purchased him a decade ago — when he hovered around 10 or 12 — for mounted games. After many years he stepped down from speed sports and was farmed out to various families to cart around toddlers and newbie riders.

Now in his early 20s, Bugsy enjoys semi-retirement and is revered for his safe, sane attitude. His owner summed up his mindset as this:

he loves little girls.

This might sound presumptuous — a pony who “loves” children — but in the short time we’ve had him, it’s clear that he prefers little people.

There’s a wariness when I’m around him. He’s tolerant but mildly reluctant when I approach in the stall. But with Hadley he’s a different animal. His tiny ears, swallowed in a bushy mane and forelock, pop up with attention. In the field he retreats when he sees me coming; but when I push Hadley in front of me, he whips around, retracing his steps.

When I lead him, he follows because he has to.  Hadley, on the other hand, lacks even a whiff of control. The lead rope drags on the ground and she wanders aimlessly along. He has every right to ignore her or go his own way. But he dutifully follows. Always. Because he wants to. When she swerves in front of him, he carefully moves aside, to avoid stepping on her heels.

It’s possible that he’s intimidated by adults. Perhaps he’s leery of grownups because we demand more. Or he senses our forcefulness that lurks beneath the surface.

I can’t say for sure what that pony is thinking.

Except that he loves little girls. Little boys, too.