What Price for a Plain Pony?

He was a homely little guy with kind eyes, a huge heart, and plenty of “kid miles” left in him.

It was warm and sunny that first day of spring in 2014, with new growth sprouting everywhere. Spring signals fresh beginnings, but for several of us in the rural neighborhood of Altoona, Florida, it was a sad day. On that day, March 30, we buried CeCe.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Karen Pando CeCe’s value was in his gentle disposition.

Fourteen years earlier, in 2000, my friend Sue Rogers had needed a pony for her then-4-year-old son. Sue liked attending horse auctions, and at one she spotted a nondescript sorrel-and-white pony in a pen. Humble in appearance, the little gelding had an extremely kind eye. No one seemed to know much about him—what he’d done in the past or even how old he was.

‘Can’t Believe It!’
Sue had a feeling about him, though, and decided to take a chance. She started the bidding at $100. Other offers were slow in coming, and for a while she thought she might get a bargain. Then the bidding picked up. When it was done, the thought in her mind was, “I can’t believe I paid $800 for a grade pony!”

CeCe had a new home and a new job. He and Sue’s son, Richie, bonded from the beginning. CeCe rode quietly in a hackamore and was a natural kid’s horse. He took his job seriously, and unlike those many cantankerous ponies we hear about, CeCe never offered to bite, kick, or buck. He actually seemed to try to keep Richie in the saddle. We’d be going down the trail and Richie would start inching off to one side, and CeCe would shift over a bit to get Richie centered again.

After a few years observing how well CeCe took care of Richie, Sue changed her mind about the pony’s cost. “That was the best $800 I ever spent,” she told me.

Eventually the time came when an adolescent growth spurt meant Richie could no longer ride his beloved pony. So, for a short while, CeCe had a break from work. Then Sue found some other young boys in the neighborhood interested in horses. CeCe went back into action, teaching a new batch of kids how to ride. They’d put him on the cross ties and groom him, taking extra care with his thick, two-toned mane and tail. CeCe loved the attention. Then, after an hour of grooming, the boys would go for short rides.

Our trail-riding club has a perpetual trophy awarded to the best trail horse each year. In 2011, it was awarded to none other than plain little CeCe. He truly deserved the designation, that year and every year, actually. It was a proud moment for Richie and everyone who loved the pony.

That Look in His Eyes
Eventually CeCe starting showing signs of aging. He needed more feed to maintain his weight, and he was becoming arthritic. We asked our dental veterinarian about CeCe’s age, thinking by then he must be about 30. The vet laughed and said, “Nope, he’s on the other side of 30—more like 35-plus.”

As the vet worked on CeCe’s teeth, I had to wonder about this little horse’s life. Specifically, how did such a wonderful pony even end up at an auction? Where had he been before that? What had he been doing for the first 25 years of his life?

I looked into his deep, kind eyes, wishing he could answer me. His expression told me it didn’t matter. He was happy.

Ultimately, the time came when he began to lose interest in eating. Sometimes he’d lie down and couldn’t get back up. The look in his eye had become distant. Animals seem to have that way of telling us it’s time to go. It’s our human nature to want to deny it, to selfishly keep them with us. But Sue listened to CeCe and made that decision we all dread.

With Richie by his side, CeCe was humanely put down on that warm spring day. The 40-year-old pony’s work was done. He now lies buried under the oak trees on Sue’s ranch, Emerald Acres, next to the resting places of his equine pals Ranger, Morning Glory, Apollo, and Mixer.

Over the years, Sue had received many offers from admirers wanting to buy her plain little gelding. She’d declined every one. After all, you can’t put a price on pony like CeCe.

Karen Pando lives in Altoona, Florida, with her husband, two dogs, and two Spotted Saddle Horses. Recently retired from 45 years in healthcare, Karen writes a weekly column titled “Horsin’ Around” for the local newspaper. Other activities she enjoys include trail riding, horse camping, and kayaking.