His name was quite apropos, the color of the crunchy snack. Pretzel was a feisty and affectionate Shetland pony. He commanded attention even though he was much smaller than the other horses in the paddock. He quickly found a soft spot in my parent’s hearts and mine too.
My dad discovered Pretzel at the fence one sunny morning in mid June, just days before my birthday. He had wandered into the yard, lured by the other horses and for the possibility of a meal of hay. When my dad led him into the pasture the Thoroughbreds welcomed him warmly.
After locating the owner my dad was given the opportunity to purchase the little horse, cheap. With the prospect of his children learning to ride a pint-sized pony, my dad bought Pretzel on the spot. Since he became part of the family in June, Pretzel was dubbed mine, a birthday present. I didn’t care how little he cost. (He was practically free!) How many young girls get a pony as a gift?
Pretzel became the main attraction at family gatherings and birthday parties. He would diligently wait for each child to be lifted onto his back and fitted into the stirrups. My dad would make a loop around the willow tree in the backyard, leading Pretzel, as the rider would cling to his mane and beam. For my suburban friends, it was like being a real cowboy.
Pretzel was persistent, particularly if apples were anywhere in sight. When any of us were near the apple trees that bordered the pasture he would whinnying until he received the coveted treat. I remember picking apples, splitting them in two on a fence post, and feeding my little pony, juice dripping off my fingers. He would gobble the apples quickly for fear of the larger horses nosing in on his treat.
The same tenacious behavior would surface when the horses were fed each evening. Pretzel would duck in between the others, nudging his way to the front for grain and hay. He was determined to have his fair share and usually more! I learned a lot about perseverance from my pony. The lessons paid off in the years to come.
At age eleven, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, and was confined to a Milwaukee brace. Perseverance was a necessary trait through middle school and into high school. Come to think of it, I was a little bit like Pretzel during those years. My friends were helpful, just like the larger horses befriending the newcomer. I was feisty and would stick up for myself when a classmate would make a not-so-nice comment. Most importantly, I lived in a home filled with love. Maybe that’s why Pretzel wandered into our yard. My family gave him the love he needed.
Years later I realized how blessed I was for the lessons my pony taught me. God gave me Pretzel, my feisty, steadfast pony to teach about life and love.
Becky Danielson thinks of Pretzel every time she eats one! Becky is a licensed Parent & Family Educator at 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting and coauthor of Empowered Parents: Putting Faith First with Lori Wildenberg. She and her husband live in Minneapolis with their two teenage boys and Golden Retriever. You can read her blog and book a seminar or retreat at www.beckydanielson.com.