Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from my manuscript detailing my own abuse. Please see “My Story of Abuse” under the category link.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a pony. The entire family would make fun of me when I’d see a horse or a pony. I would be so excited and yell, “Look a pony!” Can I have a pony, Dad? Please, please. After hearing it for so long, and because I was so thrilled when I saw one—Mom started imitating my pleas and excitement. She’d thrash her arms above her head and scream to the top of her lungs, “oh Daa-dee, I want a pony—please Daa-dee, get me a pony.” Everyone thought it was pretty funny except me, and it didn’t take Darcie and my Dad long to follow suit. I was never sure of my obsession with all the animals. I felt better with animals than with people, and they liked me. But, horses were always my greatest love and true passion.
Much to my delight, for my seventh birthday, Dad bought me a pony. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. Mom and Dad had me stay over night with my Aunt Daisy, and as we pulled into the driveway they were unloading my pony, Prince. He was magnificent! He was a sorrel pony—a red color all over and he was all excited jumping all over the place. I stood in absolute shock and disbelief and just stared at the scene before me. It never entered my mind that he was mine! Finally, my Dad said, “I can’t believe you—after all that scawlin’ you’ve done—he’s yours!” I squealed with delight and starting running towards him. Dad warned, easy now, “he’s all excited and may kick.” Dad was holding his head and I went up and petted him. He looked so sleek and he was so muscular. His mane and tail felt really coarse, but his ears and nose were so soft. He had real big, dark eyes and real long eyelashes. I loved the way he smelled—he was beautiful.
Dad said, “he’s a stallion now, and he’s only had someone on his back once.” I really wasn’t sure what the stallion part meant, but I wanted on him. Dad held him while I got on him and led me around the yard—I was so thrilled and proud to have my very own pony!
Prince jumped around a lot and it was difficult for me to stay on his slick back. But, I wanted to ride him without being led around. Dad fought him to get a bridle on him and warned, “Dot, he may throw your ass off, and if he does, I don’t wanna’ hear any damn whining from you,” laughing as he held him while I jumped on his back. Dad was right, as soon as he let him go, Prince started bucking—and off I went. Dad yelled at me, and said, “get your ass back up on there!” I was a little afraid of him after that, but I couldn’t let it show. It would be the first of a thousand times of being thrown off his back.
No one else seemed to want any part of him. Some of the kids in the neighborhood would stand back and watch me get thrown off and decided they didn’t really want to ride him sa’ much after all. One day Dad badgered Darcie to ride, telling her, “I’ll just hold him and walk you around.” Finally, she very hesitantly agreed and Dad had to help her on. When Dad started around the front of Prince, he reached back and bit Darcie hard, on the thigh! She screamed her guts out and jumped off. She had a big black and blue bruise on her thigh where he’d bit her. I snickered a bit to myself, but it looked like it would really hurt. Prince bit us all, and would kick us every chance he got. But, I was determined; I was going to ride him.
Early every morning, I would sneak out of the house and run to the barn. Prince was always happy to see me and greeted me with a soft nicker. I’d give him fresh water and brush him. I was still having a very hard time, staying on his back. For weeks, I was on the ground more than on his back. I would come in at night, with bruises all over me where he’d thrown me off, or bit me. I lay in my bed one night and thought—I’m going tie myself on him so he couldn’t throw me off anymore. But, no one would help tie me on and I couldn’t do it by myself. I didn’t have a saddle for him—Mom and Dad said they didn’t have the money to spend on a saddle and I should be grateful to have a pony. I felt bad for asking and didn’t ask anymore. Dad told me I didn’t need one— “learn how to ride bareback,” he said. It took me months to finally break him in, and he’d still kick me every chance he got or bite me. I was the only one that really rode him—I got onto all his little antics and knew when he was about to bite me. He liked to go to the creek and did so whenever he decided he had been ridden enough and wanted me off his back. It didn’t matter that he had a straight bit in his mouth and I fought him with all I had—when he got ready—we went to the creek. He’d walk out into the middle of the creek and start pawling, throwing water up on me and I knew I was going to get drenched. Down he’d go. On his knees first and then his back end would drop—and off I’d come! He lay there and roll over in the water like a dog rolling back and forth on his back. And then he’d stand up and shake like a dog. Dad would stand and watch and laugh, and say, “Why do you let him do that to you stupid?” It made me so angry for him to make fun of me.
But, I loved my pony so much. He was my favorite animal. He could take me far away from the house ever so quickly. Some days, we’d just ride through the woods and explore. He was great for tree climbing—I could tie him to a tree and carefully stand on his back so I wouldn’t hurt him and up the tree I’d go. I even learned how to ride sitting backwards, or standing up on the back of his haunches. I felt like Annie Oakley! We had come a long way and had built a very special bond. It didn’t stop him from rolling me in the creek, though.
I spent all my days with him and I’d pet him and comb out his mane and his tail while he ate. When I’d come in at night, so tired and sore I could hardly walk—Mom, Darcie, and Crystal would all start screamin’—I was filthy and stunk like a horse. I would have black patches of grime on the inside of my thighs off of Prince. He’d sweat and I was riding bareback; so by the end of the day, I’d build up these black patches of his dirt and sweat on my inner thighs. They’d go on and on about my stench until Mom or Dad made me go bath—I didn’t think it smelled that bad.
Dad would tie Prince out in a field somewhere to graze—we didn’t have a fenced in area for him. So, he was tied out much like you would tie a dog, and at night, I’d put him in the barn. Dad said he didn’t need in there, but I didn’t want him out in the rain and wanted him to have a nice bed to lay down in. Horses don’t lay down and sleep often unless they’re sick, but it gave me more time with him in the barn.
He’d get loose often and take off bolting down the road. Boy, could he ever run! You could watch him just sailing down the road with his tail straight out—he was moving so fast. There was another pony on down the road and he wanted to go down and visit, I guess. Dad said, “It’s because he’s a damn stallion.” And Dad would be so mad when he’d have to go get him. He was really a very strong animal, he’d snap a rope in a heartbeat and Dad started staking him out with a log chain. It had this big hook on it that snapped around his neck—Dad would make it really tight and I really thought it had to be choking him to death.
One day, he’d pulled his big stake up out of the ground instead of breaking the chain and off he flew down the road. The chain made a terrible clacking noise behind him, and I worried it would hit him on the legs and hurt him, but down the road, he went. I ran to get Dad and he was so angry. This time, he took the car, and I wondered why he’d take the car. I wanted to go with him, but he wouldn’t allow it. How was he gonna’ get him home if he was driving a car? I had an uneasy feeling, and everyone gathered nervously in the front yard waiting for them to return. We saw the car finally coming up the road, and Prince was running behind it! As they approached, I could feel the anxiety rising up in me. Prince’s nostrils were all flared and huge—like when I’d make him run as fast as he could, but I’d never seen them flared that big before. All the veins were standin’ out in his face and he had white lather all over him. Dad always told me when he started lathering up to give him a break because he was too hot and tired. He was throwing white foam from his mouth, and he looked so freaked out. Dad pulled into the driveway with him—and cussed him as he went around the back to unchain him from the bumper. Mom approached the car cautiously, and said, “Joe what in the hell are you doing to that poor, damn pony?” He laughed and said, “I made the little son-of-bitch run for all he’s worth to keep up with the car. He knew if he went down—he was a duster.” I was totally horrified and said, “Here Dad, give him to me and I’ll take him to the barn.” He said, “Get back out of the way, I’ll take him to the damn barn.” I ran behind, my mind racing with what he was going to do to my pony—he was so mad.”
There was a step-down into the barn about a foot high. As Prince jumped over it, he kicked with both rear feet and hit Dad on the upper thigh with one hind leg. It knocked him off balance—and when he regained his footing, he went through the door cussing. He screamed, “I’m going to beat you to death you little bastard—I’ll teach you to kick me!” He took the chain he had in his hand and started whipping Prince with it! I was crying and begging him to quit—Prince didn’t mean to kick him. But, he kept beating him with the chain—striking him across the butt, his sides and even his legs. Dad always told me to be very careful with his legs; if he broke one he’d die. Prince’s eyes were so big—you could see the whites around the outside of his eyes, his nostrils still flared and he was grunting, flinching and making a strange squealing noise every time Dad hit him. He was really hurting him bad—you only see the whites of horses’ eyes when they’re really afraid—I knew his fear. I pleaded with him to stop beating him, but he kept ignoring me.
I felt so helpless as I stood and watched him beat him and my heart broke for Prince to see that wild fear and pain in his eyes and the blood running down his legs. And there was nothing I could do to help him. I couldn’t save him from Dad’s wrath. I cried so hard, and begged him to stop beating him—he was bleeding. Finally, he stopped beating him and started walking out of the barn, mumbling the son-of-a-bitch was lucky to be alive. Prince stood with his head hanging down and legs sprawled out. I hated my Dad.