One of the main reasons I found Allyson and Poncho’s story so compelling was that Poncho was rescued solely to be rescued. At 11.2hh, he is the smallest pony to be included in The Second Chances Project. All of the other horses were rescued to be ridden – Poncho was only rescued to be rescued. I found that to be so beautiful and so telling of the kind of person Allyson is. Turns out she has quite a few animals that she’s not only rescued, but given a safe, loving home. Poncho lives at Legacy Riding Stables, where he lives outside in a herd, like a real, actual horse!
Joking aside, I find it so refreshing that the horses at Legacy Riding Stables are housed in a way that enables them to socialize as nature intended, outside and in a herd. Poncho has wholeheartedly embraced this lifestyle and enjoys leading up the herd himself! It’s only fitting that the smallest pony has the biggest personality.
Horse: Poncho, 6 years old, POA/chestnut leopard appaloosa, photographed at Legacy Riding Stables in Sayreville, NJ
Discipline: children’s lessons and trails
how it all started…
Poncho was 3 years old when I rescued him. He did not have any papers and really [no] history that was disclosed to me. He was being temporarily boarded by someone at the barn I work at [and they were] using him for pony rides and festivals. After a couple weeks of back and forth with his owner, I was finally able to talk him into signing him over to me in order to get him the care he needed. [I’d] leased horses in the past, but he was the first horse [that] I officially owned.
When I got Poncho, I was really just expecting him to be a pasture puff whom me and my non-horsey family would be able to dote on and love. [He now] does children’s lessons 2 days a week in the summer and I pony him along on trails. I hope to teach him to drive this upcoming spring and summer.
a little history…
Poncho was owned by someone who was using him primarily for pony rides at festivals and parties. Unfortunately that is all I was able to get from his previous owner and the rest of his story [prior to me owning him] is unknown. I really just took a chance on Poncho. I saw him and something just drew me to him. He looked so sad and defeated and I wanted to do everything I could to change that for him.
how and when we met…
When I first got Poncho, he was malnourished, needed his feet done, was covered in rain rot…. [He also] had a sinus infection and something seriously wrong with his mouth. Right away, I made sure to [clip] his winter coat in order to treat the rain rot as quickly as possible…. Within a couple days of getting him, the vet, farrier and dentist were out to start addressing [his] issues. We got him on a soaked hay and grain diet to help him slowly and safely gain weight, but [because of] the problems inside his mouth, eating was painful and difficult.
Initially we thought the problems in his mouth were due to infected and retained caps. But after two courses of antibiotics, there was very little progress. We ended up getting another opinion and x-rays and then were referred to several other clinics who [were better] equipped to handle [his issues]. He had 3 teeth that needed to be removed because they were too big for his mouth, and [as they were growing], they were spiraling and growing out into his cheeks. There was also an infection that ate away at his jaw bone and into the sinus cavities, resulting in hay and grain being stuck in the sinus cavities…. [This] caused a chronic infection.
My barn family was incredibly supportive of me rescuing Poncho. They made sure I knew I could count on them for any help [we] needed and [they] all treated Poncho like he was one of their own. People did question why I chose an 11.2 hh rescue pony over something I would be able to ride; none of that phased me. He still deserved a soft landing just as much as a riding horse does.
our lowest point…
The lowest point I experienced with Poncho was when we realized [his] initial diagnosis was wrong; after spending over $1500, no progress had been made. At this point, I got x-rays done and we realized just how messed up his teeth were. I’ll never forget as the vet was looking at the x-rays, she turned to me and said “I have never seen anything like this before.” [My heart sunk] as I knew our battle hadn’t even begun. I reached out to many vets across the state and all told me this was beyond what they were able to [treat]. I sent his x-rays to vets throughout the northeast and then began getting surgical quotes ranging from $10,000 – $20,000.
At this point, I felt like I was in way over my head. [Having] just graduated college…[I] did not have that kind of money sitting around. I continued reaching out to vets and rescues trying to figure out how to get him the care he needed. I even had one vet, [whom] after speaking to me once on the phone, [tell me] that they [did] not think I [would be] able to provide care for a horse like him, and that I should really just put him down. This absolutely broke me, and I started to think that maybe that would be the kindest thing for him. But thankfully, people [at my] barn caught wind of this all happening. Everyone at the barn ended up chipping in; together we raised the $12,000 needed to get him his surgeries at Cornell Ruffian.
our highest point…
The highest point I had with Poncho was when I took him back to the clinic to get follow up x-rays after [his] surgery. …No one could believe [it] was the same pony. He was 200 pounds heavier, the swelling on his face [had gone] down significantly, and he just looked happier. They said I was his saving grace and they could not believe how good he looked. Hearing the vet say this took a weight off my shoulders. Up until that point, I had not realized how much I had actually done with him and just how much better he looked. It made me realize I was being very hard on myself through all of this and at the end of the day, both me and him were very happy with each other.
where we are now…
I will never forget the day Poncho saw my car pull in and then came running across the field, whinnying to me. That moment made everything worth it. All the vet bills…the tears…the frustration. I broke down in tears because I realized I needed him just as much as he needed me. The vet said I was his saving grace but I think he was really mine.
And some photos provided by Allyson!