For a short period of time we are making the pdf version of this book available at no charge. To download your own fully illustrated copy of this story send us a quick e-mail to email@example.com, or request it in the comments section below, and we will send you the link.
The paper version of the book is available to purchase with all proceeds going to fund Equine Facilitated Wellness sessions for lower income families and/ or to meet the needs of our EFW horses.
The Perfect Pony – Sneak Peek
Pickle jumped to his feet, a cloud of dust and straw scattering out around him. The small pony snorted and shook his head. When had he lain down? It was much safer to sleep standing up. Pickle peeked out from under his long forelock. Good. The other ponies were mostly still asleep, all of them lying down. Dyggur, Teddy and Disa were stretched out in front of him, and Pickle could hear Dubh’s gentle snores from the direction of the shelter. But where was Skye? Pickle turned to find the leader of their herd also awake, lying down on a little rise from where he could see everyone. The older horse was watching Pickle with gentle brown eyes.
“Good morning Pickle,” Skye whickered, “Are you ready for breakfast?”
Pickle tentatively stretched out stiff legs. He noticed the warmth of the morning sun on his back, the breeze in his long black mane, and the sense of calm around him. After a few more moments Pickle let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, and remembered; he was in a new home now. A home that, so far, seemed nothing like any others he had known. Pickle stretched more completely. What might it be like to get to stay here?
A little later Pickle munched hay beside Skye and studied his new herd. Skye had told him many of these ponies had lived here most of their lives, and some of them were in their twenties, quite old for a horse. Pickle paused mid chew. These horses took their time eating, slept laying down, and waited their turn at the water trough. They all seemed to just know they belonged here; that they were safe. Pickle returned to his mouthful, that must feel good.
Pickle observed the other ponies carefully all that day, and the next, and all the rest of that week. These ponies must have figured out something important, some special rules perhaps. He intended to discover what these rules were so that he too could live here till he was in his twenties.
First, Pickle watched Disa. When the farmer approached, Disa didn’t run away; she stood quietly with her head down and let the farmer slip the rope around her ears, staying especially still when the farmer had a little boy or girl with her.
Next, Pickle watched Dubh. When it was time to drink, Dubh didn’t dart in front of Disa; he quietly waited his turn, even if it did mean he drank last.
Pickle then watched Dyggur. When it rained, all the ponies found a space around the shelter, but Dyggur allowed the older horses to get the best places at the back.
Finally came the day two coyotes ran right through the field in the middle of lunch. Pickle’s head shot straight up on the air. Should he run away? Or chase the coyotes? Spinning around he saw all the other horses move behind Skye. Pickle followed them and watched Skye stand up tall and snort loudly till all the coyotes ran away. Pickle watched the rest of the ponies return to grazing. Was this what it felt like to have someone take care of you?
Drifting off to sleep one evening at the end of that week Pickle rested a back leg and leaned into Skye, just a little. He had it figured out now. He knew all he needed to do, and to not do, to be just as perfect as his herd members were, so that he too would get to stay here till he was at least thirty years old.
On Monday morning, Pickle stood still with his head down for the little girl to catch him. When she dropped the rope around his feet he was tempted to give her a little nip and run away; but he didn’t.
On Tuesday afternoon Disa was even slower than usual moving up for her turn at the water trough. Pickle stomped his foot. Under all that thick mane she probably wouldn’t even notice if he snuck in for a quick drink; but he didn’t take the chance.
On Wednesday, when it rained all day, he huddled with the other ponies around the shelter, without pushing his way to the best spot at the back. Pickle was stuck next to Teddy, who kept fidgeting and splattering Pickle with extra raindrops when he shook his head. He very nearly gave that annoying little Shetland pony a big shove, but just in time he stopped himself; that would not be following the rules.
Pickle resisted all of these urges to be bad, remembering how great he had it here; he would not mess things up. He just knew he could be the perfect pony, and not even want to do all these bad things, if only he kept trying.
The hardest times were when Pickle forgot where he was for a moment. Like the day Teddy stretched and accidently bumped into Pickle during nap time and Pickle, still half asleep, thought it was a horse from his old home whose ‘bumps’ were never an accident. Or the day the neighbour drove into the yard on a noisy tractor and Pickle, remembering another tractor, nearly ran into Disa in his hurry to get away.
Water dripped from Pickles muzzle after his long drink at the water trough at the end of the week. He pondered the situation. How come the part of his brain that reacted to what was happening around him moved so much faster than the part that was trying to be a perfect pony? How come he didn’t always want to be good? How come it was just all so hard? Pickle flicked his ears. He was half Shetland pony, and he knew that made him very smart. He would find a way.
Pickle walked slowly back to the shelter. He never actually shoved Teddy, did he? He never actually bit the little girl. And he almost always let Disa drink before him. A couple of times he’d messed up and was able to hide it. Like the time he did sneak ahead of Disa in the water line when she was dozing; nobody even noticed, so that was OK. Sort of. Or the time Dubh left some of his special dinner with all the vitamins, and Pickle ate it up before he remembered not to. Everyone thought it was Teddy who had done that.
After a month Pickle was very tired. He moved over to let Dubh in the shelter with a sigh. This being a perfect pony was perfectly exhausting. The more he tried to ignore his naughty impulses, the more he seemed to have.
Pickle’s head dropped to the ground. No matter how hard he tried he simply was not perfect. Maybe the horses and people here hadn’t figured that out yet, but he knew; and deep down he also knew his dream of staying here till he was at least thirty was ending. Just like every other place he’d been, soon he would have to leave this farm, and this time it was going to hurt so much more.
The next morning Pickle lowered his head for the little girl to catch him. She almost had the rope fastened when Pickle saw a flicker of movement behind him. Pickle jumped sideways to avoid the anticipated bite, landing on the little girl’s foot. She cried out in surprise and Pickle threw his head up, which knocked the little girl onto the ground. Any thoughts of being a perfect pony were long gone now, Pickle just needed to escape.
He jerked the rope off his head, and ran.
To read the rest of this story – and to see all of the illustrations that go with it – send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or request it in the comments section below, and we will send you the link to download your free copy of the book.
Available for a limited period of time!
Please send me the rest of this story.
Will do Teresa! We have another one called the Empty Water Trough which I can also send if you’d like?
I’ve read this book a few times to my son as I see and in talking with other parents the need to be perfect and how that can anxiety in kids.
It’s Maureen Bright again, months, probably years later.
would like have the rest of this story when you can.
You have quite a few now. I should get some of your books….
Hi Maureen! You can download the full story using this link:
We have about ten books published now so if you’d like ‘proper book’ versions please let me know!
Hello, Sue! Send me please the rest of the story!
Please send the rest of the story.
will do Lauren – I hope you enjoy it!
I would love to get the rest of the story as well ! I love this story of Pickle the less-than-perfect Pony !
Hi Sandra! You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Love this story, I have copies of your stories at our program, they are so great!
I love your stories and that you’ve written them in the first place! I’d like to tell Pickle: awareness is 9/10ths of the battle! None of us is perfect and he can share this with his clients! I’m glad Skye told him so. I, too, believe “every mistake I make is a chance to learn something”.
Well I need to read the rest please!!! 🙂
Here’s the link for the story: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Aw, Pickle! Sounds like a sensitive pony who reacts before thinking, out of habit. Maybe there’s a story behind this about acceptance of others for better or worse, because we all have our quirks?
This is exactly what I was thinking Jessica – right down to the Aw, Pickle! Such a sensitive pony! I just love him – just as he is <3!
Jessica – your comment caught my eye – really like the idea of “acceptance of others for better or worse because we all have our quirks!” – such a meaningful concept and one that I think is relevant to share with clients and friends alike!
I would like to read the rest. It reminded me back when I was a foster parent.I had these children come in to my home and tried so hard to be perfect and try to follow the house rules. As we know that is not sustainable.
Hi Frank – You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Pickle is one of my favourites in these stories (and in real life!). May I please have the rest of this story? Thank you.
Hi Shreyasi! You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Great read Sue.
I noted the comments about working on the best ways to letting feelings out, how the past affects us in the present and asking for help. Great story about acceptance and belonging.
This story reminds me so much of the kids in group homes and how important it is to see that they are trying to fight their instincts to fight or run when they find a safe place.
Hi Sue, Please send me the rest of the story thank you!!
Hi Trinity! You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Pickle seems like quite the character!
This is a great story and a really great way to connect with people or clients. I love how relatable it is and how easy it is to see ourselves in this story
Thank you Sue – another beautiful and helpful story 🙂
you are welcome Michelle.
I think you may find this post helpful: https://healinghooves.ca/how-when-and-to-whom-to-read-the-prodigal-pony-and-other-therapeutic-stories-from-healing-hooves/
I don’t think it’s in the reading list you have but it puts the stories in context, provides support on how to us them (both as a parent and a professional) and also provides links to download three of the stories for free
Wow that is such a good story on what kids especially in the system who have to move and/or have workers changing all the time. I would love to continue reading this story please.
This is a moving story. It really makes me think of my rescue pony. Could you please share the rest of the story. Thanks 😀
Thanks Brittney – You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
Such a great story on learning that we don’t need to be perfect and it is ok to make mistakes. I liked that Skye talked about how our past can come back to mind and cause us to react a certain way, and that we need others around us to support us when that happens. I think it is important to keep in mind when working with horses and clients is that everyone has a past and sometimes we need to just allow space to support others when they are triggered to let them know they are okay and safe now.
Great story, Sue, thanks! I love the example of grace in this story. I also can’t get over the picture of the vet removing quills from Teddy’s nose. Poor guy!
Love this story! I really enjoyed how no matter how we pursue the things and behaviors that are best for us sometimes our past “jumps in and affects how we feel now” like “forgetting we’re safe here and now.” What a great simple way to explain how our trauma continues to live in our reactions and knee jerk instincts! So lovely the layers of this story!
I love your comment “our trauma continues to live in our reactions and knee jerk instincts!” You summed up what was going through my mind as I read this story again. The reactivity I see in clients healing from trauma is very much like Pickle in this story. They try! But sometimes years of harsh lessons have ingrained instinctual defenses that still feel safest for them.
Love this story. It is a good reminder that our perceptions are not always correct and we make assumptions and judgements that may be totally off. Pickle reminds me of my rescue boy Buddy. He tries so hard to not react but certain triggers cause him to lose his mind briefly and then he will look at me like “I cant help it – Im sorry”. As Johanna says, we need to support when these things happen with our four legged friends and clients.
What a beautiful story. I have a son who is struggling like pickle to be the best pony. Please send me the rest of the story. Thanks!
Hi Nina! You can download the full story using this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/90gevp2vajhoebo/ThePerfectPony.pdf?dl=0
I hope you and your son enjoy it, and I’m glad he has you there for him!
I love all the examples of the indirect approach, by Pickle observing the herd.
I enjoy reading all of the insights into the many aspects of this story!
For me this quote by Carl Rogers kept resonating in my mind:
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
That is one of my favourite quotes of all time!
Mine too 🙂
Another great story, and containing so much wisdom. I especially like the advice that “every mistake is an opportunity to learn”, and the importance of not giving up on trying to do better, but without that impossible pressure to be perfect all the time.
While I read this story, I thought of several clients I support who are children in care and have transitions in homes often. I could see this story being quite impactful.
I really like this article. I agree with Donna, “every mistake is an opportunity to learn”. One point that I try to express in the classroom with our students, is that every ones success and learning is different. We have to remember that with trauma and behaviours as individuals it all presents different and that if we are accepting, forgiving, patient and teaching strategies that reflect the needs to individuals then we may be more successful.
I really appreciate the time you take to really understand your horses as individuals and a herd. I believe this is a reflection on how you truly understand and are passionate about what you are doing. I feel like every time I read about them or see them in person, I am getting to know them as I would another person, student or client.
As with all of your stories I’ve read so far Sue, this story is so relatable to the human experience. The freedom to make mistakes and having mistakes not be a threat to our sense of belonging is a really important experience – not only for our clients but also for us as counsellors!
Thanks Chaundra! And I agree – this is an important piece for all of us!