Share this story with your children and clients and experience some of the benefits of equine and animal assisted therapy from the comfort of home. A free download of the full colour book is also available.

When mischievous Teddy can’t resist the temptation and crawls under the fence to the yummy carrots he has been eyeing up, he gets more than a sore tummy. Feelings of guilt keep him away for days, and when he risks coming home he does not anticipate a welcome. His friend, Pickle, also expects Teddy to ‘get what he deserves’. When the herd leader Skye celebrates Teddy’s return, all of the ponies have important lessons to learn. This story explores the concepts of grace and forgiveness and helps show children and their caregivers the unconditional nature of love which applies even – especially – when we least deserve it.

In this post we share part one of our story – The Prodigal Pony – with you. We encourage you to read this story to your children! In a later posts we will share the rest of the story, discuss who to share it with, and explore how to interpret and use the underlying therapeutic themes within parenting, education or therapy.

The Prodigal Pony

“How much longer, Skye?” Teddy demanded, for at least the fifth time that afternoon. Skye stretched, awake now from his cherished afternoon nap much earlier than he’d hoped. “Any day now, Teddy, any day now.”

“Humph.” Teddy left Skye and stomped across the field to join his friend Pickle by the gate. Pickle scooted over to make some space before Teddy could nudge him in the side or, worse, nip at his knees again. For a short while both Shetland ponies remained very still, side by side, staring towards a small vegetable patch, just steps away. Soon Teddy, who never could stay idle for long, snatched a mouthful of grass. It was tasty, but his eyes remained fixed on the other side of the gate, where a healthy crop of crunchy carrots lay ready for harvest.

Small, smart, and always hungry, Teddy and Pickle were usually the best of friends. Teddy did sometimes chase Pickle all around the field, though, if he beat him to breakfast and claimed the biggest pile of hay for himself. Or, he’d bite Pickle’s knees when he gloated about being the tallest Shetland pony on the farm.

Pickle watched Teddy pace to the water trough, then back to Skye over by the shelter. He rubbed his head on his knees, remembering one of his clashes with Teddy a few weeks ago: “At least I can reach the water trough without having to stand on the step,” he’d taunted him, “while you —” Teddy had retaliated quickly. Being smaller than him, he was just the right size to nip Pickle on both knees before ducking under his neck and stealing a drink for himself. Ouch. Pickle knew Teddy didn’t really mean any harm but that one had hurt. Luckily Skye, a wise Arabian horse with long, elegant legs and­—more importantly— kind eyes, always seemed to know just what to do when teeth, knees or fuzzy ears collided. Skye was the ever constant and reliable leader of the ponies, who had all lived for many years on this small peaceful farm in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Disa, an older pony who had seen many carrot feasts, wandered over to see what Pickle and Teddy, who was back again, were staring at. She nuzzled Pickle on the shoulder and swished a fly away from Teddy’s back with her tail. “I dug some of them up myself one year,” she said with a yawn, “but then the farmer started planting them out of our reach, so now we have to wait. It’s worth it though: we get to share a bucketful every morning for at least a week.”

Teddy and Pickle looked at each other and then promptly back at the vegetable patch. They didn’t want to wait—they wanted the carrots right. Later, standing around the shelter as the sun disappeared behind the mountains for the night, Teddy had questions for Skye:

  • How many carrots would each pony get?
  • Who got to try them first?
  • What would they do if there was just one carrot left?

Skye lay down in the shelter…

Skye exhaled slowly. He explained that the older horses in their herd got the most, as they needed this fall treat to get them ready for the long winter ahead.

“But don’t worry Teddy,” Skye reassured him, laying down in the shelter for his rest. “There will be plenty for us all.”

The next day, as the sun rose, the ponies returned to their familiar position at the gate. Teddy almost forgot to eat breakfast in his rush—which didn’t happen very often. Teddy, Pickle, and even Disa watched intently as the farmer took a shovel to the much-eyed patch of dirt and, one by one, scrumptious-looking carrots filled an enormous wheelbarrow to overflowing. Teddy kicked up his heels and chased Pickle back to the shelter. Breakfast was going to be just wonderful tomorrow.

Teddy couldn’t sleep that night. He listened to the frogs in the pond behind the old barn and paced around the shelter. He lay down, but was soon back up on his feet. He twitched his ears, recalling Skye’s explanation about the older horses needing extra food to keep them healthy over the harsh Canadian winter. It still didn’t seem fair for them to get more of those yummy carrots than he would.

Teddy stomped his foot and moved to the water trough. The more thought he gave it, the more he realized how right he was. He deserved just as many carrots as anyone else. What made them so special? In fact, he probably deserved a few more. He was still young after all and maybe had a bit more growing to do. Teddy paused mid-drink, his small nostrils flaring. Carrots were likely a necessity for him right now. Without carrots at this crucial point in his development, maybe his bones wouldn’t grow strong and he would be stunted for life.

Water dripped from Teddy’s muzzle as he stole a quick look over his shoulder at his herd. Everyone was sound asleep for sure. He crept towards the fence and squeezed under the bottom rail. Just last winter, when he had first arrived at the farm, Teddy had discovered that when absolutely necessary—like the day he didn’t get the biggest pile of hay twice in a row— there was just enough space for an agile Shetland pony to manage this maneuver. Before he could risk changing his mind, Teddy ran the few short steps to the place he had seen the wheelbarrow with its precious cargo being pushed just that afternoon.

To be continued …

Copyright: Sue McIntosh, Cremona, AB, 2018

This story is part of a series for parents, teachers and helping professionals to read to children. All of the animals featured in these books are real therapy animals who live and work at Healing Hooves in Alberta Canada. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of these books fund Equine Therapy sessions with low income families.

This book is available for free download in pdf or e book format and has been published as a fully illustrated coloured paperback children’s book.

If you would like a copy or have questions about this or any other stories in the series please contact us.

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