©Ken Harris, 2008
While we lived in Auburn in the 1960s, we decided to gain fame and fortune raising Ponies of the Americas, or POAs for short. A POA is a pony with Appaloosa coloring.
Appaloosa colors come in several varieties. Some animals are white with leopard spots. Others are dark colored with white, spotted rump patches, or some have
just rump patches, no spots.
Lightly colored but patchless horses may still have darker hair over shoulder and hip bones than the rest of their bodies. These are called varnish marks. Horses lacking even these markings, they may still have mottled skin around the eyes, as if they have some rare Egyptian eye disease. Striped hooves are another Appaloosa indicator.
The curious thing about breeding for color, be it full sized Appaloosa horses or the smaller POAs, is that if you get some color, you have an animal worth some money. It doesn’t matter whether the foal has an even number of heads, an odd number of legs or looks like a space alien. If it has color, it’s worth some money; the more color, the more money. If, on the other had, your foal has no color, it doesn’t matter if it has strength, stamina, beauty, personality, charisma, and a good disposition — you have nada. In France you could sell him for stew meat, but in the USA, nada.
The first thing we needed was some breeding stock, mares. But where to buy them? Not everyone had ponies with Appaloosa DNA. And those we found had some serious drawbacks. We did find one mare, Two Bits. She was possibly 13 hands 2 inches high. (A hand is 4 inches, but we horse people like to have our own jargon just to show how cool we are. I could have said she was 4 feet 6 inches at the withers, but then you would have known what I was talking about.) Two Bits was about 4 feet 6 inches across the butt, too. She looked like she’d lost her beer wagon. Her belly sagged from previous pregnancies. I considered building her a belly wheel. We persuaded ourselves that in spite of these cosmetic imperfections, she showed some signs of an Appaloosa background, possibly around the time of Ferdinand and Isabella.
Someone we knew had a POA stud named Road Agent. We bred the two animals and when Two Bits came due she had her foal in our garage. I opened the door to our garage one morning and here was this dark little colt running figure eights around his mother. We got the two of them into the pasture and saw them settled in. Two Bits was formidable enough that the other animals knew not to mess with her and her new baby.
For the record, we named the baby Short Change. Short Change by Road Agent out of Two Bits. Shorty was a complete miss. French stew meat. Two Bits did not agree.
One day, after Shorty was gone, sold down the river, I looked down at our pasture and saw Two Bits standing motionless at the gate. Two hours later, she was still there. Motionless. Something had to be wrong, so Joanne and I went down to investigate.
Our gate was just a stretch of field fencing that attached to a fence post. You took it down to let livestock go through, and reattached it when the animals were where you wanted them. It was like stringing an 8-stringed bow. We found our gate down and Two Bits tangled with all four legs through the wire. I held her head and spoke soothingly to her while Joanne gently freed her legs, first the front and then the rear. When we were through, Two Bits tested her legs gingerly, then kicked Joanne and bit me. We waited for a long time after that to see if we could catch her in a similar fix. We wanted to go down and bite her and kick her.
It never happened. It just shows how unfair life is. We sell her baby and she turns around and bites and kicks us. You’d think she would have been grateful.