Tonka Settles In

On Monday, after a long drive down from Maine, Tonka arrived at the barn as calm as he was when he stepped into the horse trailer four hours before. (Tonka is a sane gelding, but it really helped that my friend Cindy drove in her steady and safe way.) When we unloaded Tonka, it was foggy and cold, and darkness was closing in. He looked around, head high. I walked Tonka to his paddock and turnout shed, gave him a pat, and said good-night. Right away he started in on the hay that had been set out for him.

Karin, the barn manager, is an old hand at introducing new horses to Little Brook Farm. She’d already decided that Merlin, a sweet Standardbred gelding, would be Tonka’s pasture buddy. She put Merlin into the paddock next to Tonka. They spent the day getting familiar with each other over the fence. Typical of these two guys, there were no hysterics or squealing. They surreptitiously glanced at each other over the course of the day. All was going so well that the next day we set out several piles of hay in the field, and put the two horses together.

They said hello in the polite horsey way of sniffing noses. Merlin turned his tail to Tonka and gave a half-hearted hind-leg kick that missed by a couple of feet.



They each chose a pile of hay to eat.



Tonka did glance over a few times to make sure that his breakfast wasn’t being challenged. It wasn’t.

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And that was that.

Although Tonka is settled right in and ready to be ridden, I have to find a saddle to fit him first. It’s been a challenge. One reason I wanted a horse only slightly bigger than a pony is because it’s easier on my shoulder and back to lift a saddle onto him. Today I tacked him up four times, and I did appreciate his compact size! Tonka is getting a tad tired of me putting saddles on and taking them off. I also have been looking for a bit that suits him, so right now I don’t even have a usable bridle. I’ve been using a halter and lead rope while trying out saddles. He’s been a total gentleman about it.

Tonka isn’t the biggest mover. He’ll never make it as a fancy dressage horse, (which is the sort of riding that I’ve trained to do) but that’s okay. At this point in my life, I wanted a horse with a kind eye. And that’s exactly what I got.



  1. That is a stunningly beautiful pic on the bottom!! I can sure see the appeal of this horse…How could you resist? I was interested on your search for the right-sized saddle, etc. This is something I had never considered before. I was only a lucky rider of other people`s horses and never had to dress one, so I guess I just foolishly thought the equipment was one-size fits all. :) That sounds like quite a job finding just the right fit for Tonka. The incentive of taking him out on a ride will keep you going, I`m sure.

  2. A bit like introducing new chickens to the hen yard!
    He looks like a sweet ride—and those markings are so striking. Lucky you, lucky horse.

  3. Beautiful photo that last one. I have saved it and will turn it into a jigsaw puzzle. Such a handsome fellow. Many happy days riding ahead of you.

    • I had a dear friend who cut wooden jigsaw puzzles. She incorporated all sorts of wonderful things in them – dogs, birds, etc. Is that what you do?

    • Both! How a saddle is built affects how I sit and where my legs go. For the horse, it must sit without putting any pressure on the spine or squeezing his sides. And it has to suit the style of riding I do – lots of trails and some dressage ring work.

  4. He’s one handsome horse! My quarter horse is just barely 15 hands, and I think it’s the perfect size. I also have shoulder back problems, probably from 30 years of mucking stalls and hauling water buckets and working jobs where I’ve been at the computer alot. So, yeah, the lifting of saddles is a chore. I use a dressage saddle now and I love it. Gone is my heavy western clunker. I work my gelding in a simple snaffle and I have found that to be the best option for him.

    Congrats on your new guy –

  5. Hi Terry, Just a suggestion on saddles. For years I rode endurance and did it it in english and hybred style saddles, but now am using a western saddle because i have started roping. I really do miss the lighter weight of those saddles. A saddle brand that I think you might really like is called ” Specialized” and the stye is called a “trail master” it is great for trail riding and light dressage work. You can find the web page (Specialized Saddles) and read more about them. Enjoy Tonka, you know what they say, the best thing for the inside of a woman is the outside of a horse.

  6. Terry, so happy for you! I look forward to reading and seeing more of your newest friend and companion.

  7. i’d never heard that expression – ‘kind eye’ before. but my vocabulary is certainly richer now .
    and such a useful thing – for dogs, cats – cows, even
    i’m caring for a stray cat who came to my garage about two years ago as an abused kitten and at that time he looked like a little crook – sneaky, sly, mean.
    well some good purina cat chow, plenty of patience, and actually, a lot of attention – and this is a true thing, a really true thing. the other day i looked at him and i said “mango – you look different!’ and he does.
    i believe he has turned over a new leaf and is an honest cat now and his face has filled out – and he looks – well, honest!

  8. Do you have to buy saddles and other horse tackle new ? Because I have seen them used online, on Shop Good Will which is a website that is connected to over 200 Goodwill shops. So maybe that can be a resource for you Terry.

  9. Both are beautiful animals. Do horses have to establish dominance over each other like many other animals? Is there a dominate one between Pip and Caper? The goat boys seem to share equally and play nice. When you mentioned Tonka was barefoot, I then had to go to google and find out about shodding. I thought all horses were shoed. Well, now I know. I always learn something new here. I enjoy the pics. Thanks.

    • I like to think of it as “status” and not “dominance.” All herd animals have social hierarchy. Not all animals on the top of the order are bullies or aggressive. In fact, in a wild herd of horses, it’s rarely the stallion that leads the group, rather it is an older, wise mare.

      • I’ve heard of that. I’ve watched “Cloud” on National Geographic. Great documentary. The show refers to the “lead mare” quite a bit. Thanks for the info.

  10. I’m so happy for you and Tonka. When you find just the right tack for him, I know you and he will have some wonderful times together. And he’s absolutely beautiful.

  11. hey how are you doing I saw those wonderful pictures of your horse’s and I love everyone and I hope that you do your best out there and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Just saw the snow in your yard. Does the farm where Tonka is boarded have an indoor riding arena?

  13. There is just something about a sweet horse, that makes you want to rest your head against theirs, and feel them breathe. He’s lovely, Terry, just lovely. I don’t have horses, but I do “sit” for someone who does. It is such a pleasure to be in the barn with them, listening to them, watching them. I don’t mind the heavy duty scooping (which, truthfully, is way less smelly than scooping after our five cats!) or the hauling of hay, bedding or water. To be outside with animals is a gift! I know you will enjoy him!