Butterscotch’s Story

written by Yvonne Johnson in 1999


It was about the mid 80’s when I first met Butterscotch. His owners had gotten him to replace their last pony, whom they sold to a friend so he would have a matching team. I used to spend time with the other pony & was disappointed to find him gone, but Butterscotch was cute too. I began to get to know him. There were obvious differences between the last pony & this new one. For one thing, Butterscotch was buckskin, the other was grey. Then there was height. The old one was about 12-13 hands I’d guess (was a long time ago!)….at any rate, a good deal taller than Butterscotch’s mere 10hh! Those were just the physical things, but it was enough to make his owners unhappy. They had gotten him as a replacement, but he wasn’t the "same". Therefore, they began to neglect him. My sister & I took over his care, brushing & riding him whenever we could.

The owners ran a "Disturbed Child Refuge" & had about a dozen kids of all ages at any given time. Some were mentally or physically handicapped, some were going through family hardships such as divorce or child custody battles. At any rate, they would often mistreat Butterscotch, some because they knew no better & were not corrected by their caretakers, others I guess because they just wanted to. We did our best to educate the kids on the proper way to care for a pony, & let them know what should & shouldn’t be done. This was not very successful, however. They would forget or ignore most of their new knowledge, & whatever they would retain & bring up later was blown off by Butterscotch’s owners. So as time went on, Butterscotch became more & more neglected. His owners were not happy with him, as he was "mean" & would kick at the kids. We tried to explain that it was instinct for a horse to kick out if something jumps at him from behind, but it didn’t matter to them. Whenever my sister & I were around, we would correct the kids if they did anything to harm or scare the pony, but more often than not they would just laugh.

Years passed, & Butterscotch met worsening conditions. He was fenced in with a mean (horned) bull that was not always the nicest towards him. The bull was being raised for meat, & the owners were feeding him food that they scrounged out of big garbage receptacles at the local Farmer’s Market. At best, the garbage was just vegetables & such that would not last another week ("The Sale" was open only on weekends). Unfortunately, Butterscotch’s owners would get so much that the food would go rotten before they had a chance to feed it all, despite the fact that they fed way too much! Of course, since the pony & bull were pastured together, they both ate what was put over the fence. This included anything from the vegetables & fruits, to eggs & eggshells & much worse. The pasture became smelly from the leftover rotten food & flies were horrendous in the warm weather. In the cold, Butterscotch would refuse to seek shelter in the rickety shack because the bull would be in there & keep him out (the shelter was only about 6’ by 8’ max.).

The poor pony grew fatter & fatter from eating so much garbage, in spite of fairly regular riding by my sister & me. Many times we would have to settle for just giving Butterscotch attention after brushing him, as he was too lame to ride. We informed his owners about his condition, warning them that if they did not have his hooves trimmed & regulate his feed so he could lose weight, he would die. They would basically tell us it was not our concern (if they were in a bad mood); if they were in a good mood they would preach something like: if it is God’s will to take him, then He will. We could not seem to get through to these people! We called our local SPCA. Unfortunately, unless the pony was really bad off (starving, obviously mistreated), they said they would not investigate, as they no longer had facilities or manning for horses. So my sister & I continued to do what we could for Butterscotch, exercising him at levels he could bare. I would trim his hooves little by little every week or so, using a large wire cutter & metal file from my dad. It wasn’t the neatest trimming job, of course, considering the lack of proper tools, but it served the purpose of slowly getting Butterscotch’s hooves to a more comfortable length.

October 1988 arrived, & my sister & I decided we would like to enter Butterscotch in the local Halloween Parade. We asked the owners’ permission. The husband said he saw no problem with it as long as the pony was still around by then. I asked what he meant. He said they had decided to sell him for slaughter, since he was so fat. I was horrified!!! I quickly asked if he would consider selling him to me, as I had grown to love Butterscotch. He said he would, provided I pay within the next day or so. I asked how much he would take. Whether it was lack of knowledge, his hatred for the pony, or that he actually had a small piece of heart & realized how much I loved Butterscotch, I don’t know. Maybe it was a combination. All I know is the relief I felt when he said $100! Then there was the problem of where to keep the pony. I asked if he would let us keep him there for now, as we had no other place to keep him yet. He agreed we could work something out. I went home then, & I counted every dollar, every quarter, every dime I had been saving (for Breyer models!), & came up with what was needed. My dad visited that night, & I told him what was going on. He immediately asked who was going to pay for him. I told him I was going to use what I had been saving. He asked if was sure, I said there was no way I would let my Butterscotch be killed! I gave my dad the cash, & we went down to the owners’ house & gave them a check. I had a pony!

Within days of buying Butterscotch, I made appointments with a veterinarian & farrier. The vet emphasized that the pony needed to be put on a diet immediately, he was in bad shape. I explained what his past was like. She informed me that he had foundered due to his hooves & weight, & that his condition was so poor that had he been in his past situation any longer, he’d have died within a matter of weeks! She suggested a feeding program of slowly introducing hay as his diet, to allow him to get accustomed to it as well as lose weight before getting too much. She explained that he would be prone to founder again due to his past experiences, & I had to watch him carefully. The farrier noted the same thing as he noticed the evidence of founder in his hooves. He told Butterscotch he was a very lucky pony. I felt lucky too!

As time went on, Butterscotch lost weight & became a happier, healthier pony. We would ride him almost every day, & lavished him with love & attention. He quickly became spoiled, but never lost that sweet temperament of his. He never once tried to kick us, though he was suspicious of little kids for awhile (he was afraid they would scare him), & he would still kick out at those that used to provoke him. We kept Butterscotch on his old owners’ land for about a year & a half or two years, along with a black appendix QH type gelding that soon became his best buddy. We had made an agreement with the old owners’ that we would build a large run-in shelter & fence off a section of land for our horses, & when the two years ended, we would either pay $50 a month or leave & they would then have use of a very nice shelter. We chose to leave by the end of that time, of course. The small piece of land we were allotted was sparse & swampy, plus the children at the Refuge just couldn’t seem to understand that they were not allowed to feed or ride the pony (or our horse!). Throughout our time there, we had to scold people for feeding, riding (or trying to), & abusing our horses (they would punch them on the head!). As soon as we found another place to board, we made our move. New problems arose there & subsequent places, but that is a whole other story! I can’t wait until I can move to a place with land. ~sigh~

Butterscotch has been mine now for over 10 years (wow, has it really been that long?!), & we have known each other for about 15 years. He is now a healthy active 23 year old (estimated). We have gone through a lot together, good & bad. Although I have long since outgrown him in height, I will still occasionally ride him for a short bit (he can carry my weight), & I also taught him to drive years ago. I have far from outgrown him mentally. He is still my baby & always will be. When I owned him for only about a year, someone offered me $1000 for him. I looked him straight in the eye & told him something like, "That’s a lot of money, but I’m sorry, he is not for sale at any price. We have grown very close already." That was a long time ago, & I feel stronger about him now. I love my sweetheart dearly!



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