Fatima – A Great Friend


In the spring of 1967, Linda (Streeter), aka Mom, took her stout red tobiano pony, Flicka, to the neighbors rose gray Arab stud. He had a name but it has been lost to history. In those days per Linda, Flicka and her new boyfriend were just put in the pasture together and hoped for the best. No shipping, no AI, no ICSI, just animal husbandry in its rawest form. Hoping for a red tobiano or at least a gray pony, the wait began.

The result of the pairing in 1968 was neither the tobiano nor the gray but a sorrel filly with chrome.      (Looking back Mom realizes this would be the first of many solids in her future ‘hope for color’ breeding plans.) The filly was aptly if not completely politically insensitively named ‘Fatima’. She would be mine, all mine. I was 2 years old.

We grew up together for 2 years. I am told that she followed me around like a dog more so than a pony. At one point she came into the breezeway with me but this was quickly shut down. No horses, or ponies, allowed into the house. That Christmas, Santa gifted me my first saddle. Solid built, silver horned beauty! So exciting! It was used on the arms of couches, chairs and possibly the German shepherd.       COULD. NOT. WAIT!

Early spring of Fatima’s 2 YO year I could not wait any longer. The ground was still muddy and the trees were still bare. This I remember. The saddle and I proceeded out the back door to the knee-deep paddock. Balancing on the horse tank, the saddle magically made it to the pony’s back. No pad, no cinch. Didn’t need either for the couch, wouldn’t think to need it now. Being the problem solver that I am, the billets were tied together to ‘cinch’ the saddle onto Fatima and baling twine doubled as reins tied to the halter. With all the confidence in the world, I once again balanced on the edge of the horse tank (big round metal tank) and began working on the plan to get on. Fatima had never moved, twitched an ear or in any way indicated that this was not going to go well, at least not that I remember.

Was there a small voice trying to tell me otherwise? Four YO’s don’t have that inner voice yet, right? That comes from experience and history of which I had none. Yet there was a small voice. Just over there…

Standing at the back door trying desperately to get my attention (I was very fixated) without alarming the pony was my mother begging me to get down off the tank. Which I did. Sadly, my horse training days did not start this day. She helped to unknot the ‘cinch’ and take off my ‘reins’. It was explained that ponies like Fatima needed a little more time before starting their show careers. Expectations ruined and throwing a tantrum with a nap in my immediate future, I waited.

Months later during the time that spring is almost summer and the days are longer, Fatima was ready for me to ride. Now with the proper equipment, pad, bridle, and girth completing the smart set, what could stop us? Mom had been riding the pony for several weeks. The pen was a low fenced slightly larger than round pen arena. Plenty of room for a child and a small pony. Fatima knew to go and to whoa. Nothing else mattered.

Scrabbling up the side and swinging the leg over felt right. Felt natural. At the age of 4 almost 5 my desire to ride began.

Ten steps into the first ride all hell broke loose at least from a 4-5 year old’s perspective. I’ve been told it was more like crow-hop zigzag, but the ground was hard.     Not to be deterred and probably a bit pissy, up I went into the saddle again. This time I may have went 20-25 steps and the same hell knocked. The ground was no softer this time than last.

This pattern repeated. Each time there were more steps in between the getting on, and the coming off and the ground was getting harder. I remembered seeing spots. There were cuts and bruises. (Let me remind all of you that in the early 70’s there was no such thing as a concussion or concussion protocol.          You simply had your ‘bell rung’, rubbed some dirt on it, or maybe you needed a Band-Aid, but Momma didn’t raise no quitter.) I remembered that at one point I hated Fatima, my best friend. This is the point. The point where it could have gone either way. I either LOVED to ride, no matter what the ride or cried and been done.

The desire to stay on and ride the ride no matter what the ride stuck to this day. Fatima put me in the dirt weekly, then monthly and then not at all. Velcro. She taught me to stay in the middle of the saddle and keep my butt velcro’ed to the center. A little lean here and she hopped away from it.

Fatima and I eventually went to the Van Buren County Fair. A little girl with a little red pony showing in the Pee Wee classes. We were a force to behold.          Last place never felt so good. Going to the fair was the World Show family vacation for me. We attended for three years and moved up from last to the middle before maybe a blue ribbon.

Our favorite class was showmanship. (IKR who would have thought!?) Gleaming red and whitest of socks. Loved giving her a bath as much as she loved it.

Our least favorite class was the costume class which in a bit of irony is one of the only pictures that I have of the two of us. Only because I was mortified that the costume was basically underwear with tulle sewn to it.

Fatima taught me so many things. Moms and 4-H leaders can tell you to put your heels down, sit up, look up and hold the reins in your left hand but ponies like precious Fatima teach us so much more. Seat and hands. Balance. And if you let them, determination, perseverance, and grit.

Fatima and I had a short career. Sadly, she was also the pony that taught me loss and heartbreak. Her early departure will never blemish all that she was to me. -Norma Streeter Hamilton