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Saved from slaughter, pony jumps to fame

Pony Pants smiles while Breyanna Lucero talks about his remarkable journey from an abandoned stray in a South Valley irrigation ditch to a ribbon winner at a Scottsdale, Ariz., horse show. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Pony Pants smiles while Breyanna Lucero talks about his remarkable journey from an abandoned stray in a South Valley irrigation ditch to a ribbon winner at a Scottsdale, Ariz., horse show. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Breyanna Lucero and Sydney Luzicka spotted the pony in a concrete ditch in the South Valley on a Sunday afternoon in April and yelled for Sydney’s mom, Julie Luzicka, to stop the truck.

The chestnut pony had cuts on his sides, he was missing one shoe and an untrimmed hoof was growing around another shoe, giving him a limp.

It was obvious he had been stuck in the ditch for a while and that he hadn’t been fed. “He was skin and bones,” Breyanna said.

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The girls got a grain bucket and led him out of the ditch, then threw a halter on him. Sydney jumped on for a bareback ride to see if he was lame.

What do you do with a lost or abandoned horse, one who’s scraped up and wearing toe-grab shoes particular to illegal horse races? You can’t just take it, even if you want to. Luzicka, a horse trainer, called animal control, and the girls watched as the pony was loaded on a trailer and driven away.

And then they went home.

That would have been an exciting little tale, but it wouldn’t make much of a Disney movie. So luckily, the story didn’t end there.

The chestnut pony was impounded by the New Mexico Livestock Board and advertised as an estray to see if an owner would come forward. When no one did, it was delivered to auction, where a spot on a crowded truck ride to a slaughterhouse in Mexico likely awaited him.

In a practice ring in Corrales, Pony Pants shows the jumping style that won him the Reserve Grand Champion ribbon at a horse show in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

In a practice ring in Corrales, Pony Pants shows the jumping style that won him the Reserve Grand Champion ribbon at a horse show in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

But when Breyanna, who has loved horses all her life – she’s 14 now – got home and told her parents about the poor, starving pony, they agreed to try to save him. After a lot of phone calls and the help of a livestock-auction-savvy friend, Breyanna’s mother, Wendy Fronterhouse, learned the pony would be on the block at the Southwest Livestock Auction in Los Lunas.

Fronterhouse went down there, bid $350, paid up and became the owner of a very skinny pony.

That would also have been a nice ending to this little tale, but it wouldn’t make much of a Disney movie, either. So luckily, the story didn’t end there.

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Breyanna and Sydney were done with their school day at Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School in Albuquerque and were in the barns at Vista Hermosa Farms on the north end of Corrales the other afternoon, fussing over that rescued pony, now known as Pony Pants.

These days, about two years after his rescue from the ditch, Pony Pants is plump and feisty. He’s brushed to a sheen, his hoofs are trimmed and oiled and his mane is a soft chestnut tangle. As Breyanna sang his praises, he nuzzled her shoulder and then broke out in a toothy horse smile.

If Pony Pants was feeling especially good, well, who could blame him?

The stout little pony was just back from Scottsdale, Ariz., where he had jumped his way to a reserve grand champion ribbon in a horse show at prestigious WestWorld, besting some show horses with pedigrees and extravagant price tags.

The rescue pony surprised everyone.

“We just got him because we didn’t want him to die,” Fronterhouse said. “I thought he’d end up in our backyard.”

Breyanna Lucero and Pony Pants clear the rails in a practice jump in Corrales. Lucero has been working with the horse since her mother bought him for $350 at a livestock auction, where he was headed to slaughter. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Breyanna Lucero and Pony Pants clear the rails in a practice jump in Corrales. Lucero has been working with the horse since her mother bought him for $350 at a livestock auction, where he was headed to slaughter. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

But Pony Pants wasn’t happy just standing around eating hay. So Breyanna took him to the stables, and she and Luzicka began putting him through the hunter/jumper paces, which he picked up like a natural.

“He likes to work, and he likes to jump,” Breyanna said. “I think he’s really, really smart.”

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In the hunter/jumper world, the jumpers are scored on how high they jump and their speed, and the hunters are scored on their style. Pony Pants has loads of style.

“He’s a really good mover,” Breyanna says. “He has really good form.”

Pony Pants’ future is bright. Luzicka thinks the little $350 pony has what it takes to keep winning. Breyanna thinks she can get him to jump 3 feet 6 inches in a show arena. Meanwhile, Breyanna and Sydney pamper the pony every day after school with hoof polish and hugs and reminders that he is the best pony in the barn.

If this were a Disney movie, it could end right here, and there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house.

“It’s kind of like a fairy-tale ending,” Breyanna said.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or llinthicum@abqjournal.com. Go to abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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