Lessons from Obama. !
Obama, a small black and white pony, arrived in my life in January 2009 as Barack Obama entered the White House. At the time, my pony was called Humpty, and since I intended to drive him from Brecon in Wales, to Birmingham, camping along the way, I felt I could do without the jokes. If you can’t think what those jokes might be, you don’t know a lot of my friends. Since his colour, black and white, was the least relevant thing about him, I christened him Obama.
My Obama was scared of everything when I got him. But then it looks like he had probably been hit with everything before I got him. If you show him a stick, or a riding saddle today, he spins round and backs towards you,kicking out savagely. The warning is absolutely clear.
When I got Obama I had just read Temple Grandin’s “Animals in Translation” and was working on a training system for ponies to work inner city areas. In the country, among horse people, whips, bits and spurs are the order of the day, but I just knew that the first picture of some inner city kid, with a whip and a pony, would cause a riot.
I tried to work out how to explain that middle aged, (in those days) white, Old Etonians could use whips, but inner city children of mixed race, couldn’t. My expensive education failed me, so instead, I designed a training system that meant nobody carried whips, nobody used spurs or bits or used violence or threats of violence.
The system was, and remains, simple.
Nobody is allowed a weapon. Whips bits, spurs, Uzi’s switchblades and Tasers are all banned.
Nobody is allowed to deliberately frighten the pony. Beginners don’t know what will frighten a pony, so you show them. If they then, knowing that an action frightens the pony, repeat it, that’s not allowed.
Finally you give the pony an escape route. They are a flight animal. If they can flee, they do, if not they fight.
I have worked with Obama in inner city areas across the country and I have learned that kindness to animals is a human trait. Colour just doesn’t enter into it. Class doesn’t. I have found people who can instantly handle Obama better than I can, and people who are much worse. Some bikers are awesome, some aren’t. Some kids are instinctively gentle and build an instant bond. Some just don’t get it.
For eight years, the United States of America has had a President who is a gentleman. It is not a matter of birth, it is not a matter of colour, it is not even a matter of species. My Obama is a gentleman. Sadly, everyone sees my new pony Toby, and admires him. He is white, he is traditionally classy looking.
Obama has done eight years of honest, trustworthy work, he has allowed me to develop, build, rebuild, rebuild again, a pony powered wheelchair enabled, all terrain system that allows people who use wheelchairs real freedom, but he is black and white.
Toby is white and looks good.
Colour does matter. We let colour blind us to quality. Maybe, President Obama will teach us that such shallow judgements belong in the past. We will look back and see that being a gentleman matters. That skin colour doesn’t.
We can all hope.
For any non UK readers I should point out that in the UK black and white ponies are still looked on as Gypsy Ponies. And Gypsies, if you read the horsey forums are not a good thing at all.