Shared horse sensePublished 4:26pm Thursday, July 19, 2012
Amanda Pierce does all the talking for herself and her pony, named Friday.
Pierce, 37, who dreamed of becoming a trainer since 5 and got her first horse at 12, operates Red Top Farm in Union and spoke to about 50 people Wednesday afternoon at Cass District Library’s Mason-Union branch as part of Dream Big! summer reading club.
“It’s my job to learn how they think,” she said. “I train them to know what I want. If I give Friday a mean look and wag my finger, he’ll back away. If I point and use the stick, he’ll go away from me. If I exhale, he knows that means to stop what he’s doing.”
As a trainer and riding instructor, she works with people and mounts alike.
“Horses are the easy end of the business,” she said. “I have a very small business, with eight to nine horses at my farm at any given time.”
Friday is leased to a family whose children braid his mane and pamper him with bubble baths befitting the black-and-white pinto’s back story.
Besides teaching many children how to ride in his 15 years, he has been a show pony, a therapy pony for LoveWay (Therapeutic Horseback Riding in Middlebury, Ind.) and, if you’ve ever been to Amish country in Shipshewana, recognizable from his likeness replicated on the carousel inside Davis Mercantile, which contains more than 20 stores.
Pierce owns two horses herself.
Her passion wasn’t shared by her farm parents — horses terrify her mom and her dad didn’t want her to buy one — or her two kids, who attend Edwardsburg schools and prefer golf.
Red Top offers riding lessons from beginner to advanced, boarding, training and sales and practical horsemanship for dressage, jumping and Western events.
“I consider myself a horse behavoralist,” she said. “I’m real good at reading horses. I’ve worked in a lot of therapy barns. Usually the horses are not the problem, it’s the people.”
Pierce’s passionate path took her from this area to the West Coast, then to New Zealand for a year as a polo groom.
“It’s like music or art,” she said, “it’s either in your blood or not. The bulk of my students are passionate about it, but every now and then, one kid or an adult will be 10 times more passionate and will probably go on with it, the way my boys could golf six days a week. That’s his pony and he’s only ridden it twice ever. I like the Irish breed temperament and the people who own them. The pony crosses are big enough for an adult to ride. We’ve had Friday about three years.
“I didn’t know how old he was, but a veterinarian can tell by looking at the teeth because horse teeth grow their whole lives. He is 13 hands (a four-inch unit of measurement). I have ponies bigger than most horses.
“Genetically, ponies are tougher and, I think, smarter. They do things that make you want to laugh.”