When Lauren Martyn first met him, she thought he was too short. He didn’t look like he could do anything special, and he wasn’t particularly pretty either.
Four years later, he’s her favorite, and everyone knows it.
“Don’t say anything bad. That’s my favorite horse on the property,” Lauren will say to a rider having trouble with him.
She tells him good morning and goodnight whenever she’s at the barn. If he’s is lucky, she’ll have a peppermint for him. Whenever his time at Miami is through, Lauren hopes to take him home with her.
His name is Sprinkles. It was given to him by his original owner, a name admittedly a bit humiliating for a male. He’s a light gray appaloosa pony, though people still ride him like a horse.
He’s about 15 years old and has been at Miami for over four years. Like many of the horses at Miami’s Equestrian Center, Sprinkles had been leased from an owner during the school year up until last year, when Miami officially bought him.
But not everyone loves him as much as Lauren does.
He’s the least favorite among students in Miami’s horseback riding classes, particularly the beginner ones.
He usually rides in two lessons everyday, one for a kinesiology class and one for the equestrian team.
He can sense the hesitation and lack of confidence in newer riders when they walk into his stall, and takes advantage of their vulnerability. Instead of greeting them, he’ll sometimes turn to stick his head out of the window, acting as though he is completely uninterested in being ridden.
Riders can’t expect Sprinkles to do everything for them. If they make a mistake, Sprinkles will pick up on it and act accordingly. He knows what he’s supposed to do well enough to do just the opposite.
Before and after the lesson, Sprinkles’ rider lifts up each of his legs and picks out any pebbles or other small objects stuck in his hooves, and sometimes he’ll step on the rider’s foot when he puts his hoof back down.
But he’d never do that with Lauren, or any member of the equestrian team for that matter.
His ears perk up when Lauren calls his name. He sticks his head out between the bars of his stall and watches her as she unlocks the door. He isn’t like some of the friendlier horses, who will rest their head on your shoulder, but he’ll always greet Lauren.
She walks into his stall and gives him a scratch on his neck — he loves those. She puts on his saddle and bridle without any problems. An experienced rider’s confidence tells Sprinkles that they mean business. It’s time for an equestrian team lesson, and he knows that he’ll have to do more than just walk and trot.
Sometimes he’ll try flipping his nose while she’s riding him, but she never lets him get away with it. Sprinkles knows Lauren doesn’t tolerate his antics.
Sprinkles competes in Hunt Seat Equitation in the flat classes and in Western Horsemanship, both of which judge the rider’s form while the horse walks, trots or gallops in various directions. The focus is on the rider, but it takes a well-tempered horse that is easy to ride to do well in these shows. Though the competitions can be physically straining for Sprinkles, winning a blue ribbon makes it worth it.
“He wants to prove that he’s fancy,” Lauren said.
He lets people ride him while carrying a flag during the national anthem. Though most horses wouldn’t let a flag come near them, Sprinkles likes to prove that he can handle it.
One could say he has a bit of an ego.
“I mean, he’s a male pony named Sprinkles,” Claire Turner, another member of the Equestrian Team and barn staff, said. “He’s gotta make up for that somehow.”