Secret Lives of Horses: Gracie, Family Pony

by Nancy Johnson

Gracie, the family pony in her semi-retirement.

“She’s just the world’s best pony!” Ida Sankey says of 27-year-old Gracie, a registered Welsh Pony. “All three of my kids started on her and have just grown up with Gracie. They have done about everything there is to do with her.” Daughters Taylor, 15, and Hayden, 12, rode the pony when the family lived in Missouri, before moving to Aiken. Taylor took Gracie on trail rides, showed in the cross-rails division, and rode along with her mom as Ida was legging up polo ponies. Hayden was just 6 years old when she foxhunted Gracie with Bridlespur Hunt Club in Eolia, MO. Four years ago, when the family moved to Aiken, younger brother Campbell, barely 2-years-old at the time, took over the reins.

“You can’t buy a pony like Gracie; you have to inherit them from a family member or friend,” says Ida Sankey. That’s basically how the 27-year-old registered Welsh pony came to her family.

When Ida’s first child, Taylor, was a toddler, Linda Scherder, owner of Elite Welsh Ponies in Missouri, remarked that she had the perfect pony, whenever the little girl was ready. “I think what really sold me was when Linda told me her son had driven a tricycle right into the pony’s hind legs while she was standing in the barn. The pony never offered to kick him, though she had every right to.” Gracie, 12-years-old at the time, was indeed the perfect first pony for Taylor, and then Hayden, and now Campbell.

Gracie’s early background is a bit vague. “Linda told me she got the pony from an Amish family who had her pulling a cart on dirt roads,” Ida says. According to her papers, Gracie was born in Illinois. Then she was sold to two consecutive owners in Ohio, before being purchased by Linda in Missouri and sold to Ida. Her main job at Elite Welsh Ponies was to be a first pony for Linda Scherder’s children, but during her time there, Gracie also produced a couple of foals for Linda’s breeding program. “Although her registered name is GMA Royal Tiara, we gave her the show name Amazing Gracie as it fit her so well,” Ida says.

“Campbell was just chasing cows on her the other day!” she says with a chuckle. Ida admits that these days it takes quite a bit to get Gracie going any faster than a trot, but that’s what makes her so perfect for another of her jobs: peewee polo. Ida’s friend, Kahla Onetto, came up with the idea for peewee polo as they were watching the Aiken Middle School Polo team, of which Hayden is a member. The idea is for kids ages 3 to 8 to learn polo in a safe, enjoyable environment. “Gracie doesn’t neck rein that well, but she’s so quiet and safe that she’s great for any of the kids who are a bit nervous or timid. All the little girls love Gracie and say that she looks just like one of the ‘My Little Pony’ characters,” Ida says.

Gracie has always been very sound and healthy, but Ida is very careful to be sure she remains so. “She gets along with absolutely everybody in the pasture, but now we mostly keep her by herself as she gets her feed soaked and it takes her longer to eat than the others,” Ida explains. Although Campbell loves playing cowboy on Gracie, Ida limits the pony’s time under saddle and encourages her son to ride other horses on the farm. “She has earned her right to some down time,” she says, adding, “Gracie has a home with us forever!”

“Gracie is not at all a typical pony,” Ida continues. “She’s very tolerant and just doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” She trusts the pony implicitly. “When I do chores around the barn, my son gets on her and they just meander around – it’s like having a nanny.”

Ida calls Gracie “the family pony” as each child learned from her, but then was able to pass her down to a younger sibling. Ida fondly remembers Taylor as a small child feeding the pony Frosted Mini Wheats cereal every morning for breakfast. “Gracie is like a second mother to us,” Taylor explains. “Mom could leave us alone with her and Gracie would look after us. She helped teach all three of us to ride; she’s very patient and kind.”

“Gracie is a wonderful pony because of the concern she shows,” Hayden adds. “When you fall off her, she understands and will stand over you when you’re hurt. It’s almost like she knows that something has happened.” With a grin she adds, “But she has tricks up her sleeve; like she will bite if you tighten the girth too fast, and when I was little, she would raise her head just high enough so I couldn’t reach to put her halter on.”

“Gracie has taught all three of my kids so much – how to take care of a horse, give baths, to post for the first time, canter for the first time, and win their first blue ribbons,” Ida says fondly. She says each of them thinks Gracie is theirs. “Taylor often tells Campbell that Gracie is really still hers, she just lets him ride her.”

The Secret Lives of Horses is a regular feature in The Aiken Horse newspaper, telling the story of a retired horse in the Aiken area, 20 years or older. Do you have an older horse that needs his or her story told? Email us!. Secret Lives is sponsored by Triple Crown Nutrition, providing nutrition beyond compare.