‘Oh Emily’ – the pony who sprouted wings and disappeared!

‘Did you find Emily?’ asked the dentist as I arrived for my appointment. “I saw the advert in the local paper and wondered what happened to her.”

During the next few weeks I was amazed how many people were interested in Emily’s welfare after seeing the advertisement.

‘LOST from Pomeroy, dark brown pony mare, 11-12 hands, 30 years old, white star and graying on face, Caroline Gaden’s ‘Emily’. Reward offered. Phone …’

So just who was Emily, how did she come to be lost and, most important, was she found?

Emily is one of those delightful kids ponies truly worth her weight in gold. Her early history is lost in the mists of time. About ten years ago she was bought by  neighbour John,  to pull “The Chariot’, which has been driven all over the property by his sons. The youngest one had now moved onto a bigger pony, so Emily, (with a tendency to founder, like so many ponies), was left idle and was eating her way to a painful end when we acquired her on permanent loan

Emily’s cresty neck, a sure sign of a pony prone to founder, would do a stallion proud, and her feet showed  the telltale rings and ridges. She tended to stand with her front feet well forward in an attempt to ease the discomfort of inflamed hoof laminae (hence the other name for founder, laminitis).

Emily joined Philip’s pony Rosie on very low rations in the ‘starvation paddock’ as we attempted to get rid of her excess weight. The horse dentist came to rasp all the horses teeth. When it came to do what was left of Emily’s, he said that she was a lot closer to 30 years old than 20, and he wouldn’t charge me for doing  ‘the poor old girl’.

We trimmed her feet regularly, reshaping only a little bit at a time. It was a full 6 months before we felt that her hooves became horse shaped again and the tendons and ligaments returned to normal angles.

During this time Paul, then aged 7, started to ride her. First round the garden on the lead rein, then without the lead, then out in the paddock being led by me riding ‘Carpet’ and eventually off on his own.

As Paul’s confidence increased so did the pony’s ability to move more freely. The quiet, sedate walks became bold trots and unreserved canters, and even a few brave jumps.


Emily and Paul progressed to their first Pony Club One Day Event. Paul was thrilled that he remembered the dressage test. They trotted all round the E grade cross country course, even cantered in places. Alas the show jumping took its toll – Emily wanted a second look at the wall and Paul went out the front door with an anguished ‘Oh! Emily’. However Emily was satisfied there were no gremlins hidden on the other side and popped over at the second attempt. It was a very proud Paul (and even prouder Mum) who received a ribbon at the presentation.

The show jumping course

The show jumping course

A ribbon at Canberra

A ribbon at

However much Emily is loved by the human Gadens, the equine ones are less accepting, and this has caused a few problems. One day we were practising for the Parent and Child class at the local show. Phillip rode Rosie on the left, I rode Carpet on the right and Paul and Emily were in the middle. We tried to keep close together but Emily obviously had painful memories of Rosie’s hooves and Carpet’s teeth. She stopped dead as Rosie and Carpet moved in and Paul got a face full of mane. ‘Oh! Emily’. We abandoned the idea of a threesome.

We also enjoy dressage to music. Trying to find music with a beat suitable for a Pas de Deux with Carpet at 16.2 hands and Rosie or Emily at 11 hands is next to impossible (not quite impossible,  but that is another story). However the two ponies can use the same beat if we can find something suitable. One day I was in the house paddock with the cassette player and a selection of tunes. Emily rapidly became sick of trotting in circles around me and she took off for the garden gate. After all that is where she is usually unsaddled and always manages to pinch a mouthful of prized green grass from the lawn which she thinks we keep irrigated just for her benefit.

After two sorties to the gate, accompanied as usual by ‘Oh! Emily’. I suggested that Philip, being a bit older and wiser than Paul, should ride her. Emily had definite thoughts on this and set off at a brisk trot towards the gate. Philip tried to turn her and he did manage at the very last moment to pull her nose around. Emily didn’t alter rhythm but at an equally smart trot came straight back to where I was laughing and waiting with Paul sitting on Rosie. Only Emily didn’t stop. She trotted straight into Rosie’s side and deposited Philip out the front door and over Rosie’s neck. ‘Oh! Emily’.

Peter with Emily 1988

Peter with Emily 1988

Paul in charge... no.. Emily is in charge

Paul in charge… no.. Emily is in charge

Peter riding Emily, Paul has graduated to Rosie

Peter riding Emily, Paul has graduated to Rosie

New Saddles for Christmas

New Saddles for Christmas

Ribbons after the local Pony Club Gymkhana 1988

Ribbons after the local Pony Club Gymkhana 1988

We headed north for Queensland sunshine during the July school holidays, leaving friend Bridget and neighbour Peg to keep an eye on the assorted animals. We arrived in Noosa on a rainy Saturday. The last time I was in Noosa 17 years before it was raining too, but at least there was sand on the beach then!

Tuesday we had a frantic phone call from Bridget to say that Emily was missing and could she have an accurate description for the police and a lost advertisement. There was no sign of broken fences or open gates. None of the locals she had managed to contact had seen the pony. There was no evidence that she was upside down in one of the dams or at the bottom of a gully. Bridget, her husband Brian and Peg had searched all over the place half a dozen times during the three days and Emily had completely disappeared. ‘Oh! Emily’.

A couple of days later we braved the rain and went to Expo. Definitely not the place for a surreptitious weekend away without the spouse. Among the 121,953 visitors at Expo we ran into many people we knew. There were former workmates of Bob’s, current workmates of mine and other people from our local area including none other than neighbour John himself.

After making comments about having to travel such a long way to catch up with neighbours, we were just about to break the news of Emily’s disappearance when John said ‘I hope you don’t mind, we borrowed Emily back for a few days for some friends to ride. We knew you would be away and wouldn’t mind. We put her back at your place yesterday before flying north.’

All Bob, Philip, Paul, Peter and I could do was heave a collective sigh of relief and chorus ‘OH! EMILY!’

This story first appeared in Australian Horse World and Rider Magazine, January 1990, Volume 7, Number 1, page 52-53… well you knew it was old because  Expo was way back in 1988!


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