Descendants of the Celtic Pony, the small-statured Connemara ponies originated along Ireland’s west coast, in the town of Galway. And Galway is where I met Silver Dollar. Her color was a beautiful pale silver, hence, no doubt, her name.
My friend, Carolyn Haines, and I had journeyed to Ireland to ride the wild and lovely Galway Coast on Willie Leahy’s Connemara Trail. I’m not sure what we expected, but what we got were long days of sweet air, horses which we both love, rain every day, sun every day and companions that we came to know and appreciate for their own pleasure in the things that we loved.
I was not first paired with Silver Dollar, but – because of my riding experience – was given a bay gelding, aptly named Speedy. I didn’t dislike Speedy by any means and – back home – I would probably have given him a try around a set of rodeo drums. Alas, as far as a quiet ride with the others in our group, Speedy was not cooperative. He could not by any means be held to a walk or sedate jog. He was all about a long trot which might have been smooth if his legs had been equally long. Unfortunately, they were not. At the end of the first day, fun though it was, I was exhausted from circling the group of other Connemaras and their riders, over and over again, just to keep from getting out of sight. Speedy may have known where he was going – I did not!
Each night, our mounts were set free in some small field bordered by stone walls. Those fields were everywhere along our way, with lush grass, bright green against pale stone. The second morning of our ride, instead of the irrepressible Speedy, I was brought a neat pale gray, nearly white mare.
Silver Dollar was a sweetheart and very typical to the breed, as I was to learn, with her pretty head and docile disposition. She was small, as most Connemaras are, and stood no more than 14 hands – if that! Her legs were sturdy and sure upon the rocky hills of Galway trail. Only later did I learn it was her first time along the trail with the others. I thought she was taking care of me and she probably thought I was taking care of her!
By the end of that wondrous week, we were taking care of each other. I was as comfortable in that English saddle as my western one back home, comfortable enough that I allowed my dear Silver Dollar to take me across my first jump, a low, stone wall, and several more after.
And by the end of that week, I was in tears at the thought of leaving her behind.
I argued with myself. My world was barrel racing and she would never have the aggression for that. I already had too many horses back home. I didn’t need another. But I loved her and so I asked.
Her owner, Willie, priced her and, I realize now, that at the time and the place, he probably had less than a tenth of that in her but I could have cared less even had I known. Shipping would have cost me much more but I could have cared less about that as well. What I did care about, and could not do, was wrench that sweet little horse from her homeland, put her on a ship and in the care of strangers, and then force her to endure the quarantine at the end of the trip.
So at the end of the week, I left Silver Dollar behind, but I never, ever forgot her. And I never, ever will. I think about her still. And wonder, still, what if.
Susan Y. Tanner is best known for her historical romance novels. In Trouble in Summer Valley she combines her love of horses and cats, and steps into a new genre—contemporary romantic mystery. Writing in the voice of a black cat detective, especially one with a slight British accent (thanks to his addiction to Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes) has spurred a series idea that will be sure to delight readers. Her upcoming Trouble books will feature characters with a backstory set in the world of equines, a mini-series within the Familiar Legacy series. Tanner lives on a small ranch in Mississippi and barrel races.