Family pony to make 25th county fair appearance

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

A little beige pony who has carried two generations of children and ventured into his owners’ house is heading for his 25th Roosevelt County Fair pony show in a row.

LeRoy, a 30-year-old Gotland pony, has “raised” Joan Orcutt’s five daughters and seven grandchildren, so far.

Orcutt’s granddaughter, 9-year-old Brenna Bates, plans to show LeRoy at the pony show this year. At the halter show, children ages 10 and younger lead their horses around the ring, and all of them get a blue ribbon.

“He’s as gentle as you can get one,” Orcutt said of LeRoy, who is considered a member of the family.

Children of any age are safe on LeRoy, Orcutt said.

“Except when he sees a donkey,” her grandson Trenton, 11, added.

LeRoy is not fond of donkeys.

Orcutt purchased LeRoy at Portales Livestock Auction 25 years ago as a birthday present for her oldest daughter, Amy.

Because LeRoy and Amy, now Amy Rippee, didn’t get along, the girl traded him to her 8-year-old sister, Erin, for a shirt. LeRoy had only been trained to pull a cart, but Erin, now Erin Bates, trained him to take the saddle.

Initially, LeRoy didn’t always take to his young riders.

“He’d buck us off miles away from the house, and Mom would have to come find us,” Erin said.

LeRoy eventually became used to horseback riders and was passed down from sister to sister as each became to big for him. They all took him to the pony show until they were too old, and used him for a variety of activities.

“There’s nothing LeRoy doesn’t do,” Orcutt said.

Orcutt tells of coming home one day to find her daughters walking out of the house with LeRoy. She decided it would be better not to ask too many questions.

“There was nothing out of place,” Orcutt said.

The girls said they’d gone inside to answer the phone, and LeRoy followed. Erin Bates said LeRoy was in the house for 15-20 minutes, maybe longer and maybe a couple more times.

Orcutt also recalls seeing her daughter Lynde, who was 5 at the time, stand barefoot on the rump of the unrestrained LeRoy and bend trees branches down so he could eat the leaves.

“I quit worrying after that,” Orcutt said.

When Orcutt’s daughters were too old for the pony show, she had grandchildren who participated.

Trenton showed the pony for the first time a month after his first birthday.

“He’s fun,” Trenton said.

How is it showing LeRoy?

“Fine, except he eats dirt,” Brenna said.

LeRoy’s only work now is his yearly trip to the pony show. The pony spends his days being a “little prince,” as Erin put it, and loafing with his buddy Shotgun, a retired 19-year-old horse.

“He’s probably gone about a million miles, so he probably deserves it,” Erin said.

Fast Facts:

• Gotland ponies are from the wooded Lojsta moor on the island of Gotland in Sweden.

• Gotlands were first imported into the United States in the 1950s.

• Gotlands are rare in the United States.

• Gotlands can live into their 40s if properly cared for.

• There is evidence that Gotlands or horses like them lived on the island during the Stone Age, 4,000-5,000 years ago.

• The number of Gotlands dwindled in the 1800s, but the work of Gotland farmers and the Gotland Agricultural Society in the 1900s led to a revival of their population.

Sources: The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Oklahoma State University and Joan Orcutt