The Ponybutler: 8 ways to disappoint your pony

If your horse were to issue you an end-of-the-year performance review, how would you fare? Kat O’Riley (a.k.a. “Ponybutler”) finds out.

From Kat:

Yes, I know–the official shift into 2014 is sooo [literally] last week. But my tearful tale of New Year’s tribulation haunts me to this day. It may have been less than a fortnight since my usual plucky poise was pierced by a cruel despot’s determination to lower my hard earned Ponybutler certification rating, but I am still on a Rescue Remedy I.V. drip…

For some, the commencement of another calendar year is a chance for gentle reflection, and resolving to make positive changes in one’s life. For others, the tradition of gathering on the eve of December 31st to ring in the New Year involves more spirited(!) fun and frivolity. But for me, it’s the time Ponita “Ask Not For Whom You Buttle: You Buttle For ME!” Velveeta hoofs me her annual Ponybutler Performance Review (PPR).

As a lifelong committed equicentric, I was proud to attain my official Ponybutler designation in 2010, after a mere decade or two of strenuous study and practical toil. Alas, any hope of resting on my laurels (a week luxuriating in the balmy climes of South Dakota, or even one measly day devoted to lounging in my chaise) were quickly dashed; there is indeed no rest for the wicked, weary, or pony-owned.

While it was a bitter blow to be denied any celebratory respite from my daily regimen of pony pampering, I was later heartened to be featured on the July 2011 cover of Manure Mover’s Monthly magazine. And I was flattered to be named one of 10 finalists for the highly coveted international Golden Hoofpick Award in 2012 (it was an honour just to be nominated!).

In my four years as a fully accredited Ponybutler, I’ve endeavoured to deliver the highest standard of care to Velvet, implementing a program of continuous improvement. I wrote a pony policy manual, and participated in empowering workshops such as ‘Massaging Your Pony’s…Ego,’  and ‘Picking Up Poop: It’s Not Just A Job, It’s An Opportunity!’

For my pains (alleviated only by handfuls of ibuprofen and chocolate), I received tolerably encouraging comments on my year end PPR’s from 2010-2012. On the eve of the incoming year last week, I felt cautiously optimistic about starting 2014 off with another decent assessment. I was even planning a trip to The Happy Grazer Buffet, to squander my anticipated bonus on the January ‘Left Over/Fill ‘Er Up Special’.

After performing my last farm ‘n barn chores of 2013 (a certain pony likes her bedding fluffed just so, her food tastefully presented, and her water tepid yet effervescent), imagine the pit of despair into which I plunged upon being hoofed the following pitiless PPR by the object of my sweaty servitude…



#1-KNOWLEDGE: Kat is a competent pony provider, as per her 2010 Ponybutler certification. However, she did not score overly well on some pop quizzes last year, and I am concerned her July 2011 appearance on the cover of Manure Mover’s Monthly (MMM), and her Golden Hoofpick Award (GHA) nomination in 2012 may have gone to her head.

#2-PRODUCTIVITY: Kat attends to the stable and moi adequately. My stall and pasture must remain immaculate, and I am most particular about my diet. Kat keeps busy without supervision, but I worry that her being featured on the cover of MMM, and her GHA nomination, have gone to her head.

#3-ORGANIZATION: Kat uses various organizational systems; my pony accoutrements are kept in precise places. While I appreciate my blankets, brushes, etc. being colour coordinated to flatter my attractive shade of silver bay…I do wonder if Kat’s appearance on the MMM cover, and that GHA nomination, have not gone to her head?

#4-INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS: Kat interacts in a congenial fashion with the veterinarian and pedicurist et al. to ensure my comfort. She realizes I am her top priority, but her willingness to ‘sell’ herself as a MMM cover model, and stand for nomination for a GHA, would suggest these distractions may have gone to her head.


#5-COOPERATION: Kat accepts her role as the major facilitator of my ongoing contentment, and has organized special events to fete my existence. She liases with other resources in order to further my well-being, but that stint as an MMM cover[chore]gal, and her involvement with the GHA might lead one to conclude ‘show biz’ has gone to her head.

#6-SAFETY: Kat cannot be faulted for her commitment to safety. She is proactive and vigilant regarding possible threats to my ideal environment. But I cannot help but think that Kat putting herself forward as an MMM cover model and GHA nominee reflect unseemly exhibitionist tendencies, and may have gone to her head.

#7-PUBLIC RELATIONS: Kat answers all my fan mail promptly, and sends out autographed head shots to my myriad devotees. Despite this fabulous ‘glamour by association,’ her decision to pose on an MMM cover and accept a nomination for the GHA lead me to suspect these extracurricular activities have gone to her head.

#8-ATTENDANCE & PUNCTUALITY: Kat may not have taken a sick day in four years, or been late once, but flaunting herself on MMM and grandstanding as a GHA finalist was in poor taste, and would appear to have gone to her head.


The Pony Panel, and I, Velvet, agree that Kat cannot be faulted for her work ethic/dedication/pony knowledge and so forth. She is proficient in her duties as a Ponybutler, and has a cheerful disposition. Regrettably, we sense that her absolute commitment to her equine charge has been unwisely compromised by her off duty diversions since certifying. We feel we must carefully examine all aspects of Kat’s present contract, before making a decision to extend her term-and endorse her qualifications. Kat receives a provisional FAIL vis a vis the Pony Pampering Protocol Perfection Index.

…WHUUUUT!!!! At this point, I have no further comment; I’m seeking legal advice!

About Kat: I’ve heard that fortunate people have one great passion in life; aside from dark chocolate and my husband–not necessarily in that order!–mine has been “everything equine.” Beginning with lessons as a kid, I’ve been lucky enough to break a variety of bones riding a wide selection of breeds, in a number of disciplines–from TB racehorse (clavicle) to eventing Appaloosa (tibia) to endurance Arabian (ribs). It’s also been my privilege to play Ponybutler to my own hooved beasties on a succession of scarily rustic farms, over the past 20 [very] odd years. The dream continues!


Kat and her ex-hunter pony partner of 14 years (Provincial Velvet a/k/a the Amazing Velveeta a/k/a “Velvet, NO!!”).

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