When Dorothy Blair was told a rescued 5-year-old pony was available for sale, she didn't know much about its condition, or potential. But for the price of $25 and a thumbs up from someone she trusted, it was worth the risk.
At least, it was a deal worth passing on to her longtime friend, Danielle Ward. Blair knew Ward was looking for a pony or small horse for her daughter to ride. Only problem was, the pony, named Juno, would let few people ride it, except for Ward's 13-year-old son, Richie Costello.
Although Richie was more into baseball and computers than riding, under Blair's watchful eye the two embarked on a two-year journey to learn the basics of riding — and along the way, learned enough to become a 4-H grand champion.
The duo earned the 2012 Florida State 4-H Reserve Grand Champion title during their state competition in April.
"That's a big deal because it's not often that a pony beats out horses," Blair said. "Not bad for a $25 'nag.'"
Richie, for a time, was the only one whom Juno would allow on her, and Juno was known by fellow 4-H Club members as a horse that would become unruly near other horses and children alike.
In time, however, Blair and Ward agree that Juno made surprising progress.
"She was found in pretty good condition, but I guess whoever lost her, for whatever reason, decided to let her go," Blair said. "That's unfortunate for them, but fortunate for us. Someone is missing out on a nice horse."
This year, Richie got to ride other horses as, for the first time, other children got to ride Juno.
Blair said she's now working on teaching Juno how to do jumps, which she said the pony hasn't quite taken to yet.
Richie's sister will likely have to take over where he left off with Juno. His mother said he's beginning to get too big for Juno and his younger sister will likely take his place.
That's not something any of them are worried about, however. For now, Blair said what's important is that Juno, despite being an "escape artist" by getting through fences, appears to be finally settling into life at her home at Cooper Terrace.
"I think she's decided that she likes us and will stay," Blair joked. "Looks like she came around after all."