Liberty will always be remembered as a very small Shetland
pony with a very large heart. For twenty years he was a special part of the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program of Carroll County, Maryland, serving more than 200 riders in his time. It was through Liberty that numbers of small children were introduced to the wonderful world of horses and the wonderful freedom of riding.
Standing at 12 hands, Liberty was the perfect size for small hands and children reaching up from wheelchairs. His small size even allowed him to fit in the back of a minivan, in which he travelled to a children's festival to give pony rides. His travels didn't end there. Liberty went everywhere with the therapeutic riding program. A trip to the bank to accept the United Way donation for the riding program's building fund was perhaps a bit too eventful, but he stood like a statue, donned in a black saddle pad and leg wraps, at the graveside service of the gentleman who cared for him for many years.
Liberty joined the 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program in 1978 and from that time until he passed away in October of 1998 he worked almost every hour of every day that the program was in session. He stood patiently while a four-year-old blind girl learned the parts of the horse from head to hoof to tail. The autistic child, the boy with crutches, the girl in the wheelchair, the one with a chip on his shoulder, they were all his friends. He gave them all freedom every time they rode, that exhilarating thrill of being able to shed their crutches and move unencumbered by any braces or wheel chairs.
Not only did Liberty work during riding lessons year after year, he participated wholeheartedly in celebrations. One of Liberty's riders favorite things to do was to dress him up for Halloween. Liberty transformed into a bumble bee, painted a fuzzy black and yellow; a circus pony, with glittered hooves and braided mane; a hobo, with one pair of pants on his front legs, one on his back, a necktie and a hat to top things off. On one occasion, Liberty also dressed as a leprechaun pony, braided with gold and green ribbons, hooves painted glittery green and shamrocks painted on both of his hips, as he rode in with a little leprechaun rider to present the retirement gift of a fox-hunting to Ireland to the riding program's founder, Bob Shirley.
Over and over again, Liberty gave unstintingly of his time and energy, and his contributions were recognized in 1998 when he was named the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship
(PATH) International Equine of the Year. Unfortunately, Liberty passed away in October 1998, just weeks before he was to be formally presented with the award. Liberty's legacy will live on in the hearts of those he touched, and in 2000 he was selected by Reaves International to be forever immortalized as a Breyer Horses model.
The 4-H Therapeutic Riding Program of Carroll County will always remember Liberty, the Shetland pony who was small in size, but tremendous in spirit.