Painted pony rides

Karen Robinette

Karen Robinette sandwiched between Sweetie (left) and Marigold.

Karen Robinette sandwiched between Sweetie (left) and Marigold.

PHOTO BY George Robinette

Karen Robinette, 50, says she’s had “horse fever” since she was a young child. At 8 she began riding a friend’s horse, but could not afford her own until she was 18. She’s broken her back in accidents twice and cannot ride as avidly anymore. To stay close to horses, she, along with her husband, George, developed a business from their Durham home using their three Shetland ponies, called Prancing Pony Carriage Rides. They entertain children and parents at parties and other events through individual and group rides on the ponies or on Karen’s three-wagon carriage. They add to the fun by allowing the kids to paint and decorate their ponies. Search for the business on Craigslist, or call 570-1203 or email for more info.

How did you start Prancing Pony?

When we first moved to Durham in 2000, a horse rescue firm asked us to board 12 horses for the winter for $600. At the end they didn’t have the money so they offered one of their Shetland ponies. I didn’t want to take it because they have very bad temperaments, but we kept it to sell. However, Sweetie was so friendly, gentle and sweet that we kept her for the kids and have had her for 14 years. She had a foal named Marigold and when she was old enough, we drove them as a two-pony team. We have a third, a gelding that we sometimes substitute.

Where did you get that carriage?

To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only three-wagon carriage in the world. It was from a custom kit and I did all the painting, varnishing and woodwork myself.

What types of events do you attend?

We do birthday and Halloween parties, weddings and the Patrick Ranch Autumn Fest the last three weekends each October. We also plan to do wine tours. We charge $75 an hour if we go to your event, or $25 an hour on our farm.

What have been some of your most memorable events?

The first time we did Autumn Fest was our first commercial event and it was a huge hit. We were very apprehensive and afraid no one would show up. But people went nuts at seeing a pony-drawn carriage and we had lines all day. Then once for Halloween we dressed Sweetie as a four-legged picnic. We draped a checkered tablecloth on her and a big picnic basket over her saddle. We also glued plates of food and bottles of water on her. My 8-year-old daughter was an ant and we put her in the basket!

And the kids can paint on the ponies?

Yes, I think we’re the only ones on the face of the planet that do it. It’s a huge thrill for the kids. We have pony-decorating parties where they paint their names and other designs on them. They even put flowers on them and braid their manes and tails.

Any future plans for your ponies?

Yes, in June we plan to start pony-drawn taxi rides in [downtown] Chico. We’re having the carriage fitted with a sound and lighting system. We’re going to call it “Equi Cab” or “Pony Cab.”