July 30, 2001
Pongo - show-jumping Slurpee-loving star
by Bronwyn Wilson
As Pongo enjoys an early dinner of savory grass in the pasture, he sees his trainer, Heidi Snider, heading toward him. The thoroughbred Hanoverian Appaloosa loves Snider and doesn't mind her interrupting. He couldn't ever be upset with her. Unless, of course, he discovers Heidi driving out of the driveway and she hasn't invited him to go along. In that event, he's just a bit angry.
As Snider draws closer, he notices Potter in her arms. Pongo also loves Potter, a Corgi mix. He likes to trot around the stable carrying the energetic little dog on his back. Most horses wouldn't want a dog riding on their back and would swat one off like a fly. But Pongo and Potter are best friends. However, right now, Pongo wonders about the lady trailing behind Snider and Potter. She appears to be a news reporter. Oh no, here comes the press again.
He's beginning to understand how Ichiro, the popular Seattle Mariner rookie, must feel. Cameras follow Ichiro's every step. Pongo munches on grass, giving the "I'm busy" message to the reporter who focuses her camera on him. Potter hops on his back and Snider stands beside him. Pongo knows what to do; he's done it many times before. He lifts his head high, his silver mane in full view, and turns his puppy-dog eyes toward the camera. Hold the pose. Flash! When you're a champion like Pongo, photo sessions are part of a winning horse's life.
Along with numerous other show-jumping stars, Pongo will demonstrate his skills and amazing abilities at the Evergreen Classic Benefit Horse Show Aug. 7-12 when he and Snider compete at Marymoor Park i. At horse events, Pongo ranks first in Washington state in the regular conformation hunter's division and stands 10th in the nation. Says Snider, "No matter where he goes, little kids run up to him because he's Pongo. He's a celebrity at horse shows."
Snider explains that Pongo stands out because of his black and brown spots on a beautiful white coat. She named him after the head Dalmatian in the movie 101 Dalmatians and comments, "He's so much like a lap dog, it just fit him."
She goes on to explain why he's a special horse, "He likes to work really hard. He's been a shoulder for me to cry on. He gets sick every time I'm out of town. He gets really angry when the trailer leaves without him." She adds that Pongo also likes to have fun.
"He lets Potter ride on his back," she says, smiling. "And Potter plays with him. She keeps all her toys in his paddock."
Pongo, age 9, came to be a part of Snider's life four years ago. She remarks, "He's my primary horse. He's like a pet." The show-jumping champion resides with other show horses at Hillcrest Stables in Woodinville, a Hollywood Hill farm owned by the Snider family. She says that Pongo's popularity comes from his lovable and gentle nature as well as his competitive spirit. He has earned points and ribbons by executing a set of jumps in a smooth and consistent manner with graceful arcs. Pongo learned from Snider that judges look for really tight knees and so he pulls his knees to his nose as he leaps four feet in the air.
Snider, 27, has always wanted to compete. When she was a child, she had dreams of being an Olympic gymnast. But at 13, she was too tall for gymnastics and so she turned her sights toward equestrian events. "I always liked horses and loved animals, so I took a couple of riding lessons," she says.
Today she's a professional trainer who competes at horse events and teaches riding to children and adults. This year will be her fourth year as a professional at the horse show at Marymoor Park. Snider will compete in different classes and on different horses. The event is fun for the rider and for the spectator too. Snider explains, "The fun, I would say, is watching the partnership and communication between horse and rider while they jump heights relative to their ability levels."
More than 10,000 spectators and 650 exhibitors are expected to attend the Evergreen Classic with proceeds benefiting Pacific Northwest Scholarship Fund of Evergreen Youth Television. The Classic will showcase horse-jumping competition and feature future stars of the show-jumping world competing head-to-head with past Olympians. Snider says that she would love to compete in equestrian jumping events at the Olympics, but the cost involved has put that goal on hold. However, her short-term goal of competing with Pongo in the National Finals at Madison Square Gardens is within reach.
Describing the most exhilarating moment at a horse competition, Snider says, "For me it's the moment you come down to your last jump on course and know you're going to have a perfect round (a ride of 8-10 jumps from start to finish)." But what exhilarates Pongo? It's not known for certain, but possibly it's slushy, cold and cherry-flavored. It seems Pongo is just like any other nine-year old and prefers something sweet instead of a yucky-tasting carrot. Says Snider, "His favorite thing is a Slurpee. It's his treat."
General admission is free Tuesday through Friday. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $6 for adults; $3 for seniors and children aged 6-12; free for children under 5. For reservations and information, contact Sherryl Adair at (425) 821-8316.
For information on Snider's riding classes, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.