C.J. was bored. The 14-year-old Welsh pony stood patiently through the third rendition of his owner’s lesson on caring for horses, and he looked a little worse for the wear.
Bright green and pink stripes were painted through his mane, and blue polka dots covered his not-so-pristine hindquarters. More blobs of orange paint were mashed into his coat.
But the sweet, formerly white pony was used to the treatment, and waited without complaint for another round of 4- and 5-year-olds to come at him with small paintbrushes.
C.J. was one of three equine creatures who joined the World of Wonders Science Museum for the second annual Hippology event.
WOW held a special event Saturday to introduce children to horses and how to care for them.
All Seasons Carriage Company, based in Acampo, provided the four-legged models and offered pony rides on chocolate brown Cocoa up and down Sacramento Street in front of the museum.
Museum director Sally Snyde greeted visitors from the interior of a small makeshift pen when she held Sweet Pea the donkey on a short lead line.
“Hippology sounds like hippos, but it means the study of horses,” she said as Kilee Cabral, 10, Keiran Evanger, 10, and Caroline Greenley, 11, petted Sweet Pea and scratched his ears.
The back room, normally reserved for birthday parties, was transformed into a miniature arena and craft center for horse-crazy kids.
Deena Kirby, owner of the carriage company, led small classes of children in a short lesson on taking care of horses.
The difference between ponies and horses is simple. Horses are bigger. Ponies are never more than 14.5 hands high, or just under 5 feet tall at the top of their back, or withers.
Donkeys are closely related to horses and ponies, but with some distinctive differences.
Donkeys like Sweet Pea have long fluffy ears, a square stocky body and a very unique voice, explained Kirby.
“And they’re smarter than horses, which is why I don’t have many of them. They’re too smart for me,” she said, earning a laugh from the assembled kids and parents.
All three animals spend hours each day happily grazing on natural grass and hoping to sneak a carrot for a treat.
Kirby walked through the basics of pony tack, including bridles, saddles and lead lines, and the tools needed to keep a horse’s feet and body clean and healthy.
What Kirby really ingrained in the children was the importance of caring for animals that depend entirely on their owners.
“We have a responsibility to provide for them all that they need, from food to vet visits,” she said. “We also need to groom the body. And boy, is he going to need it tonight after all that paint.”