For many of us as children, a trip to the grocery store meant a ride on a majestic mechanical pony at the entrance for just one quarter. Now, as these kiddie rides are disappearing one by one, some of us can’t help but wonder where are they now?
For 30 of these lucky ponies, local and national artists have turned them into beautiful works of art as part of the Pony Up! Quarter Horse project, which will auction off the ponies to raise money for the Wade J. Woodmark Foundation in Depoe Bay. Three ponies are on display at Bridgewater Bistro in Astoria.
The foundation was started by Talley Woodmark and John Woodmark after their son, Wade John Woodmark, died in 2005 after accidentally being shot by a friend. The non-profit aims to provide support and hope for families who have lost a child by providing a retreat in Depoe Bay for them to recover without distraction. It also provides scholarships, literacy programs and more.
Talley, owner of the Silver Heron Gallery, Blue Heron Gallery and Purple Starfish Gallery, got her inspiration for the project from her husband, John. On their fifth date in 1993, he claimed to own and lease 250 quarter horses. Talley, an equestrian herself, was thoroughly impressed. He invited her to meet one of his horses. They headed to a grocery store in Bandon.
She quickly realized his quarter horses were not the breed found on a racetrack but rather that children ride for a quarter. They road tripped around Oregon together, collecting quarters from all his horses around the state.
Fast forward 25 years, 30 of the ponies sat in a storage shed covered in dust.
“Every single time I go in there, I look at these things and they’re literally speaking to me, ‘Talley, Talley, take us from the dusty ledge,’” Talley said.
Shortly after, Talley began giving them out to artists that passed through her galleries in Depoe Bay. As artists started sending her back what they’d designed, she and John were blown away.
The ponies are covered in seashells, splattered with graffiti and coated in tiny, glittering jewels. Some have wings or mosaic tiles. Another was painted to look like a zebra and another dons a tutu.
Paris Spence, who graduated from Ilwaco High School in 2012 and studied graphic design at Western Washington University, is a longtime family friend of the Woodmark’s and received a pony to design. Paris, who lives in Ridgefield, Washington, decide to cover hers in polyvinyl sheets covered in spray-painted layers of red, pink and yellow. The sheets were cut and laid to make it seem like the colors were almost melting off of the pony. Thus came the name “Siracha.”
“It just kind of looked like dripping hot sauce,” Paris said.
Paris’ mother, Susan Spence of Long Beach, has been a graphic designer for Talley and serves as a board member with her husband, Christopher, for the Wade J. Woodmark Foundation. As the project developed, Talley had the idea to create a coffee table book for all the beautiful ponies and the artists. She reached out to Susan, who was immediately enamored with the idea.
“You really can’t beat doing graphics with beautiful things,” Susan said.
Susan will also design a pony. She plans to cover the pony in rope to mirror the beach baskets she also designs in her free time.
Susan then connected with her sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Tony Kischner, to see if they’d like to display some of the ponies at their restaurant, the Bridgewater Bistro.
“They were instantly excited,” Susan said. “I made a point of working with Talley to pick out what ponies would go well there.”
“Thunderbolt,” the futuristic steam-punk pony; “Joy,” the galloping Appaloosa; and “Phoebe,” the graffiti pony by Michael Darling, are all on display in the entrance at Bridgewater Bistro. They will be there for the next several months.
The auction for the ponies will run through the end of the year. All proceeds will go to the Wade J. Woodmark Foundation.