Monday, June 17, 2019

Nearly Lost Equine Images, Part One: Trigger, the Pinto Pony

One of the reasons I created this blog was to record the importance of model horses, and real horses, in the lives of children and adults during the twentieth century.  This is the first in a series of posts about real horse photos that turned up in some old albums from the 1920s through 1950s. Had the pictures not been rescued, the images of these horses might have been lost forever.

"Trigger, September 1952. Farm"

I try not to make assumptions when someone doesn't keep their old family photos. There could be any number of reasons. 

Maybe the photo albums were lost by accident in a move; maybe they were put in a storage pod and never removed by the family. Maybe there were bad feelings among family members; maybe the grandkids didn't value them. Or perhaps there were no surviving family members to cherish the old pictures.

Whatever the case, I think it's appropriate to remember the equine friends that appear in the pages of old photograph albums. These pictures shed light on the fact that horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys played an important part in family life, not only as work animals but also as beloved family friends.

This seems to be the case with the pictures of Trigger the pinto pony that my friend found at a very large yard sale a couple of weeks ago.  The yard sale contained donations from dozens of people who volunteer for a local cat rescue group. There was really no way to trace the origin of the pictures except for a few penciled notes on the backs of some of the photos, and connecting them to the family names mentioned in some old Baby Books in which the mom had made notes.

The crumbling black pages of the photo album contained dozens of pictures of a 1950s California family that traveled back to the dad's family farm, probably in South Dakota (or possibly Minnesota). 

"Farm. 1952."

We know that the families' last names included Johnson and Nelson, and that this particular pony's name was Trigger.

"September 1952. Farm"

One Baby Book notes that, in 1952, Lenny Johnson, Jr. (age 4) and his parents left Southern California and "went on vacation to Bryce - Zion - Yellowstone - Teton - Black Hills and on to the Farm. Lenny road (sic) tractor and pony. Road pony bareback all by himself."

Handwritten notes on the backs of the photos say that the pony's name was Trigger.  

"Rodney on Trigger, 1951."

"Karin on Trigger, Kirstin on Dolly, 1951."

"Farm. September 1952."

Perhaps one of the reasons that Lenny's mom, Betty Jean, made note of Trigger and Dolly was that she and Lenny's dad also had horses when they were children, and saved their pictures.  We'll look at them in subsequent blog posts.

We can't deduce much more about Trigger at this point, except to say that it looks like his children loved him. And perhaps, in the long run, that's the most important thing to remember.


  1. great post! here's to all of the forgotten ponies!

  2. I had tears in my eyes as I read this. Thank you, Teresa, for putting this little story together from the pictures and baby books!

  3. Hey, Teresa! Absolutely loved this! I have a soft spot for forgotten ponies and also forgotten horse and pony books!

  4. P.S. Speaking of ponies and history, I might have a Beswick pony that I *think* you sold me up on my blog right now. The Bessie Shetland stallion. And I *think* he still has the name you originally gave him. But my memory isn't always so good?

    If I'm right, you can find him here:

    And if you let me know if I was right, I can update the information to give you credit for his name!

    1. Great blog post! But no, that wasn't my Beswick Shetland. :)