When the youngsters became the proud owners of a new colt, they set out on a mission to bond with him.
Teaching him tricks became part of the fun, as they coaxed him to interact and do things in exchange for affection and treats.
Mastering the challenge of standing on his hind legs was a little awkward for the uncoordinated colt, but when the children discovered they could help, the trick become even more interesting.
Coaxing him and helping him to get his front legs up high enough, they discovered he could indeed stand on his hind legs — if he perched his front legs on their shoulders.
The colt transformed into a dancing partner, much to their delight, and the trick became their new greeting — the colt placing his front legs on their shoulders and licking their cheeks to say hello every time they entered his stall.
Of course summer vacation passed, and the children became distracted with other things, spending less and less time with the colt.
Then one day the children ran into the barn for a visit, shocked to see the colt had grown tall and muscular and nothing like the baby they had spent so many summer days with.
But even though he didn't look the same, the colt hadn't forgotten them.
Eager to show them he remembered, he rose to his hind legs when they entered his stall and greeted them just as they had taught him to so long ago.
Only this time, the greeting brought no joy or laughter, and instead the children cried in pain and terror as the weight of the horse came crashing down on them.
The story — told by riding instructors to group after group of eager students — came back to memory right about the same time a large black rubber feed bucket sailed through the air and struck the front of the stall.
Proud of himself, the gelding who had thrown it tossed his head up and down and neighed loudly.
And in that instant, it became markedly clear that a well-intended, and, well, just plain cool trick had been taken completely out of context.
It had started when; day after day the gelding dragged, kicked and nudged his feed bucket around his stall, inevitably leaving it in the furthest corner just in time for dinner.
One day, it was somewhat close to the fence so I reached through, stretched my hand and said "get it."
And he did.
Nudging it within reach, he stepped back in one of those shocking moments of clarity where the same language is being spoken and meanings are as clear as if exchanged between humans.
The next day was a repeat.
Ask for the bucket — bucket gets scooted.
And then the third day he stepped up his game, grabbed the bucket in his teeth and flung it my way as soon as I entered the barn — with all the force and determination of a hungry half-ton animal.
Thankfully he didn't get the pitch quite right, because had it made it over the fence the impact would have been quite unpleasant judging by the way the fence shook and rang.
Needless to say, the days to come were spent fine-tuning the trick, with treats dispensed only when the bucket was slid, not thrown, and before long, the gelding began to put the bucket in place as soon as footsteps on the gravel hinted at feeding time.
But in the end, his lesson paled in comparison to the larger one — that, for every lesson taught, it is imperative to ask — what happens if the pupil not only learns, but takes (or throws) it further than ever imagined.
Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at: