In Gaylord, Michigan, a group of kids got to show off their budding horse training chops at the 2021 Pony Challenge, which is part of the Northern Michigan Livestock Auction. According to the auction house’s Facebook page it works like this: the auctioneer, Wade Leist, carefully selected families with children who ride horses and gave them ponies for a month. The children had only the month to work with the ponies and make them rideable and easy to handle on the ground so that they could be sold at the auction.

Three families participated; the Braska sisters, Hadlea, Haiden and Silver; the VanHouten brothers Wynn and Chad; and the Erbes sisters, Macey and Aliya.

The parents of the kids spoke to a local news outlet and extolled the virtues of the program, explaining that the children relished the work, not just the reward at the end of the auction.

But rewards there were: the kids each got a custom Pony Challenge Buckle and they also get to keep any money made on top of the original pony purchase price.

For Haiden Braska, whose pony Chip was the top seller at $2,300, she got a Corriente Custom Trophy Saddle to take home, too.

As for the lucky ponies, they were found in fields, “loose pens” and two had been “traded around.” So for auctioneer Leist, the pony challenge was an opportunity for a better life for the ponies, too. Telling the Cadillac News, “Nobody was ever going to put the time in that these kids are. Now these ponies are really turning into something desirable and useful and valuable.”

A good home for the ponies was on the mind of the kids as well. The Erbe girls told the reporter they hoped their work with the ponies would attract loving homes.

“I’m hoping that they’ll have, like somebody that’ll love them and stuff, because you don’t want a mean owner, it’s like having a mean mom,” Aliya said. “You don’t want the mean mom.”

In fact, the Northern Michigan Livestock Auction said that all six ponies found new homes after the auction.