Monday, January 31, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Ponies, Oh My!

We took Little A to the children's zoo last week. Located in the middle of the urban jungle, it is called The Ark, since all the animals are kept in a smallish building in roomy areas behind glass (big cats), open ponds (fish, crocodiles, geese and ducks), pens (goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits and guinea pigs) or cages (small snakes, birds).

Since he loves ducks and fish, Little A spent plenty of time peering into the ponds. The eagles and owls tethered by their legs to wooden posts were slightly frightening as they had limited flight space and could hit or peck a small child. Keepers brought out an orangutan the same size as my son, but with hands and arms the size of Big A's. It was a friendly creature, but both Little A and I were hesitant to sit so close to him and have our photos taken.

A fan of horses, Little A ran towards the Shetland pony. A blanket was put on the horse's back, and despite the lack of anything to hold on to (no reins, stirrups, or rope of any kind), keepers told us he could be ridden. My little boy didn't want to, though, just yet.

We visited the second floor, where Little A fed the rabbits and large guinea pigs a carrot on a stick. He thoroughly enjoyed the swing in the recreation area, but when we went downstairs to head home, he decided he was brave enough to get on the pony.

Because there was nothing to hold on to, and I was afraid he'd pull the horse's mane too tightly, I stood next to my little boy to keep him balanced. The keeper led him once around the lower area with me walking alongside the horse, then Little A motioned that he wanted to go again.

Midway through the second round, another keeper came out of a side door. For some reason, this startled the pony, who kicked me hard in the leg and bolted around the corner, throwing off Little A in the process.

My son landed on his side on a rough concrete floor. He cried loudly, from shock more than anything else. Naturally, the few people in the building came running. Ice packs, a nurse's examination, and curious onlookers resulted. Little A seemed uninjured save for a scratch on his forehead, but I suffered a nasty bruise on my leg in the perfect shape of a horse's hoof.

Before going home, we encouraged Little A to get back on the pony, just so he wouldn't be afraid of horses in the future. He did, and went around the closed area once more. Despite his calm leave-taking, he does seem to harbour some sense of unease about the visit, as when he looks at the videos on my husband's mobile phone these days, he always chooses to skip the ones of the trip to the zoo.

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