By Steve and Fadocia Annette Hall —
Special to the Eastern Shore Post
A heart’s desire to set foot on Chincoteague Island and be part of pony penning is what Annette Hall, 61, had on her “Life Goal List.”
Then, as if by chance, she met Denny and Teresa Hemphill of Dickson, Tennessee. The Hemphills own five Chincoteague ponies, including Riptide’s Twinkling Jewel, aka “Twinkie,” and Riptide’s Beautiful Secret, aka “Beauty.”
Annette Hall, along with her husband, Steve, and son, Ezekiel, produce an outdoor adventure show called “Tennessee’s Wild Side,” which airs on all the PBS stations in Tennessee and Kentucky. When the underwriter of the show suggested the Halls follow the Hemphills to do a story on their seventh Chincoteague adventure, Annette thought the idea was surely too good to be true.
A few months later, after the reservations were actually made, Teresa suggested Annette go a step further and make a list of ponies she would want to bid on — but, of course, Teresa urged her to choose a Riptide foal.
Weeks went by without a list and Teresa continued to suggest it, while also graciously offering to pay a large portion of the pony price. She said it was her way of “passing the love forward. “
In order to be completely objective, while also guarding her heart, Annette put together her top picks based solely on photos.
The name “Secret” was suggested by a 15-year-old horseback riding friend, who said she woke up at 4 a.m., one week before Pony Penning, with the name on her mind.
When the picture of Annette’s favorite filly was compared with the names of 2022 foals, it was Secret Feather’s filly.
“It was so astonishing, and yet it was just one of many miraculous signs that Secret’s filly was the one, and the only one, I really wanted,” Annette said. “I started out thinking I would be happy with any pony, but so many things happened during the week that just kept pointing to the one labeled 57.”
Denny and Teresa Hemphill knew going into Thursday’s auction that the odds were against winning with the amount of money set aside. But everyone involved agreed to go forward in faith, praising God, win or lose.
And lose they did!
An online bidder offered $9,250 for the little bay pinto filly with one blue eye — and that was way beyond their $5,000 limit.
Disappointed and a little confused by the outcome, Annette started bidding on another pony, but dropped out $200 shy of the winning bid.
“It just didn’t feel right,” she said. “Teresa also knew it didn’t feel right and encouraged me to quit bidding.”
Then, in a turn of events that auctioneer Tim Jennings announced had never happened in the history of the auction, the online bidder was unable to complete the transaction.
“I think we all knew in that moment it would be number 57,” Annette said.
“I know how much faith Annette has and I really hoped she’d be able to get the pony she wanted,” said Steve Hall, adding, “And while I’m a believer myself, I always try to trust that God knows better than I do. So when we lost the bid for Secret, I was disappointed but kept right on working and believing it was all for the best. When the auctioneer announced they were bringing a foal back in, I just started laughing to myself; I had no doubt it was going to be number 57.”
During the transition time, everyone was bracing for what was about to happen.
Initially, Annette had used her old Misty statue as a good luck charm in bidding. She had put her away, but quickly got it back out again for the second round.
Then one of the Feather Fund children and her mother came over and offered to pray.
“I loved Robin Krutke and her daughter Shelby, a Feather Fund winner, coming over to pray,” said Teresa Hemphill.
“And then Denny asked Ellis Savage, a Saltwater Cowboy, and his daughter, McKenzie, if they would bring Secret a little closer to us, and of course, above all other things, God was watching over us,” she said.
The second round of bidding ran up rapidly and when it topped the $5,000 limit, Denny Hemphill’s sister Karen Dillehay, who owns “Marlin’s Legacy,” contributed a large amount of money.
“I feel so blessed to have been there and part of this beautiful story,” said Dillehay.
Ezekiel Hall and his girlfriend, Mollie Montgomery, quickly kicked in another significant amount.
“We had been planning to add money to the bid before number 57 was sold the first time,” said Montgomery.
“When she came out again, after the online bidder backed out, we knew it was God’s timing to add more,” Ezekiel Hall added.
When the bid was finally accepted at $9,000, there were nine contributors, including the Halls themselves and two friends back home in Tennessee, making it possible to purchase the pony to be named, “Chincoteague’s Beautiful Secret.”
“We often invite children and adults to the old century farm where we keep our horses to participate in “Exclusive Equine Experiences,” Annette Hall said, adding, “It’s primarily for children who can’t afford a horse, or for adults who had a bad childhood experience and want to try again. But we believe Secret’s filly will go far beyond what we have ever imagined. She has already touched the lives of two children, one six-year-old girl we met at the Chincoteague museum, who resolved to continue dreaming for a farm and a pony like Secret. We also met a 13-year-old girl on the beach at Assateague who just started taking lessons and both young girls already want to visit Secret in Tennessee.”
Annette said they are especially happy that Secret is now back on Assateague with her mother. Since the filly is only a month old, she will be a fall pickup.