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In reality, some girls like ponies. In TV Land, all girls like ponies. Especially the Spoiled Brats. This especially applies to girls who are young enough to be in the Princess Phase.
Ponies tend to be the stock Christmas wish that has no chance of ever coming true. References to formerly owned ponies can also mark a character as a Fallen Princess.
Of course, the trope is parodied when it's a boy who likes ponies, and is an easy opportunity for creators to slip in My Little Phony jokes.
This trope is mostly confined to North America and Western Europe, and relatively recent times. Back before the automobile, and in many parts of the world down to the present day (especially the Middle East, home of the world's best horses), there's nothing particularly feminine about liking horses. Nor even about liking ponies; Genghis Khan rode a pony. And even in North America and Western Europe, this is an Evolving Trope, which has been undergoing some highly unexpected developments since about 2010.
Compare Pony Tale (a specific kind of book where the pony love is central to the plot), Girls Love Stuffed Animals, Pink Means Feminine.
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One of those odious car commercials that came out in the US Christmas 2008 had a little girl berating her adult self for thinking a new car was a better present than the pony she got when she was seven, that made her scream so loud the neighbors came over, and made the girl next door sickly jealous.
A Verizon commercial where three older girls are suggested to have each got what they actually wanted for Christmas, and one of them asked for a pony (the others? Cell phones). Turns out it wasn't such a great gift after all.
A radio ad tells the tale of a father who couldn't afford a new car for his daughter's Sweet Sixteen — so he got her a pony to ride everywhere instead.
When Cracker Jack introduced a bigger size bag for their product, the advertising played up the size of the bag to mythic proportions: A guy bringing home a bag tied to the roof of his car can't fit it in his garage, a guy buying Cracker Jack at a baseball game gets crushed by a flying bag, etc. The prize inside also got scaled up; guess what a young girl gets inside her Cracker Jack bag? That's right:
"Mommy! Mommy! I got a pony!"
An advertisement about spending money to earn reward points for NFL swag has a father going on a shopping spree for his daughter; at the end of the commercial, she is seen riding on a pony.
The current wave of TV and virally-generated adverts for the Three mobile phone network, in which a shetland pony is animated to look as if it is dancing in various styles. A typical example. There are more... the craze has spawned eight or nine spin-offs and shows no signs of abating yet.
Footrot Flats: The Dog hopes that Pongo will grow into the pony stage soon, so she will leave him alone.
A line in Frozen Moonlight reads "Misao had the gleeful shock of a child who'd suddenly gotten everything they'd ever wanted for Christmas, plus a pony."
In the Discworld fanfic The Ace of Swords, zoo director Johanna Smith-Rhodes drops everything to capture the unicorn she covets for the zoo. In her overwhelming desire to get a unicorn, she forgets everything her Assassin training taught her, including making sure there's an escape route if it all goes pear-shaped. She is rescued, ingloriously, by the City Watch and her more level-headed colleague Miss Alice Band.
Cruel Intentions 2 uses a racy version of this trope where proper horse-riding technique is used as a metaphor for sex.
In Serenity, Mal dresses as a woman to get into the temple where Inara is being held. His first words to her are:
Mal: Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony, and a plastic rocket—
Jessie's previous owner Emily in Toy Story 2. At least until she grows older...
Discussed in George of the Jungle—the girls are all watching George frolicking with the horses, when one of the male guests at the party (who, of course, cannot see the King of the Jungle) comments "What is it with chicks and horses, huh?"
The Penguin: Hey...why should I trust some cat-broad anyway? Maybe you're just some screwed-up sorority chick, who's getting back at her daddy for not buying her that pony when she turned sweet sixteen!
In The Ultimate Gift Jason was told by a dying girl that her wish is to ride a horse. He takes her horseback riding and comes to find out it is her mother who is the one who likes horses so the trope is still being used but this one girl might be one of the few in fiction to ever says that she doesn't like horses.
In Taken Bryan Mills wants to build a closer relationship with his teenage daughter Kim. She lives with her mother, Lenore, and her wealthy stepfather, Stuart. During Kim's 17th Birthday, he buys her an expensive karaoke machine because she wants to become a singer, only to be upstaged by Stuart, who surprises her with a horse which makes her so happy she forgets all about the karaoke machine.
Discussed in Lost in Translation. Charlotte mentions all girls go through a horse phase and a photography phase.
Piers Anthony beats this trope to death, resurrects it, and then beats it to death again, and keeps on beating it in just about all his writing. ...maybe because he actually is the father of a horse-crazy girl.
Possibly the reason why American Girl Felicity Merriman exists. That and princess-y clothes, but she was far more historically accurate back in the day and still had the horse thing going on.
In Soul Music, there's a bit about how a certain type of girl who will refuse to clean her bedroom, even at gunpoint, will fight for the privilege of mucking out a stable. Susan, however, is very much an exception, until she meets Binky.
Adora Belle Dearheart (aka Spike) averts this, mentioning that she had a pony when she was younger but didn't like it very much. But she used to watch it run around or whatever you're supposed to do with the things.
In Hogfather, Death, posing as the Santa Expy, promises to deliver a pony to a little girl, complete with jodhpurs. Cue said girl's mother trying to explain they live in an apartment.
One Ross O Carroll Kelly novel claims that girls who grew up owning a horse end up mentally messed up, as their first love never showed any affection (horses not being the kindest of pets).
Laisa of the Vorkosigan Saga. While a shrewd merchant/scholar, she is immediately taken with the idea of riding a horse when she visits Barrayar. This is justified though; her home planet, Komarr, is two notches up from being a lifeless rock, and so her wanting to ride a horse outside is kind of like someone from Arizona wanting to ski.
Subverted by Cordelia Vorkosigan. When confronted with horseback as the only option for escape from assassins, she's not happy about it. Her home planet, like Laisa's, isn't known for its animals, and she's never been on one before. Afterward, she still doesn't care for horses, possibly because they remind her of her possibly-homicidal father-in-law.
In 'Mountains of Mourning' you have this "God, thought Miles jealously, if I had half the sex-appeal of that bloody horse I'd have more girlfriends than my cousin Ivan. " Ivan being well known for his bed hopping.
In 'Komar' Ekaterin admits to having gone through this phase.
Oh-so-many paperback book series aimed at young girls, including The Saddle Club, Pony Pals and Thoroughbred books.
Shel Silverstein's poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" is about a girl who withers away and dies when her foolish parents refuse to buy her a pony; the poem ends with the suggestion that the young reader use it to get stuff from his/her parents.
Averted in the Secret Country books by Pamela Dean. Of the three female main characters, Ruth and Ellen are competent riders, but not terribly interested in horses. Laura, however, hates horses with a passion and tends to fall off of them as soon as she's put in the saddle. This is inconvenient for her, since the person she pretends to be for two books plays this trope straight.
Subverted in The God of Animals by sisters Alice and Nona, who, having grown up in depressing circumstances on a struggling horse farm, have no illusions about horses, particularly in regards to the show circuit. Played more or less straight with Sheila, though she's viewed as a silly Spoiled Brat by the protagonist.
Taken Up to Eleven in Winni Allfours. The girl of the title loves ponies, but her parents won't buy her one. In a whimsical twist, Winni eats all her vegetables to turn into a pony herself!
In the third Codex Alera book, double-agent Rook has her daughter held hostage as leverage, and said daughter is very intent on getting away and going somewhere with ponies.
In Harry Potter Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown go into fits of delight whenever they get shown horse-like magical creatures such as Hippogriffs, centaurs and unicorns. With regards to the unicorns, Alpha Bitch Pansy Parkinson is described as having to "work hard to conceal how much she liked them."
A Brother's Price features a broad inversion of most gender roles. The two most prominent young men in the book, Jerin and Cullen, both adore horses, Cullen moreso than Jerin. Cullen's sisters don't let him near them because he had some "great-great-grandfart that got kicked in the head and died". His cousin sometimes takes him to the stables to pet them over a low wall, but won't let him get closer. He's deeply envious of Jerin, whose family raises horses and lets him ride the older, gentler mares.
Both invoked and averted in The Pinhoe Egg when Julia and Janet fall passionately in love with the idea of owning a horse, but one is terrified of the actual animal and the other dislikes riding.
A male example is Zandakar - a prince - and his pony Didijik being extremely close in Karen Miller's Empress. Hekat, his mother and effective queen of Et-Raklion, uses Didijik's death in a fall to accuse the warlord's right-hand-man Hanochek of dereliction of duty and has him expelled from the city and sold into slavery. She punishes her son as well, making him wear leggings made from the pony's hide.
It's implied in Equoid that there's a sinister reason for girls' love of ponies... Shub-Niggurath, (which is a bizarre equine creature, at least in part of its life-cycle) uses them to spread (as its female young resemble My Little Ponies) and... other things
Elliot Reid from Scrubs. Prior to one episode her "best moment" of working in medicine was being able to ride a horse to work.
JD's liking unicorns (and unicorns) should be noted as detrimental to his image in Dr Cox's eyes.
Season 9 has Lucy (JD's Suspiciously Similar Substitute with a bit of Elliot thrown in) who is completely obsessed with horses. she even has a funeral for one of her stuffed horses after it gets destroyed.
In one episode of The L Word, the titular lesbians have a party, and one of them speculates that straight girls wanted ponies, while lesbians wanted monkeys, and they ask around the table. The bisexual ones say ponies, and one says "Racecar".
Amanda from The Latest Buzz even goes so far as attempting to hide her pony in the office when she thinks her father is going to take it away.
Daisy in Spaced, while arguing with Marsha about mothers (Series 1 Episode 6). According to the DVD commentary, Daisy had originally wanted a Tacchini jacket, but that was felt to be too obscure:
Marsha: All she wanted to do was show you somebody cared about you.
Daisy: If she'd wanted to do that, then she could have bought me that pony!
In Robin Hood After a fight with Marian, Guy of Gisborne tries to appease her by...bringing her a pony! And it works. Of course in the Middle Ages getting a horse was rather like getting a car; a pretty palfrey was the equivalent of a classic convertible.
Similarly, on The Mentalist, when Patrick Jane misses Teresa Lisbon's birthday (or at least turns up without a present,) she gets upset. Rather annoyed, he says, "What? Upset you didn't get your pony?" At the end of the episode, her absent present comes. It is, of course, a pony.
In the later seasons of Full House, Michelle rides horses at a barn, and one of the other girls there races her and causes her to fall off the horse and get amnesia. In an earlier season, DJ and Kimmy try to buy a horse with hilarious results, and Becky mentions a love of horseback riding a few times.
Hilariously averted in Leverage: Parker is absolutely terrified of horses, stemming from a traumatic childhood incident in which a man in a horse suit beat up a clown during a birthday party.
Ruthie rides a horse on Sunday in an episode of 7th Heaven.
In The Golden Girls S6:E11 (Stand by Your Man), Dorothy explains just how badly she wanted a pony when she was six:
Rose: I really wish you'd try to get along with Bingo. I mean, maybe you don't know the fun you can have with a pet. Have you ever actually had one?
Dorothy: Well, of course I had a pet. Remember, Ma? I was six years old and I wanted a pony?
Sophia: Not the pony thing again.
Dorothy: She promised me a pony. She swore I'd get a pony. She brings me a little paper bird on a stick from the circus. You know, the kind that you have to twirl around your head to get them to tweet?
Rose: And that was your pet?
Sophia: They're very clean.
Dorothy: Then she tells me if I'm a good girl, a really good girl, God will turn the paper bird into a real one. Which I believe, because why would a mother lie? So every day I'm being very good, and praying, and looking for any sign of life. And becoming very attached to that ridiculous paper bird. So you can imagine my heartbreak when one morning I find it dead.
Rose: How does a paper bird die?
Dorothy: Good question. Someone used it to restart the pilot light.
In the Everwood pilot Andy bribes Delia into moving to Colorado by telling her she can get her own pony.
In 2 Broke Girls, both Caroline and Max adore Caroline's horse Chestnut.
Young Olive from Pushing Daisies wanted one after her first riding lesson. When her parents refuse she tries to go to Arabia, by taking the shortest possible route. About ten feet down she finds a T. Rex skeleton that an Arabian Shaw trades her a horse for the skeleton.
"I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you
But I get the feeling that you don't like it
What's with all the screaming?
You like monkeys, you like ponies
Maybe you don't like monsters so much
Maybe I used too many monkeys
Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?"
Louis C.K., no stranger to deconstructing "adorable animal" cliches, recounts a story of him showing his daughter a large gathering of Italian wild ponies. She was elated right up until one of them reached down and bit her on the leg. CK and his kid looked it up later and discovered that, in fact, "ponies are assholes; they bite all the time!"
Bella Sara is a trading card game that banks on this trope.
There have been a number of Barbie toys over the years involving ponies and horses.
Maria Luna of Backyard Sports almost perfectly fits this trope. She has a huge collection of pony dolls and wants a real one. This is subverted, however, when she goes to the circus; she hates the ponies there.
The box cover art for pretty much every horse-caring/raising/racing game will be aimed towards girls.
In DeathSpank , while performing fetch quests for Orphan Annie, DeathSpank tells her "If the next words out of your mouth are I Want a Pony" to which Annie answers "Really?!". Quest Update: Buy a pony for Annie.
"Ghostcrawler promised me a pony!" is a World of Warcraft meme, referenced in-game by the 2010 addition of the Celestial Steed.
Referenced in a Crowning Moment of Funny in Mass Effect 3 when Liara's father buys her a commando unit. When Liara questions why a commando unit her father tells her that she's too old for a damn pony. (Liara is barely 100 years old, which still is very young for Asari)
In MySims Kingdom, "a new pony or two" is the standard gift for placating Princess Butter, though special cases — like not being made Wandolier — call for something more rare, like a unicorn.
Referenced in a rather dark manner in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND during the true ending of Slight Hope. After being told that asking Tsubaki about Noel caused his plans to implode, Makoto demands Hazama explain himself. He retorts that she might as well ask for a pony if she's going to wish for unlikely things. The reason it's dark is that [A] Hazama is not known for being politically correct and [B] his tone of voice and facial expression at the time are meant to tell the viewer that his patience with her has finallyexpired.
From the same creator, Phoebe of Heavenly Nostrils watches the Pastel Unicorns TV show and owns the toys, despite having a real talking unicorn for a best friend.
Amber from Shortpacked! collects My Little Pony figurines. Ethan got her started because he wanted to comfort her and give her something to do. The fact that this also turned her into a willing accomplice for his own toy collecting obsessions must have been purely coincidental, in no way at all. She was rather annoyed when a Brony showed up and claimed that nobody liked brushable My Little Ponies.
She also nearly has a Squeesplosion when Robin brings a pony into the house as a gift for another person.
My Little Pony is built off this trope, and Megan, the main human character, has a pony of her own (that can't talk). She also takes Firefly's appearance out of nowhere and being whisked off to a land of talking ponies quite well.
Ironically, this trope has no in-universe presence in most adaptations of the toyline, since there are no humans. The girls are the ponies themselves. The first series was the only one with humans in it.
And there was the episode where she asked Dexter to turn her into a pony because she liked the My Little Pony expy so much.
Yin from Yin Yang Yo prefers Twonicorns but they're horses with two horns, who are erudite and speak in tough guy voices.
Ginger of As Told by Ginger likes horses enough that her room is decorated with a horse motif.
Amy from Futurama. When Kif creates a holographic pony for her as a romantic gift, she comments that it looks exactly like the pony her parents wouldn't let her have, because she already had too many.
DW in Arthur is obsessed with ponies. When Arthur is trying to invent a new holiday, she immediately blurts out "Pony Day!" without missing a beat. In another episode, her choice for where to go on vacation is — or rather, in a bit of a plot twist, isn't — the theme park Ponyland.
Francine's dream in one episode was to be an Olympic horseback rider even though at the beginning she had never been on a horse.
In the episode "The Story on Page One" from Family Guy, Peter attempts to give Meg a pony that she has wanted since she was 6 years old. Except, "Oh. Oh God, that's right... ponies... ponies like food, don't they? Oh boy." No girls like dead ponies. Especially skeleton ones.
Becky occasionally mentions liking ponies in WordGirl. In the episode where her birthday takes place, her parents rent out a pony so she can ride it around her yard.
Riley from The Replacements. Her obsession with the movie The Majestic Horse takes on epic proportions.
On The Boondocks little Jasmine is so desperate to get a pony (which she wants to name "Sammy Davis JR the Pony") that she buys one on credit from the local Corrupt Corporate Executive, Ed Wuncler. She promises to pay him back with proceeds from her lemonade stand. But she ends up so deeply in debt to him that she's forced to work day and night just to keep up with the payments, and it's never really clear if her pony even exists (all she ever sees is a photo.)
While not touched upon directly in the show, Isabella from Phineas and Ferb has ridden her share of horses in the show: a real, feminine-looking one in "The Magnificent Few", a mechanical one in "Ain't No Kiddie Ride", and...Phineas as a centaur in "Isabella and the Temple of Sap" (Thankfully that was just a daydream though).
Also, when Candace is having a weird dream and her brothers try to lure her off the straight and narrow with pastel unicorns. Dream-Phineas comments on how uncharacteristically girly that is and dream-Ferb reminds him that they ARE inside Candace's dream.
God, the Devil and Bob: Bob mentions that he doesn't think he's ready to deal with his daughter dating. God suggests a pony. "What's a pony gonna do?" "I dunno, I thought girls liked ponies."
Tina from Bob's Burgers likes horses almost as much as she likes zombies.
Subverted in Ugly Americans when male demon Twayne is instructed to think of his favorite thing to counter stage fright, he whispers "ponies, ponies, ponies" to himself.
Played with in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, when the cast goes to a backwards shadow dimension. Mandy meets an ultra-girly, feminine version of herself who of course loves ponies. Mandy psychologically BREAKS her, and turns her into an indistinguishably similar clone of herself. The pair then proceed to destroy all of the stuffed animals in the room with a chainsaw and a flamethrower.
Another episode had Grim try to get money to renew a canceled series obviously parodying My Little Pony called "My Troubled Pony" by turning the violent Schlubs in Billy's backyard (who are themselves parodies of The Smurfs) into gold.
Subverted with Mandy in yet another episode where they go to Costmo (the Bland-Name Product version of Costco) and buys a gigantic box filled with porcelain unicorns, prompting Grim to wonder out loud why unicorns are such a big deal to little girls. Becomes a Brick Joke at the end where the unicorns are used as baseballs for Mindy to smash with her baseball bat.
An episode of Camp Lazlo had the Beanscout trio trick their Distaff Counterparts, the Squirrel Scouts, into taking their spitting llama (which they thought was a unicorn) by sticking an ice-cream cone on its head. In addition, the Scouts themselves felt lousy that they didn't have any horses.
Parodied in Dave the Barbarian with Twinkle the Marvel Horse. After Princess Candy grows out of this stage she stops visiting and he doesn't cope very well with being abandoned...
Twinkle the Marvel Horse: I've been...so lonely...in here. Such terrible thoughts one has. Alone. In the dark.
Candy: Uh, like I said, I'm really sorry I haven't visited you in a while.