Animals

‘It was like a little girl’s dream’: Houston-area farm brings ponies, petting zoo to birthday parties

After Brenda Fernandez brought ponies to her son’s birthday party about 10 years ago, the idea for T.B.R. Pony Rentals was born

From left to right: Francisco Santibanez, Sally (the goat), Matteo Fernandez (7), Cowgirl (pony with Santa hat), Mark Fernandez (8) (same name as dad), Brenda Fernandez, Mark Fernandez, Barbie (pony with antlers), Emmanuel Fernandez (12)
Natalie Weber / Houston Public Media
The Fernandez family runs T.B.R. Pony Rentals, bringing ponies to kids’ birthday parties and events.
From left to right: Francisco Santibanez holding Sally, the goat, Matteo Fernandez, Cowgirl the pony , Mark Fernandez, Brenda Fernandez, Mark Fernandez Sr., Barbie the pony and Emmanuel Fernandez.

From a farm located near the western edge of Fort Bend County, one family is bringing unicorns and pony rides to children's parties through a small business.

The idea for T.B.R. Pony Rentals was born after Brenda Fernandez brought ponies to her oldest son's birthday party about 10 years ago. Soon after, a friend asked her to bring ponies to another child's birthday party.

The business really took off, however, after unicorns rose in popularity, Fernandez said.

Now, the family brings ponies and petting zoos to birthday parties, festivals and other special occasions, sometimes going to as many as five or six events in a weekend.

Some of the children grew up around animals and are familiar with ponies, Fernandez said. But for others, it's a novel experience.

"It makes us feel sad, but there's times when they don't want the pony to leave and they cry," Fernandez said.

"It's wonderful. We really enjoy it," Fernandez said. "We enjoy coming out, it just puts a smile on children's faces."

Though their main farm is located about 50 miles outside the city, the business serves many parts of the greater Houston area, from Cypress down to Galveston. Sometimes the family will set up shop at Mark's mother's ranch, in north Houston, when serving parts of the region farther from their home.

Both Brenda and her husband, Mark Fernandez, grew up around horses. Mark said he has something like a sixth sense for how the horses are feeling, even sometimes sensing when they're sick.

"I grew up with them since I was little," he said. "It's in the blood."

Brenda never had a pony growing up and in a way, feels like she's fulfilling a childhood dream. Now, she even has a pink trailer that her husband painted for her that they use for the ponies.

"I had pink unicorns riding in there and it just felt really good," she said. "It was like a little girl's dream."

The farm has 10 ponies, according to Francisco Santibanez, who also works for T.B.R. Pony Rentals with the Fernandez family. About four of those ponies are trained so that kids can safely ride them.

"Our biggest concern is the safety of the kid," Santibanez said. "We love making them happy, we love seeing their happy smiles."