TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Manatee County boy’s pony is in the running to be “America’s Favorite Pet” for the chance for the family to win $10,000 and a feature in InTouch magazine.
“Hamilton,” a 9-year-old pony, is the best friend of Aiden, also 9.
Hamilton, named after the beloved musical by Lin Manuel Miranda, is competing in the America’s Favorite Pet competition online.
Aiden’s mother, Kristen Zimmermaker, shared more of her family’s story with News Channel 8. Kristen is a single mom who works as a veterinary technician. She said her son has always been around animals and expressed a huge love for them very early on in his life.
He started riding ponies recreationally, getting comfortable on and around horses when he was only 4 years old. Kristen said her son started showing horses at age 5.
“I always told him he would never have his own horse because I just couldn’t afford it, but the past two years, he really started advancing a lot quicker and really needed his own pony so he could continue to grow,” Kristen said.
She said to her son, it didn’t matter how “fancy or done up” his pony was. Aiden’s trainer found him what Kristen called “the most perfect pony.”
“…that is literally my son in pony form, this can be both good and bad, haha,” Kristen wrote in an email.
Hamilton, a Western pony, had not done any English riding, but Kristen said Hamilton and Aiden proved that wasn’t a problem.
Hamilton was gifted to Aiden in January and within eight months, Kristen said the pair are jumping into the short stirrup ring.
“Their last show, which was only Hamilton’s second show ever, they got Reserve Champion,” she said.
The most important part about Hamilton that would make him America’s Favorite Pet, according to Kristen, is that he isn’t just Aiden’s pony, but his best friend.
She said her son reads to him and paints with him (Hamilton is actually an artist as well) and shares popsicles, fruit rollups and snuggles with him.
“He has taught Aiden to have patience and how hard work and dedication can pay off,” Kristen said.
As a single mom, Kristen said everything goes toward Aiden and his happiness and well-being.
“Hamilton is a big expense but a very important one to us. Hamilton has become part of our family. Winning the $10,000 would be huge,” she said.
The prize money would go into the “Hammy Fund,” meaning the savings account dedicated to Hamilton’s care and boarding.
“The feature in InTouch Magazine would be so life changing and exciting for Aiden to see his best friend being recognized for all the things that make him special and America’s Favorite Pet,” Kristen said.
Those wishing to vote for Hamilton can go online for a free vote once per day. Donations are also being accepted for $1 per vote. Proceeds benefit PAWS.org, which helps sick, injured and orphaned animals.
Voting for the first round ends Thursday at 10 p.m. EST, with the second round to follow immediately after, according to Kristen. Hamilton is currently second in his group.