Danedri Thompson
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Not everyone is a Blazer fan, and that’s turning into a problem for Ryan and Flower Souter, Gardner.

Blazer, a mini-horse, is being evicted from the couple’s home, courtesy of the Gardner Police

Flower offers Blazer a snack on Wednesday evening. Blazer eats a half cup of oats each day, and munches on about one bale of hay about every 10 days. Additionally, his neighbors throw grass clippings over the fence for him. Staff photo by Danedri Thompson

Department.

Ryan and Flower received a notice on May 17 that the special permit allowing them to house Blazer in the Parma subdivision is being revoked.

The pair doesn’t know how quickly they need to find Blazer a new home, or even if they’ll need to.

The Gardner Planning Commission will consider granting the family a variance that would save their pet during a June 27 meeting. In the meantime, Flower said, her family is in limbo.

City planners told them they didn’t need to do anything until the matter was decided at a commission meeting.

But that’s not what police told the Souters.

According to Ilena Spalding, Gardner Police Department Public Information Officer, Blazer’s time in town is limited.

“As far as we’re concerned, the horse needs to vacate,” she said. “It’s a reasonable amount of time. There’s no set amount of time, but we’re working with them just looking for proper conditions to take the horse to.”

However, she added, the police department considers what happens next to be a planning commission decision.

Police told Flower a reasonable amount of time is two-to-three weeks. The next planning commission meeting is more than five weeks away.

Brayden gives Blazer a pat Wednesday evening. He said Blazer follows people around the yard and likes to be petted. Staff photos by Danedri Thompson

High school sweethearts from Wichita, the family, which includes the Souters’ oldest son, Brayden, 6, and youngest son, Beckham, 1, moved to Gardner four years ago.

The horse moved in at Christmastime last year.

Flower was expecting to find a swing set, when Ryan announced there was a family present in the backyard days before Christmas 2010.

“When I saw it was a horse, my jaw hit the floor,” Flower said.

“Trying to keep the family going, you’ve got to throw a curveball sometimes,” Ryan said of his decision to surprise Flower with a mini-horse. “This was a screwball.”

Flower, Ryan knew, didn’t want another dog. Buddy, their golden lab, required potty training.
He barks. Buddy keeps Flower, a stay-at-home mom, on her toes.

When Ryan learned that a friend in Spring Hill was giving away a miniature horse, he scrambled to do a bit of research online.

He learned that miniature horses are similar in size to large breed dogs, and that they’re domesticated animals that frequently live with families.

He also researched Gardner’s codes and determined they’d need a permit from Gardner Animal Control, which is part of the police department.

A few weeks after Christmas, the family applied for a permit. They paid a small fee and waited as

Gardner Animal Control officers interviewed their neighbors and repeatedly visited their home to check the welfare of Blazer.

“It took them two months to approve us,” Ryan explained. “They came back to make sure he was

Brayden Souter, 6, sits on Blazer, the family’s mini-horse on May 18. Dad Ryan Souter helps steady him while Mom Flower Souter holds Beckham Souter, 1. The Gardner family is fighting to keep the mini-horse they received for Christmas after two neighbors complained that Blazer stinks up their Parma subdivision. Gardner Police revoked the family’s permit, but the Planning Commission will have a say in the matter during a meeting on June 27.

clean, and they went and interviewed all of the neighbors. It’s not like they just said yes.”

Once the permit was approved, the couple started building a small stable beneath their deck.

It’s a tiny room with three walls and a flat roof. Inside, there’s part of a small bale of hay and a bucket where Blazer takes his daily feeding of a half cup of oats.

He lives in the backyard surrounded by a six-foot tall privacy fence and shaded by a mature trees.
The lawn is bald, because of Blazer, but Ryan said that wasn’t much of a concern.

“We didn’t really have that much grass to begin with,” he explained.

There’s a drainage issue in Parma that sends water cascading through the Souters’ backyard. At one point, they spent several hundreds of dollars on exotic breeds of grass seed. They eventually gave up.

“There’s so much water that goes through here,” Ryan said.

That’s one of the topics a neighbor broached during a city council meeting on May 16.

“That’s another concern, (the pony’s waste) is contaminating yards as the river moves,” neighbor Keith Roach told council members.

Flower disagrees with that assessment, however. For starters, she cleans Blazer’s waste daily — typically, almost as soon as it hits the ground.

Only one home in the subdivision sits downstream from her house, and that belongs to the Henrys next door.

“As far as I’m concerned, there is no issue,” Kelly Henry said. “The only people who should be concerned about it are my husband and me and we’re not.”

Kelly is a Blazer fan.

“I have never smelled him,” she said. “If there was a smell coming from next door, I would tell Flower.”

Flower said that’s what she wants, and that’s one reason she’s so disappointed that a few neighbors took their concerns about Blazer to the city council instead of coming to her door.
She’s convinced the matter could have been addressed without intervention from the governing body.

“We went about everything the right way, because we didn’t want to bother our neighbors,” Flower said.

Tricia Peyton, who lives across the street from Blazer, said she can’t believe the council and police are taking action on the Souters’ gentle horse, when aggressive dogs nearby are allowed to stay.

Her neighbors have built fences out of fear of the German Shepherds nearby, and animal control has visited the dogs more than once.

“They’ve broken a fence. You can’t go outside without them barking,” Peyton said. “I don’t understand how this horse gets revoked and people have put up fences because they don’t feel safe because of those German Shepherds.”

At this point, Flower isn’t sure what to do about her eight-year-old mini-horse named with the community in mind, after Gardner Edgerton High School’s mascot. She’d like to curry favor with the planning commission and city officials by finding a place outside of city limits for Blazer to stay. But she doesn’t want to traumatize Blazer or her children by moving him if the commission might grant the pair a variance.

She’s considering inviting commissioners and council members to her home to introduce them to the docile animal stirring up so much controversy.

From next door, Kelly watches daily as the Souters clean up after Blazer, feed him twice a day and play with him.

“They clean up after him. They feed him. They brush him. They love him,” Kelly said.
“He’s a family member.”