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Teens’ pony ride business trots along

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The ponies have been popping up at family parties across the Southwest Side, much to the delight of boys and girls.

Popular with young kids

By Tim Hadac

A year after they launched their head-turning, smile-generating pony ride business on the Southwest Side, Matthew Orta and Armani Diaz continue to roll forward with their successful venture.

“It’s becoming increasingly popular as more and more people hear about it,” Orta said recently. “Kids love it, and parents and grandparents smile when they see it.”

“It” is primarily two 3-year-old miniature ponies pulling small, two-seater carts down a sidewalk–something entirely unique to city kids, and a kind of fun throwback to perhaps a century ago, when it was not that unusual to see a pony in Chicago.

Orta and Diaz are teen entrepreneurs who just graduated high school—Orta at St. Rita and Diaz at De La Salle. Both are 2017 graduates of St. Daniel the Prophet School.

“We plan to study business in college (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and become entrepreneurs,” Orta said. “We started by cutting lawns. We saved our money and then we saw that this kind of business—pony rides–had potential.”

Their path was made easier by Diaz’s grandfather, an immigrant farmer with a spread in Frankfort that includes trained ponies and other livestock.

Their unique business—simply named Chicagoland Pony Rentals—offers rentals of the ponies and a couple of baby Nigerian dwarf goats. (The babies aren’t babies any more, Orta reported with a chuckle. They grew up and got busy; and today there are 15 goats in a growing herd.)

For those looking to rent the ponies and/or goats for birthday parties, graduation parties or any event at all, Orta and Diaz offer different deals and combinations that can be tailored to meet any need. For example, one package includes two hours of pony rides plus a goat petting zoo for $400.

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The phonies are no strangers to hugs from children.

For those who want a more earthy experience, Diaz and Orta offer a “day at the farm” package in Frankfort: three hours for up to 35 people. It includes pony rides around the farm, an expanded petting zoo, with tents, tables and chairs provided (you bring your own food and beverages)–all for $550.

The carts the ponies pull can carry several children at a time. The baby goats are presented petting zoo-style, in a small pen.

Orta and Diaz also clean up any mess the animals may make while they are at an event.

The teenagers see the venture as perfect for children’s parties and other festive occasions.

The animals are cared for humanely, Orta said. He and Diaz are at the farm daily, ensuring that the ponies and goats are well fed and have fresh water, and that they have access to veterinary care.

As the venture continues to succeed, Orta said he and Diaz envision expanding and even hiring their younger brothers to help run the business.

Those interested in more information on rental packages are advised to visit the pony rental service on Facebook.

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