My Life With Horses - Part 4
The last part of the story ended with me giving up horses as a career but as those of you who share the equine passion will know, you can never stay away from them for long.
So, many years later I left Devon with the somewhat aged Polo and headed up the M5, I wont bother you with the reasons. On arriving home one evening from working in Birmingham there was a message on the machine telling me my dear Polo was unwell and the vet was there. Cutting a long and painful story short, he had liver disease and I had to let my slightly crazy horse go to heaven after fourteen years together.
It was a few years later when on a trip to in-laws in Cornwall that I met my next horse – this one was to be my “forever horse” whose loss a couple of years ago, after sixteen years together, I will never recover from.
As I walked across the field on the farm to visit the mares, the most beautiful dark brown foal, not a white hair on him, crossed my path, stopped, lifted his head, snorted at me and trotted across the field with an elevation a bird would envy. He took my breath away and I wanted him then. Not for sale I was told, he was only six months old and unhandled but still not for sale.
I had badgered my mother into buying Polo, I could surely do the same to get someone to sell this chap to me. Two years, much nagging and £1,100.00 later I went to fetch him. I haven’t written his name, strangely, talking about him since he died is much easier than writing about him.
Well, he still hadn’t been handled and was much bigger of course. The only way to load him was to take his mother and another mare into the lorry, shut me and all three horses in there and then, once I had managed to get hold of him, let the mares out. It all sounded so simple – it wasn’t and it was pretty scary – the things we do for love!
It then took five hours in a freezing cold lorry ( no state of the art stuff in that one, I can tell you and I was in the back with the horse) to do the two and a half hour journey home. We had broken down and it was dark and late when we arrived on the yard. Typical horse, he hadn’t wanted to get in, now he point blank refused to get out! We did it in the end of course, but I’ve never been so pleased to have a cup of coffee and bag of chips in my life!
Here we go again I thought, another lunatic, but actually he was no such thing. He and I formed a friendship, and it was friendship, that nothing in my life has equalled.
First thing next morning I went to feed my new boy and he eyed me warily before tucking into breakfast. Armed with a new headcollar to replace the one that was probably put on him as a yearling and was now more than tight, and a brush to start cleaning him up, I stepped into his stable. Half an hour later I managed to get him down from the rafters and to very gently touch him with the brush on the shoulder! O.k, he was definitely unhandled.
Slowly, over the next week or so his trust developed in me but he didn’t take kindly to anyone else. I remember being taken very ill at a party (no, not drunk) a month or so after he arrived and was dragged from my sick bed to feed him because he didn’t eat for two days!
My lovely one (as I called him) very quickly learned what he needed to and developed the most beautiful manners and a level-headed approach to life in general. That is, except for three things: he couldn’t be broken in, he hated needles and he hated worming time. He could also be an awkward beggar if he didn’t fancy going to a show or indeed, coming back!
As training developed I felt it was time to put on the roller in preparation for the saddle and backing. All went well to start with, I very loosely girthed the roller and moved it around a bit, o.k so far so tighten it up a bit more. Away he went, over the stable door, through the indoor arena opposite and head between front legs bucking for the Olympics! This was made much funnier for the onlookers because I was attached to the other end of the lunge line! To cut a long story short, an event rider came to my rescue and all but rugby tackled the lovely one to the ground to get the roller off before we all died of exhaustion. We had a few more goes at it over time but it was a no hoper. I certainly wasn’t in a financial position to send him to a professional and I think it just might have broken his spirit if he had been forced into it – you had to know him to understand why that wasn’t an option. So many people remember him in the nicest way and I was often asked about him over the years.
He would walk into the show ring with the air a winner and that’s exactly what he did – win. He worked to voice command so in the ring he looked like he was working alone, the in hand showing equivalent of watching top level dressage. To see he move in the field could take your breath away, I miss him so very much, part of me left this world with him.
For some time up to this point I had been freelance teaching at weekends at the yard where I kept him. Of course, this yard like many others, had it’s trouble makers and gossips and I was dragged without my knowledge into a difficult situation. On my arrival one evening to feed my horse I was told I had 24 hours to find somewhere else for us!
It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered who was responsible for stirring things up with the yard owner and why, but some people feel threatened easily and are quick to manipulate a situation to their own ends. It’s a good thing to remember, if you consider spending a lot of time with horses, sometimes people are not what they seem.
This next move was to set us on the road to some fun times in the show jumping world and the next two horses to join us.