It started one September day a few years ago. I was just taking a coffee break after a busy morning on the stud (we breed thoroughbred horses and of late, Welsh ponies) when the phone rang. It was my friend from a somewhat larger stud nearby, after the usual how are you preamble he said he had a pony for me if I was interested. Nice little Welsh Section A colt, he said, three years old, bit sharp and needs some one-on-one attention to bring him on. We chatted some more and I said I’d think about it.
I went back to work and thoughts of little Welsh ponies kept creeping in. Well, they’re small (about four feet tall), they don’t eat much, they’re cute and we could certainly find time to bring on one like that, how hard could it be? Holding on to those thoughts, I went back in and picked up the phone, go on then I told him, I’ll give him a go. So we duly made arrangements for me to collect the pony a few days later.
When I arrived I was greeted, as always, by my friend and off we went to look at how that years’ foals were coming on. Once we got back from our deliberations one of the grooms told me that they had loaded Nugget for me to save time. What nice folk I thought as I drove away with the as yet unseen pony in the trailer. Back at the yard I got everyone together to greet the new arrival and climbed in through the trailer jockey door. I was confronted by a snorting, wild eyed beast who despite his small stature, looked like a raging demon rather than a cute Welsh pony!
With trepidation I untied the rope and called for someone to open the front ramp. Duly opened, Nugget and I marched swiftly down the ramp and for the next five minutes he proceeded to demonstrate his skill and balance by standing on his hind legs whilst swearing profusely in horse speak! If the circus had been in town he could have been a new recruit as an old fashioned Liberty horse, albeit smaller than the original version. We progressed somewhat precariously to the lovingly prepared stable that was to be Nugget’s new home. I led him in, asked one of the team to shut the door and carefully removed his headcollar. So far so good, he stood quietly glaring at me from the back of the stable. Good boy, I said, you eat up that hay and I’ll bring you a feed when the others have theirs. I quietly left the stable and as I turned from the door there was a loud bang and there was Nugget halfway over the it with his front legs dangling in the air. I have no idea how we got him back in the stable, but we had a few bruises that we didn’t have before and the Welsh pony was unharmed – oh, the taste of things to come.
I hastily moved him to a stable with a high door and told him it was his own fault he couldn’t see out. Like Nugget cared! He snorted and rolled his eyes and started eating. The rest of the day passed uneventfully and the next morning I decided to put the dear little Welshie in a paddock for a leg stretch. Well, his legs didn’t need stretching by the time we got to the paddock. He was like a prima ballerina on steroids - he repeated the performance from his arrival with bells on! He added a good few bruises to the ones he had presented me with the day before and left me gasping for breath. Did I say cute – whatever had I been thinking?
We all sat down to lunch and discussed the future for the little horror. I decided that an appointment with the vet was called for to geld him – he was patently going to be a liability if he was kept as a stallion, so as lovely as he was (and is) I phoned our vets and explained the situation.
In my defence, I did say he was a handful and I had learned from conversation at his original home that he had a thing about needles (like me!) and could get very stressed about it. I had some routine work to be done at the stud so I booked two vets to come over so that one could deal with Nugget whilst the other started the other work. My intrepid vet walked into the stable confidently clutching a needle ready for sedation – amidst much noise and cursing he came out much less confidently, still with the needle and muttering about fetching his colleague. Five minutes later two intrepid vets entered the stable with me to hold the pony. Then commenced the wall of death, Nugget tore around the outside of the stable, avoiding all efforts to hold him still long enough to sedate him! Several bruises to vet number two later, vet one managed to calm Nugget enough to touch his neck. Sadly at this point, the other vet grabbed Nugget’s ear (an old way to keep foals calm) and yelled “I’ve got him” at the top of his voice! Wrong, Nugget got him and vet one, I escaped through the door thanks to the quick action of my groom. Amid much laughter from outside the stable the two vets picked themselves up, one with bruises and the other bleeding, and set off in pursuit of the whirling Welsh dervish.
I have no idea to this day how they did it but eventually they got the needle into Nugget’s vein and sedated him. The vet opted to give him a general anaesthetic rather than local to prevent a trip to casualty (for him, not Nugget!). As Nugget had started to look drowsy I set off with him to the operating area. Bless his little heart, he was wobbling all over the place, so much so we thought he was going to drop where he was. One of the grooms gently placed her hand on his quarters to help him and POW! off he went like a whirlwind, with me being towed behind like a water skier. No-one could believe their eyes, apparently he had been given enough sedation to drop a much bigger pony, but not enough for my Nugget, he needed enough to drop an elephant!
Thankfully the dope kicked back in before we reached the end of the drive and we eventually got him to the right place to top up the anaesthetic. Poor little Nugget, he dropped to the ground and the vet started work while I looked on, most concerned that the little fiend would wake up too soon. Oh contraire, would the little horror come round – no chance! We were beginning to get worried, after all he had had an awful lot of anaesthetic for such a tiny chap. Of course, just as we were really scared he started to thrash about and the vet and I had to sit on his neck to stop him standing too soon and crashing through the fence. I can’t write the words that the vet used about that dear little soul, they would never be printable and I was quite hurt, after all I felt sorry for the pony while he was unconscious - but only then!
Once he recovered Nugget was once again a nightmare but over the next couple of weeks he slowly began to change – he began to follow me round when I was working in the field, just stopping a few paces behind when I did and watched everything I did with intense interest. Then one day he just walked up and carried off the skipping out rake and had great fun waving it about, somewhat dangerously for anyone close by, but none the less extremely entertaining. That was the turning point for my little devil – he is the most mischievous, exasperating and clever pony you could ever meet, but has made his mark in the show ring and given me many hours of fun. His piece de resistance is to help me move the electric fencing, pulling up posts and tangling tape at every opportunity – but guess what? I wouldn’t part with him for the world.