My Life With Horses - Part 1
This piece started life as the beginning chapter of a book. After a while of writing that book I stopped - I felt that no-one would be particularly interested, it's not like I'm famous or well-known after all. A certain amount of nagging from those around me has encouraged me to edit it and reproduce at least some of it in a series of articles, so here we go!
My Life With Horses - The Beginning
My first piece of advice to anyone thinking of buying a horse is - don't! I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek - horses make you poor, ruin relationships and break your heart. Of course, they also bring immense joy and pleasure to outweigh the bad points! If you are passionate about horses, there is no point in trying to resist unless you have unbelievable willpower, which I don't, so here is my story.
The first time I really remember a passion for horses was when I was barely a toddler and on a visit to family at Newmarket, the horseracing capital. I can recall sitting in the car waiting for the racehorses to cross the road to the gallops – horses come first in Newmarket – and instantly feeling an affinity with them, not that I recognised it as that, I just wanted one! I waved at the horses and the jockeys waved back – fools, I didn’t care about them. This started a love affair (with thoroughbreds, not jockeys), that is still with me today and an admiration of equines as a species.
Needless to say I then wanted toy horses everywhere, my pretend games were all about horses and my imaginary horse was a pony called Blaze. Not a thoroughbred because in my game we had to use a shed as a stable and a thoroughbred would have been too big for it, even I knew that as an infant. I am still obsessed with my horses having large stables – who wants to live in a box?
When I was four I had tonsillitis and had to go to hospital to have my tonsils and adenoids removed – very scary for a child and worse still, in those days you didn’t take toys to hospital so I had to leave the horses behind. A lovely, kind nurse whose name I never knew (it was different then) brought me a plastic palomino stallion to stand by the bed to look after me. I still have that horse over forty years on – a little faded and with a chipped ear but nonetheless still with me.
At various times through little-person-hood I had been taken for donkey/pony rides on the beach and at local fetes and I always wanted more, so when I was a little older I was taken to a stables on Dartmoor – Yenadon, by the Pigeon Post for those who may know and remember it – and started “proper riding”. A group of us would be led out for half an hour whilst being taught the basic skills of riding and those exercises all riders know, “round the world”, touching toes etc. I will never forget the dear little skewbald pony of indeterminate origin called Bambi who was so kind to me on my early lessons. Bambi, if you are looking down from heaven – thank you!
I progressed with my riding skills and eventually went to a “posh” riding school near Ivybridge, Devon, that not only had an outdoor arena but an indoor, where I got to ride a selection of bigger ponies and some really quite smart horses. Sometimes I got to go to another riding school on Dartmoor for hacking out and had great fun learning jumping over rough country - a great help to my later trips hunting.
When I was fourteen someone at school said they knew of a pony for sale and he was quite cheap as the owners needed to rehome him quickly. It goes without saying that this started an endless barrage of requests to my parents to please, please buy me the pony, along with just as many promises of more housework and washing up and doing my homework on time................
Finally mother agreed to have a look at him. Things were so different then, there were no arenas, endless visits with experts and instructors then vettings and negotiations. Oh no - you liked it, you bought it, you took your chances and you didn’t claim insurance! See what happened next in Part 2.