My Life With Horses - Part 2
At the end of Part 1 I had managed to persuade my Mother to look at this pony, of course, it was love at first sight, Polo was a bay thoroughbred x New Forest, 14.1hh, 9 year old with attitude. He was also underweight, sharp and bad tempered – funnily enough that’s roughly how I’ve ended up, maybe not the weight thing though!
He stood on the verge in a rope halter, greedily eating grass and snorting alternately. You certainly couldn’t begrudge him the grass, he really needed it. Anyway, as plainly unsuitable as he was going to be, the deal was done for £150 – it may seem cheap but it was very many years ago and in fact was quite a lot for the average person for a “luxury”. I even had to sell my bike and various other things to “make a contribution”, my mother was particularly strict and we all had to work for our treats and special gifts.
Polo had nothing but the rope halter and the promise that he could stay at the farm where he had been kept up until then. Thankfully that was true, otherwise he would have been in the garden as they handed me the rope, took the money and walked away without a backward glance!
Oh my goodness, what a horror he could be! (No surprise there, the experienced among you are saying – just as I would now). Food was such an enigma to him that he would defend his bucket against all comers, animal or human, with heels and teeth. This, however, was nothing to what he was like to ride – I was so young and foolish. I climbed aboard on hastily borrowed and bought second hand tack and set off down the road on my own horse at last. As soon as his feet touched the grass verge he was off, not jogging, trotting or cantering – no chance, it was a full-on bolt! I of riding school experience only was trying all the “right things” but he had taken hold and set off down the edge of the road like the hounds of Hell were behind him. I have no idea how we stopped but I remember getting off him and walking all the way back to the farm with him. It didn’t make any difference, I still thought he was the best thing ever and started to confine my rides to the field, no less hair-raising on some occasions though! Of course, I didn’t go and tell them at home, they weren’t particularly interested in horses and I might be forced to sell him – I might not have been allowed to have another one!
It was about then that the sniggering owners of the other horses started to tell me about Polo and why he was cheap – bit late then, I was never going to be a rocket scientist but even I could work that one out. I was persuaded to start hacking out with some of the others and for a while things went reasonably well because he was happy to stay with his companions. So, my confidence began to grow and I began to ride him a short way from home on my own once in a while.
Pride comes before a fall, as they say and this one was spectacular. Little Miss I-Can-Hack–Him-Out (me!) decided to go for a nice long ride to the woods – would have to go on the verge here and there but he would be fine because I had “sorted” the problem. How wrong you can be – verge, bolt, car and crash! We hit the side of that car at a speed that would have impressed a top racehorse, the poor folk in it had no idea what was going on, nor really did I as Polo leapt the edge of the bonnet and kept galloping with me still on top! The only thing that stopped him was when he tripped on the kerb and dropped us both on the floor – both of us remarkably unscathed, except for shock in my case and terrible concern for me from the people in the car. Like I said before – no insurance claims in those days. I, however, am still nervous hacking on the road on anything, even the pushbike!
Another long walk home and I stopped riding him anywhere for a while. A kind mother and daughter took me under their wing (and away from the ridicule of my contemporaries), persuaded me to get back on and then took me on the long slow road to confidence building. I have to thank them for so much, by the time I was seventeen and caused a family row by leaving grammar school sixth form mid-term to become a working pupil, they had restored my confidence enough for me to take the Demon Creature to the yard with me as I started my new career. (More to come!)