My Life With Horses - Part 5
At the end of the last article we had just discovered we had to leave the yard in haste. A few phone calls had my boy and I safely installed at a local equestrian centre, complete with all the facilities and regular BSJA jumping competitions. I had been completely up front about what had happened, that way no-one could use it against me later – I learn fast.
There was usually something going on there and it wasn’t long before I started to help at the competitions and begin to judge at the show jumping competitions. We had a lot of laughs amongst the hard work. Riders would often stay over for three day shows and it would have been rude not to party! I always recall Sunday nights being very flat when everyone had gone, just like the feeling you used to get on Sunday evening before school as a child.
It wasn’t unusual to find a group of us so called adults standing in a tipsy circle using a little fluffy toy as a ball and playing “one leg” – that game where if you don’t catch the ball you kneel on one knee, if you miss next time you kneel on both, next time one arm behind your back etc, but if you do catch it you get the limb back! Sad, I know, but we had a great laugh.
One night we had a birthday party for the owner’s adult son, he was a "wild child" and his mother’s last words to me (as I was apparently the responsible adult – ha ha) as they left were to make sure he behaved himself and not to let things get out of hand. Many reassurances and gentle shoves towards the door later we were ready to rock and roll – hurrah! Suddenly, as I turned towards the bar I realised the aforementioned son was standing behind the bar naked, apparently for a dare, and his mother was on her way back past the French windows! Thankfully his best friend saw her too and pushed him down behind the bar while I stalled mother – it was the stuff sitcoms are made of – I think she knew something was up but turned a blind eye. Good thing really!
Another evening I recall was during a weekend show when a lot of the riders were staying over. One of the lady riders was a great practical joker and decided to play one of her jokes on the one person who suffered from terminal sense of humour failure. The idea was to cajole someone into volunteering to try out a “trick” which involved holding a washing up bowl of water against the ceiling with a thick broom handle and working out how to get it down without getting wet. Our person without sense of humour was provoked into trying this and he, with all the confidence of success that humourless people seem to have. What he didn’t realise was going to happen was that the minute he had the bowl balanced we were all going to leave him there, which of course, we did! He was absolutely furious, he found it even less funny when he discovered that there was barely any water in the bowl and we had left him thinking he would get soaked if he moved!
There are so many stories I could tell - an enraged ex-boyfriend of a livery turning up and trashing the wrong persons’ car then attempting to run me over – and it wasn’t even my ex; activities in the judges’ box after hours that would definitely not come under the jurisdiction of the BSJA and many drunken confessions of the competitors - but I have to protect the innocent (and most definitely the guilty)!
Anyway, it was during all these fun times that the next two horses arrived on the scene. I went for supper at a friend's and they had just returned from Doncaster Bloodstock Sales. First port of call on arrival was to visit the new horses – I made straight for the prettiest little blood horse I’d seen for a long time. He was a bright bay with a lovely outlook and I thought he had the makings of a nice show hack. Before I got to his door my hostess said not to worry about him, the horse for me was next door, (strange, because I didn’t know I was looking for one). In the stable stood a taller, fine boned dark bay, a beautifully classic face that turned into the ugliest I’d ever seen as we got to the stable and he laid his ears back, baring his teeth. Great horse, I thought, glad I’m not buying one. We went on to look around the other residents on the yard, including a home-bred chestnut yearling thoroughbred. I was told was for sale – not a chance, said I, for a start it’s chestnut! It was a long-running joke about my dislike of chestnuts, I have no reason to dislike them and never actually have – in fact I have four and he is one of them!
Later in the year, they asked me to have that particular chestnut colt to produce for selling, to cut a long story short, he was delivered in the afternoon and I owned him by that evening! It wasn’t long afterwards that I started to wonder whether I should really start to dislike chestnuts.
Within a few days he incurred his first vets’ bill by putting his hind leg through the side of a barn and severing an artery. Great, ever been on the receiving end of a bad-tempered yearling trying to kick anything that went near the back of him, spraying blood everywhere?! He’d had so much sedative that the vet had to ring the surgery to see if she could give him any more and still he was giving us the proverbial Hell! Eventually we got a pressure bandage on it and then we had to hope we didn’t have to change the bandage for a few days. He recovered well, as these types often do, but he managed to bruise or cut his other legs before the bandage was off the first one! Thank goodness he wasn’t an octopus! I still have him, he’s nineteen now and as wild as ever, but more of him later!
Well, now I was the proud owner of two horses, my lovely one and the chestnut. Little did I realise a third was on the horizon. The Equestrian Centre was holding a horse sale and to get entries going the Proprietors had decided to enter the two Doncaster horses. I honestly can’t remember what happened to the pretty bright bay but guess who ended up with grumpy – yep, it was me! How right they were when they told me at supper that night that this was the horse for me – he’s twenty six now (he was nine when he came to me) and has been the most wonderful riding companion. Somewhat braver that me, he would jump anything in his path and would be most annoyed if I interfered, throwing his head about and making it clear he’d learned about this show jumping game and I could stay out of it. I just wish he’d done it all a bit more slowly and less like a hurdler when he saw a long one – bouncing two stride combinations is not funny or clever, believe me!
After a great round one day someone very kindly commented on what a beautifully balanced and schooled horse he was. Hah! I had taken him out of the field that morning on a whim, not having jumped for ages and he certainly “didn’t do schooling” in the same way that I “don’t do domestic”! That’s how he liked to operate, I kept him just short of racing fit, (so I could hold him) and we did what we did when we felt like it. I can recommend it to anyone – another tip here, enjoy your horses your way – they don’t have to be drilled around an arena if you don’t want to do that, they can be hacked when you feel like it, just so long as they are fit enough for the job you want them to do. I only ask that they don’t spend all their lives shut in with no fun. I still have this dear horse, twenty six now, – he’s still as grumpy as ever and enjoying his retirement.
Sadly some new people came on to the scene and started to cause difficulties for me and others. The time had come to find a yard to rent on my own, no-one else was going to make trouble for me. This led the horses and I into a relatively quiet period in our lives, not that it stayed that way!