Friday, 10 June 2011

Ponies and pipedreams...

Life is never dull around horses - you will have ups and downs and sometimes these all happen at once. Since my last posting Garth's splint has firmed up and he is working hard again and ready for his first show in nearly 8 months this weekend, so I am really looking forward to that, I will start by jumping a 1.05m and then the 1.15m, if all goes well. I gave him a pop in the school the other night and he is feeling great. I am one of these riders that can't resist show jumps in the school. I have to behave and not jump whatever is up everyday when I am working in there otherwise that's pretty much all I would do.
When I was a little girl my friend Linda and I used to make jumps out of any old thing around, wood, road cones, pea sticks  (granddad used to have to find more to rescue his wilting peas and beans) and I have abiding memories of the two of us in the dusk at the end of a long childhood summer day, cantering, galloping and jumping around the field on foot as the sun went down behind the Welsh mountains.
Brook - the little Welsh Mountain pony my Granddad bought for me for the princely sum of £4.

Long Welsh summers
In fact it was my fantastic Granddad, Cyril Hughes who lit the horse bug properly for me when I was eight. I had always had horses galloping around in my head but he started a lifetime's passion for me by buying two Welsh ponies from the local gypsies for the sum of £8. One was dapple, steel grey and the other a palomino. I called the grey, Brook after my grandparents house and the palomino Lightening - fine names for ponies I thought.
To my parents horror Granddad told me I could keep one and he would then sell the other. They were wild and unbroken, straight off the hills and I spent hours sitting quietly in the Orchard field with them waiting to see if they would come and sniff me. In the end I choose to keep the grey whose cheeky character I liked and Lightening was sold to my best friend Linda who lived next door to my grandparents old Welsh smallholding.
As I lived in Scotland from then on I lived for my holidays when I could get back down to Wales and spent every moment I could there. The ponies were semi-broken by a local girl and then I, in those days before the cloak of Health and safety settled over the world's shoulders, merrily got on a rode my pony. For the first year we didn't posses a saddle - not that it bothered me - I learnt to stick on and go anywhere at any speed. We were surrounded at the time by common land - big stretches of beautiful wild shrubby, gorsey heath with tracks, trails and ponds dotted throughout that anyone could use use. It was possible to ride for miles from village to village then - and that's what Linda and I did. We would meet in the morning at 9am and that's the last anyone would see of us until teatime at 5pm - can you imagine letting your 9-yr-old daughter do that now!
Brook in the old shed that was his stable - note the lovingly painted stable nameplate
We finally bought an old saddle and I have marvellous memories of hacking, with my grandpa walking, to small local shows where I would take part in the gymkhana games and then we would walk home again. I had no idea that me and my pony had no proper tack and we must have looked a funny, scruffy pair together in the ring - although I always made sure Brook gleamed, I washed him so much.
Hopelessly outgrown this is the very last time I ever sat on my beloved pony.

Over the years I grew far too big for my beloved pony but as long as my grandparents were healthy Brook stayed with them and I still went down every single holiday for years to look after him. Eventually my adored grandmother became ill and my granddad had too much to do so my dad drove down to Wales with a borrowed trailer and bought him up to Scotland where I gifted him to Ian and Elizabeth Comrie at the marvellous Housten Farm where I enjoyed weekly riding lessons for years (a whole other blog post). Brook never took to life as a riding school pony and eventually after he had reversed a whole circle with a poor child when she wanted him to go forwards, he went locally to a private home.
My Granddad Cyril at home with me and Chrissie his dog, not long before he died.
I never would have thought back then that I would end up owning and breeding some fabulous horses and running a livery yard  when I got older. I will never forget my grandparents and Brook. Sometimes, in my dreams if I am lucky, I am transported back in time I am riding my pony; my granddad is walking beside me and we are chatting together - a tall thin girl on a scruffy grey pony and an old man with a limp got from marching across Italy during the war. Although they are all long gone they remain a treasured part of my life - a time when it was just me on my pony galloping over the Welsh mountain as careless as birds in the sky.

Me and my fabulous mare Modetia competing here at Blair.

Horse of a lifetime
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post - life with horses has its ups and downs - this week my beautiful mare Modetia is struggling with a mystery illness. Over a week ago she presented with vague colicky symptoms that have since turned into what could be Azoturia or a weird un-symptomatic laminitis - she is stiff all over and unwilling to move. Although there is no heat in the feet, no temperature and nothing to show in blood tests my vet and the vets at the Dick Vet School are puzzled so we have decided to go for general x-rays on Monday to see if we can pinpoint what this illness is. As I write this she is in her stable, to all intents and purposes eating and drinking normally but pretty much unwilling to move so keep your fingers crossed for her she is my horse of a lifetime and as time goes on so the worry increases.

Bob the shire having a word in his mate, Flyer's, ear, at the farm here last winter.
Welcome home
Bob is back! Another horse on the yard a massive gentle giant of a shire, Bob, is hopefully on the mend from a nasty kick to a hock. He left here on what was hopefully to be a long term loan but due to an unfortunate set of circumstances got kicked in the field there. The vet was worried that the leg could be fractured, however his owner Pam managed to get him back to our farm and he is in the field slowly making what we all hope will be a full recovery. The hock is still very swollen and obviously causing pain but he is putting weight on it which we are all taking as a good sign.

Beach bums
Oh and I took Garth and Julie on Jerry, her ex-racehorse, for her first ever gallop along the beach. Garth and I cantered along behind her as Jerry stretched his long thoroughbred legs along the sand. When I asked her if she enjoyed it she grinned and said, 'It was brilliant all I could hear was the noise of his hooves and the wind' - result.

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