When you work full time with horses on a yard, there is generally always a bit of back up, someone to chase the three year old as you try and get it to lead better, someone to give you a leg up in trot because that’s the only way you’re getting on board and even someone to moan at that your knees are wrecked, or you just barely held on to that last horse when the boss was watching. Having my horse at my back door is like a dream come true, but it means that your safety net is not there, and as a child of a non-horsey family, the help of friends becomes invaluable.
Asking to go riding at four years old was a strange request for someone who lived in a cul-de-sac in East Kilbride, but one which was indulged and branded a phase by my bewildered family as they all blamed distant relatives “she must get it from them?” As my parents were oblivious to the potentially addictive effect of everything equine, they humoured me as I practiced my rising trot on the arm of the sofa and drove me to anywhere I asked, if there was a pony that someone was willing to let me ride. I served my time at a riding school where a group of us mucked out for the chance of a lesson and spent every waking minute of the weekend in a pony bubble, barely suppressing huge jealousy for the liveries on the yard that owned their own pony. At that time a popular magazine gave you the opportunity to win a pony, what a competition! I never missed it and daydreamed with certainty that I would win – some things never change.
Finally my parents gave in and bought me a TB X Connemara mare from a rather disreputable dealer who must have seen us coming a mile off. She was a very pretty mare, with a particularly sensitive back which saw me hit the deck every time I tried to get on her. If every horse teaches you something – which I believe is true for horses and people – that mare taught me to sit as still as a statue. One wrong move and I was eating dirt. The pony club was out of the question and a quiet livery yard out in the country with no sand-school (go figure) was financially our only option.
Dad drove me every morning before school and every night when I got home, I loved it and didn’t complain, which in hindsight was lucky as I now realise the lengths my parents went to. Eventually the mare had to go as it was becoming too dangerous and so the decision was made to send her to another dealer. As karma would have it the dealer rung late one night about a month after we had sold her to say that the mare had thrown his jockey and broken his arm. The dealer that had sold the mare to us when questioned about her acrobatics (she had clearly been doped when I had tried her), had told us that the ‘buyer must beware’ and basically tough luck. Lessons for everyone there.