People come and go, but there is something special about a first love. Mine was tall, dark, handsome… and had four hooves and flowing mane and tail. His name was Seamus, and when I was 14, my (non-horsey) parents said I could have my first pony on part loan. Looking back now, a ‘16hh’ (we measured him years later — he was 17.1hh) under-schooled ex-chaser, recently bought from a dealer in Ireland was probably not the ideal first ‘pony’, but I adored him and had eyes for nothing else.

As thoroughbreds went, he was a bit of a diamond in the rough and a fantastic hacker, but of course had his quirks — tractors and heavy traffic he’d pass in his sleep, but a white mark on the road was a terrifying monster, as was any equine under 12hh (schooling next to the Pony Club rally was a no-go).

He was also a nuisance to catch — sometimes he’d come to call, other times I’d have to take a book and sit in the field in my school uniform with a mountain of bribes. But on the whole, he was safe and sweet (if not the brightest!), taught me so much, and I had him until my A-Levels when his owner decided to sell him.

Fast forward many, many years and after hitting a ‘big’ birthday, I was nostalgically telling Him about Seamus (and the time I jogged three miles in minus temperatures to the yard to feed him when it had snowed and all the roads were shut) and showing Him all the photos I had of my beloved old horse. He asked if I’d seen Seamus since he was sold, and if not, why didn’t I try and get in contact with his old owner?

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it sooner, but once He suggested it, I knew I had to give it a go. After rooting around old mobile phone address books I managed to find the old owner’s number — luckily they still used that number, and even better they had the number of the family they’d sold Seamus to!

With much trepidation, I had to make one of the strangest phone calls of my life:

“Hi, sorry to bother you. You don’t know me but I’m just calling to find out if you owned a bay thoroughbred called Seamus a few years ago?”

As luck would have it, the family were incredibly kind and informed me that Seamus was in fact still with them, and would I like to come and see him?

He offered to come with me, I think curious to meet the ‘first love’ that starred in the many, many stories I had bored Him with over the years. The night before our visit, I poured over my old pictures again, (re-)telling Him about the time I’d managed to get Seamus into the arena for the first time, and the time we’d got him jumping… I couldn’t sleep with excitement, but was also nervous — what if he didn’t remember me? What if it was different now? What if…?

The owner met us the next morning, and told us that Seamus was retired, living out his days on a beautiful old farm with cows, after having a happy time hacking and being a part of the family. She took us to the field, where I could see a horse grazing in the distance.

“Oh, Seamus!” I cried, clambering over the gate and running across the grass. Hearing my voice, Seamus lifted his head and looked at me… before spinning off in the opposite direction and trotting to the other end of the field.

“Oh, he must have remembered my voice, he always used to do that!” I said lovingly, as He rolled his eyes. Eventually, with bribes and patience, we caught Seamus half an hour later.

Standing there proudly, I said to Him: “Isn’t he a magnificent horse?”

I think He was slightly unsure what all the fuss was about — before him stood a muddy, shaggy, stubborn old horse that we had spend the last 30 minutes traipsing after in the cold around a field. However, He was wise enough not to voice these opinions, and simply responded with “yes”!

Continued below…

After much fussing, pats and treats, we let Seamus go back to his pressing duties (eating, rolling and bossing the cows around). I was thrilled that he had such a wonderful home and retirement, and was also glad that He had got to meet the horse that was responsible for my thoroughbred addiction.

On the way back to the car, He asked if we were going out for dinner that evening “Given what day it was”? I looked at him, confused — in my mind, it had been ‘Seamus Day’ and nothing else. He swiftly reminded me that the day was 14 February, Valentines Day. I had completely forgotten — poor Him! Safe to say, dinner was on me after that!

HH