Read the winning submission of one of Horse & Hound's successful next top bloggers, Julie Gaukroger aka Pony Mad Mum

I am currently in pony shopping mode, and it occurs to me that the modern way of buying a pony has a lot in common with another recently established feature of contemporary life — internet dating.

Both processes now invariably start with a late-night wine-fuelled google search (my other half refers to this darkly as ‘surfing horse porn’). In each case, there’s a hopelessly optimistic sense of keen anticipation that your new Mr (or Miss) Perfect is just a few clicks away.

For both, you have to balance your head and your heart. Temper the romantic with the rational. In theory, it should be easy. There are websites groaning under the weight of appealing ‘profiles’.

But as time goes on, both are characterised by an increasing sense of desperation as your meticulous site by site searches produce nothing. You find yourself tapping feverishly away, all thoughts of sleep forgotten, thinking ‘THERE MUST BE A GOOD ONE IN HERE SOMEWHERE!

Bit by bit you feel your standards start to slip and your list of ‘must haves’ get fuzzy round the edges. Could you live with the fact he’s grey? There’s one you really like, but he’s 500 miles away – could you still make it work? Could the irresistibly handsome one that is seeking an adventurous, thrill-seeking partner be tamed, with a little effort, into one that would enjoy a gentler pace of life?

Meeting face-to-face

And then you reach a point where, shortlist identified, you are ready for the first meeting in the real world, away from the protection of the computer. You set off hoping to find that elusive ‘chemistry’, but aware that you will probably have to kiss several toads first. Even with today’s plentiful opportunities for exchange of photos and videos in advance, you might still drive for hours to meet your ‘date’, only to know instantly that he’s not for you. His picture caught him at a particularly good angle. He’s thinner/fatter than he appeared. It’s immediately clear he’s a bit of a rogue, or is just too much of a party animal.

Of course with internet dating, you have plenty of chances to ‘try before you buy’ (in the nicest possible way!). While this is occasionally true for ponies, all too often you are under pressure to make a quick decision. With the good ones, there may be a queue of other potential suitors breathing down your neck. And however carefully you view and vet and seek out references, making the purchase is still a leap of faith. A schoolmaster pony with a glowing CV may never perform to that level in his new home. Equally, a green youngster might settle into the best pony you have ever had.

Still, hope springs eternal, and this week I am viewing what I am confident will be the perfect pony. Not only does he tick all the practical boxes, I have already fallen in love with his good looks, cheerful expression and eccentric name. The perfect blend of rational and romantic! Fingers crossed…

JG

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