The farrier came this week. This is not usually a major event in the calendar, but this time he had come to take my old mare’s shoes off for the last ever time.

She is now 26, and I have owned her since she turned 5, so it was a poignant moment, and between the tears on our last hack together it made me reflect on the passing of the years.

Molly is the first horse I ever owned, and also the best. She has lived out her entire life within about three miles of her birthplace.

Although she was a promising jumper, I have absolutely no competitive aspirations so all that has been asked of her is to hack out with me over the hills. She is the only horse I know who can eat a bulging handful of nuts with such care that not one ends up on the floor. She is unfailingly good natured. I can honestly say that I have never seen her put her ears back in anger.

In over 20 years I have fallen off her precisely three times; each fall a slow undignified exit out of the side door because I had forgotten to tighten my girth properly. Yet she is anything but a plod. She loved a good hooley right up to her retirement day, but I always knew she would let me know when it was time to hang up her tack for the last time, and she did.

Mind you, when her replacement arrived on the yard a few weeks ago, she forgot her age, rediscovered her inner five-year-old and flirted outrageously. I have to admit he is exceptionally handsome – think young George Clooney in the early years of ER – but that was really no excuse for the unfettered squealing and prancing. She was all over him like a rash. In the end I had to have a word.

“Molly,” I said, “this has to stop. You’re letting me down, you’re letting yourself down….” She was unperturbed. It’s obviously her intention to grow old disgracefully and I have a sneaking respect for that.

My feisty Yorkshire mother-in-law turns 90 this month. She is still sharp as a tack mentally but naturally she is feeling the physical side effects of her advanced age.

While she was chatting to my eldest daughter on the phone the other day she confided: “Bodies are like houses, Tess, and the plumbing’s going in mine.”

This week’s photo shows Molly at 26 enjoying a warm bath. She will live out her life with me in retirement for as long as she is well and happy. I go to a lot of horse shows and watch a lot of champions being crowned, but Molly has proven to me over our life together that you don’t need to win a champion rosette to be a great horse.