Horses give us something special at every stage of our lives, while our relationship with them changes over time...

While a love of horses often manifests itself at a young age, some less fortunate individuals miss out on those wonderful formative years, only realising the error of their ways when they plunge into a horse world later in life.

But regardless of when your passion begins, for all but the very few, once you’ve got the horse bug, it’s here to stay…

1. Infant

For the lucky ones who were born into horsey families, some of their earliest memories will alternate between towing their long-suffering first pony up and down (or round and round) the stable yard, and spending hours brushing their mane and painting their hooves with whatever came to hand. Riding was OK, but less important than spending hours and hours with your very best friend.

For those who didn’t have access to real thing, long summer days were spent hosting our very own My Little Pony gymkhana in our bedroom room, or jumping an ‘Olympic’ showjumping course built from upturned buckets and broom handles in the garden on our own two feet. Another pastime was staring longingly out of the car window at every single horse you pass. Regardless of size, colour or condition, they were all perfect in your eyes.

2. Junior

Having moved on from that ancient Shetland who put up with all your brothers and sister before you, it’s time to get cracking with a ‘proper pony’. Pony Club camp beckons and you’re determined to beat your older sibling/friend by falling off as many times as you possibly can. After all your friend’s mum said you have to fall off at least seven times to be a proper rider, so you’re determined to least reach that figure.

For others, these are the years of long enjoyable days working hard at the riding school, learning more than you could possibly realise as you muck out, groom, clean tack, square the muck heap and sweep the yard until it gleams. We all had our favourite riding school pony and our day could be made or ruined when you looked in the diary to see which one you had been allocated to ride.

3. Teenager

‘You spend every hour outside school at the stables’: H&H’s website editor Carol Phillips

For many horsey families, the teenage years are the period when it’s all about working for a place on your Pony Club team for the Areas and then doing everything in your power to help your fellow teammates qualify. To gain a spot at the prestigious national championships is the stuff of dreams, although it can equally be the source of some tension between Pony Club Mums and their offspring.

Alternatively all those hours spent at the riding school might have finally persuaded your non-horsey parents that this ‘phase’ isn’t going to pass anytime soon. Many years of begging and saving ever last penny of your pocket money have resulted in the arrival of a horse or pony ‘on loan’. He may not be a competition star, but you spend every hour outside school at the stables caring for him like he’s a top equine athlete. And it might keep you away from the opposite sex for a few more years…

4. College/University

This is tricky time as difficult decisions have to be made. Do you throw yourself into university life, saying goodbye to your wonderful equine partner, and allow riding to taking a back seat for a while? Or are you going to try to have the best of both worlds as you struggle home complete with hangover every weekend to keep up with your riding while your friends/family/random individuals keep your ride fit in between? Either way, something has to give…

5. Career

H&H‘s website editor Carol Phillips juggles her career with competing her ex-racehorse Dennis

So you’ve said good riddance to your years of education and throw yourself into the wonderful world of work. If you’ve been able to keep your riding going throughout, then life may not change very much (you’re still constantly tired and skint with little or no social life… but at least you’re managing to ride!).

If you’ve taken a break during university/college and were hoping you’d have more time and income to spend on your riding, the additional costs that come with “adulting” might put an unfortunate squeeze on your equestrian ambitions. If you’re lucky then you might find a student who is looking for someone to look after their beloved while they are away studying — if so that’s a win, win situation.

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6. Middle age

So you’ve got the job, the house, the family – the kids are off to school/college/university and finally you’ve got a little bit more time to yourself. But while your heart might want that flashy warmblood or beautiful retrained racehorse, your head is wondering whether a native pony or Irish cob might just be a slightly more sensible choice…

7. Old age

While you find it thoroughly irritating that your body no longer allows you to charge around the countryside on horseback like you once did, nothing brings you peace quite like spending quality time with your wonderful horse. Neither of you are getting any younger, but you know you will carry your love of horses through to the end and you wouldn’t change that for the world.