Moving house and divorce might be deemed the most stressful lifetime events, but surely the hunt for the perfect pony is a close runner-up... Kate Flynn takes us on the next stage of her turbulent journey to find the ideal 13.2-14.2hh confidence-giver for her daughter
Having tried the “word of mouth” approach with dismal results, I began scanning the adverts for the perfect Pony Club pony.
Now, this is a soul-destroying experience. It begins with the issue that despite the very specific and well thought out criteria you input into the search engines, the results are often nothing like the search. Hundreds of unlikely candidates pop up , all “very sad sales”, “sadly outgrown” and “rosette machines”.
Reading between the lines was to become a skill that I could probably pass an A Level in by now. But back then, I was a rookie at the pony buying game, so hours and hours were spent poring over adverts, until one rather beautiful black Welsh Section C mare stood out from the pack.
I rang the owner who turned out to be a hunt master. Great, I thought, she won’t have bought any old rubbish. I grilled her with my pony-buying checklist in hand: laminitis, vices, results, temperament, in no particular order, but all of relevance, and all coming up trumps. I was offered references from the hunt, the vet and the Pony Club – I was convinced, this pony needed to be seen.
If for you the days of Pony Club, picnic rides and galloping ponies bareback across stubble fields are but a…
It was the first “unknown from an advert” pony we had been to see, so twisting the arm of a horsey friend, we piled into the car with Daughter and set off full of optimism and excitement.
We were soon to be crushed. Quite literally, in fact. On arrival we parked the car in the yard. I had specifically asked for the pony not to be brought in. I wanted to see it being caught. I wished I hadn’t.
A field with numerous horses faced us — I spotted what I thought might be the mare, but it was hard to tell. The owner’s daughter set off to catch the pony, my Daughter tagged along to help. The circus began. On entering the field, the horses were instantly whirled up into a frenzy, egging each other on, bucking, kicking, tossing their heads and galloping from one end to the other defying all attempts to be caught.
I shouted to Daughter to get out of the way before she was trampled on. “Shall we leave now?” I murmured to my friend whose face was like thunder.
“Don’t worry,” called the ruddy-faced master, “I’ll sort it.” She proceeded into the barn, opening all the stable doors as she went. She then opened the field gate and at least seven horses charged out surrounding us and the car. Some hurtled into stables in anticipation of a feed, others careered around my car threatening damage. Dismally I thought of the possibility of trying to make an insurance claim against these people… not something I relished.
‘She doesn’t normally do that’
“She doesn’t normally do that,” the master declared on interrogation once the circus had died down and horses were locked in their stables. She headed off to find some tack, leaving us with her daughter. Whilst examining the pony, we asked some innocent, casual questions about what she had done with her. The automaton-like response came, “She’s never done anything wrong.” Alarm bells.
We should have left then. This was not the pony for us, it was clear. But being polite, we felt we should stay and try the pony. She was tacked up and we waited for the owner’s daughter to mount and take her out. Nothing happened. My friend, who was rapidly losing her already short fuse asked: “Are you going to ride her for us?” The girl looked startled at the thought, but reluctantly agreed.
Alarm bells, again. She got on, but it was clear the pony was a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any minute. To her credit, my Daughter did in fact ride the pony, but her dour face said all we needed to know about her thoughts. We quickly left the yard bewildered, bemused and relieved.
An unexpectedly traumatising experience. Lesson learnt: don’t believe everything you read in the adverts, or hear from the owner for that matter. Next!