I have just spent a blissful morning bathing a pony (pictured) in the sunshine, in the triumph of hope over experience that he might be ready to go to his first show of the season tomorrow.
Actually, the fact we are going to a show is a bit of a side issue. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend the morning. I took my time shampooing, conditioning and rinsing with the sun warm on my shoulders. He stood like an angel, as though he was enjoying it as much as I was. I trimmed his whiskers, scraped off the excess water and led him up the drive so he could pick at the grass while the breeze dried his coat. By the end of it all, we were very pleased with each other. I just hope he remembers what a lovely owner he has when we get to the show tomorrow.
All in all, it was a very satisfactory few hours of just messing about with ponies. At times like these, I feel about 11 again, when I spent every waking moment either hanging around ponies, reading about them, drawing them or dreaming about them. It occurs to me that pony mad children like the one I was never really grow up. Among the signs that my inner child is still alive and kicking are:
- When driving anywhere at all for however important or urgent a reason, I still crane round to look at every horse in every field we pass.
- Ditto the back of every horse trailer.
- My two favourite smells in the whole world are saddle-soaped leather, and the smell when you press your nose into your horse’s neck.
- It doesn’t matter how many competitions we go to, every time we pull up in the lorry park and jump down onto the dew-soaked grass I feel the same flutter of excitement and possibility for the day ahead
- I love a nice rosette. It doesn’t matter how many the children bring home, I find it hard to throw any of them away. In the whole of my childhood I won about two, so they seem very precious to me.
To be fair, in pony terms, I was a deprived child. My parents could certainly not afford to buy me a pony, and knew nothing about horses themselves. Nevertheless I was hopelessly smitten, which meant that I was also hopelessly exploitable. I would labour all day for anyone with horses just for the joy of it, without even the promise of a ride. But if one was offered, no matter how unsuitable, I was there like a flash and had no fear. I would skip out of the house calling out “Just going to ride Mr Jones’s (psychopath) skewbald” (the psychopath bit was silent, obviously) and my parents would reply, “That’s nice dear” and go back to their gardening or crossword or whatever it was they were doing.
Julie Gaukroger has a good laugh about why
I did somehow manage to survive all the nut jobs, and for me riding even the worst of them was better than not riding at all.
I have always thought that people with obsessive hobbies are happier people and it is certainly true for riders. Horses can drive you mad and restore your sanity in equal measure. They are infinitely rewarding and make excellent company, in a way that other obsessions like bikes or boats or cars never can. So I will continue to embrace the child within and hope I never ever grow out of the magic of it all.