Pony-mad eight-year-old, Maia Fletcher, loves nothing more than helping her grandfather with his team of five Shires, including riding the giant horses.
The youngster was first put on a Shire by grandfather, John Fletcher, as a baby, before taking the reins as a three-year-old.
“She was on the Shires before she could walk,” said John. “Then aged three, I would take her out on them on the lead-rein — she loves it.”
When not at school, Maia — who lives a few miles from her grandfather’s North Pembrokeshire farm — revels in looking after the Shires, despite also having a pony of her own, and will often be found brushing and washing them — with the assistance of a stepladder of course.
“She actually prefers the Shires to her own pony. They are such gentle, quiet creatures and so good with her. Her favourite Shire is called Ned, who at 13 is the oldest in my yard – he is so gentle with her and often drops his head down to her level so she can brush him.”
Maia enjoys rides aboard the Shires on Poppit Sands beach, where her grandfather allows her to ride solo.
“I will have her on the lead-rein on the road, but as soon as she is on the beach she goes alone and takes them into the sea. She just loves being in the company of the Shires. I wouldn’t force any of my grandchildren into it, but I believe in giving them the opportunity when they are young, so if they want to continue in later years they can,” he added.
Maia accompanies her grandfather to ploughing matches and has also been in control of a chain harrow — pretty remarkable for an eight-year-old child.
“She has done some chain harrowing in the sand school with two Shires, which is obviously much more physical than riding them.”
John has had Shire horses for 25 years and via his family-run business, Gentle Giants, he supplies the heavy horses for weddings and funerals. He also uses them in demonstrations at various county shows.
“It certainly gives Maia something to talk about at school, and probably very different to what her classmates get up to after school. She would rather spend time with the Shires than sit watching a computer screen.”
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