The (challenging) diary of owning a new pony: a strangling sense of disappointment

  • Fed up with following her daughter on foot, Kate Flynn decides to go hunting again — after a 15 year break

    Munch is continuing to excel on the hunting field. Going out with two local hunts, he has really proven that this is his “thing”.

    At a recent Pony Club showjumping training session, one mum asked whether we had bought a new pony since the summer.

    She couldn’t believe how forward and engaged he was, not to mention muscled up and toned.

    “He looks an entirely different animal,” she remarked. I confess that I have been wallowing in the warm afterglow of that comment for about a week now. In all honesty, he really is in the best physical form since we’ve had him.

    ‘I feel totally confident’

    The other hugely positive benefit of hunting has been the development of the partnership between Daughter and Munch.

    “There is absolutely nothing he does that scares me any more. I feel totally confident in him,” Daughter commented after one six hour (yes, really!) day out.

    Now, if you’ve ever followed on foot, you’ll know that this can often be a frustrating experience. The highlight of the day comes at the beginning with the meet — well, whoever said no to a mini sausage roll and a glass of port whilst surrounded by the finest horseflesh and centuries of quintessentially British tradition?

    But it’s afterwards, when you are left to your own devices to try and spot the hunt as they fly across acres of fields often well away from convenient roads where you can park up with your binoculars whilst enjoying a picnic lunch and a swig from the hip flask.

    No, the reality is far from this — neck craning, eyes squinting at the horizon, seeing… nothing, while in fact the pack have moved to the next village unbeknown to you. So, there was only one thing for it. If you can’t beat ’em….

    Now, by my reckoning it’s been something in the region of 15 years since I last went hunting.

    And, with a new steed to consider, even though Doc is an old hand on the hunting field and possibly one of the safest hunters, for an old Granny like me, this was something of a daunting prospect.

    Rising to the challenge

    I might have mentioned once before that I do love a challenge, and now I was setting myself one. There was to be a children’s meet at the neighbouring farm. This was the perfect chance for Daughter and I to hunt together, an ambition I (less so Daughter!) had harboured many times as I watched her and Munch having a ball in hot pursuit of the field.

    First things first, to overcome the jumping nerves I booked up a lesson with our instructor. The brief was confidence not height, and very quickly, thanks to Doc’s steady, forgiving approach, the old technique came flooding back, and to my surprise, I found I was rather enjoying myself.

    I wasn’t really planning to jump very much, if at all, on the day, but at least now I knew I could if I needed to.

    Next, I invested in a lovely new stock, and a dear friend brought over a hunting coat to complete the ensemble.

    The night before, tack was clean and sparkling and the horses were washed and primped ready for the next morning’s adventure.

    Nervous but excited, I slumped down in the armchair contemplating the morning ahead. Daughter came in, with her iPhone arm extension, “Tash’s not coming now. Nor’s Richard or anyone from his yard. Alice and all of Claire’s family have also pulled out,” she declared.

    I sat up, frowning. What was going on? “They’re worried about the strangles outbreak,” Daughter said, dejectedly.

    It was true, there had been an outbreak in our postcode area and emails of warning and advice had been circulating.

    Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:

    Who might be at the meet the next day carrying this highly contagious disease? It was impossible to know…and to our minds, as well as those of many others, it simply wasn’t worth the risk. Oh but the disappointment. It was immense.

    Read Kate Flynn’s account of finding the perfect pony

    You may like...