The (challenging) diary of owning a new pony: safety over style

  • As Kate Flynn's daughter and her new pony become regulars on the hunting field, she decides to scrape together the pennies to invest in an air jacket

    I think it must be something to do with my age. Or perhaps it’s a “being a mother” thing, that my focus on safety has become greatly heightened over the years.

    Now, I say “greatly heightened”, if I am brutally honest what I really mean is “of paramount concern”.

    It started with my own riding, not long after having my first child. That sense of carefree “point me at a fence and I’ll jump it” was almost overnight replaced with an uncertainty and self-doubt that resulted in me eventually stopping riding altogether.

    One tip-up too far and I hung up my spurs in favour of a quieter, safer life with two feet firmly on the ground. Disappointing? Yes, but I know I’m not the only one out there to have experienced this Mother’s Anguish Syndrome, a self-preservation reaction.

    However, when it comes to the safety of my “babies”… well, that’s a whole different set of anxieties.

    So, perhaps it’s no surprise then that when Daughter and I went on the hunt for a new pony, it took so long to find the right one, when niggling away at the back of my mind was the question of whether I could really trust this unknown animal with my precious cargo.

    An acceptable safety rating

    Regular blog readers will know that many ponies failed the test, and Munch was the only one who managed to convince me of his safety rating.

    Of course, his subsequent party piece of bucking at will stuck two fingers up at my “Flynn Kitemark Certification”! Nevertheless, we bottomed that one out, and his aptitude for fearless hunting prompted a further round of safety considerations on my part.

    The idea of an air vest for Daughter began when a friend of mine declared herself oblivious to any mocking by her hunting peers when sporting her air vest on the field.

    I found it amazing that anyone should even question someone’s attempts at self preservation in such a notoriously hazardous sport as hunting.

    Style over safety? Not for my girl! Unwittingly, my friend had planted a small nugget of an idea in my mind and I began researching the air vest market. Having picked myself up off the floor after seeing the price of them, it appeared there were two main contenders.

    I asked around and the feedback I got was that people all thought they were a great idea, but were put off by the price. Indeed, I had noticed on a fence-judging stint at a hunter trial last season that more and more riders were starting to wear them.

    I broached the subject with Daughter who expressed an indifference to wearing one for cross-country and hunting, but categorically wouldn’t entertain the idea of wearing one for anything else.

    Fair enough. A little more Googling later, I had identified the one that I felt had the best protection system. Scraping the pennies together, I invested and it duly arrived the day before a meet.

    ‘You’ll be wishing you were wearing one of these…’

    “What are you wearing that for?” called a young lad at the meet, eyeing Daughter’s vest with disdain. Daughter turned towards him from atop her pony.

    “When you fall off you’ll be wishing you were wearing one of these bad boys,” she retorted calmly. Nice one! The boy grinned, firmly put back in his place, and they all set off at a steady walk towards the first gate.

    Now, unless you’ve been lucky enough to have spent the last few months in Barbados, you’ll know it’s been ever so slightly wet here this winter.

    To say the going was deep would be a major an understatement. Following on foot, we spotted Daughter and friends at the top of a field going full pelt.

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    A few minutes later as we walked in the direction of the gate they had been heading towards, we caught sight of three ponies standing in the gateway. I raised my binoculars, “No, that’s not Munch, that’s a roan,” I stated flatly to hubby who clearly had better eyesight than me, because as we got closer, I could see the roan was in fact Munch with Daughter, both completely plastered in deep, rich brown mud. It was dripping from every quarter, including Munch’s face.

    “We slipped at a gallop, face planted and both Munch and I came down in the mud,” declared Daughter who had been thrown clear of the pony in the ruck.

    “Can you deflate me?” she asked, her air vest having instantaneously detonated as she and Munch parted company. Within a couple of minutes, the vest was deflated, poppa’d back into place and a new gas canister fitted.

    Neither pony nor rider were any the worse for their mud-wrestling experience, and without a care in the world, they set off again to join the field. Did the vest save Daughter from injury, we’ll never know. Did it buy me peace of mind? Yes, £400-worth to be precise!

    Read more of Kate Flynn’s blogs about the ups and downs of owning a new pony

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