The (challenging) diary of owning a pony: model hunting pony behaviour

  • Kate Flynn is pleasantly surprised when her daughter takes her new pony Munch hunting for the first time — he was calm but forward, jumped everything, and even better, stood when asked

    What is it about hunting that can turn an otherwise docile, compliant pony into a deranged brake-free zone, losing all sense of self-preservation?

    The thrill of the chase can prove to be as exciting for a pony as someone running in front of them with a bucket full of pony nuts, as witnessed when we decided to take our former loan pony Sweetie out for the morning with our local hunt.

    How thrilled we were when she stood obediently at the meet, taking in the atmosphere and looking pretty in her plaits.

    The next time we clapped eyes on her however, half an hour in, the same pony was a complete sweatball, with eyes on stalks cantering at full speed along the tarmac road, attempting to keep up with horses whose legs were longer than her entire height — head included.

    She was completely oblivious to Daughter who was doing a great job of clinging on totally out of control as they headed towards a gigantic hedge!

    Note to self, stronger bit required! After that little episode, Daughter was understandably reluctant to take Sweetie again, and indeed, we had parted with her before the next season came round.

    A gaping hole on his CV

    So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that we decided to give Munch a go at the hunting game. We had tried him at most things by now and this was one activity that was still a gaping hole on his CV.

    As previously reported, he had been in a near catatonic state at certain points over the summer, reluctant to set foot in a showjumping arena let alone jump the fences, and it was suggested that a spell at hunting might jazz him up a little. You know where this is going, don’t you?!

    Well, let me tell you, you may be surprised! (I was!) My friend who had kindly offered to look after Daughter for the morning advised that it was a 6.30am meet, for autumn hunting.

    Imagine our horror as we pulled into the farm drive at 6.30am to find the entire field pouring out at full trot, like beans coming out of a tin. Everyone was mounted, hounds were in full flow… and Munch was still in his dressing gown on the trailer! Brilliant start. (Suffice to say that I now ensure that I clarify the difference between meet and meet — i.e. the time we are meeting and the time the meet is leaving — two entirely different “meets”!)

    Munch was hastily dragged out, his travelling gear whipped off and Daughter jacked up and on board all within a frenzied couple of minutes.

    In no time, hounds were swarming and circling all around him… but remarkably Munch was unruffled.

    Three hours later, the duo returned. I had attempted to follow on foot, but had been able to see very little, so it was with a gladdening of the heart that the grin on Daughter’s face told me all I needed to know about Munch’s first hunting performance. He was a star! He had been calm but forward going, jumped everything, stood when asked and demonstrated model hunting pony behaviour. Result!

    Since that day, Munch has been out hunting several more times. Every time he has excelled himself, turned heads for his bravery and decorum and impressed us with his conduct. What’s more, away from the hunting field his vigour and enthusiasm has returned.

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    He is an entirely different pony to the disinterested, sluggish beast of the summer, as his results at recent arena events have proven. The question is, how to maintain that get-up-and-go when the hunting season has got-up-and gone?!

    Read Kate Flynn’s account of finding the perfect pony

    Don’t miss the next instalment of Kate Flynn’s account of owning a new pony, on the Horse & Hound website next Monday (22 February 2016)

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