Moving house and divorce might be deemed the most stressful lifetime events, but surely the hunt for the perfect pony is a close runner-up... Kate Flynn takes us on the next stage of her turbulent journey to find the ideal 13.2-14.2hh confidence-giver for her daughter
So we’d tried the “word of mouth” pony — fail one, and then the “unknown from an advert” — fail two, and we were no further forward in the hunt for what was clearly as rare as the proverbial rocking horse “manure”.
But it wasn’t long before the phone was ringing again, this time with music to my ears. Not only was a word of mouth pony available, it belonged to a friend who was willing to let him come on a month’s trial. Oh joy – we’d hit the jackpot! She sent me a photo of the pony, who looked stunning on his way to the hunt meet. Full pelt trot, head high, eyes popping — hang on… this one looks a bit of a handful for novice Daughter.
“No, no, ” I was assured, “he is steady as a rock and used for teaching kids on. He jumps and will be “ideal”.
Despite the Nagging Niggle gnawing away in the undergrowth of my mind, I was lured and soothed by the idea of the trial, and the opportunity to send him back if it all went wrong. We hopped in the car and sped down the motorway.
Frankly, it was love at first sight. A fabulous lightweight black cob, fully clipped and hogged met our eyes. He was adorable. As Daughter got on, I heard myself revealing my hand with a very unsubtle, “I hope you like him as much as I do!” — no poker face for me! She grinned and set off on a hack with my friend.
From first pony to field companion, take a look at the selection of Shetland ponies for sale on the Horse…
Some time later we got a call to meet them at the cross-country jumps, and to my astonishment Daughter was to be seen popping him over the fences. Big smiles all round. Fantastic. Enquiring after his history, I was informed that he had been bought at an auction. Really? Nagging Niggle tapped me on the shoulder again, whispering in my ear “Why would someone put a beautiful animal such as this into a sale?” I couldn’t answer this — not yet anyway.
A return visit
A week later, we were back, this time with our trailer. Another successful hack and we were soon on our way home with our dream pony and a month in hand to put him through his paces — paces being the operative word.
In his new field, he paced until he wore a mud track, up and down, looking for others. He could see our other pony across the field and we thought he would settle — early days and all that. But after two weeks of pacing, the track was a virtual ditch. Out hacking, he was on edge. Some days more so than others, but we were still smitten with him.
Three weeks into our trial we set out hacking on a beautiful morning. The pony was finally calm and unruffled. We passed a huge stone crushing machine making a horrendous noise, pheasants shot out from hedges, he was unfased and I made the fatal mistake of remarking: “At last I think he has finally settled.” No more than 20 minutes later I was making a call that was to see him back on the trailer and returned the very next day.
As we progressed through the fields, he suddenly rooted to the spot and grew in stature, ears pricked and his eyes trained on some distant point. After much straining of eyes, I finally spotted a speck of a horse trotting along the lane at least some half a mile away. From this point, the pony transformed into a jogging, squitting, nervous wreck. I was reminded of the hunt photo I had seen, why hadn’t I trusted my gut instincts from the outset? Too late.
Daughter was still onboard but not for long as the pony bubbled over with anxiety and launched into an impression of the Lloyds Bank black horse, rearing up and almost coming over backwards. With visions of broken backs and necks, I screamed at Daughter to get off. Shaken and scared she slid to the floor and we escorted the snorting pony home in hand.
We were lucky that we were able to return him, albeit with leaden hearts. Two weeks later we learned that he had been “diagnosed” with separation anxiety. Living and hacking out alone were not something he was used to or could cope with coming from a busy yard. The rearing was quite another matter. Next!