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
Scanning the Pony Club classifieds was becoming an obsession. Several times a day, I would find myself sneaking a glance at the new additions to the 14.2hh and under section in the hope of finding what was becoming as elusive as the Holy Grail.
One evening, Archie, a bright bay Irish pony popped onto my screen. He was a serious box-ticker on oh so many fronts, and a phone call to the owner ticked a few more. I asked if we could come to see him – teeth were sucked.
They were going to have trouble fitting us in, so tight was the pony’s competition schedule.
A whiff of desperation must have found its way down the phone line, and it was agreed that we could go and watch the pony taking part in a showjumping training session the next night. We went.
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An hour and a half sitting with the owners of Archie and I felt I could write a book on every aspect of him. They were refreshing in their honesty, and overwhelming in their ambition for their daughter, and as it turned out, for the pony!
After the training session we were “allowed” to try him. It was at this point that the owner revealed his true colours and Competitive Dad appeared before our eyes. On the basis that he had an older daughter who was doing quite well in dressage, it turned out he was an “expert” on all aspects of showjumping, schooling and training.
He proceeded to give my Daughter the benefit of his “extensive” knowledge much to her bemusement. “More inside rein; sit up; Squeeeeeeeze!” he yelled from the centre of the arena. His desire for the pony and Daughter to respond to his commands was palpable.
‘I had visions of them inspecting our muck heap’
It was an intense half an hour, during which he we learnt that anyone buying this pony would be required to undergo a home check by the current owners who would want to deliver him themselves to see where he was going. I had visions of them inspecting our muck heap and examining our tack – a small chill ran through me.
I expressed an interest in Archie, but was informed that we would need to see him again. I knew that, but it seemed they were managing this sale – not me! We agreed to meet again, this time on his home turf.
We met a few days later, and Daughter tried him in the school. He was definitely livelier this time, and in between instructions, Competitive Dad revealed that his speciality was concocting a variety of competition mixes, balancers and feedstuffs to boost the pony’s performance.
I quietly pondered about his special brand of food combining alchemy, as we set off on a hack and the pony appeared somewhat skittish, preferring to walk on the grass bank than the straight and narrow of the tarmac lane.
‘He’s just excited to be out’
Archie broke into an intermittent jog. “He’s just excited to be out,” said Competitive Dad, “He’s so used to being in the school or competing, this is a treat for him.”
Alarm bells. “Just trot him down to that tree, we’ll wait here,” he instructed Daughter, who dutifully attempted to do so. However, Archie was having none of it. Well before the tree, he decided he was going home. He napped and turned and twisted, climbed up a steep grass bank and then set off at pace in the direction of his stable.
Daughter managed to slow him down and under instruction from a puffing Competitive Dad, we quickly arrived back at the yard.
“I don’t know what to say,” I declared, perplexed and speechless. “It was the jogging that did it for you, wasn’t it?” said Competitive Dad.
I looked doubtfully at the wife, who with a poisonous glare turned on Dad like a predator on prey and announced: “It’s your fault, you created this monster!”
Say no more. Next!