The (painful) diary of the hunt for the perfect pony: ‘Owners that look like their horses’

  • 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

    Now they do say that owners look like their pets and vice versa. I’ve noticed this with dogs, but less so with horses – until now.

    We came across an advert for a 14.2hh all-rounder that had been there and seen it all. Represented the school at showjumping, done Pony Club activities, been hunting…he sounded like he might be the one.

    I was even more convinced after a lengthy conversation with ‘Prince’s’ owner, a double-barreller who sounded terribly well educated, very knowledegable and extremely encouraging about the abilities of Prince.

    “I’ve had someone else come to see him,” (haven’t they always I thought, rolling my eyes, silently acknowledging my new-found cynicism this whole pony-buying process was conferring on me) “but, they thought he was a bit too big – he is a full-up 14.2hh,” he enthused.

    “But really you need to come and see him. He’ll be out in the field when you come, you can see him caught and give him a try.”

    Having set myself a 100 mile threshold on the distance I was willing to travel to view ponies. This one was a mere half hour journey away, and so ticked yet another box.

    “I’ve got a really good feeling about this one,” I declared to daughter as we sped along.

    Something of an understatement

    We arrived at a tiny bungalow, which bizarrely had a huge pile of manure on the front doorstep and not a pony in sight. No one answered the door. We waited and waited, until in due course a dilapidated jalopy pulled up and a giant-sized man with a severe shock of bed-head hair piled out and urged us to follow him in our car.

    We set off down a track, soon coming to a large field criss-crossed with miles of waving electric tape. A ramshackle set of stables was littered with upturned buckets, a selection of heaped rugs and various decaying brushes, tools and kit. The field itself was set on a bank that fell away steeply. At the bottom, clustered together, was a gaggle of horse and ponies.

    “Please tell me that’s not him,” I muttered to daughter as we surveyed the scene, noting a brown hairball resting lazily at the bottom of the hill. “I think it is,” she whispered. “It can’t be — he’s grey in the photo,” I remarked. “He is grey — that’s mud!” daughter said ominously.

    Bed Head Guy dragged the ominous looking Prince up the hill away from his gang of mates. Unceremoniously, he lumbered up, a massive ball of mud, hair and with a head that was as big as my entire daughter.

    Full-up 14.2hh was something of an understatement. He was enormous and the similarity between him and Bed Head was far from lost on us.

    This had now become a damage limitation exercise for us — how to get away without being rude. This was clearly not the pony for us. Daughter and I exchanged surreptitious glances as Bed Head Guy realised he had forgotten to bring the tack and made moves towards his jalopy to go and get it. Before we could stop him he disappeared off in a cloud of smoke and dust.

    We surveyed the lump that was Prince, and dolefully he returned our glances. He had been here before and wasn’t impressed!

    Soon Bed Head Guy returned and proceeded to fit an ancient saddle to a lethargic Prince. Doubtfully, daughter scrambled aboard and was dwarfed by the sheer size of the beast beneath her. She clearly wanted to get off but Bed Head Guy had other ideas and was directing us up the road for a hack.

    Once out on our own, it was time to figure out our exit strategy. A motorbike came past and Prince became joggy and unsettled — not good in traffic, then. That was good enough for us. We returned and made our excuses. “OK fine,” said Bed Head Guy, taking the bridle and turning on his heel without so much as a look back. We headed to our car, wondering why we had tried to spare his feelings. Next!

    Don’t miss the next installment of Kate Flynn’s hunt for the perfect pony on the Horse & Hound website this time next week (Monday 21 September)

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