The (painful) hunt for the perfect pony: ‘I could see the frozen look on my daughter’s face’

  • 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

    I had rather hoped that six months after our search had begun, we would be further forward than we actually were — which was nowhere.

    We had clocked up hours and hours of web surfing, miles of motorways, and my telephone interrogation skills would put the Spanish Inquisition to shame.

    My appetite for the whole pony-buying experience was something akin to a yo-yo dieter — one minute gobbling up every possible opportunity, the next sick to the back teeth with it all, unable to face another one. There is definitely a market out there for someone with the energy to set up a pony/rider “speed-dating event”.

    But in the absence of one, how can you throw the towel in when mission remains unaccomplished and Daughter can practically stand astride our current pony with both feet on the ground?

    So you can appreciate, it was with great difficulty that I summoned up the energy to smile with enthusiasm at Ella, a pretty nine-year-old Irish bay mare recommended by a friend.

    As we arrived to view her, there was a cluster of people in full conflab inside the barn.

    They turned briefly to watch us pull up, but made no effort to greet or acknowledge us.

    Just then, a lady of a certain age, bedecked head to toe in pink appeared from the nearby house, and tottered towards the yard, shrieking something incomprehensible at the top of her voice and gesticulating towards the accumulated group. Daughter and I looked at each other bewildered.

    Continued below…

    Had we arrived in the midst of some crisis?

    Were they expecting us? Had we got the time wrong? Had we arrived in the midst of some crisis? Apparently not. Unflustered, as if this were the norm, a young woman broke from the group as we edged forward towards the stables, and led us towards an imperious looking Ella, who peered out at us from her stable door.

    “I’ve owned her since she was four,” she declared, proceeding to impart a full breakdown of just how quiet and sensible her disposition. “She really is push button — push and she will just go!” Hmmm, not quite sure what that means. We were soon to find out though!

    Ella was wheeled out and trotted up. So far so good. We headed out into an open field, pushing past a mare and foal as we entered the gate — not the ideal trial situation, but I figured the owner must know what she was doing.

    She began putting the mare through her paces. To start with it went well, but as the mare moved through the transitions, she started to get unsettled, throwing her head and hotting up. “She’s normally quite calm,” called the owner as she struggled to maintain an outline, “but someone came to try her two weeks ago and upset her.”

    Two weeks ago? This was not the confidence giver we were looking for — on the contrary, the mare was in need of a serious shot of confidence herself! I made moves to depart, explaining that she wasn’t what we were looking for.

    “She’s so gentle,” the owner said, “why not just sit on her? Just for the sake of experience if nothing else.”

    I looked doubtfully at Daughter. We quickly debated the value of the “experience” and Daughter decided that she would at least sit on her.

    Brave, I thought. Perhaps rather more quickly than she had anticipated, they worked up the gears until the pair were cantering on a circle. Round and round they went like they were attached to a carousel. I began to see what the owner meant by push and go.

    After a few minutes, I could see the frozen look on Daughter’s face. “I can’t stop her,’ she shouted. It seems she had unwittingly pushed the cruise control button and had now stuck in fifth gear. Despite vain attempts at pulling, sitting back, cantering in ever decreasing circles… nothing was stopping her.

    “You’re going to have to step in,” I told the owner who ran and lunged forward into the path of the automaton pony. As if awoken from a dream, the pony came to an abrupt halt and Daughter gratefully slid off, thanking the owner for “the experience!”

    “Oh, what am I going to do with my broken pony,” the owner blurted as we turned to walk away. Oh thank you, couldn’t you have told us she was “broken” before we tried her? Next!

    Read all Kate Flynn’s accounts of her hunt for the perfect pony

    Don’t miss the next installment of Kate Flynn’s hunt for the perfect pony on the Horse & Hound website next week (16 November)

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