The (painful) hunt for the perfect pony: ‘We were heading straight into the spider’s web’

  • 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

    As we had now seen 10 ponies so far, Daughter and I were getting used to disappointment. Arriving to find the pony was not what we had been told was no longer a surprise to us, but never before had we arrived to find…no pony! This was a first.

    The advert had sounded promising: snaffle mouthed, live in or out, competed in combined training, unaffiliated showjumping up to 90cm, Pony Club activities, happy over ditches and through water, a wonderful hunting pony… yada yada yada!

    A phone call to the owners revealed that in fact they weren’t the pony’s owners. “So you’re a dealer then?” I queried. “No, no love,” said the lilting Somerset accent on the other end.

    ‘We’re not dealers’

    “We sometimes sell for others, but we’re not dealers.” I was somewhat baffled. If that’s not a dealer, I don’t know what is. Anyway… I decided not to debate the semantics and spent the next half an hour listening to the inspiring story of angelic Max, the “suit anyone” pony with a heart of gold and an ability to match. We were sent more photos. We watched half a dozen videos. We took the bait.

    “I have a really good feeling about this one,” I said to Daughter as we veered off the M5 into deepest West Country. “You’ve said that before — about 10 times actually,” chided Daughter, who was becoming as cynical as me over the whole pony-buying escapade.

    We drew up to what can only be described as an idyllic but dilapidated farmhouse. The Darling Buds of May immediately sprung to mind as chickens pottered around a blooming vegetable patch and tiles clung precariously to a low-slung roof.

    I was half expecting a buxom wench in a chintzy dress to appear from the porch with a basket of freshly baked bread beneath her arm, when my bubble of bliss was burst by a large black dog hurtling towards the car in full territorial mode, swiftly followed by an elderly woman in a ripped puffa, a pinny and tan coloured pop sox wrinkled down below three-quarter length beige slacks.

    Continued below…

    ‘Sold and taken this morning’

    Calling off the dog, she approached our car window. “Can I help you?” drawled Pop Sox. I explained we were here to see Max. Pop Sox looked a bit confused. She checked her watch, and peered into the car again. “Max? Pony Max?” I nodded.

    “Well he’s gone, love. Sold and taken this morning.” My heart sank. There followed a lengthy explanation which boiled down to how Pop Sox’s daughter must have forgotten to pass on my message and how the first person to see the pony had snapped their hand off (always a good one to make you feel you have missed out on the perfect pony). Of course, they had another pony round the back that might fit the bill just as well. We were like flies heading straight into the spider’s web.

    I turned to Daughter and looked doubtfully across at her. We should just reverse out now and write it down to experience. On the other hand, having travelled an hour and a half to get there, wouldn’t it be churlish not to take a look at the suggested Max-replacement pony?

    Against my better judgment, but with curiosity piqued, we left the safety of our car and followed Pop Sox to a tumbledown stable where a giant cob swung his bearded chin over the door. “Ooh, Bruce is lovely. Done everything you need.

    “He can be strong when jumping mind, but ‘e jumped some good fences last year.

    “He had some unlucky poles, but….all the same, ‘e’s a little cracker,” crooned Pop Sox. In response, Bruce opened his ample mouth and took hold of the top of the stable door and emitted a deep gastric belch.

    “Ah yes, he’s reminding me to tell you that he does windsuck, but that’s reflected in his price,” added Pop Sox, with a toothy grin.

    It may not surprise you to learn that I never found out what they were asking for Bruce… 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 (9 November)

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