Simon Reynolds: We live in a nursemaiding society *H&H Plus*

  • As we enter the 15th week of lockdown restrictions, I don’t think that anybody ever imagined that it would last this long. At times, it can feel like we are living in a parallel universe where everything is constantly changing. The implications of this virus will linger for some time yet and we will all have to think and act very differently.

    In some ways, embracing change is inevitable in order to move with the times, but my fear is that in a world where health and safety has already gone mad, these added restrictions may just add fuel to that already burning fire. I wish people would just take more responsibility for their own actions and accept the consequences should any arise.

    I know when I started out, the “nursemaiding” society just did not exist. You were thrown in at the deep end and expected to sink or swim. Especially in the horse world, you were either cut out for the job or you weren’t.

    A sad loss

    Recently, I was saddened to hear the news that one of my first mentors, Raymond Lucas, had passed away. I hailed from a dealing and showjumping background as a kid alongside my dad, a former jockey, and it was expected in those days that you went off to further your experience at other yards.

    We first met Raymond at a jumping show in the collecting ring. He introduced himself to my dad and offered some training advice. He actually gave Dad a rollicking as he thought his approach was a bit hard. But this didn’t last long; it became a standing joke that it wasn’t the done thing to stand at the side of the ring and throw stones at me while I was on whatever pony was on the lorry that day.

    Our families became great friends. We bought many ponies from Raymond. I can remember making the journey to Lancashire in a white Ford Escort XR3I which, at the time, was the car to have. The journey home was a little different. My dad had dealt the car up with Raymond for a furniture lorry with six ponies on – loaded up on the electric tail lift – and with no partitions.

    These were to be my new projects. As you can imagine, not much time was spent at school as I was quite busy.

    Feeling invincible

    From the age of 12, I often stayed at Raymond and his wife Marlene’s for extended times – sometimes for the whole of the six-week summer holidays. The experiences at the Lucas’s hold some great memories for me.

    It was a working dairy farm and showjumping production yard. Raymond’s children, Sandra and Martin, also competed to a high level. We were expected to milk cows at the crack of dawn, then muck out and Raymond would train us after breakfast. He had a great way of instilling confidence in you.

    I can remember jumping the biggest tracks and at times felt invincible. It was hard graft, but I loved it. To this day, I still try to emulate some of Raymond’s teaching methods with my pupils, as he was an absolute master at it.

    Despite my dangerous childhood exploits and frequent A&E appearances, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. It was those “real” experiences that made me. The younger generation just doesn’t have access to those kinds of experiences, which is sadly a sign of our times.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 June 2020