My earliest memory of ponies dates back to when I was two and the lovely Black Bess. She was a black metal rocking horse suspended from a frame on springs and I rode her within an inch of her life. Her hooves touched the floor front and back, such was my galloping fervour. I would have beaten Dick Turpin in a ride from London to York any day. Dad had to fasten her to the floor otherwise we crashed our way round the living room destroying all in our path. It got to the point where dad couldn’t buy new springs any more as I broke so many, so she was scrapped.
We then moved to an old farmhouse that had a couple of acres and my earliest memory of real horses was a couple of coloureds owned by the local rag and bone man that dad allowed to graze (yes I am really that old!!). I don’t come from a horsey family but as soon as I could walk, talk and read, it was all about horses. On the local dump, I found a scrapped replica of Black Bess only in white (called White Bess as you may imagine) and never was a broken rocking horse so well looked after. She was bedded down in a shed in the field and fed fresh grass every day.
I begged for a pony of my own on a daily basis, reading every horse book I could lay my hands on and mum and dad were left in no doubt that I was sincere in my desire. At 7, my first pony arrived from Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. My parents didn’t stretch to a saddle but dad was an upholsterer and made me a foam pad that tied round the middle with web straps so learning to ride bare back wasn’t quite as painful as it could have been, other than the numerous tumbles of course!
I taught myself to ride with the help of lots of books and common sense and graduated through ponies to horses until the age of 21 when work, driving, lack of finances and life in general took over. Dad continued with driving horses for a few years as he had also come to realise their awesomeness.
Fast forward 25 years and I had some work to do in Cumbria so I took the opportunity of going for a ride at Cumbrian Heavy Horses…. on a slow boring Ardennes. The following day, I went back and cantered up on the fells on a gorgeous forward going shire/Clydesdale cross. I was smitten again and decided life was too short so I resolved to get another horse.
I went to look at two or three but nothing grabbed me then…. an advert on Horsemart and it was love at first photo. A gorgeous white high stepping Spanish horse, I had never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. I rang up and arranged to go and look at the horse that weekend. I packed my children into the car and drove from Lancashire to a dealer in Kent. That horse would have had to have three wooden legs for me not to have him. I broke every rule in the book – I went on my own with little current experience, I had a ten minute trial and I bought him from a dealer but my mind was made up off a single photo. His goodness and kindness shone out of him and I was totally in love. His advert said that he got a bit heated when jumping – when I got him home, I soon found that to be an understatement!!