Throughout the month of August, I posted through the #HorseBloggers channel a top tip every day in keeping topics flowing when it comes to blogging about all things equine! I have decided to write thirty one posts, each taking on board the tips that I recommended. So my first post is all about my first pony that I rode and what I loved about ponies through my childhood, giving me the equestrian bug.
I grew up in a small Sussex village where I was very lucky to have the freedom to play in the local woods and fields with my friends who lived on the same road. At the top of the hill where I lived, were two shops which used to change hands over the years from being a grocers shop, an estate agents, a bike shop to one day as I was walking back from the village I noticed a new sign on the door – “Saddlery and Tack Shop”.
As the weeks went by, I would stop and look in the shop window with real interest at the jodhpurs, horse bits, saddle cloths and head collars. One day I decided to go in and look around and just loved immediately the smell of the leather of the saddles, the shiny metal bits hanging from a rack and all the different grooming brushes and tack. They also sold books about everything to do with horses and ponies and I wanted the one that taught how to look after them. After pestering my mum, she finally gave me the money to buy the book and that was it – I was hooked. That book is still with me today which is totally responsible for the start of my love of horses and ponies.
There was a footpath near my family home which ran through a few fields. There were two ponies in one of the fields that I used to go and feed pulled up tufts of grass and I just loved spending time with them. There was a bay Shetland called Tiny and a very scruffy, thick haired black pony called Sooty. (I now realise with my experience that Sooty definitely had Cushings Disease) I found out their names, as the owner used to see me leaning over the wooden gate hand feeding them fresh grass. She told me all about them and Tiny was used to teach her children to ride but they had grown up and Sooty was a retired pit pony who needed a home to spend his last years, free of the hard graft down the dark dusty caverns.
Mrs White asked me one day would I like to ride Tiny. I was so excited and said a huge big yes! She said I needed to ask my parents and if they were ok with it, to come along one afternoon to take Tiny out for my first ride. My mum and dad agreed and for the next few days, I could hardly sleep with the excitement of riding a pony for the first time. The day arrived and I ran down the footpath to the pony field in sheer delight. I helped brush Tiny, pick her little hooves out and tack up.
I remember as clear as if it was yesterday the first time I sat in the saddle, I just loved it. Mrs White led me around the field and it really was one of the most enjoyable memories I have during that time of my life.
I continued to ride Tiny and would help with all the stable duties and then sadly one day, dear old Sooty had to be put to sleep. Mrs White explained to me that Tiny needed to go to another home with ponies, as she was going to be moving away in a few months. When I next ambled down the footpath, the field was full of sheep. Tiny was gone and I was so sad.
There was a riding school at the other end of the village and after again lots of pestering, my parents let me start riding lessons. My mum would give me £3.00 (yes £3.00!) and I would walk up to the riding school come rain or shine and have my riding lessons in the creaky and battered old barn. I changed riding schools and then had many years until my mid teens, winning rosettes jumping over tiny cavaletti jumps and cantering around the hedgerows simply loving every minute of riding ponies. I would be chucked off nearly every week but it never bothered me and I always got back on. I did say that question that all pony mad children ask their parents and that was “can I have a pony?” but it was never taken seriously or the answer was always a very firm “no”. As the years passed, my interests started to change and eventually the time came when I just stopped riding. I must have been about fourteen and hanging out with my friends was more of a priority than getting in the saddle.
A decade and a bit later in my late twenties, a friend asked me to go riding at her home as she had some horses that were there on livery and needed to be ridden out. Now a mum with young children, I remember being really nervous getting back in the saddle. However, once I put my foot in the stirrup the love returned and has been with me every day since then. So much so… that eventually I did have my own pony. However, it turned out to be a considerably bigger one!