Flying Ponies Over Rainbow Bridge
An introduction to the horses and ponies in my life who have made me into the crazy horse-obsessed individual I am today...
Ash was my mum's hunter, a lovely connemara x TB ex-broodmare, who was a part of our family from before I was born until she passed away aged 30 when I was in my second year of university. A true all-rounder, Ash turned her hoof to a bit of everything with my mum over the years, from hacking to x-country to SJ over a 4'6" course - she must have seen carrying two giggling kids around from babyhood and through adolescence as quite a come-down in the world! Ash had an opinion about everything - she looked after a novice or a child like they were her own foal, but woe-betide you if you came along thinking you knew better than her! A real no-nonsense horse with a heart of gold.
The obligatory Shetland pony, who I believe sparked my love of coloureds! We had Polly on loan for a few years while Tilly (my sister) and I were young, and often borrowed a friend's Shetland, Ben, to go out for rides together. They were, of course, cheeky little devils, and I'm sure I spent more time flying off them than over things with them, but they were also lovely and we always forgave them by the end of the day. For a while, Polly even lived with Ash in our (rather large) back garden. Bless.
Oogee Banger Whatsit (Gee)
When I was 8 and Tilly (my sister) was 5, my mum and dad decided that it was time to "invest" in a pony for the two of us to share. Enter stage left, Gee. And no, we didn't name her. Gee was a nutty but fabulous Welsh Sec C x TB mare and one thing is for certain, she taught us how to sit tight! Even at just 13.3hh she was easily the fastest horse on the yard (and one of the other livery's was an ex-racehorse). She had the kind of acceleration Duccati enthusiasts get excited about, beautiful paces and an awesome pop in her. As we didn't have a lot of money, lessons, transport and competitions weren't really on the agenda, and we were never really brave enough or knowledgeable enough as children to fulfill her potential, be it as an event pony, a dressage pony, a show jumper or a racing pony. But we had enormous amounts of fun with Gee, she was well loved and a happy pony and she taught us a lot before we lost her aged 25 just 2 months after Ash died; the pair had been together for 12 years and I honestly believe she died of a broken heart.
Badger's Mowgli (Mowgli)
Mowgli was a lovely coloured youngster bred by Mo Timmis of Badgerswood Stud. He was by Mars out of a Mark-Todd-owned mare called Rocket Trip, and I had high hopes for him as an eventer. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be as poor Mowgli bled out after he was castrated and passed away at the tender age of 1. He was a lovely, cuddly, spritely lad and his loss just 1 week before Gee died and less than two months after Ash was a cruel blow and a real tragedy.
Rialton Shadow (Archie)
I could devote a whole website to Archie. In fact, I'm surprised there isn't one already. Archie was bought by my parents after Ash died, when friends told them of a lovely 5 year old nearby that they should come and see. He was originally bought with me in mind, but I was at uni and it ended up being my sister that bonded with him. And what a force majeur they have become! I would be very surprised if anyone in Norfolk (and parts of the South-East) hadn't heard of THE Tilly Morgan and the infamous Archie - there is even the fan club "Tilly's Fillies" *groan* - and they will probably pop up in blog posts from time to time. The incredibly talented Archie, with whom Tilly has done so well, was our first real taste of having a youngster, he was far from easy and he taught us both a lot.
Taz came into my life while I was at uni in Aberystwyth and he was my first ex-racehorse. He was 5 years old when I met him and had clearly been through the mill, with all sorts of behavioural and physical issues. I can say with absolute certainty that our insurance company must have rued the day they agreed to cover him because he really did manage to have a real variety of complaints, including a foreign body in his hindleg, sarcoids, kissing spines and colic. Every single one was treated and rehabilitated to gold standard however and he was a model patient, always easy and cuddly and affectionate. Taz was never a bold or brave horse; I believe this was a direct result of the pain he had been through with kissing spines in his younger years and the punishments he received for his "naughtiness" and refusal to perform. As a result he never achieved the potential that he had in spades. He never knew that though, and I loved him dearly for the truly lovely person that he was and all that he taught me. It was Taz who inspired me to become a Veterinary Physiotherapist. I sadly lost Taz very suddenly to intestinal lymphoma in May 2013 and I still miss him terribly every day.
Let's Dance S. K. (Dancer/Dolly/Dolly-Drop/The Dollster etc.)
After we lost Gee, we lacked a calm and experienced horse to hack out with the wall of death that was Archie, and my parents went on the hunt, with a budget of £1000, for a suitable individual. Dolly was a 9 year old Cleveland Bay x ID/TB ex-broodmare who hadn't been ridden since backed at 3 (the antics she displayed at that time being what earnt her her name), being sold due to a stud reduction. When we went to see her, the owners caught her with a FULL BUCKET of cow nuts, all of which she devoured, dragged her off the field, popped a stallion bridle on her, lobbed me onto her back and sent us off down the road. I concluded she'd be safe for my parents to ride out with Tilly (although in truth she was probably just too fat to do anything anyway), and the deal was done. She was so rotund that we couldn't get a saddle to fit her and riding her bareback uphill resulted in sliding onto her bottom as she had no discernible shoulder, and so we commenced starting her bareback. Dancer turned out to be another Ash at heart; an absolute angel with novices and kids but if you thought you knew it all, guess again! Dancer gave me my first taste of eventing, dressage, SJ, being on riding club teams, the works! In her younger days she had the scope to go to novice level, (we got to pre-novice), but sadly in 2006 she injured her suspensory ligaments in her front legs. We rehabilitated her carefully but she repeated the injury to her left fore in 2009 at Mattingley horse trials. Stem cell therapy and conservative management followed, but Dancer never really believed in herself; her middle name was try and she took her confidence from me. I became paranoid that any hesitation from her might represent re-injury and we never really got our mojo back as I couldn't give her the 100% support and positivity she needed. With advancing age and mild arthritis in her hocks and knees, Dancer took a step back from competition and with careful management including regular exercise, physiotherapy, good farriery, nutritional support and appropriate veterinary attention, continued to enjoy hacking, dressage, showing and the odd hunter trial, sponsored ride and hunt (her favourite things). She ruled the roost as the only mare in the herd and my little superstar. In the winter of 2015/16, Dancer, who had never once in her life showed the slightest sign of colic, suffered a mild bout, which was medically managed by my vets and resolved quickly. Despite this quick resolution, this out-of-character illness troubled me, and it was a concern which was sadly well-founded. In January 2016 she suffered a further bout which would not resolve with medical treatment. We were referred to Rossdales and she went through to surgery where a strangulating lipoma was discovered, along with 20 feet of necrotic bowel requiring resection. Under veterinary advice I made the hardest decision of all and we let her go. Dancer was a horse of a lifetime; we achieved and experienced so much together, completing at BE together, representing our riding club in all disciplines, show-jumping at Hickstead, and having so much fun along the way. Through it all, Dancer was the easiest and most relaxing companion to take out and through her I met so many wonderful people. She was my rock and the void her passing has left will never be filled.