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My route to natural horsemanship:

I don’t know where my love of horses comes from as I come from a completely non-equestrian background.  I spent my childhood in Scotland and can remember badgering my parents for riding lessons.  My friends and I used to tie ropes on to the handlebars of our bikes and use them as reins, lumps of coal were muck and our coats were rugs for our trusty steeds.  We played like this for hours.  At last, at the age of ten, my parents relented and the longed for riding lessons began - baggy jodhpurs, gripping tight with the knees and keeping your lower leg forward enough so you could always see your toes over your knees.

In 1960 we moved to Bournemouth and the riding lessons ended.  After all, I could rise to the trot so no more was thought necessary.  I found a riding school where I worked like a slave all weekend, eventually progressing to escorting rides on a little grey pony called Finch who used to buck like stink in canter.  He was the love of my life and I never once stopped to think WHY he bucked I just thought it was fun!  On Sunday evenings we used to take the ponies back to their grazing – riding bareback in a halter, leading one either side, no hat along a busy main road.  We thought nothing of it.

Aged 10 - nice plaits!

At eighteen, horses went out of my life when I started teacher training college in Nottingham. ,Terry and I got married in 1971 and I started teaching in Luton – a job I absolutely loved.  Three daughters duly arrived, one in 1974 and twins in 1976.  This meant I had three children under two.  I needed an escape and so horses reappeared in my life.  I started hacking out from a local stable every Sunday morning.  My love of horses had been rekindled.

Two of our daughters (Clare and Amy) also caught the bug but Emily showed no interest whatsoever.  We got our first pony, Rupert, on loan.  He was followed by Snoopy, the first pony I’d ever owned!  I became the traditional Pony Club mum – towing the trailer, holding ponies and making picnics.  When Amy was about sixteen, both girls had outgrown Rupert so he went back to his owners.  We acquired Whiskey, also on loan for a year, and Amy was competing most weekends

Amy and Rupert

Amy with Mac, and broken ankle

When Amy was about to go to university I thought the riding years were over.  Whiskey went back and I thought I’d just get a companion to keep Snoopy, by now in his twenties, company.  But then Mac appeared.

I should never have bought a four year old, especially when Amy broke her ankle in a parachute jump and wasn’t able to ride for six months.  However Mac was a very friendly horse and appeared to be quite relaxed about life, although he was very green and seemed to be unaware of the concept of personal space.  I don’t know how many times he stood on my foot in those early months.  We soon found out that he had deep anxieties about leaving the yard and there were big issues when I tried to hack him out on his own.  As Amy was unable to ride and I wasn’t confident enough for him to trust me as his leader, we decided to loan him to Shuttleworth College, naively thinking he would be ridden by competent people and his confidence would grow.  Unfortunately this was not to be.  He became very anxious in a big yard, started weaving in the stable and deposited several students on the floor.  Their solution was to starve him.  He came home to us pretty quickly

Back at home he slowly improved provided we allowed him to stay within his comfort zone.  I had a lot of help from our instructress, Dawn Freeman.  He was jumping well and would do a good dressage test.  Cross-country was a non-starter as he wouldn’t ride away.  By this time Snoopy was retired and I had bought a lovely Welsh cob mare, Mim.  Amy had less and less time and if Mac was going to stay, I needed help with him.  By chance Dawn had met up with Hev Seems who was organising a Dave Stewart clinic at Shuttleworth but then she told us about Ken and our journey began.  Through the group I learned so much and realised how much more there is to learn and at my great age I’m learning to ride at last!!!

Last year (2005) saw some traumatic events in our lives.  Two days after returning with Mac from two wonderful days in Norfolk, Mim had to be put down, having suffered a dreadful colic attack.  Meg, our hypersensitive but very trusting little part Arab mare, joined our herd.  She is a complete contrast to Mac and she is teaching me so much about softness and feel.  Mac, now fourteen, is much improved but I still feel we never really trust each other and he continues to suppress his emotions.  At the end of August, Snoopy fell asleep for the last time.  He had been a real friend for sixteen years but old age had crept up on him.  And so the journey now continues with Mac and Meg, two very different characters but both very special to us.  The future??  I hope to deepen my understanding of these wonderful creatures from whom we learn so much more than we can ever teach them.  But most of all I want to continue to ENJOY the time that I spend with my horses and my friends.

Meg and me at Lilley Trec

Mac, Clare & Snoopy, Snoopy’s last summer



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