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 Zark - Crabbett Arabian

Zark came into my life as an unpredictable, volatile, eye-catching four year old Crabbett Arabian, just as I was thinking of giving up horses altogether. I was 17 and boys and schoolwork were much more interesting to me than my childhood obsession with ponies. My sister and I had been riding since we were three, but Zark was to be our first 'proper horse' (weíd previously had a 17hh working livery).

Well, Zark was certainly going to test my wavering resolve and commitment to horses! His best trick was jumping over his stable door, but he also span, ran, ducked, dodged, shied, spat his bit out, and generally did his level best to keep us off his back and out of his space! Along with the love of his life, a bay ex-racehorse named SueEllen, he challenged everything we thought we knew about horses, and everything we ever thought we would be able to achieve with horses.

In an effort to calm down both Zark and Sioux (as my mum had renamed the ex-racehorse) and to get away from the growing chorus of "they are both only good for the dog food factory" solution providers, we moved yards, and on our first day at the new place, saw someone executing perfect figure 8 flying lead changes - bareback and bridleless!!!

That was in 2002 and we didn't look back. The bridles were dumped, and we embarked on one of the best journeys of self-discovery ever. Zark and Sioux gradually transformed (via loads of passenger lessons, pushing passenger lessons, friendly games, and online work) into calm, willing partners (and I'm sure they would say that we stopped being mad predators hell-bent on eating them for dinner!).

One particularly memorable day, we went to the local cross-country course to practice jumping online. It took Zark three hours to step into the water complex, during which time my sister lost her temper and used the carrot stick to hit him over the head. We had been sharing him for 18 months and making modest progress through Level 1, but she was grounded for a month after her outburst, and it was then that Zark showed me what an awesome pony he could be. In four weeks we made so much progress through Level 1 that it was decided that he would come with me to university, and my sister would find another horse to develop her Savvy on.

So, in 2003, off Zark and I went to Reading, with more progress and a weeklong trip to the Savvy Centre in Tiverton with Charlotte Dennis and Dave Stuart. There was a Welsh mare ('donít ask me if my horse is pregnant, she's just fat and I canít stop her eating!') my sisterís new ex-racehorse, Cloud (who liked walking on his hind legs), and a fascinating collection of horses and people, and we all learned a lot during the week.

We returned to Reading and carried on firming up our foundation (hacking alone, teaching myself bareback riding, and our arch nemesis - water crossing) while Zarkís cheeky Horsenality kept developing.

Meanwhile my mum had decided to travel to La Cense in France to qualify as an Equine Ethology instructor, learning a lot but tragically losing Sioux to a quarter horse kick. She returned to the UK qualified but heartbroken and Zark stepped in to be her 'demo horse' at the 2005 Savvy Club Conference - definitely our proudest moment, although I had to explain that it was in fact the Pat Parelli show and not the Zark is a wonderful pony show!

In 2006, after I graduated, we took part in a three week residential equine ethology course, again with Charlotte and Dave, and made more good friends and learned a lot - we definitely didn't want to leave. Escapades included Rhyl Beach where someone called the RNLI and a helicopter flew out to see if we were OK!


Eleanor and Zark

For the next few years not a lot happened - we kept having fun, taking part in some fun rides (one ten mile bareback and barefoot which raised some eyebrows) and UK Chasers cross-country days out. My sister by this time was training with Classical Dressage riders and passing on what she learned to us, which improved our balance and my hands.

In 2009, I moved to London and started looking for someone to take Zark on loan as mum and my sister were kindly looking after him for me. Enter Kathryn, a 16 year old natural horsemanship student - Zark and she hit it off immediately so off he went for 18 months of fun and companionship with her. Last September she had to choose between university without Zark, or a year out working and saving, without Zark, so he came back to me and I have been rebuilding our partnership ever since.

Zark is now 16 years young, and aside from some minor dramas at a badly chosen livery yard, we are getting on better than ever. I am looking forward to learning more about the world of horses and discovering the countryside of Hertfordshire, which is where we now live together, while monitoring his health and wellbeing.


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