Friday, May 04, 2007

A Girly Thing

It's a girly thing I suspect but I've always had an obsession with horses. From that first donkey ride from Shenton's farm where we used to get our free range eggs to now being the custodian of two retired nags who are passing time in Babysis' paddock and sure that they have retired from the arduous chore of being ridden.

As a kid, I would ask for money for birthdays, high days and holidays to have a riding lesson or day trek and my Nanna who was very generous, bought me flash jodphurs and a jacket and a velvet hat that was too big so I looked like a right royal ponce on a pony. After emigrating, she sent me 200 pounds when I was 12 and I bought my first horse. A 2 year old slender little cremello with bright blue eyes. She looked like a liberty horse and although just broken in, she had no idea about riding aids and persisted in rearing every time I swung the leg over. We ended up going to 'school' she being coaxed by a carrot in my Dad's right hand and a dig of the heels by me. I had Dusty for over 7 years. We rode over hill and dale, freeways and highways. She was enduring and willing and only difficult when in season and persisted in kicking out at any other horse who sniffed her bum at that time. The rearing stopped and we had many an adventure. Someone approached me whilst riding one day and offered to buy her from me as her 'type' was good for throwing Palominos apparently (not literally - horsey term for giving birth). So, in need of a car and at 17 years of age, I parted with my pretty pony. I visited for a couple of years and she had two beautiful anglo arab foals before I lost interest.

Then at about 22 years old, I went with a friend to a horse sale, an auction. I'd never been to one before but was curious. They were all paints, kitted out in stock or western gear and one stood out from the crowd. Black and white, stocky quarter horse type, very pretty. I got my friend to lend me the $400 needed to outbid the knackery and arranged for the horse to be delivered to our suburban back garden before going off to work at my part time job! I had nothing. No halter, no bridle and definitely no saddle and more importantly, no place to agist him so he spent the night in the swimming pool enclosure.

I wouldn't recommend this way of buying a horse. You don't get to catch it or ride it first. He was a sublime ride but as an ex rodeo pony had two speeds - stop and fast. He came with papers so I knew he was 10 years old but catch the bastard? I don't think so. He had other ideas and no matter how much bribery was offered, getting that halter on was a major event. Often three of us would try to corner him with a long rope. Once caught, he was like a baby. Bombproof and the most beautiful ride. BabySis also had a love of horses so our first mistake was Luke, an ex trotter who rarely broke into a canter. We persisted with the 'mule' but you couldn't tie him up without him breaking the reins and galloping back along the bitumen to the safety of his paddock. He was also too big and after breaking her arm in a fall, he had to be sold. He looked fantastic the day he left, we'd fed him up and brushed him down. Poor sap that bought him!

Then we bought Shane to keep Nicky company and as a safer option for BabySis, he was fantastic. Not pretty but reliable. He stayed with us until boys and cars took over and spent the last of his days as a farmer's wife's weekend ride in the country. Nicky stayed with me until he finally went down on his last legs. He was euthanased and buried in the back paddock bless his little white socks.

Then after a long break, my sister was having trouble getting pregnant and decided that Dressage might provide the necessary distraction to help her 'relax' and conceive. She bought Brutus. A 17.3 hand giant ex racehorse who had been schooled in the fine art of dressage. Problem was, that as soon as he got out into the open, he thought he was back on the track so riding anywhere other than an arena was madness. She went her way and never enjoyed the magic of trail riding on him. He lasted 2 years before she finally did conceive and was sold on, now all she's left with is a very expensive pair of top boots!

I had another rush of blood to the head and decided to buy ClareBear a pony. Maybe one that I could also ride and so Lasalle Royal Flash (Laurie) came into our lives. A pure bred Arab with lots of stamina. Pretty to look at but the king of bluff and a complete poo factory. Riding him was like walking in the woods with Hansel. I'm sure he shat himself every 50 metres just in case he got lost and needed to find his way home - you would know him by his trail of poo. Again, moving forward and rearing was the test he put ClareBear through ant at 15.3 hands, he was just too big for a 12 year old. I had no such problems with him - heavier and more experienced, so I adopted him as mine and we began the search for something more suitable for the kid.

After buying 6 horses over a lifetime, we finally got it right with Yorkston Classic (Chippy) a 13 hand Welsh Mountain, Australian Stud Book Pony built like a brick shithouse. He'd done the show circuit by age 7 and was perfect. Bombproof, traffic proof, solid and to this day thrives on the smell of grass. Besides the attitude of a short man (arrogant and too big for his boots) he provided another few years of pleasure when mum and daughter would go to riding club or ride over the back which is now occupied by office blocks, 500sqm building locks and millionaire mansions. It was once over 100 acres of fields and poplars, creeks, trails and galloping tracks. I never had a car big enough to tow a horse float so we became land locked and as our trails diminished, so did our desire to ride.

Now that our lovely riding space has gone and I guess ClareBear's interest has moved on to boys and the beach, Laurie and Chippy reside in Glenorie. They're petted and patted, fed geriatric horse mix and occasionally preened and manicured or brought out to perform at the odd children's birthday party. Their manes are matted but they're happy campers and showing no sign of decline other than Chippy's dark grey dapples have faded to white and Laurie's muscle tone aint what it was but at 25 years of age, he's looking pretty good.

So, the silliest purchases I've ever made are now two pieces of scenery that need to be fed, watered and tended to . . . someone told me that it's not unusual for an arab to live to 40!

Crikey . . .what a commitment.

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