Cotswold mother: The second pony
PUBLISHED: 10:04 14 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:30 14 October 2014
Unless this horse is blessed with life-giving properties, knows next week’s lottery numbers, or can do the school run, make macaroni cheese and fold the laundry, I really don’t think desperate is the word I’d use
A friend of a friend is currently in dire straits. I know this because I have seen her status update shared several times on Facebook by mutual acquaintances. “Urgent!” the appeal reads, “we are desperately searching for a second pony for Tabitha.” Gosh. Desperately searching. Not just looking. Not idling thinking that perhaps it might be nice to have one, but desperately searching. All that angst; all those sleepless nights! My heart bleeds. Whatever will they do?
Even ignoring the desperation, let’s just consider the fact that this search is for a second pony: darling Tabitha already has one, which frankly is one more than about 99% of the population. What on earth is wrong with the first one? Is it on some kind of flexible working pattern? Compressed hours? Does it refuse to work on the Sabbath? Horse of the Year Show contenders might be able to justify a herd of horses, but a 13-year-old school girl? Not so much.
I can’t help but feel Tabitha’s parents have lost their sense of perspective. Unless pony number two is blessed with life-giving properties, knows next week’s lottery numbers, or can do the school run, make macaroni cheese and fold the laundry, I really don’t think desperate is the word I’d use (and if you do happen to hear of such a wonder-horse, never mind Tabitha – you knew me first…).
I darkly suspect that, if I knew Tabitha’s mother, I would also find her to be desperate for an Aga, an Emma Bridgewater dinner service, and several Boden skirts sporting ‘witty’ designs. That’s assuming she doesn’t have them already.
The Cotswold status symbol catalogue clearly now includes pets. There’s no doubt about it, you get a certain breed of pet-owner in the Cotswolds. There must be more Labradors per square mile than anywhere else in the country, almost all owned by people who – let’s be honest – secretly wish they had horses as well (you can tell by the pseudo-jodhpurs and the quantity of tweed). Those lucky enough to own horses don’t ride any old hack: they have steeds with names that take up two lines in the pony club newsletter, shiver if they spend too long outside, and eat only organic oats from a gold-plated trough. Cotswold ponies are sleek and well bred, stabled overnight and sold on after two years in favour of something bigger and better.
Impossible to think of one horse doing everything, of course – as poor Tabitha has clearly found – there’s the polo pony, the show jumper, the eventer, the dressage horse, the general hack… It’s exhausting just thinking about it. I’ve got nothing against equestrians; I rode as a child, but on a grass-fed Thelwell look-a-like who hurtled me over (and occasionally through) two-foot fences with grass sticking out of his mouth, and eyes that looked in different directions. I bounced happily on top with my hat on skew, my shirt untucked, and a red rosette forever out of my grasp. There was nothing sleek about either of us.
Our family horses (yes yes, we did have two, but not each) were hardy Welsh mountain and New Forest ponies on long-term loan from another family, and they stayed with us until we went off to university. Blessed with a slender figure into my late teens (those were the days…) I carried on riding little 13 hands Ricky until my feet were barely inches off the ground. It made leaping on and off during gymkhana races a doddle, but I used to get terribly wet at the cross-country water jump.
Both ponies were used to rattling along a road barefoot, turning their noses up at the idea of expensive shoes. They were happy in their muddy field all year round, needing nothing more than a slice of hay and a handful of pony nuts if the snow was making it tricky to find the grass. Both ponies were blissfully low-maintenance, but even low-maintenance horses cost an arm and a leg in vet’s bills and insurance. Not to mention those things you use to get stones out of their feet.
Twenty years on money is tight and horses – even low maintenance ones – are out of the question for me and my tribe. If the children want to learn to ride they’ll have to use their imagination, slap a saddle on the spaniel and call it Silver. Maybe Tabitha’s parents should do the same. It’d be a darn sight cheaper, and after all – they are desperate.
For those who really are desperately searching for a pony, why not try Redwings Horse Sanctuary?
This article by Clare Mackintosh is from the November 2014 ‘Pets’ issue of Cotswold Life