The Elstead (Surrey, UK) Western Riding Club circa 1980
Some 25 years ago I belonged to a Western Riding club run by a Canadian 'cowboy'
who had come over in World War 2 and never gone home. He was a lovely guy and as a young man had been a professional rodeo rider. There were about 20 members, who rode in Western saddles and wore - yes -full western gear including the hat. It was a fun club - especially as we lived in a very snooty Surrey village where all the horse riders rode English - sometimes even with silk top hats.
One day Kennie (the cowboy) got a phone call with a request to round up some young wild ponies which had been left out in a large field for the winter. About 10 of us got the ropes out and trotted off to do a neighbour a favour. When we reached the field we all thought it would not take long to haze these youngsters into the rough corral which we had made up. We had not noticed that the ground was slightly wet, that there was a slight wind and more importantly that a certain grey pony mare - who was obviously the alpha female of this little herd- was watching us carefully.
We spent a couple of hours trying to haze these ponies into the corral we had rigged up. But we had not taken into consideration this little Welsh Cob mare. She led us a merry dance and whilst we caught one or two stragglers, all we really succeeded in doing was getting very muddy. We were actually running the risk of causing our own horses ligament damage because the ground was very slippery. One by one we gave up. The mare would not let us near her herd. I remember laughing and laughing.
But not our Ken. He went back to the stable and got several very long lengths of rope with which, on foot, we fairly quickly hazed the ponies into the corral.
He had made his point and he had given we greenhorns a lesson in humility.
He was bandied legged and bent from his days in rodeo and we had not give him due respect that is for sure.
Working cowboys - well I raise my hat to them I wouldn't risk my present mare herding the dairy cows out of the field up at the other end of the village. She'd take one look, give one sniff and back up. "No way", she would say. She'll face modern day traffic and she'll jump quite high fences but work for a living - you've got to be joking.
But my old "Western" horse, Puddy, was an absolutely stunning palomino gelding who looked magnificent in Western tack, some of which I had taken back home from trips to Houston. We 'Western riders' were poseurs that's for sure but we all knew it. The story of the 'Elstead round up' became a legend in the local pub for years.
Strangely enough, back in those days if you wanted to go fox hunting with the local pack, you could not turn up at the meet on a coloured horse - my Longford Golden Appollo (alias Puddy) was distinctly unacceptable - that was real colour prejudice. As for tack, well he would have had to use his English GP saddle.
But I always rode him one handed in a one eared bridle with a set of silver ringed reins. Happy days.