I rode twice a week, every week, from the age of ten to twelve. I rode whatever they gave me, from Shetlands to OTTT, from green carthorses to ex-eventers with string halt. I also helped out mucking out, cleaning tack, grooming horses, and leading ponies in the beginner classes. I went to two proper pony camps, where stable management and turnout/feeding was the main focus, along with mounted games.
After those two camps, my parents bought a pony for my mother and myself to share. We kept him at a very nice yard, with experienced friends on hand. Sadly, less than a year later, my father became unwell and had to retire from his job. Money was tight, so when my mother lost interest, my father wasn't willing to pay for the pony anymore. We sold him. He was a schoolmaster, and went to another girl my own age. I never did forgive my parents. They said I could have kept him if I had gotten into show jumping and won some prizes.
I went back to riding lessons, once a week now, and I had to make my own way there and back. For three years I went it alone. Then my mother got the bug again, and we started making weekly trips to go trekking (trail riding) together. That was fun. The cobs were wonderful animals. But two years later, my mother quit again. I couldn't get to the trekking centre on foot or by public transport. I went back to lessons, this time with my cousin.
When I was twenty, I took a summer job in Sweden, working with disabled teens. Part of the job entailed caring for several Icelandic horses and exercising them. When the riding instructor saw that I knew my stuff, she invited me to travel with her to Norway to try out a new horse. We left at six in the morning and drove for nine hours to get there.
The horse in question had been a broodmare for most of her nine years. She was a purebred Haflinger, and she was beautiful. The seller had bathed her the day before, and the flies were driving her crazy! We tried to bridle her and she went nuts! Eventually, after much soothing and copious amounts of bite cream, she let us tack her up.
I got on that seemingly crazy little mare and I walked her down to the field. I asked her for trot and she did, then I asked her to be kind and not kill me and canter...well, she gave me a perfect canter and couldn't have been better! So we bought her, and brought her back to Sweden that day. She hated travelling. I spent that evening and the next day settling her in - brushing her, picking her feet. Then for the next week I rode her to get her schooled under saddle for the kids.
When I got home that autumn, I took a break from horses entirely as I was out of work and had no money to spare on riding. Then I met my husband, and he was allergic to horses, so I never thought of getting back into riding. Besides, my parents told my husband before we got married not to ever let me start all that nonsense again.
Well, fast-forward to 2010. My mother died very suddenly in her sleep. And I suffered a miscarriage. Suddenly life seemed too short and unfair. So I told my husband he would just have to cope: I was taking up riding again! I went back to lessons. My husband was as supportive as he could be, but his allergies were too bad for him to do more than drop me at the stables and pick me up - I can't drive due to my epilepsy.
Somehow, the riding centre wasn't what I'd longed for. The horses were tired, the stalls dirty, and we were going in circles. I stopped going to lessons, started looking for a quiet cob and livery (board). I found a lovely yard (barn) and rented a stable there. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding new thinking on feed and care. I even braved the Internet and joined forums! And eventually I found a sweet little cob.
But alas, the horse of my dreams turned out to have a dodgy seller attached, and so I never got my quiet cob. Instead, I tried a green, ill-mannered Arab mare, being sold for meat money, by someone I've since learnt is a dealer. My OH couldn't help but fall for her too, and his allergies weren't as bad around her. We bought her the very next day.
I've had some rough moments and several bad falls off that mare. She's even trampled me. I nearly sold her a while back, but persevered. And we are finally getting somewhere. After nine months of work, I can honestly say that I may not have the horse I wanted, but I do have the one I need. I will have her until she passes, as I feel I owe her that.
Cheers Gru, I love you