There’s a moral to this tale. For once, this is a serious post.
I’ll admit it. Of late I have been rather self-absorbed. Law school, Bar school, no barrister job (poor me). A furniture painting business to substitute the lack of barrister job (poor me). A couple of weeks of slow sales and a generous dose of self pity (poor me). Yes this is all about me, me, me.
I was just about to start work on some drawing this afternoon when the phone rang. It was my friend of many years. But I was just about to start important work and knew she’d want to talk for ages and after all, this is all about me, me, me and my world, right?
And then time stood still.
I need to go back a few years. My first horse, Jason, died in an accident in the paddock. I wasn’t riding him at the time, but for some reason it took away my confidence and desire to ride. The accident left me with an orphan, Jasper, who was only 2 at the time. He teamed up with an elderly mare, and time just passed. The elderly mare died, which left me with an adult, 7 year old, unbroken Jasper.
I’d owned Jasper since he was 6 months old and he was and is the apple of my eye. It wasn’t his fault that I couldn’t face riding. I started walking him in hand, around the village and he loved it. Life became an adventure to him and I could see he needed more than living out his life stuck in a paddock 24/7. It was time for his life to change, but my rusty riding skills were definitely not up to the job of breaking him in. Apart from anything else, he’s a big, big lad and I knew that it need a professional to get my boy started.
But there was only one person who I could trust with my precious boy. A few years previously, I had riding lessons on my husband’s young horse at a local yard and the trainer, Alison, was very good with young horses. Alison is a psychologist as well as a horse trainer, and she uses the two skills to very good use with young or wayward horses. The problem was, Alison had moved on in the horsey world. She had an exclusive yard full of incredibly expensive show jumping stallions. Alison’s horses were admired and noted in the horsey world. Eventually I rang her. “Hi Alison, remember Jasper the coloured foal? Do you fancy breaking him in?” I explained about his age (horses are usually broken at about 3 or 4 years, or younger if they are for the race track). I thought she’d say no because she wouldn’t want to be associated with such a ‘common’ horse – not good for business, what with her string of competition horses. I think Alison thought that Jasper had been broken but had ‘gone wrong’, but she likes a challenge, so said yes. I had to walk him in hand for 4 miles to her yard because he’d never been on a horse box and I didn’t want to traumatise him.
When Alison saw the size of Jasper (he’d grown quite a lot since she saw him as a foal), she tried to persuade me to have him broken to harness (to pull a carriage), but I flatly refused. Alison was very concerned about the size of my boy against the size of me (think pea on a drum). She said she’d be very, very careful and soft with him, because if he discovered his immense power, he could prove to be too much for me. Alison’s usual philosophy was that the horse owner doesn’t get involved with the breaking process, but an exception was made because I was so attached to my boy. I went out long reining and so on, so saw each step of the steady process. From Jasper being a tiny baby, I’d made a point of riding Jason and leading Jasper at the side of us; just around the short farm tracks. His early learning stood him in good stead and he loved his new found freedom and skills. He took to being ridden like a duck to water.
Alison’s family are all horsey and dedicated. Alison’s mum, Jean, used to be the head of a prestigious equestrian college, so the family knew their stuff. But they weren’t snobby with it. My (not so) little coloured cob, that I bought for £250 from a gypsy, was treated just as well as his neighbouring competition horses worth thousands and thousands. Jasper stayed at Alison’s for 2 years because I worked away from home a lot at the time. During that 2 years, I’d spent hours and hours sat at their pine kitchen table, talking to the family, picking their brains about horses. I never felt a fool, despite my amateur equestrian skills and the family always encouraged me and always made known that Jasper was a prized asset to their string of stars.
When Jasper was ill 2 years ago, the vets said he wouldn’t recover and I spent hours crying and talking to Alison and her family, who were incredibly supportive and kind.
A few years ago, Alison took a young, wayward stallion in lieu of a livery debt. The plan was that he’d probably be castrated and Alison’s dad could have him as a hobby horse. Alison put hours and hours into that young horse. It was a proud day when I was asked to hack out with Alison and the stallion, because Jasper had a calming influence on the stallion. The stallion was as good as gold and I like to think that Jasper and I, in a small way, were instrumental in the stallion’s subsequent rise to stardom. The stallion should have gone to the Olympics this year, but things didn’t quite pan out. Alison has been plagued with illness, the latest being a blood clot on her brain, so Twister’s training has been curtailed somewhat.
Scroll forward to today. I was a little irritated. I was a lot self-absorbed. Alison wanted to chat, whilst I wanted to work at my very important business (poor me, me, me).
Then time stood still.
“Mum’s been killed”. “She went out for a ride on Monday on Thomas”. “Thomas came back home on his own, so I went out looking for mum and found her with massive injuries on the side of the road”. “I tried for 20 minutes to resuscitate her, but it was no good”.
What a kick up the arse that was for poor, self-absorbed me, me, me.
Tonight I am ashamed and sad and tearful. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Alison and her family.
Alison asked if I could go along as and when, to help out on the yard with mucking out etc. It’s the least I can do and for a change it won’t be all about me, me, me.