I mention my horse, ‘Jasper’ a lot when writing this blog and it struck me just how unfair it is not to mention Jasper’s (step) Dad, ‘Jason’. Without Jason, I wouldn’t be writing this blog, or painting furniture.
From a yound age, I’d always wanted a horse and remember being jealous of my sister, who got to ride a friend’s pony when we lived in Kirkby-in-Ashfield. I was 7 years younger than my sister and too young to be riding without tuition, so had to stay home, sulk and pout instead. When we moved house, I had a few brief riding lessons on a pony called ‘Charmer’. It wasn’t a proper riding school; just a divorcee trying to earn a few pounds to make ends meet. Charmer had been the ‘teacher’s’ pony before she got married and left home, so had entered into early retirement. Charmer didn’t think much to having his retirement interupted by a little, chubby girl, with ‘L’ plates, and was anything but charming to ride. He bolted onto a main road with me one day, then threw me off and I lost my courage (and about 2 stone at the same time), so gave up riding for the time being. There weren’t any proper riding schools near to where I lived, but learning to ride was seldom far from my thoughts.
In my 20’s, I used to live near a riding school and would often see children out on a group hack. I desperately wanted to ride again and would watch out for the horses and ponies walking through the village, but I didn’t have money for lessons, so had to wait a few years before taking lessons when we moved to Lincolnshire. Old enough to know better, but young enough to have a go, I used to look forward to my weekly lessons, and would sometimes go twice a week, when time allowed. It was the highlight of my week, despite the aching bones afterwards.
The woman who owned the riding school was also a horse dealer. She rented a field at the back of my parents house and one day, a beautiful coloured cob appeared. “Oh Dad, I’ve got to buy him” I said when I first saw the lovely cob, with the long, wavy white tail and big, soft brown eyes. I asked the dealer about him and requested a few lessons on him. He was barely broken in and I was a novice – not a match made in heaven and I spent a lot of time sitting on my bum in the sand school, when once again, Jason had bolted with me and then stopped abruptly, sending me out the front door. I’d been riding for less than six months when I bought Jason for Christmas.
He was a quirky horse in many ways, but he loved lots of fuss and was friendly and gorgeous and very funny. He absolutely loved jumping and if turned out loose in the sand school, would take himself over the jumps, just for the sheer delight of it all. I was never much good at jumping, but he would look after me, with his “Oh, just hang on Mum, I’ll do the rest” attitude.
Jason hated motorbikes and vintage cars and would bolt if we encountered either whilst out hacking. On one occasion, a vintage car came towards us and Jason waited, then turned tail and fled, by which time, we were chasing the (open topped) vintage car, which had passed us. I can see the car passenger now; a woman in a head scarf, with her arms flailing wildly in the air, as we drew neck and neck with the car, forcing it into a ditch on the winding country lane. Not our finest hour!
A while later, I fell in love again. A coloured horse appeared in a field full of cows, about a mile from home. One day the coloured horse gave birth to a lovely little coloured foal. I used to look for the foal whenever I drove past the field and would swoon over him. Eventually, I made enquiries as to who owned the field and the foal, and along came ‘Jasper’, a baby for Jason to love. Except Jason hated Jasper on sight – he wasn’t having some cute ball of fluff, stealing the show.
Within 2 weeks, hate had turned to love and my boys got along just perfectly. Jason was a possessive and caring ‘dad’ and very tolerant of Jasper’s high jinx.
My husband bought a ‘posh’ horse, called Jack. He was a huge Irish Draught x Thoroughbred; nice looking and flashy. He won a few dressage competitions whilst we owned him and turned heads. By this time, hubby and I were both having lessons – me on my little, naughty cob, hubby on his ‘proper’ horse. One day, we were both having jumping lessons, hubby and Jack first, followed by Jason and I. After the lesson, the tutor said to me in a very quiet voice “Don’t say anything, but you jumped quite a lot higher than your hubby today”. I’d suspected as much; the jumps looked terrifying as Jason cantered to them eagerly, with me doing the usual hanging on for dear life. Was I proud of my little coloured cob that day! Despite having jumped his little heart out, he jogged all the way home with excitement – I just sat there with my feet out the stirrups, reins dangling and sweat pouring off me:-)
Things didn’t work out between Jack and my hubby. A lovely, capable horse, with looks and talent. My husband worked away a lot at the time and I ended up riding Jack and Jason; it all got a bit much for me because Jack had to be kept fit for competing and I was riding miles each day, on a horse that was way too big for me. I just wanted to hack around the country lanes, enjoying the countryside, avoiding motorbikes and vintage cars. We eventually decided to sell Jack. It’s the one and only time I’ve parted with a pet and I’d hope never to have to do it again – it was awful, but the right thing to do at the time.
Jason was prone to getting cast in the stable (for non-horsey readers, this is when a horse gets down and gets stuck, usually in a corner of a stable). On a few occasions we had to rescue him, with ropes and lots of tugging. Alas, poor Jason got himself cast during the night in the paddock field shelter and by the time I got to him in the morning, he was exhausted and very ill. I got the vet out and we managed to get him up on slings, but he died. There he was, gone, my little cob, my lifelong dream come true. I’ve never forgiven myself for his death, although what I could have done…?
Which left me with an orphaned 3 year old Jasper. We muddled through, but the shock of seeing Jason die somehow stripped me of any confidence or desire to ride. Jasper teamed up with an elderly pony mare and he was an unbroken 7 year old when she died. I put him in livery and asked if he might be broken in (but only if he liked it and he wasn’t to be hit). Despite his coming late to working for a living, he loved being ridden – his world just opened right up and we used to hack for miles and miles (he particularly liked the hack to the sweetie shop), before he got Cauda Equina Syndrome.
I’d kept all of Jason’s things – his 2 saddles and quite a few rugs. Jasper grew to be much bigger than Jason, so the tack wasn’t much use, being too small, but I hung onto it, unable to part with it. Then I finished Bar school, then work dried up for my husband when the recession kicked in, then I needed to earn some money, fast. I looked at Jason’s tack and came to realise that he wouldn’t have given two hoots about the ‘stuff’, because his happiest times were in the field scoffing grass, or being groomed.
I sold Jason’s tack on Ebay and raised £600. My immediate thoughts were to put the money in the bank to pay the usual monthly household bills. But then what would I do the month after that? I used the £600 to buy furniture and materials. Now all I needed was a business name. Ah yes, something to do with my love of horses.
So, it took me a while to explain it all, but there is, and always will be more than one Barrister’s Horse, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. Here’s to my lovely boys.