Blue (the last chapter in horses I have fallen off)
For now. I hope.
Blue was my own grey Irish draught X horse who I bought from a riding school (Mudchute again, I should have known better) where I had been riding him about twice a week. Along with the horse sale came a copy of a letter I had to sign stating that he was dangerous and in the Chief Instructor’s opinion was only fit for the glue factory. Actually, this was not really true. He was sharp and a bit of a handful, but he was basically well-meaning. The problem lay in his size. He was 18hh and now reminds me of a slow, grey Denman 🙂 I was, to use a technical term, overhorsed!
Of course the moment I had “rescued” him from certain death or a dealer’s yard I was not foolish enough to hop on him, his having gone as sour as you like thanks to the Chief Instructor’s brutal method of schooling in the menage. Instead I had him boxed straight up to Abridge near Epping in Essex to live in a herd from May until the weather turned in September and the pastures closed for the year. Then still not feeling sufficiently confident in his goodwill to all man I travelled him up to Easington in South Yorkshire (on the banks of the Humber) which is about as retreatish as you can get for an equine. Here he was to be sorted out with kindness and understanding and I went up as often as I could to re-establish a bond. Eventually it became nonsensical to live in London and have a horse I hardly rode in nearasdamnitHull so I found a livery yard in Theydon Bois and had to ride my own horse, on my own, by myself, outside. Be careful what you wish for folks.
He was a devil in the school and would buck in a resisting way quite a lot when asked to do something, anything really. I ended up not riding him in the school at all as it felt more like a rodeo. His hugeness actually helped for staying on though (think pea on a drum). I can only remember one fall from him, although he did smash my knee on a sign once barging through a narrow gap on the way home. He was a real couch potato, if you put him in the field (unless the weather was 70 degrees C with a cooling breeze) he would be back by the gate within half an hour begging to go back to his yard, where he could kick back, if not with a flat screen at least with a haynet and a salt-lick.
The fall was in Epping Forest and I was on my own which is every rider’s nightmare. I can’t remember the detail except that it happened at the bottom of a bit of a hill that we were probably going to canter up anyway. The fall didn’t hurt; I was more concerned with where the hell the horse had got to. No sooner was he rid of me than he galloped up the hill and disappeared out of sight. It is one thing to lose someone elses horse, quite another to lose your own. One deemed dangerous and ready to cause all kind of insurance claim type disasters to unsuspecting third parties. Fortunately the great goon had had enough between his grey ears to wait just round the corner for me. Then I was faced with the seemingly insurmountable problem of getting back on. It is far more hazardous to be on foot than on board a horse as you have less control and are far more vulnerable (sounds crazy but it’s true). I generally used a block in the yard, why make a prat of yourself if you don’t have to, but now I was going to have to scale Everest on my own. I think the adrenaline helped because I scrambled up fairly easily in the end. It certainly put me off hacking out on my own.
In the end the horse went back up to Yorkshire to run and maybe jump as fast as he could in more or less a straight line as a hunter for a blacksmith. I remain convinced that one negative experience can sour a horse more or less for life.