By Ruby Furby
There’s a feeling you get when the wind is knocked out of you. Panic comes first and fear shortly follows. This was not the dream ride I’d been imagining for years.
His legs started raking up the ground as he bolted and stretched out to a high-speed canter. We went round in circles. He tripped over himself on the corners as he tried to turn. I pulled and he pulled back. I couldn’t breathe. I was completely out of control.
I would say the obsession started when I was about four years old. Every week, my brother would have a horse-riding lesson and for that hour I would gallop my imaginary horse around the yard. I tried a few different hobbies: gymnastics, swimming, dance. But I always came back to horses.
It was my dream to have my own. A pretty, brown one with a black mane and tail.
At age nine, I started doing PowerPoint presentations on my dad’s laptop to try to convince my parents I was ready for my own. Once I hit my tweens, I got a job at the stables, I did a paper round every morning and I got a hamster and fish to ‘prove’ I was responsible and could keep an animal alive.
I don’t remember the exact moment my parents gave in, but it was around my 13th birthday. I had no idea how to find a horse to buy so my riding coach searched for me.
A few weeks later, I was bored sat in my music class when I got a text: “Your pony is here, can you come after school?”
I bragged endlessly about the message to my whole class before racing to the stables with my parents. There I was met with a ginger, nervous-looking pony who wouldn’t let my dad near him.
It only got worse from there. I sat on the saddle for a second and he was off.
He was just as scared as me, but he was faster and stronger. I immediately felt deflated.
He became calmer and I became less afraid
As spoilt as it sounds, it wasn’t what I had imagined, and I was completely terrified. I was a good little rider; I rode horses that bolted and bucked – but nothing like him. The only time he showed a glimmer of happiness was when he was jumping and hopping around the field, over logs or even sometimes over his field fence. So, I called him Joey.
Determined to win him over, I spent every day with him for the whole summer. He was bathed and brushed daily, I cleaned his tack, took him on walks for grass and sat with him when he was out in the field. My best friend’s pony, Prince, lived in the stable next door and they soon became inseparable.It was a Sunday morning in October, and it was the kind of day where the sun was shining but it felt cold. His bridle was ridiculously shiny from how many times I had cleaned it and his new girth fit perfectly since he had put on a little happy weight.
I worked hard and eventually, he became calmer and I became less afraid.
We went up to the arena with my dad (who Joey now knew as ‘nice man with mints’) and walked round a couple of times. I swallowed my nerves and pushed him a little bit more. He was relaxed and moved with me, slowing down and speeding up when I asked him. Dad even put a jump up and instead of racing towards it like before, he listened and stayed in my stride.
It felt like something from Spirit or Black Beauty and I was annoyed the whole world wasn’t there to see it.
In the weeks that followed, we went on hacks with Claudia and Prince, had rides while the sun set in the evening and jumped round courses at the weekends when we had more time – that was his favourite thing to do. His ears would prick forward, and he would always go a little bit faster when he had his eye on a jump.
We got past being careful with each other, he even got cheeky and playful and tried to run off when he was giddy. His speed and agility became an asset and from dealing with it, I became stronger and confident. We were a duo to beat in competitions and whenever he decided to do an excited sprint after the last jump, I let my reins go and let him run.
He was absolutely my best friend and the best dream a girl could have.
Unfortunately, university meant I didn’t have the time for him that he deserved. Horses are also very expensive and paying for both a horse and a degree was not in my budget.
We put Joey up for sale in 2018. I watched him bolt off with little girls at viewings and misbehave, he was clever and knew what he was doing. I didn’t want him to go and clearly, neither did he.
I learnt how to be resilient and to persevere
Now, he is in his new home with a loving family who I could not ask more from. I visited him just before lockdown and was so proud to see him settled and happy. He will always be my Joey, wherever he is, and I will never forget the years of amazing memories and lessons that he taught me.
I am so happy that my 13-year-old self never gave up. My patience got thoroughly tested and I quickly learnt how to be resilient and how to persevere. These lessons have had a huge impact on my life. During the coronavirus pandemic, I have been able to cope when I have felt deflated, stay positive on the hard days and make the most of the small precious moments.
And I have Joey to thank for that.
I too had horses growing up. When I got older I also had to make a decison, with a little help and the pushing of my family, to get rid of my old Mare Little Bit. Unfortunately she passed several years ago, but just this Saturday I got to see pictures on Facebook of her newest Grandbaby a beautiful paint filly.
Thank you Ruby for your heart-warming, engaging post. [I’m an elderly rider, and your article whets my appetite. I’m missing my local equestrian centre which is closed because of the lockdown.]