Skinnywench of “A word in your ear“, each week picks, at random, a word from her dictionary. Then challenges us to make it into a post. This week the word is “Love”….
Horses: the love of my life
At 11 years old I, unexpectedly, passed the 11+ exam. In the 1950’s all children were inflicted with this exam to sort them into academic streams. It was more a common sense test with multi-choice questions, and not a test of your academic capabilities.
My Mother had promised me a bike if I passed as I would need it to get to the Grammar School approximately 20 kilometres away. I don’t think she really expected me to pass…
So now I had freedom in the shape of a brand new, 3 speed, purple Raleigh bicycle.
Living on the suburban outskirts of Hull, a large city in Yorkshire, the countryside, then, was only a 15 minute walk away and now I could whizz there in 5 minutes on my bike.
I had previously discovered “THE FARM”, I always thought of it in capitals….
It represented heaven to me as it was a stud farm breeding hackney horses and ponies and also New Forest ponies. I could now ride past it, with only a short detour, after school each day.
I was a horse mad child. I read about them,dreamed about them, doodled them all over my school books and fantasized about owning a horse of my own. In fact, at a very early age, in my mind, I did own an imaginary horse. Horses were my obsession, I idolised, adored and loved them. So that bike meant I could get to THE FARM after school at the time that the mares and foals were walked from the paddock into the stables and I could walk along behind the foals making sure they kept up with their mother.
On the weekends and school holidays I would hang around outside the gate into the stable yards and watch as the young hackney horses were trained and put through their paces around the arena. Have you ever seen hackney horses move? They are pure poetry in motion. They are bred to pull carriages and their gait is a high-stepping extended trot. They seem to float across the ground, with head and tail held high, fine boned and aristocratic. I would watch them for hours.
Two years quickly passed. At 13 years old all my dreams came true…
I WAS GIVEN A PONY TO CALL MY OWN.
The owner of THE FARM came over and said “I have often seen you standing out here for a long time now. Can you ride?”
I could, sort of, I had read all the books, I had practiced on the old cart ponies that came along the street. (I have written an earlier post about them, you can see it by clicking here)
So of course I said “Yes”….
Mr Partington, or “Boss” as every one affectionately called him, took me round to the stables and introduced me to a young New Forest pony that had just recently been broken in. Pandora.
New Forest ponies are very gentle by nature and an ideal children’s pony. I could call her mine, until she was sold. I could ride her, groom her, clean out her stable and give her unconditional love. I rode my bike home that afternoon in a cloud of happiness. My Mother was very happy for me. As a widow she had worked hard to feed and clothe me, school uniforms were not cheap, and no way could she ever afford a horse, not even riding lessons. Later she told me it was also a blessing in disguise as she always knew where I was during those tumultuous teenage years…
Eventually Pandora was sold to a child in Holland and my next pony was Nymph a more lively grey.
Five years of my life I almost lived at “THE FARM”. Of course I had to go to school and I went home to sleep, but those teenage years from 12 to 16 I lived a dream, I made life-long friends, had fun, got up to some mischief (but I am not going to tell you about that).
During most of my life horses have played a part. I still love to watch horses, I love the smell and feel of them, but now-a-days I do not come into contact with them so often, but they will always be in a special part of my heart.
The photos in this post were all taken in the 1950’s with a Box Brownie camera…I have scanned them into the computer…
In 1989 I went back to the UK to visit my Mother for her 90th birthday. That was nearly 35 years since I had been on THE FARM. Of course I went to see what it had become. Sadly it is no longer stables and paddocks but a used car yard and a housing estate now spread miles out into the one time country side…