While growing up it was said of the family that you were born with a tennis racket in one hand and horse reins in the other. I prided myself of having those exact qualities, I was dynamite on horseback and quite lethal on the tennis court when I was younger, as I got older field hockey became my choice of sport.
But my passion for anything Equestrian never dulled and to this day it is my recreational activity of choice. My very first horse was given to me at the tender age of 2 years old by my Uncle Stuart, she was a Shetland pony called Nancy. Nancy and I had a love/hate relationship, I loved her dearly and she loved to hate me. Shame, I think that we were truly an odd match.
In hind sight, as a parent I would definitely think twice about giving a Shetland pony to a child, purely because, at times, they can be highly temperamental. I once heard them explained as such, “Shetlands have a lot of character and may end up as misunderstood hooligans.“
My Gran often tells the story of a little red head walking through grass that was nearly taller than her with a Shetland pony following closely behind. Nancy moved with me to live on my step father’s farm and our adventured truly began then. We rode all over the farm, after I had conquered the garden, of course 🙂
On my sixth birthday I decided to go for a quick ride before all the kids arrived. It also happened to be the day that the sheep where brought to the kraal to be inoculated, and Nancy sensing a whiff of freedom decided to stretch her legs and headed straight towards the herd of sheep, there where staff diving out the way and sheep scattering in all directions as she plowed through them all. I was holding on for dear life, to busy concentrating on holding on than in which direction we were heading in. But soon, looming directly in front of us was the newly installed electric fence, oh boy! I braced for a serious impact fall but Nancy did a 180 degree U Turn at a flat out gallop, it was all in slow motion for me but I managed to stay on. Then she headed for home, but that also meant scattering what was left of the sheep and staff, crashing through the drive way gates before coming to a screeching halt in front of my mom’s koi pond, into which I fell head first!
At this point I was sitting in the middle of algae, frogs and fish and I was sopping wet! I wasn’t sure if I should be furious at Nancy or I should be proud of myself for having held on for such a long time. As I sat there contemplating what had just happened, Nancy proceeded to have a nibble on the pieces of algae stuck in my hair and in a moment my rage disappeared and I remembered how cute she was.
This was not my first incident with Nancy and, by no means, would it be my last. As she got older she became even less patient with my boundless energy. After 10 years of friendship Nancy died at the ripe age of 28 (I was very proud of her because she was even older than my mom at the time) and even though I had many horses after her she would always be my introduction in the horsey world!
One of my favourite comics of all time is Norman Thelwell, he is regarded as the unofficial artist of the British countryside and is possibly the most popular cartoonist in Britain, since the Second World War. He commented on many aspects of human behavior, but he is most synonymous with little girls and their little fat ponies. A few of his illustrations reflect my relationship with Nancy very well!