I live in the coastal town of North Berwick. I have always loved horses. Aged five, on the way back from Sunday school, I used to stand for hours and feed the horses. I started riding when I was ten in a rather unorthodox manner. As children we used to lead the donkeys on rides on the beach for very little. The real reward for me was riding them up the road and in winter when they were not used. I learned a lot, mostly how to stay on, particularly Mr Chips who regularly deposited me when I tried to get above my station. Once you reached the heady heights of being the eldest you were promoted to Jenny jennet (a cross between a pony and donkey). Wow! You had arrived. She could jump and do everything a pony could do but was awful to catch. Some of the methods we employed were down right bizarre but a great source of amusement to the onlooker. Chasing her and rounding up with one person at either end of a long washing line.
I progressed to a paper round and the local riding school and a series of the Thelwell type ponies. I matched the pony, with my hacking jacket and jodhpurs all doing a sterling job of encasing my rather rotund body. I joined the local riding group and went as often as I could. I did not own my own horse until I was 21, a welsh cob 16hh – a bad buy. In between times, I worked for the local vet exercising her variety of five horses. Over the years, I have had horses on loan and then I bought an Icelandic mare, Systa, who no one else wanted. She was definitely my pot lid. We went everywhere together. I even won a bag of tatties for best improver on a training course. That said, we could only have gone one way and that was up. I was devastated when she died.
I have ridden in other countries – Crete, Zante, Egypt, Iceland and Spain, trying their own breeds and enjoyed the experience – most of the time!
In recent years, I have taken up Western riding, being attracted to the calm and well trained horses I have seen at the shows. For the first time in my life, I was given the opportunity to compete, albeit at a low level, on the mare I used to own, Spice, a Welsh x Arab talented and sensitive mare who displayed an aptitude for the discipline but was, unfortunately, beset by chronic headshaking. Why did I take up Western riding? I liked the friendly people who were all willing to help, the training methods and the trainers. In what other sport can you say you are coached by someone who is the equivalent, in my opinion, of Olympic level – our own Bob Mayhew!
I am now the proud owner of a bay five year old quarter horse mare, Pebbles, who I am looking forward to training and progressing towards competition.