Today it’s just me and the horses. No one else is around. I go into the paddock and say hello to the herd one by one – Tango, the beautiful, athletic palomino; Magic, the retired Standardbred; Cruiser, young fit and curious; Floss, my old girl, eyeing me to see if I have carrots and not very interested in me if I don’t; and Dante, my young boy, my green pony.
I put a halter on Floss and take her out of the paddock. I find a patch of nice grass and let her graze for a bit while I brush the worst of the sand and loose hair from her. Back at the tack shed, I finish grooming her and saddle up. We hit the trail together; she and me and sunshine.
We take it easy. She’s been stiff and sore this winter and suddenly isn’t loving being out and about as much as she has previously. She’s 23 now and I wonder if she’s asking to retire. I think the small amount of exercise she gets is good for her but I’m willing to change my mind on that at any time. She owes me nothing; I owe her a lot.
After I put Floss back in the paddock, I take Dante out. He’s filthy. Sand and dirt seem to stick in his coat. I brush and brush and brush and still dirt is flying everywhere. I’m covered in it but he still is as well. I keep brushing, finding his itchy spots as I go, watching his lip quiver with pleasure.
It’s over five years since I stood in a farmhouse looking out the window at some horses standing in the rain and hatched the idea that the foal lying on the grass beside his mother could one day be mine. I had gone to the farm with my friend Helen; she was looking at a yearling and I had gone to be the ‘voice of reason’.
We stood at the window looking out and Helen asked if I thought she should buy the yearling. “Yes!” I said. “And we’ll come back next year and buy his baby brother for me!”
And so we did. That crazy idea came to pass. Helen’s horse Cruiser is now a strapping six-year-old and Dante is five. We’ve come a long way in those years.
I have been pushed to the limits of my skills and beyond, stepping onto new ground. My emotions have been tested. I’ve laughed and cried. I’ve been scared and delighted. I’ve felt incompetent and capable; disappointed and elated – sometimes all in the same ride.
It has been a wilder journey than I’d expected that day I looked out the window at the foal Dante in the paddock with his mother. It has been both more difficult and more rewarding.
Buying Dante was a crazy, rash thing to do in many ways. The learning curve at times has felt impossibly steep, but in the process of slowly inching up it, I have learnt so much about horses and about myself. I wouldn’t change it for quids. It has been, and continues to be, a hell of a ride.
Green Pony chronicles the adventures of Jill Griffiths and her young horse, Dante, who Jill ‘accidentally’ bought as a yearling in 2014. The fist instalment appeared in Horses and People in February 2016 and the series continues monthly.
Read more of Jill’s adventures.