Ever since being a very little girl I adored horses and my sister and I would play 'horse riding' on the back of the sofa in the living room, wearing our riding hats and wellies lol. We plagued our parents for riding lessons and they took us to a local riding school on a Sunday morning. We loved it!! Occasionally we would go to a lovely trekking centre over at Bilsdale and go for a long ride. It was heaven.
Then when I was 11yrs old the riding instructor cracked a whip behind my pony and sent it bolting across the school and over an oil drum, consequently I fell off and broke my shoulder. Although I still adored ponies it really dented my confidence and we gradually stopped going for our lessons. As I got older I met my hubby and we got married. Then the boys arrived and there was no time or money for riding.
As the boys grew up they too showed a little bit of interst in horses so I took them for lessons. Ben who was actulaly not bad at it at all decided they were too smelly and gave it up! Christopher just didn't take to it at all and Matthew fizzled when the others lost interest. Then a few years later Matthew was suffering a littel bit of 'middle child' syndrome and so I asked him what would he like to do that just me and him could do. He said horse riding! So off we went with me joining in the kiddies ride :-)) but we loved it, it was something we could talk about together and the others had nothing to add as they hadn't been there. It was our special time!
Eventually the riding school that we were going to closed down and the Riding for the Disabled group that I was volunteering with moved to another school so we went with them. Matthew totally outstripped me with his riding skills but it was still lovely to ride together. Then a lady from the RDA asked if I would ride her daughters horse for her which was right near where I live. That didn't work out but there was another horse there called Jubilee whose owner couldn't ride her anymore and wanted her exercising.
Jubilee aged 27yrs!!
Jubey was a strange little thing. She had been a pacer in her younger days and so rode with her head to one side. A habit from having spent so many years looking at her partner in the harness and leading them. Quite often pacers aren't taught to canter...just to trot very fast! Jubey had been taught but I had a couple of quite serious headaches after cantering across the moors when she had fell out of trot into a seriously fast trot that was almost impossible to ride. I would be crying with laughter and she scurried across the moors doing a sort of circular movement with her back. It was like being on a boat in a very rough sea going forwards and backwards and side to side all at the same time. She was a super little pony and despite me not even taking her on until she was 25yrs old she could outstrip the big horse that we rode out with no problem at all! Galloping up a hill she would be ducking side to side trying to see a way past him and then off she would go like the clappers up the side of him. You could almost hear her saying 'come on is that the best you can do!'
Then in 2004 a horse turned up at our yard that was to change my life!
EllieA lady (lets call her J) turned up with, what can only be described as this moth eaten horse called Ellie (Sparkella). I wondered what on earth had possessed her to buy such a sorry looking horse. J was approx 5' tall and had not ridden for a number of years. Ellie was 16.3h and as it turned out had a dreadful reputation for bolting and dumping people on the road! She also had THE worst case of rainscald scarring I think anyone has ever seen! It turned out that she was an ex point to pointer and somehow had sustained this dreadful condition which resulted in her going to York sales. Someone had attempted to breed from her but couldn't get a stallion on her back because of the scarring and so she was sold on again. Infact she had up to and including J had TEN owners in her life! No wonder she didn't like people very much.
Just some of Ellie's scars :-((
Another lady from our yard (W)had gone with J to look at her and said 'Although I know your not looking for a horse Amanda, as soon as Ellie turned round I thought of you and how brilliant she would be for you!' Huh I thought I don't think so, she looked like she needed the glue factory if I am very honest!
Anyway she came to our yard for a couple of weeks until her stable at another yard was ready. During this time I rode out on Jubilee with her and J, who was incredibly nervous after hearing of her reputation (of which she had only found out after buying her). I never saw her do one naughty thing although J said she always felt like she might. Then they moved and we only rode out together again once after that.
Six weeks later J rang me and asked if I would be interested in buying her as it just wasn't working out for them. After a huge amount of persuasion my hubby said I could have her if I really wanted her! But did I??? I asked J if I could have her on loan for a month and see how it went to which she agreed.
Ellie the day I bought her! This was 12 weeks after J bought her!
On the third day I went to stroke her between her eyes and she literally launched me 3' across the stable and into the wall with her nose. Everytime we went riding she jogged the whole way and whinnied for her friends...sometimes this was on two hour rides but I never felt afraid on her and just ignored her silliness by singing to her (Poor El!) and talking about everything and nothing.
At the end of the month I was still a bit unsure but I really wanted my own horse and she was my chance to have one so I bought her. The best thing I ever I did.
I took her back to Jubilee's yard and she lived out in the field there for 3yrs. Of course I had to give up riding Jubilee which I was devastated about and poor Jubey had died within a year of me stopping riding her, which will forever haunt me.
Ellie ten weeks after I got her!
I came to realise that Ellie, despite all the meanness shown to her in the past when she had been whipped for refusing to leave the yard etc, always responded to kindness and quietness. When she refused to leave the yard we would just stand until 'she' decided that she might give it a go. One day I stood for 3/4hr on a track that she had suddenly planted her feet on. I made it clear that ok she didn't want to go forwards but neither was she to go backwards or sideways. The only choices were to stand where she was or go forward. She eventually decided forwards was a good idea to which I agreed with lots of praise for such a brilliant suggestion from her!
I also learnt that Ellie was very fair minded and if she felt she deserved to be told off she took it with grace but woe betide you if you were unfair! One day I was riding with a friend across a field and we were chatting away not really paying attention to the horses very much when her horse decided he was NOT going through the hedge onto the path as there may well be a horse eating tiger in there! So after a bit of a carry on I decided that Ellie would go first no problem. She however had been listenening to her mate and decided maybe he was right and there was a tiger in there after all. She flatly refused to move so I smacked her rather harder than I intended (because I was chatting and not paying attention) on the shoulder. She whipped around and I swear looked at me with a " What on earth was that for!" face and she took off about fifteen steps in the opposite direction with me, refusing to pull up. Then she stopped just as abruptly and turned around to me again with a look that said " Ok get the messge?" We turned around and walked through the hedge both knowing exactly where we stood!
We then went on to have five fabulous years together, lots of fun and laughter and hundreds of hours of just being together. She was the bravest of any mare I have owned and would do anything as long as I said it was ok. I promised her when I got her that if I could no longer keep her or it didn't work out that I would not pass her on to anyone else. She was with me for life...good or bad!
Then on 1st July 2009 we had what I didn't realise was to be our final day together. We had enjoyed a wonderful day as it was glorious weather. I had bathed and groomed her and generally enjoyed the whole day together at the yard and then on the evening when it cooled down we had gone for a wonderful hack in the woods. She was full of beans and showed no signs of what was to come.
The following afternoon, literally as I was getting ready to walk over to the field to check on her, I got a frantic phone call to say she was stuck in the fence and the person thought she was dead!! Of course she isn't I said, I'll be straight there. My two younger sons were home and they raced to grab some wire cutters and we set off in the car. As we literally live either a three minute run or a five minute drive away from the field we decided to dump the car and run across the fields. It was the longest run of my life! The boys ran ahead with my youngest son trying to help me when I stumbled in the long grass in my wellies. As we got closer I saw her up at the top of the hill under her favourite tree and I knew straight away she was dead. I am crying now as I remember the horror of seeing her there and knowing it was too late to comfort her. If only I had gone up ten minutes earlier!
One of the girls at the yard had literally took her horse out of the field twenty minutes before and Ellie had been fine then. I sat with her and stroked her for over two hours while the farmer got a digger to help carry her back to the yard. It turned out she was not stuck in the fence but it looked like she had literally died stood next to it and had fallen over the top of it with her head in one field and her bum the other. All her horsey friends were around her sniffing and whinneying for her. it was very moving. For Ellie of course it couldn't have been better...it was quick, in her favourite spot with all her friends around her. For me -well I was devastated it was the end of a very special relationship.
Ellie 14th April 1992 - 2nd July 2009
After losing Ellie I really thought I couldn't face getting another horse but once they are under your skin they are a hard habit to break.
This time I thought right this time I will look for a horse that fits what I want. For instance Ellie was a very full up 16.3hh, not always ideal for hacking purposes if you need to get off. She had her dreadful sore back etc. So I made a shopping list:
- Upto 16hh
- Heavy'ish sort of horse, no spindly legs!
- Different colour to Ellie so as not to look too like her!
Then off I went shopping! I had tried quite a few horses but none of them were really suitable, when my sister mentioned one called Fever that was going to be for loan in October time when she weaned her foal. OCTOBER!!! This was August and I wanted one now not in nigh on three months time! Also I didn't want one on loan I wanted my own. 'But she is lovely' said my sister...'No I want my own!
I continued to look.
I even got so far as to have one vetted with a view to bringing him straight home, only he failed at the very last post.
If you remember I mentioned a lady that had gone to see Ellie (W ) and thought how ideal she would be for me? Well I hadn't seen her since then (5yrs) when I suddenly bumped into her out of the blue at a local show. I told her about losing Ellie and jokingly said 'so can you find me another please!' 'Actually' she said 'I do know of a lovely one that is coming up for loan very soon, infact there is the owner right now!' As we walked over to chat to the lady I realised it was the same horse, Fever, that my sister had mentioned that was being talked about. 'Oh I'm sorry to waste your time' I said ' I really want my own'
I continued to look.
I then tried a lovely horse but he was only four. However I decided to buy him and his owner came to our yard to make sure it was nice for him. Then that weekend I had a huge panic attack about it and decided to back out because I realised he wasn't right for me. I rang his owner, apologised and told my hubby that I was finished looking. it wasn't meant to be and I was giving up on the idea!
Not half an hour after this W text and said 'are you still looking for a horse cause Fever is ready for weaning now'. To be honest I was so fed up and actually a bit sick of this darn horse that they kept going on about, despite me saying I didn't want one on loan that I wrote back and said No I am packing in!
Ten minutes later my sister text and said 'Fever is ready for weaning' Arrrggghhh!
'OK so I'll go and see her and then tell them no thanks I want my own and she is not suitable' If I have seen her they might all shut up!
When we got there I saw the most beautiful mare with her foal. She just blew me away and I arranged straight way to bring her home the next day! Loan? Yeh loan is fine I said lol.
Our first day together 20th October 2009
So here I was with another mare, 16.3hh, thin legs and looking exactly like Ellie apart from the stripe on her face! However it seems she was meant for me because she just wouldn't go away and over four months I had seen 15 horses none of which had been any good or had fallen through.
It is worth pointing out at this point that I had never even sat on her. She had not been ridden for over two years due to two failed pregnancies and then carrying her current foal. I had no idea whether I would like riding her or even if she was that safe to ride. My only real concellation was that I had got her off my vets wife so I knew I could trust her when she said she was lovely to ride. She also had no tack, but guess what? I got the saddle lady out and she checked Ellie's saddle on her saying it was the closest fit I would ever get!
We took things very slowly as I wanted her to build up slowly. Where we live is very hilly so it was important to build her fitness and be careful of strained ligaments etc. After riding Ellie, who was quite forward going, Fever felt like a rocket! She strode everywhere at a hundred miles an hour. My friend who had a horse about an hours ride away from us rode over to go out with us on one of our maiden rides. I felt dreadful when we set off and I was about 50yds in front of her the whole ride, only to have to turn round at the end and say thanks for coming all this way over just to look at my bum! lol Eventually we settled into a reasonable pace when we went out but Fever still likes to be at the front if she can!
I hadn't had Fever for very long when the stables we were at lost all their rented grazing meaning we had to cross a busy country lane at night to get our horses from another field. I decided this was far too risky and we moved to another yard.
In March 2010 I got a text from her real owner to say that she was really chuffed with how we were getting on and with how I was looking after Fever. Her hubby and her had bred Fever themselves and so she was their baby so this compliment meant the world to me. She went on to say that if I wanted then I could buy her as she knew how much I had wanted my own horse again. I was over the moon! Poor hubby was not as impressed but he agreed :-)))
It was also a rather sad time though too as the day after she made the offer Fever's foal died in a horrific accident. She somehow had impaled herself on an unknown object in the school when she was turned out, resulting in them having to destroy her immediately.
Fee and I continued to build a lovely relationship but I didn't really understand how much I meant to her until we went to America in March 2011.
Hubby and I had a five week motorbiking trip across America planned, leaving the middle of March and returning late April. At the end of February Fever came in from the field lame. After a number of vets visits and finally X-rays they discovered that she had torn a ligament and would need surgery to correct it. She had her op five days before we left for the USA!!
I had arranged for her to go to my sister's yard while we were away so unfortunately she was left with a stable bound, poorly horse! I managed to settle Fee in and she seemed fine but of course then I had to go. It was heartbreaking but my sister is very reliable and knew what she was doing so I wasn't too worried. The plan was that after Fever had her stitches taken out a fortnight later Helen would start to gentle ride her out to stop the ligament shortening. I wasn't in the least bit worried about this as Fee is such a babe to ride. I just warned her that she likes to walk fast! lol By the time we got home Fee would be cantering and ready for some harder work...perfect!
However Fee had different ideas. It would appear that she was rather upet at me suddenly disappearing and despite being good as gold to handle on the ground she refused to let anyone ride her! She bucked and bolted in the school. My neice who is a superb rider managed to ride her once ok but the next time Fee bolted with her. So my sister took her out for a hack thinking she would prefer that seems as that is what I do with her....er NO! Fee decided to throw a paddy in the road and made herself lame. So back to the vets she went. It was decided that it wasn't safe for anyone including Fever so they had to just walk her out in hand for the five weeks...so much for cantering!
I arrived home not knowing anything of what had been going on but Fevers face was a picture when she saw me! After a huge fuss and lots of kisses I went in her stable with her to muck out. I cried the whole time as she kept going to the door and looking out and then coming back to me at the back of the stable and nudging me as though to say is it really you?
My sister insisted that I get straight on her and make sure she was alright to ride. I have to say I was a little apprehensive wondering if she was in pain after the operation and that maybe that was why she wouldn't be ridden. I clambered on board and we went in the school for twenty minutes...no problem at all. So off we went for a hack around the fields. A walker spooked her with his dog in the hedges and she took off for a few steps across the field but pulled straight up when I asked her to and we had a lovely ride out....much to my sister's disgust lol.
A few days later I brough Fever back to our yard and she almost breathed a sigh of relief. She was so much happier and settled with her old mates. My sister did a fab job of looking after her I just think Fever obviously balked at having had an operation, moved yards, me disappearing off the face of the earth and then them trying to ride her.
We soon got back into routine though and all was going really well, we were cantering and getting out regularly and I thought the worst was behind us....
June 4th 2011 I went to Bramham with my friend just for the day. Bramham and I have a bit of a black history but surely this year nothing could go wrong! We hit the horsey shops with gusto, not really wanting to buy much and desperate to go and watch the Cross Country. We had been there twenty minutes when I got a phone call from a lady at our yard. I will be very honest and thought that as she knew my history at Bramham that she was playing a prank on me, not a hugely funny one but a prank all the same. 'No I'm not Amanda, Fever is hurt really badly and is bleeding profusely!'
My heart lurched and I told her to do what she could while I rang my vet to get straight there. As it was there was actually a vet already at the yard seeing another horse and he put a pressure bandage on Fevers foot to try to stem the bleeding and then he rang my vet to advise that he got there as fast as he could. My friend and I ran for the car and got home as fast as we could but it still took nigh on 2 very long hours!! The vet rang me and said he was very concerned at how deep the cut was ( he could lose three fingers full length in the wound!) and that she had literally cut the back off her foot somehow. He advised that I take her to another much bigger veterinary practice for more checks.
When we arrived back Fever had been left quiet in her stable. I opened the door to be greeted by a huge pool of blood as the bandage had held all it could take. We quickly got her into my friend's trailer but she was literally pouring blood everywhere. I really thought she would bleed to death before we got there. Once we arrived there was a huge rush to get her stabilised but fortunately the vet almost immediately put my mind at rest by saying yes it was a dreadful injury and would be a very long job to get better but it wasn't involving any major structures. After spending five days at the vets for bandage changes and to keep an eye on her after her massive blood loss etc She came home. Her injury was a nightmare to heal and involved 11 weeks of box rest and countless vets visits. It has now healed but it's not pretty.
This was it on 20th July, six and a half weeks after she did it!
This was it after ten weeks!
Her big bandage!!
All our hard work with her ligament was undone! :-(( It shortened and she has been lame ever since in trot.
Slowly over the past year we have managed to get her going again and our relationship is absolutely wonderful! She so very obviously loves me to bits which is very, very humbling. She will do anything I ask and is always so pleased to see me. It has proven to be a little awkward though when we have gone on a weeks holiday as she refuses to eat, despite being in her own environment and being fed by the girl who often chips in with her when I am there too.
Recently my middle son, Matthew, decided to take up riding again. I am under no illusions that it is anything other than simply because his girlfriend has a horse and he wants to strutt his stuff lol. He came and had a couple of really nice rides on Fever and it was great to see that all those years of paying for lessons had not been wasted although at 6'2" he makes her look like a pony!!
Matthew riding Fever in the woods March 2012
I was hoping and still do hope that I will have a lot longer to ride Fever but unfortunately today I got some rather worrying news again. The farrier thinks she may have Navicular disease in both front feet which has a rather limited prognosis. We are back to the vets on Wednesday....please say your prayers!
UPDATE - Thursday 7th June
Fever had some Xrays yesterday which confirm she has mild Navicular and arthritis of the coffin joint. We are hoping the steroid injection into her joint and some new shoes will make things more comfortable for her.x