The trials and tribulations of being mum to a pony rider

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Clyde Caught

There was Pony-girl striding along, boots clacking down onto the tarmac one-two-one-two, eyes flashing, sparks flying. In her whiteknuckled hand were reins, and at the end of them, one meek-looking pony, going clopperclopperclopper. She saw me and let fly:
“All that schooling - ! All those bits I tried - !”
“It didn’t go too well then?” I asked, unnecessarily.
My hand was already going out to pat the meek one, who pushed his nose into my pocket, both big nostrils aquiver with excitement. PG spotted them and glared - “.. and it’s YOUR fault! You’ve spoiled him! Now he thinks he can go in the arena and do any old rubbish, dance a jig on top of the judge’s car if he likes, and YOU’LL still be there with a treat after saying ‘well done Clyde! Good boy!”
Clyde recognised the words but missed the tone and his toes started tapping up and down with joy at the reward to come, but my hand, already half-way out of my pocket with an apple-slice, guiltily froze.
“Well look darling, so it wasn’t his best test but…”
“Not his BEST test?!? Cantered when he was supposed to trot! wouldn’t budge when I wanted canter! Then when I ASKED for a lovely square halt we got a little dance instead - did a quickstep on the spot with his tail whisking round and round like a pompon I tell you!”

PG is always prone to despair and gloom after a dressage test, but on this occasion she had clearly not exaggerated for Clyde’s mark put him near the bottom of the combined training last Sunday and he had to jump his way into an unimpressive 4th place.
In fact, Clyde’s dressage marks have been steadily dropping lately. For a while he was right up there in the top 6 anywhere we went, but now, after 8 months’ careful schooling by PG and Pat, he is lucky not to be last in the class! I sense the poor boy is bored: that we absolutely must give him a long rest from dressage, and let him gallop freely over the hills with the wind in his tail and joy in his pony heart, etc. but no sooner had we made this decision when we remembered….. Sunday.
Sunday is of course the Dressage Gala at our own stables and we’re going to have to be there, like it or not. But we can forget the NagsR’Us Junior Champion title, they might as well inscribe Moppet and Poppet 2005 all ready on the shield, for there is no hope. In fact, we will be lucky if we escape the arena without Clyde stopping to eat the flowers on the way round, something he is prone to do if he thinks he can get away with it and can surprise you with a big yellow dandelion drooping startlingly from his teeth like Daisy the Cow.

As the first year of our pony-owning draws to a close we remember the early days. How green we were last Autumn! There was a time we thought we had to ask permission to fetch Clyde in from the field when we arrived to find him there and we slunk away sheepishly, pretending we hadn’t meant to ride at all. But yesterday when we found Clyde in the field with his mate Tilly, ha! there was no dithering about this time. After all , Clyde is our pony, every stubborn hairy grass-fed inch of him, and if we decide to sell him for glue, pop a Christmas hat atop his ears, or damn well bring him in from the field, we have the right and no-one can stop us! See? We're confident, brave, and scared of no-one! Though naturally I was hoping not to run into Pat. So off PG went to catch him in and I went back to the car for the stuff.
I returned to find PG sloping glumly back from the field, a headcollar dangling from her hand. She quickened her pace as she saw me, waving frantically and mouthing some obvious message of doom and disaster as she hove into earshot: “No good!” she cried, urgently pointing at the empty headcollar as if I wouldn’t notice it was unoccupied.
No good? What do you mean?”
“He won’t come,” she despaired, “He took one look and ran off down the field to kick Tilly.”
We had to have a shamefaced consultation with Stella Stablegirl who handed us a scoopful of feed - “Oh, the naughty old thing! Try coaxing him in with that.”
“He’ll never fall for it,” I scoffed. “This is Clyde we’re talking about, he has the highest IQ on the yard!”

We stood by the gate, halfheartedly shaking the pan from side to side. Clyde was far away, his big brown bottom haughtily pointed towards the gate. I ain’t comin’ and you cain’t make me so there! “See? He’s just not stupid enough to be fooled by a pathetic trick like this!” I sighed, with admiration.

A pair of ears pricked up far off on the horizon. Clyde swivelled round and shot into a thunderous gallop, four mighty hooves shaking the ground as he pounded furiously towards us, skidding to a halt and burying his nose in the pail, chewing and chomping as he scarfed up the oats in ecstasy. We looked at each other, frankly ashamed, and silently put the headcollar round our dimwitted pony, chaff still dangling from his chops. As we led him off I could see Tilly dancing free on the horizon, taunting him:

“See? I told you not to go, Clyde.”

OK, so maybe the second smartest pony on the yard - ?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Coughing Clyde

Clyde has a cough. He’s had it all summer and now I come to think of it, he had it last year too before we bought him. It’s a dry-sounding sneeze rather than a tubercular-sounding hawkup, but it’s very persistent once it takes a hold. Pat thinks it’s an allergy and he has haylage or soaked hay when the stablegirls remember, which is, erm, every time they see us coming through the barn at haying time. He seems fit as a fiddle, but it’s something to worry about because it’s starting to affect his performance. There are cough supplements available but these are mostly ‘natural’ ones, which, I feel, will be as much use as me chanting words of power while dancing naked on a hair from his tail, and very much more costly.

The cough seems to affect him most when he has to do something he doesn’t like – dressage for example - or as a seemingly automatic response when he enters the school and has to trudge around in a circle - can ponies get ‘psychological’ coughs, we wonder? It’s amazing how fast it clears up when he’s allowed to canter around at full pelt over jumps.

Obviously the main concern is for our boy’s health so we didn’t care (too much) about his low dressage score on Sunday at Blade's Hill when he coughed pathetically all round the arena, and we spent a lot of time fussing the afflicted one, whose big sad brown eyes informed us urgently that only copious apple-rations could ease the tickling in his stout pony chest. On the way out we passed Lucinda Trophy-Tophat on her mobile phone rapturously broadcasting her delight at her own performance: “Oh! Yah! Ohhhhh! It cantered! It flowed! It was engaged! It was absolootly soopah!! Yah, 72%! Oh, easily 10% clear of the little people! It’s going to be first, first, FIRST all the way!” You will think I have invented Lucinda, but she is for real.

We can but hope this cough sorts itself out before October 2nd, which is the day of the next Nags’r’us Dressage Gala. This very same event in May was PG and Clyde’s first ever competition, in which they came second and third in Prelims 4 and 10, endured a two-honk penalty for forgetting the test – twice - crawled out in shame and finished in second place for Nags’R’Us Junior Champion behind Moppet and Poppet, a hard-to-beat team of small, perfect child on small perfect pony. It will be Pony-girl’s last chance to enter the Junior Section (I seem to remember that Jill never won Chatton Show U-16 Jumping, either) so to go out as Junior Champion would be a bit of a coup! but it’s certainly not ‘in the bag’. Clyde still won’t go on the bit, though he has developed his own variation on this known as ‘pretending to go on the bit while actually leaning on the hand’, which he does so strenuously that should PG relax the reins for the merest second, down shoots his head and he bangs his silly nose on the floor. So entrenched is this problem that we actually bought a Waterford bit, glowingly said to be the bit upon which no horse in the history of horsemanship has ever been able to lean. That was until Clyde tried it of course and it became ‘the bit which one in a million ponies will be able to use as an effective leaning aid.’ That's our boy!