The trials and tribulations of being mum to a pony rider

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Clyde Lost... and Found

As you can see, Santa came and no-one was forgotten.

Just before Christmas it seemed as if this year’s would be a miserable one. Our easygoing, staunch little pony disappeared for a few days and was replaced by an interloper with Clyde’s looks, which scared us all. On the Saturday before Xmas I went up to the top-school to catch the end of PG’s group lesson, and was puzzled to find her going round the school on.. Tilly the cob?! As she passed, PG glimpsed my waggling eyebrows and mouthed, miserably, “Technical hitch!” I had to wait till she came round into the firing line for my next urgent question: “What’s happened?” “I can’t tell you now,” she whispered, and now I could see a small tear trickling down her pale cheek. Another wait, jiggling from foot to foot in my anxiety. When my next chance came, “Just tell me! Is Clyde OK?” I hissed, and - “No!” she burst out, swept along past me by Tilly’s staunch and hairy trit-trotting legs.

That was it, I was off, pounding down the hill on legs quite similar to Tilly’s, peering into the gloomy barn, looking for that long striped nose arrogantly thrust out, King of the Barn. It wasn’t there – Clyde had his nose down in his pile of hay. “Cly-yde!” I called, hurrying up to the gate. Nothing could be wrong, surely? He was upright! Eating!

Clyde stopped munching. He froze. He dropped the mouthful of hay and began to back away from me, eyes trained on me in a fixed and chilly stare. My heart stopped: it was a stranger there in our stable, an imposter with cold dead eyes looking out at me (the eeriest thing!) from Clyde’s familiar face. Chilled, I tried calling, talking softly, holding out my hand, producing a mint. Nothing but that wary, frozen stance and that bleak and icy stare trained unwaveringly on me as if I were a spectre from the dead. Something really was wrong.

The story unfolded when PG came back from her unhappy ride. How Clyde had been one minute perfectly OK, then suddenly seemed to go mad. Reared and whinnied with no warning. Would not be touched.. Panicked too much to have his tack put on. Had had to be left there while an alternative mount was found. Seemed to recognise nothing and no-one. Backed away and froze when anyone approached, wide-eyed in terror, poised for flight.
At a loss we stood there: and it occurred to me that a pony in pain might behave very much like this one, and when Clyde got into peeing position and stood there for a long time without success it became clear we needed help.
Pat strode into the barn, all no-nonsense briskness in the face of our jibbering terror, went into his stable and snapped a headcollar on. I think she had probably suspected some panicky overreaction on the part of the two greenest, most hopeless and most adoring owners at the yard… but when Clyde, teeth bared and ears flat, tried a savage double-barrelled kick as she went to take his rugs off, even she looked startled: “Right! Oh, that’s not ‘Clyde’, is it. Off to the lunge pen with you my lad and let’s see what all this is about.”

At the end of a lunge-rein Clyde trotted and even cantered without apparent distress, he seemed unusually chancy of temper and prone to kick, but there was no sweating, no breathing distress, and his eyes were bright and clear. “Well, he’s not ill, I’m sure,” down-to-earth Pat said, “I can see he’s NOT himself, but… I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about.” Nothing to worry about? While it was a relief to know my various diagnoses of kidney infection, colic, ragwort posioning and brain tumour were all off the mark, a character transplant seemed potentially even more disastrous! The very reason Clyde has been such a happy story for us has not been the champion’s rug, the triumphs and rosettes, but that he has been such an easy pony, so dependable, so trusty that even a hopeless novice city-girl pony-mum can take him off in the van for a day and not think, even once that here in her care is a huge beast with a mind of its own, nor that her slight and nervy daughter stays in the stable alone with a huge, essentially stupid animal of a species which panics easily and kicks out with half a tonne of brute strength. How much damage would this do to her confidence?

Apparently the same thing crossed Pat’s mind, for her next words were: “ .. so now on you get and take him up to the top school. Yes, alone. Yes, to ride him, did you think I meant to give ‘im a look at the view, loike?!” Something about practical Pat’s scathing tones did the trick and PG took him off, a-quake and a-tremble. All went well, he seemed to settle under saddle, but it was several days before our Clyde was ours again, tending to panic at the sight of people, a dung fork, his water bucket, and his shadow, and a full week before PG regained her confidence in that easy, trusting bond they seem to have. What did our brave, calm, friendly pony conjure up from shadows that so terrifed him he lost his trust in even us? If only we could read their minds. If only they could talk.


  • At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hmm, scary. I hope that turns out to be an isolated incident!

    Happy New Year!


  • At 12:05 AM, Blogger merry said…

    He seems just fine again now. I think he forgot a whole lot quicker than we will!

    Happy New year to you too!


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