In The Saddle: How a dream finally came true

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For years I’d been a pony-mad but pony-less little girl, often day dreaming that my parents had bought me a dappled grey pony for Christmas and dad had converted the garage to a stable.

The fact that my poor parents couldn’t afford to buy me a pony, or that we lived in a semi-detached house with a postage stamp sized garden never seemed to register with me as a ten year old.

I’d happily sit and write ‘novel’ after ‘novel’ in an old exercise book, which all started (and ended) the same way.

My parents had magically bought me the perfect pony and somehow it was able to live quite happily in our garden.

It must have been heartbreaking for my mum and dad to read my little dreams, knowing they couldn’t afford it.

I did, of course have riding lessons every three weeks, after saving my pocket money up from doing odd jobs for that one hour I’d imagine the pony I was riding was my very own.

It took a gap of many years to get back into horses, mainly university had delayed me starting work and having any spare cash so I decided it was time to ride again.

And trust me, it took all of two minutes of being around the riding school horses to become that little pony-mad girl again, despite being in my mid-twenties.

After learning to get back in the saddle again, I decided to horse-share.

Horse sharing is a brilliant way to get a great taste for seeing what horse ownership is all about, but without any of the major costs pulling at your purse strings.

Essentially you contribute to a horse’s upkeep and split the bills with the owner but you don’t own the horse.

It’s a great way for the owner too to keep costs down and to have help with riding and looking after the horse too.

I’d done the sensible option of learning to ride again at a riding school, then horse shared for a while - but eventually sharing just wasn’t enough.

At the age of nearly thirty, Roly became my first love. He was the pony I’d never had and standing at 14.3 hands high (hh) he was only an inch bigger than the tallest height a pony could be (after 14.2hh they are then classed as horses).

He was a piebald (black and white) cob, a thick set gypsy style horse with a heart of gold and love of grass above anything else, including me.

He took me show jumping and won rosettes, despite clambering over the 2ft 6 jumps only in walk!

Roly was a swap for a young 4 year old Dales cross pony I’d initially bought, and found I was too inexperienced at that point to handle.

He gave me many giggles and boosted my confidence.

He was a fabulous first-time horse and I believe he’s now settled in Crowle, enjoying being a lawn mower in his retirement.

I was edging towards my forties when the dream of finally having April live at home was made a reality.

And no, we didn’t convert the garage to fit her in! Luckily the property came with three lovely stables.

I didn’t imagine the initial loneliness though.

Gone is the camaraderie of the gang at the livery yard, and the advice freely offered on a problem you may whilst practising for a dressage test.

You can’t sit and natter about your horse for hours on end over a cup of tea and a pitchfork. There isn’t anyone to enjoy a countryside ride with either.

You also can’t just spontaneously go away.

Sorting out April for boarding and loading her in the trailer is a huge strategic operation these days - and that’s before you’ve started packing for the family.

It’s at night when I really appreciate April at home and think back to my pony-mad dreams.

There’s nothing better than nipping out in your PJ’s to have a snuggle with your horse, there’s no driving, just pop your wellies on and walk out of your back door.

And as for my five year old little girl, well, she’ll never understand her mummy’s dreams as a child because she’s lucky to be living them and yes, no doubt we will both be badgering poor daddy for a pony in the non-too-distant future. Well, let’s face it - we have three stables so they need filling!

* You can follow April’s recovery from injury and Anita’s day-to-day horsey escapades via Facebook at ‘In The Saddle - Anita Marsh’.