~ My Life With Horses ~


gentle, powerful, noble, loyal, fast, strong, wild, free, beautiful, kind, soft, nervous, huge hearts, velvety noses, 

I was born into a world of horses. It was my father's hobby and passion.

My father and Happy Boy
Happy Boy was big, I was small. I could walk under him without bending over. He was so gentle, I could stand underneath him to groom his belly and inside his back legs. My brother was small at the time too, but rode him fearlessly...looking like a little dot on his back. He impressed me greatly by being able to vault onto this 16 3/4 h.h. back from a standstill on the ground. I never did get the hang of it...even on 12h.h. ponies!

Even though I was around horses from birth, I did not learn to ride until I was nine ~ I was too busy playing in the woods and river and riding pillion around the fields with my brother on a motorbike.  Oh...and riding on Myrtle the pig....

Me, Murtle, and our fantastic dog~friend Bruce

I also did not learn well from a too impatient father.

Thankfully, a family friend decided I needed to learn, and within the day I was rising to the trot and cantering....laughing joyously at this new experience....I loved it.

My first pony, (I say 'my' very loosely, as none of the ponies or horses stayed with us....we used to train them for show~jumping or as Working~Hunters and sell them on), was Jimmy...

 ....a little 11.2 h.h. grey with two speeds...slow and stop. He was very sweet and perfect to learn on, allowing my confidence to grow quite quickly. He went off to another family to teach another little person, and I progressed to Bronco ~ a gorgeous, feisty Welsh Mountain pony, bright chestnut with flaxen mane and tail.

Me on Bronco on the left, with our friends Val and Prince at Val's house
He belonged to friends whose children didn't want to ride, but who did not want to sell him, so he stayed with us for years and he and I had great fun racing about the countryside...galloping through woods, fording rivers, meeting up with friends on their ponies. I had been given a racing saddle by a local couple who owned race~horses, and I used to ride with shortened stirrups and dream of being a jockey. 

In the summer, in the days when we used to have eight weeks off school, we used to be out together until dusk, and I would often come home through the village and meet my mum walking, on her way to see where I was.
Bronco taught me an important lesson....not to show off! I was doing just that in front of some visitors to our home, by doing an 'around the world' on his back, and when I was facing backwards, he decided to buck me off and teach me some humility. I've never forgotten it.
Bronco and I stayed together even when I had grown too tall for himbut eventually of course, the carefree fun had to stop, and I had to do the serious work of schooling ponies and horses....ready for selling on.

Little Rose after she had been sold
Little Rose. I loved her so much, and we had a very special bond, and it broke my heart when she had to go. I never allowed myself to become completely attached to any of the many horses or ponies after Rose. I loved her so much, but, as with all the rest, she was sold on once we had schooled her to Working Hunter Pony and Showjumping standard, and so, although I loved them all, it was always with the knowledge that they would not be staying with us.

Flicka and Thunderhead, me and Val
Flicka was Little Rose's half sister. Here she is with her first foal...Thunderhead (of course). He was 'our' first foal too, as we had never bred before.
He was six days old here. I remember the day he was born as a bit of a drama. We got up early as we could hear Flicka neighing in distress. The field she was in sloped steeply down into the neighbouring field, and her new~born foal had slipped underneath the wire into the ditch below. Thankfully it was a dry time, or he would have drowned. We led Flicka around to him, and all turned out well. He was not hurt at all, and we learned never to keep a pregnant mare in a sloping field!

Learning to jump on Flicka. My instructor was 'Snowy' Mitchinson, who came to stay with us for the summer that year. He was such a good teacher. I did not take to jumping though, and a few years later, when I was 14, my father threatened to sell the pony I was riding at the time if I did not continue to jump....

Sarnau Broken Cloud. We called him Pinto.
Here he is with his new owner after I refused to be persuaded...my father did not make empty threats.

There were three of us involved in training horses and ponies. We would all be working together for halter training, then I would be the one to gain their trust and confidence, so they would be easy to catch in the field, not be afraid of being groomed or having their hooves cleaned out or trimmed, or of brush, fork and shovel as I mucked their stable out.

My father would train them to take a mouthing bit and saddle, then my brother would get them used to his weight on their back and stick like glue if they decided they didn't like it!

I used to love watching him. His balance was perfect, and as the horse would buck and rear under him he would simply flow with their movements, like a dancer.
He was, from a young age, a thrill seeker....when he was eleven, he rode a motorbike for the first time, a BSA bantam. In the first minute, he and the motorbike went straight through barbed wire!!...resulting in him going to the hospital for stitches for three long deep cuts on his thigh. When he came home, he went straight back on the motorbike, until he had mastered it.
He is still the same....rides motorbikes, is the navigator in car rallies, but he no longer rides horses and hasn't for many years.
This is a young Welsh Cob mare who had come to us to be trained. She was full of fire and took a long time and a lot of patience to train. I do not know her history after she left us, but I hope she went to someone who appreciated her liveliness, and was not scared of her.

When they'd accepted him, it was my turn again, with the schooling...you can just make out part of the circle curving behind me in the photo below...that is part of the figure 8, formed naturally by continued use, as we taught them to 'change legs' as they changed direction...always leading with the inside leg.

I'm 16 here, and I see so many faults in my seat and posture!
Cashelmara was a beauty who came to us to be trained. He was sweet natured and I enjoyed every moment of his stay with us.


My brother jumping Cashelmara in our paddock.

When I was 16, I was asked by a family who ran a pub a few miles away, to teach their son and daughter to ride their pony...Winewood Black Beauty, (Winewood, because he was bred locally on a farm who's Welsh name means Above the Winewood ~ Penralltygwin). His owner and son would show him in the pony and trap classes and I would show him 'under saddle'. 

Nerium was a champion of the flat races in his day. He was not a kind or gentle stallion, and not to be trusted at close quarters. Strangely, he was a perfect gentleman with me when I was young....about ten years old.

He was owned by Mr and Mrs Gilbert....two eccentric alcoholics. They had a large house, with stables and a groom's flat laid out in a horseshoe shape behind it. Neither of them did any housework, so they would stay in the house until it was so dirty they could not stand it anymore, then they would retire to the flat.....and so on. I presume they got someone in to clean whichever one they had vacated for the time being!!

My father used to go there regularly, as he trained one of their steeplechasers, 'And Some Sun', and also used to go and trim this beauty's hooves. I used to hold his lead rope while dad was busy.....and he never once tried to bite me or lash out with his front legs......until I got older.....then I was treated like everyone else!

He came to live with us permanently when the Gilberts got too old and frail to look after him properly. I used to go in to groom him, but I had to have a piece of alkathene pipe for him to chew on at all times.....or he would have been chewing on a piece of me!

Mr Gilbert....Gill.....was the one who gave me that very first saddle when I was eleven.....the flat, jockey's saddle, that I used on Bronco, and pretend to be a jocky in a race......he could be soooo fast :~)

He also gave me my very own curry brush, dandy brush and body brush......he was extremely kind and generous to me and always a real gentleman.....he always wore colourful cravats, and had a large moustache. I loved visiting there.

They had an Irish Wolfhound called Ceri.....named after our beautiful river...

.....one year she had ten puppies, and when they were quite big, I have a wonderful memory of them and Ceri all running to meet me when I was walking up the yard....it was quite a sight, and they were all 'laughing' all over their beautiful faces.

This photo was taken in 1980 or so, and he was well into his twenties here. I do not remember when he died.....I had left home by then, but I will always remember this grumpy, bad tempered beauty who was so lovely to me when I was small.....

My brother and Goldie

My brother is looking so pleased because they had just got 2nd place in the BSJA Junior Open competition in The Royal Welsh Show in 1973.

Goldy was sold unseen, over the phone....purely by reputation.

They made the best team, these two.

Golden Cloud....son of Sarnau Golden Cloud (who sired most of the ponies and horses my father owned).

Here, Cloud had already left us, and had been bought by a family in Sweden....they kindly sent us these photos of him. We could see he was well loved and cared for.

My brother and Karl
Karl was wonderful. He was quite fussy about who he allowed to ride him....bucking or bolting if he didn't like someone! I'm happy to say that he didn't mind me, and I adored him.

Avenger. Me at 18
Avenger. He was already named when he came to us. He'd been badly handled and was nervous, highly strung and afraid. These were the ones I worked longest with, taking time to earn their trust, loving the feeling of connection when they finally did so. I loved my time growing up with these beauties.

Sunny Boy (The Boxer)
This lovely boy arrived in Holland from Ireland, a few days after I arrived from Wales.
He became known as The Boxer because he was so courageous and calm. He was a great horse to ride. He was my pal.

Macky and the great trainer, Mr Jan Went, in Holland

Lassie ~ in Holland
She was a delight; sweet natured, always willing, and so brave.....she was afraid of water, but I used to ride her out to a shallow, shored lake, and with time and patience, she completely overcame her fear.

What a wonderful place Holland is. I was given such welcome and shown such kindness when I went there just after my 19th birthday, to work for the family Baruch...doing the only thing I knew well at the time....caring for and exercising horses.

Apart from riding wild over the moors ~ and without a riding hat for the first time in my life ~ I loved sitting in Amsterdam Centraal, people watching. For a girl who had come from the tiniest of rural Welsh villages, it was seen with eyes wide with wonder....the colours, the smells, the atmosphere, the different languages, the different skin colours, the beauty, oh! I just soaked it all up, and have been a people~watcher ever since. 

This young mare was the last horse I rode on a regular basis. It was 1992 and I had just left an alcoholic, abusive husband of nine years. I felt that I had at last taken back my power; the relief and freedom were indescribable.

It was late April, and Spring was bursting out in Lesser Celandines, Stitchworts, Bluebells, Campions; the trees were starting to bud. Every morning at sunrise, before going to work, I would be riding out with Misty. She was a delight....alert, responsive, and smooth. She helped enormously in my getting my confidence back....

Early morning Misty ride.
The first rays of sunlight
Bring diamond-life to dew-dropped trees.

Friendly April flowers nod greetings
To the teasing breeze.
Misty tosses her head, flicks her tail.
I laugh ~ ~ ~

February 2007

Horses I remember, but was too young to know:

Trade Winds (Trader)
A beautiful palomino stallion my father used to show jump for his owner, Mrs Wood.

Rocket and my father
He was a wild one...
≈ ☼ ≈

A visit to my father's place nearly six years ago: 

It was a glorious sunny Autumn day, and I decided to reacquaint myself with childhood and teenage haunts. My first steps took me into the field behind the stables, and I met an old friend.

This is Twts (an affectionate nickname in Welsh). She is 45 years old, (she was 39 then), and so looks a little bit ragged around the edges, but her spirit is immense, and she is such a character. She was a very successful JA showjumping pony in her heyday, and came to retire at my dad's ~
This is just after I had given her a massage. She loved it so much, it made me feel really good :~)
the river Ceri

I strolled beside the river that meanders around the edges of dad's fields, and said hello to every inch....as I realised that every part of it holds memories for me. A little island that had wild ducks nesting on it one year, and how devastated I was when I went to check one morning, that they had all been eaten....possibly by a mink, or maybe a water rat....I cried for their loss. 
Hours spent searching for the perfect smooth flat stones for spinning....watching the brown trout lazily keep themselves in one place...then darting off somewhere so fast.....the joy of paddling in the cool clear water, feeling the slippery stones beneath my feet, and having to tread on the bright green foliage that went with the flow of the river and looked like beautiful long green hair. Goodness I was lucky to have this freedom and time to bond with nature from such an early age.

This beautiful beech tree is always in my heart. Thirty six years ago, when I was sixteen, I sat on her roots, leaning against her trunk, learning poetry for my GCE English Lit exam....' The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Crikey what a long poem that was.....but I loved English....still do. If there were horses in the field they would stand around me as they enjoyed the shade she provided. She was the very first tree I hugged and felt the pulse and aura that trees have.

Looking up through her leaves

I have known these woods since I was four years old....I know which wild flowers grow where and when, I know individual trees, I used to go there and dig Lesser Celendine roots for my father every year as a preventative against haemarrhoids! It was the first place I saw, and then went to identify, Woodruff, Wood Sorrel, Enchanter's Nightshade, Ramsens and so many more. The river flows along her edge, so she is a place of magic to me.....and you do not see any other person....except maybe a fisherman sitting quietly on the bank hoping for a trout for his supper ~

There were many many more horses and ponies over the years, but sadly no photos were taken of them....

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