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Schoolmasters and trick riding*

Shazzie

* = Well, in a way! He ended up jumping over the instructor’s dog when she wandered in front of us.

Yes, I do cringe when I see how tightly I’m holding the reins, but at the time, didn’t want him wandering off mid-shot!

This is Shazzie. He’s long gone now, but he was the best pony I’ve ever ridden. Due to a few bad experiences at the last riding school I’d been to, my confidence had been shot to pieces. I didn’t feel comfortable going at anything faster than a walk, let alone trotting.

However, I decided to go somewhere new, and see if I wanted to carry on. The new riding school was only just up the road from my house, so I could easily walk there.

Got put on Shazzie. A 20 year old Arab x Welsh schoolmaster, who’d been there, done that and worn the T-shirt. Yes, he looked his age, but he wasn’t ready to retire. There was still life in the old boy. From the moment I sat in the saddle, he looked after me. If I wanted him to halt, he’d halt. When I wanted to increase the pace a little bit, he’d do just that. He started rebuilding my confidence from that very first lesson. Although, don’t think either me or my instructor expected him to jump over her dog! The dog was a little terrier type, and she wandered in front of Shazzie while he was trotting round the school. I didn’t have time to turn him off the track, so … yes, ended up jumping over her instead. The dog suffered no harm at all from that little escapade!

I’ve never forgotten Shazzie, or my instructor, and I never will. I owe them both so much.

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Differing personalities

I’m not one to humanise animals very much, but there’s one thing I’ve noticed since volunteering at the RDA centre. The ponies there all have character.

Take Bilbo for instance – he’s a 12.2hh Shetland x. He’s only bothered about one thing. Eating. Put a rider on him, and he’s sulking. Ears back, trying to bite his leader type of sulking. He can move fast when he wants to, though that’s not very often. He’s quite happy to have attention in the stall, but he’s still a nibbler.

Cookie – He’s a sweetie. Perfect for putting nervous riders on, since he’ll plod round and not react to anything. When waiting for the riders, he’ll stand with his eyes closed. However, he can be cheeky. He’s tried to take advantage of me a few times.

Magpie – Been at the centre for ages. Knows his job inside out and anticipates when to trot. Otherwise likes attention. Is probably the best when it comes to picking up and cleaning his hooves. Will be retiring at the end of the summer term, since he’s 19, and needs an easier life.

Dave – One of the younger ponies. Mouthy. Quite nice, but lacks manners. Tries to tread on poles in the school, instead of stepping over them. Is probably slightly bored of the work.

That’s just a few examples, but the others all have their own characters as well. While they might not have the same range of emotions or ways to express them as we have, horses definitely do have personalities of sorts.