Although The Bandit pony was endlessly wonderful and intriguing to me, I accept that may not be true for everyone else. That is why I thought I would warn you that there are just 2 more blogs about him after this. Just in case you were thinking……..what- more?
Anyhow, the carriage driving! What a joy he was. Once the questions and endless intricacies of rein handling, carriage function and balance, harness fit and pony fitness, navigating different terrain and the reoccurring surprise of how far you could safely tip sideways in a two wheeled carriage were regularly answered, there was no stopping us.
He said YES to road drives being completely unimpressed by cars, lorries, motor bikes, tractors; he enjoyed the steady rhythm and flow of moving forward, forward, forward; knowing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. He was happy alone or in company-sometimes as many as 30 other horses and carriages. He refused to be left behind and kept abreast of the most long legged horses amongst us. He was also pretty partial to dressage, learning collected, extended, and working trot -although being a bit frustrated when he was never allowed to canter! It was most fun if we were dancing to music. We didn’t choose traditional tunes, it never seemed a good fit. Instead we preferred to defy tradition by choosing rock or boogie woogie piano. That raised a smile or a frown, depending on who was judging! Either way it was fine by us, as we were working to our internal map of success.
The best fun was off road country driving across beautiful and fancy large estates and parks. Here cantering was not only allowed, but encouraged. Carriage driving, with its connections to the Royal family and other Very Important People, opened the doors to some beautiful and grand country estates across the country. We had no shame- we drove around Windsor Great Park like we owned it!!
In these venues we competed in marathons, where after a few miles to warm up, you negotiated obstacle gates of intricate and seemingly illogical design. He especially delighted in the ones with water in. Point and shoot Chris, don’t interfere. A new groom panicked once as we approached what appeared to be a particularly deep water crossing- remember The Bandit was only 11.2 hands high and most of the competitors were horses. She jumped out of the carriage to help him get across if need be. Obviously he overtook her, soaking her along the way, she had to wade through the water while we waited for her on the other side to run and climb back in.
The Bandits favourite activities usually involved me leaving him pretty much alone. Cone driving was a great example. Here you negotiate your way around a course of cones with balls strategically placed on top of them so they fall off with a whisper of a touch. If I tried to steer, we had them down. If I just looked at where we were going, he knew exactly what was required, taking us though clear every time.
When we were not out doing events we got to do the countryside road drives I had originally dreamed of. Afternoon teas, pub visits on a summers evening. The Bandit became the pony that anyone could drive, being so lightly responsive. I also learned that other peoples ponies and horses did not feel like The Bandit. I went off for lessons to drive bigger, grander and more powerful animals, which I needed to do to pass all the carriage driving qualifications exams (which of course I also embraced with gusto), there was nothing ever quite like driving him. It was always a relief to come back and drive the pony who always said YES.
The Bandits’ blossoming into a strong, able, forward pony with a huge YES, coincided (perhaps not surprisingly) with a stage in my life where I had my own version of YES -energy, commitment, time, finances, and endless enthusiasm. Our shared life became filled with outings, lots of new friends, cross country marathons, local and big and fancy shows, splashing through water whenever we could find it, delicious afternoon teas. And lots, and lots, of cake.