6th November

The first of two writing workshop days start in a sleepy Cambridge, with a creamy oat milk coffee and a crumbly cinnamon bun outside Fitzbillies. Following the beautiful brass and bronze flower studs along the pavement (there are 600 of them in the Cambridge Core and Flower trail, designed by Michael Fairfax and inspired by a dig as recently as 2000 which revealed The Magdalene Hoard of medieval coins). Pale winter sun glints through the tall and architecturally diverse buildings. I feel like I am on holiday. I am not, but I savour the feeling. Already feeling inspired.   

These workshops help me work out what I do not want to write, as much as what I do. Both tutors are fascinating and knowledgeable, inspiring and informative. Menna, I have known and workshopped with for years. Emily, new to me in person and in her work. One writes fantasy, one crime. Both masterly in their craft having spent years honing and developing their skills.

The second workshop, by which time it is definately winter, is a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) workshop that I recklessly signed up for- writing 50,000 words for a novel in a month. I’m into the second morning session when I get with total clarity that I do not have a novel in me. Also there is still so much here that I can learn to improve my non-fiction writing.

It is a joy to be in an actual room with actual people, writing, talking about writing, learning about writing, listening to others writings, expanding, creating, developing. Interesting people beyond my usual daily reach, writing in a variety of genres, some for radio and television, some just started, some well on the way. Some published, some not. Lunch is a sociable affair, probably the first for me since BC (Before Covid) in a quirky setting with full length glass windows so you can watch the church service happening next door. The only shop we go in is a tiny chocolate shop that is so very special it only opens twice a week.Later I am disappointed that I did not succumb, or invest, depending on how you view it.   

Cambridge is a stunning venue that should unleash the masterly creative side of each of us. Authors who graduated from here include such names as Tennyson, Wordsworth, Byron Plath, Hughes, AA Milne, and more recently Stephen Fry, Margaret Drabble, Sebastian Faulks, Salmon Rushdie and some favourites of mine Susannah Charleston, Nick Hornby, Joanne Harris. There are many, many more as well as world changing people from all disciplines and educational fields. My working class origins are a world away.

The buildings are stunning, the atmosphere one of historical brilliance and deep learning. We sit in a dark wood panelled room with open fireplaces topped by ancient works of art. Even the biscuits are more than ordinary, the water jugs elegant. 

One writing activity is “object as character”. People write about those paintings, fireplaces, wood panels, full of history, exotic subjects, far lands. I write about the radiator. You know the one that is painted brown to become unnoticeable, that people put their backsides on, that people chat across while warming their hands.  I feel encouraged that Menna, who studied at Oxford, also felt herself overawed by the Oxford surroundings, experiencing a need to produce something literary, complex, and utterly grand. (her first book was, in the end, called Men, Money and Chocolate, so it seems she went with her heart, anyhow.)     

We set writing targets, which I quickly break, and a whatsaapp group ,which people quickly stop contributing to.  This feels reassuringly familiar.

This blog is my promise to myself, to introduce some self discipline to writing. To publish once a week.     

When we leave the workshops Cambridge is a different city, all frenetic bustle, with walking and cycling crowds, all going in opposite directions, on ridiculously narrow pavements, with steep drop offs enough to easily break an ankle. The brass flowers are a little less shiny, the road leads uphill on the way home. Tiredness kicks in. It rains.

I remind myself that these glimpses of gold, sparks of light, encouragement, new people, fleeting contacts, previously unseen surroundings, different experiences and situations, can be some of my light in the dark of winter.

I remind myself to look outwards, to connect with others rather than always to draw inwards.

Explore opportunities, view things differently, keep searching for the light.

It is not even technically winter yet.

There is a way to go.         



Looking for the Light

1st November

Winter descends with a hurling wind and sideways rain. The sun still just about warms my bones- when I can find it – and the wind whips hair across my face. I am gloomy. Too much grief, too much uncertainty and change. Way too many losses. In a way it does not help that two days ago it was t shirt weather, people sitting outside cafes, dogs relaxing at their feet. Warm in an unreal, heady, not sure what is happening way. Of course, we said, we know it cannot last. Any delay to the onset of winter though is most welcome. So today feels shocking.

The horses are already paddling in mud. The stable yard flooding. I am tired just thinking about what is to come. After a social media prompt, I gladly turn to reread Horatio Clare’s The Light in the Dark- a winter journal. Published in 2018, I now read it most winters. Horatio’s atmospheric prose adds a beauty to the often-painful events he relates and takes us along on his journey to find a solution to the winter blues. Both challenging and enlightening, and most importantly hopeful, it is a beacon in the dark.

And at least you know you are not alone.

In his prologue he highlights the challenge

“It is not fair to blame the winter, but it does set the stage so well, with its clamped down rains, its settled and introverted darkness, its mean ration of light, its repetitions.”  [1]

I find myself almost shouting “yes.” This me, who is often stir crazy by 5.30 pm, restless against the confinement of the darkness and cold. Tired of TV, of damp and wet, of muddy dogs and dirty houses, of changing boots. Constantly changing boots, and coats. Tired also of being tired and not having the energy to change any of that.

He highlights how he will, this time, arm himself against the onslaught of depression.

“Depression kills your power of vision, turning you fatally towards yourself, but I will practice looking, and looking outwards like an exercise, as though I am training for an expedition.”[2]

This year I determine to write my own journal. Not just write, but also practice looking for the joy, practice turning towards the light in the dark. Practice noticing. It will not be as eloquent or literary as Horatio’s, for sure. In writing I hope to also encourage the noticing. Looking. Not sinking. It will also enable me to have a reason to practice my writing, honing my words, finding ways that they may become relevant to others. With my own more mundane voice, the everyday nature of my reality and experiences, my own thoughts.

Horatio’s winter journal will be my reminder, my guide, my assistance to not sink, my prompt to look outwards, to savour, and to seek out experiences that refresh the soul.

Even in winter.

[1] Horatio Clare. The light in the dark

[2] Ditto


winter sunset – source of light.

It’s a wrap.

I have just finished another book. Phew. Sigh of relief.

I wish I felt that rush of pride that so many others talk about- a bird finding its wings and flying out into the world- or some such poetic description.

Nope, mostly its relief.

Thank goodness I managed to finish it. My ADHD brain always encourages me to give up half way through. My self doubt and imposter syndrome sparks up and leads me to question why I wrote it in the first place.

It will probably be rubbish -by the end of the process I have lost all ability to judge!

No -one will buy it, especially if i don’t promote it properly (I probabaly won’t) .

I do not really even want to look at it, as I will want to change it. (too late)

It was intended to be helpful (how will i know if it really is?)

Have I done justice to the subject, my dogs’ voices, the young people and their families I intended it for?

It makes no difference if I am being published ( disagreements with editor (who knows best) about titles and cover images (that I do not like) ) or if I self publish- making a decision, sticking to it.

The really, really sad and unfathomable thing is I am already half way through writing the next one, in my head.

Must be some kind of sickness.

Lonely in their leaving

It is a late September day on the Cambridgeshire fens. Autumn suddenly disappearing behind gloomy melancholy clouds. I do stable yard and field chores, sweeping, raking, clearing. My own little plot of fenland heaven, studded with trees and growing hedgerow. I am connected to these few acres in a deep, palpable, tangible way. I know each footstep, horse path, damp patch, birds’ nest, rabbit warren. Today I can feel winter nudging, not yet here, but closer. The spring and summer filled with birdsong and sunshine, is unquestionably over. The barn swallows have flourished in my stables, graduating from their initial four early nests, to eleven. The nests are balanced on every crosspiece of wood, in every stable. Their glorious chatter and calling, swooping and soaring flight, have filled my summer and my heart. Mostly they are calling to each other and dive bombing me to tell me to go away. I am certain they have not understood my many efforts to help them thrive. Flooding some of the field (so they have enough mud to stop nests drying completely out); cultivating a huge horse muck heap (many flying insects for them to feast on); hosing the stable roof down when it gets blisteringly hot (to stop the chicks overheating). There is also Jackdaw and Crow Patrol for when the chicks cannot quite leave the ground. As I sweep and listen to their noisy, cheerful chatter I remember many days sat listening to the horses munching, the air full of the swallows entrancing flight, red throats flashing, electric cobalt blue feathers glistening. Those impossibly tight turns, the hovering in the stables going from flat out to a standstill, the gentle loops, calling sweetly. The day my elderly pony died was when the last nest chose to fledge, and they fluttered and rested all around us, cheeping him onto his next journey. 

Lost in reverie of summer losses and joys, I realise it is strangely quiet. I look up from my chores to see every fence line and rail is filled with sitting swallows. They perch on branches, posts, rails. Strangely silent, they flutter and hop, sometimes changing places. I realise they are getting ready to leave. These are not just my swallows, but hundreds more. I am filled with excitement underpinned by quiet dread. I go to join them in the fields, sitting with my back against the only fence they are not resting on. Surrounded by subdued chatters, hops, flutters, as they call quietly to each other. Changing places sometimes. I wonder if they could be renewing acquaintances from their long journeys, meeting friends last made in Africa. I wonder how this year’s babies feel about being among so many new birds. I know many will not survive the journey, even fewer will return here next year. I am already feeling both a sense of loss and of privilege. Determined not to miss their departure.

I sit mesmerised, clouds growing darker and more menacing. I may be here a while. I know they are leaving, and I know I will not miss it. The cold increases my melancholy and I start to cry, quietly. I am so lonely in their leaving, so changed by their being. My summers are marked by their arrivals, their courtships, nest making, initiations, first flights. Their swoops and chatter. Sometimes their sad little deaths too.

I watch as they rise and fall back, little waves of them as if to say “Now! Now!”. Perhaps the wiser say “not yet not yet”. Invisible and unfelt currents of air (to me anyhow, as a mere human) inform their decision making. In one large, smooth, flowing group, they leave. It seems sudden although we have all been preparing for hours. I watch and cry as they rise steadily into the sky, looking so small against the dark clouds, so fragile for such a long journey.  I call “bye bye” swallows, safe travels. I hope I will be here next year when some of you make it back. I’ll miss you.

Every loss I have ever felt is caught up in their leaving, somehow.

As quickly as it happened, it is over. The air becomes still. There is a hollow hushed expectancy in the stillness. I realise how cold I am as the tears dry on my cheeks. The silence is shattering. Everything so empty, so still. I ponder the privilege of seeing their leaving, the future magnificence of their journey. I hear the emptiness. What now? 

Walking wearily back to the house, a song thrush surprisingly serenades from a nearby tree. Pure and joyful. It sounds an affirmation – I am still here, and so are you. A restorative reminder.  A connection.

Lonely in their leaving, but not alone.  

The Pony who always said YES


Years pass by. I ruin much of our carriage driving life by moving to a different area, mostly for the upside of being able to afford to buy land to keep the horses at home. The beauty and indescribable joy of seeing them outside your window, any time day or night. To go and just “be” with them. To check they are well and not struggling. To say a sweet goodnight under the stars. To doze with them in the hot sun, sit under the shade of the willow tree.  My little herd was led by Apollo my retired palomino, The Bandit and his mum little Alberta, and his aunt by default, Pippa. By some strange and mostly unintentional coincidence, we had moved close to a western riding centre,(pretty rare occurrence in the UK at that time.)

Unsurprisingly, in time we had a small succession of quarter horses join us. Scarlett, Posie and later Blaze. The Bandit became particular friends with Scarlett who was around the same size as him when she first came; he scared the daylights out of Posie, and was a respectful friend to Blaze, once boundaries had been established.

The downside of all this joy was I had left my carriage driving pals behind. No groom to come drive with me. I joined the local carriage driving group and soon discovered that they did not approach things in quite the same way as we did in my previous location. The casual approach to safety was a bit scary and they even wrote about their accidents in the newsletter as if they were something to be commended. I think Gung Ho is the correct terminology. Having seen some pretty dreadful driving accidents in my time, and having to clear up after a few of them, I was not impressed. I tried a handful of young people, just couldn’t find a fit, so mostly I drove alone. The Bandit continued to say YES. Our lives changed, as they usually do. 

In order to pay for the new house, and all these beautiful horses out in the pasture I now had to up my work game. A world of opportunities spread before me and I started travelling the country, facilitating workshops, leaving all I loved behind for days at a time. It was lucrative and exciting, and paid me enough to really enjoy the horses when I returned home. Working hard and playing hard seemed to be working well!  Sometimes friends came with their driving horses, or we met up in forests, driving centres. We still got out and had fun.  

Life around me changed as well. When friends came out to drive their horse one day and had a nasty accident I started to rethink driving alone.  Developers built more and more houses around us and the local roads got horrendously busy. The lovely long straight farm tracks after months of monsoon downpours became full of deep tractor ruts and permanently undriveable for the majority of the seasons. Both The Bandit and I got older.  

Somewhere along that line I lost my desire to road drive alone. Riding became an easier thing to do solo, not needing any support from anyone else to get out in the countryside.  

The Bandit settled into an uneasy retirement, occasionally joining in with my liberty sessions.  When he was 30 his mum died.  He had been diagnosed with cushings way back. He became a watery pooh pony every winter, although summers were fine. He was already struggling to keep weight on in winter and was a little slow but still able to argue over hay piles, and bully what girls were left. We began the old pony routine. Achingly familiar by now. I had been here so many times already, with Alby, Pippa and Apollo. Trying different feeds, rugs to keep warm, supplements, vets visits, tests. Constantly reviewing his quality of life, levels of pain and discomfort, what he still enjoys. Questions turning in a circle of  mixed emotions. Don’t leave “it” too late. How to do “it” when all is well.  Balancing, questioning. Constantly facing the the issue. Assessing, analysing. Grasping at straws. Familiar territory for most horse owners,but isolatingly unique each and every time.  

The dreaded colic started to rear its head. The bandit started to say “nah no thanks “ to food.

It was autumn, he had not begun loosing weight yet. At the same time my mum was dying horrendously in a psychotic storm of anger and fear. I spun around trying to do my best in this maelstrom of impending loss.    

Over a 24 hour period he had an impacted colic not a usual incident for The Bandit. When the vet was there he was a bit pushy as if to say I’m fine I’m fine, fine please go away. When we were alone he would curl his head and neck around my body, so very tired. After several visits and no improvement we had the discussions and almost unbearable debate around- more treatment at home vs a pretty high chance of a rupture in the night. I was pretty convinced he wouldn’t make it through winter anyhow. (oh how glibly I had said that I would not let him go through another winter but that I’d choose a gorgeous autumn day and let him go.)

So here we were on a gorgeous September day, and I really didnt have so much of a choice to make. The last baby swallows of the year took that day to fledge and they fluttered around us, resting on stable doors and fencing as The Bandit  took his final leave, surrounded by the others. The buzzards circled overhead, as they always seem to do at such times, calling and swooping.

Foreheads touching I said my thanks and good byes.

I cried, the vet cried.  The rest of the herd looked on, interested but all knowing.

The surprise pony from a fifty quid shetland who had brightened my life and possibly bought out the best in me, was gone. 34 years a part of my daily life. A source of inspiration and lets face it, sometimes irritation. 

I am so grateful that he came, that he stayed and that he said YES.   

The Pony who always said yes.

She says I always say YES.

But I don’t, really.

Over the years I have said the N word. Sometimes she has heard it, sometimes not. Mostly when I’ve said the N word to doing a thing she has stopped, and I can see her considering it. She may ask for the same thing again, in a different way. Ha I’m not stupid.  Or she may ask for the same thing, but slower. Sometimes I still say that I am not sure. Sometimes she may ask a bit harder. That doesn’t usually go so well. Sometimes we don’t get to do the thing, if I feel really strongly about it. Sometimes we get to do something else that I like more. We usually come back to the thing, though, and she’ll ask again. She gets points for persistence. On a different day I may feel more like doing it anyhow.

It depends.  

Sometimes I say the N word and she doesn’t listen. This usually involves another person, smelling of disinfectant and death, with sharp and raspy things that I don’t like so much. I’m pretty small so I can’t always say the N word and make them take notice.

I’ve learnt to say yes to those mostly so they get over and done with quicker. I’ve learned that to get those things over with quick you need to let them get on with it, and then beat it fast as you can back to the field with the others.  

I say YES a lot though. To other horses- shall we go for a gallop round the field? Shall we knock down this flimsy fence line? Shall we play gelding war games? Shall we go splash in that deep pond?  Lets knock the electric fence over then dance around as its making loud clicking noises. How about we go jump to the other side of the ditch and then act like we cannot get back. Those kindof questions need a YES answer. Always.

I don’t always say YES even to other horses though. I’m not a pushover. Horses waay bigger than me say move over and I don’t. I’m smaller than most of them, but so what. I never really got the size thing.  Inside I am strong and full of heart. What do they know? 

Mostly I say YES because I’m interested. Curious. Adventurous. Intrigued. I’ve discovered that often good stuff happens when you say YES. Not much has happened in my life that has really scared me, so I figure, just go for it. Maybe that makes me lucky. Maybe it makes me brave. I’m not sure I understand either of them, so maybe the reason doesn’t matter. 

I’ve known this human since before the day I was born. I think maybe that counts for something.

She hasn’t led me into trouble yet. Sometimes she lets me lead the way too, make my own choices. I think there’s a lot of that trust thing here. She trusts me, totally. I can feel it.

She says to people that she wants to be like me, say YES to more stuff. Find her curiosity and sense of adventure. Approach new things with confidence. Give anything a go. I’m alongside her with that. I like new things.

I’d like you to know that Saying Mostly Yes has not made me weak. This is a Very Important Point. It has not diminished me in any way. I’m still very much my own horse. I still have opinions, and I’m not afraid to share them. 

I’m definitely not a pushover, or stoic, or shut down.

Definately my own horse.


The Pony who always said Yes Part 4

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.  

The Pony who always said yes. Part 3 . A side Tale.

Aside from The Bandit who was maturing and beginning his driving career, I was enthusiastically embracing all that Alby and Pippa (mum and aunt) could offer me. I was quite interested in learning to drive them as a pair, but needed a new carriage and harness, so instead settled on driving them in tandem. That is, one in front of the other. In my faulty logic I figured I could use the same carriage, get away with only buying some extra bits of harness, and extra long reins, and away we would go. I also figured that as Alby was so unsuited to  driving single, she could be my wheeler. (i.e at the back). In this way, as the younger of the two she could pull the weight, and really only had to follow Pippa about.

How hard could that be??

My sensible side did think it would be good to get some lessons as two sets of reins to hold took a bit of getting used to; so I booked us in. I gaily said to the instructor that Alby had only been driven a couple of times. “in tandem?” she asked. “ no …ever”  I replied  as  her colour changed. Anyhow she was up for challenge and so off we went. I still have the photos of that first lesson, which to be honest was pretty good considering. You know, considering that none of us knew much, apart from the instructor.

In carriage driving it is considered good practice for safety reasons to have a “groom”. That in the traditional sense was a groom in all senses of the word; for me it really meant having someone along who could jump out and help out if things went wrong. In the early days I had a regular queue of children but really needed a lightweight adult for shows and more serious events.

I found my groom one day as I was trotting along with The Bandit and passed a woman walking along. She said ”I’ve always wanted to do that “ to which I replied “get in if you want?”. She did, and so began a long term friendship  where she not only “groomed” for me, but drove the ponies and generally became a wonderful friend and helper. We had such fun, both having a slightly irreverent air for the more serious side of carriage driving and the pomposity which often accompanied it. Hard to be pompous with Shetland ponies ; although some still managed it 😊

 Anyhow once I was a newly qualified expert at tandem driving (cough) we went to some events and drives. Most people who drove tandems drove elegant horses with flair and style, often to beautiful traditional carriages that looked truly jaw droppingly beautiful.

We were less impressive, it has to be said.

My ponies tried so hard, making up for a lack of elegance with their try and the smile factor. Pippa was a perfect leader going wherever she was pointed at, and Alby…well I suspect although she never really, truly, understood what was happening, she was seemingly content to follow along as I had hoped.  We even managed obstacles and tight turns without mishap. Looking back I have no idea how.

One day we took ourselves off for The Tandem Club meet . The current Tandem Club was formed in 1977 by Sallie Walrond and Lady Vivien Cromwell with the aim of maintaining and promoting the art of tandem driving in a “coachmanlike style”. (that refers to correct rein handling, which despite only having Shetlands, I could still do, even though we did not look very “coachmanlike”).

Prospective members are scrutinised during a drive at the annual Meet and assuming that this is completed satisfactorily they are then entitled to wear the silver tandem bars badge of The Tandem Club. There is neither entrance fee nor annual subscription to the Club, echoing the principles of the first 19th Century Tandem Club.

Despite my enthusiasm I was a bit daunted at the prospect. It was a grand Country Estate setting for the meet, the drive was quite long for my ponies, I was driving in some pretty esteemed company, and I was being assessed! I need not have worried as they performed to the best of their ability and we gained our tandem bars, which I still proudly own, although never have occasion to actually wear. After the drive there was “tea”. There is always “tea” after a drive, and Cake. After this drive we were escorted to a dark oak panelled room with a huge table laden with cakes of every description, it was cake heaven indeed! Just as well the ponies were not pulling us along afterwards!!

Meantime The Bandit had survived being “put to” the carriage and was still saying Yes at every opportunity.

Our driving adventures could really begin.

The pony who always said yes. Part 2. Staying.

The Bandit started to say yes pretty much right from the start.

Yes, I can go and check that tractor out while you are driving about cutting the grass(weeds) in my new field.

Yes, I am happy to walk along the road to go to a new stable yard. 

Yes, I’m happy to get in a trailer to go to yet another, new stable yard.

Yes, I like people and big horses.

Yes, I like to eat and am not picky.

Yes, let’s go to a little show and still be happy even though we do not win.

Yes, hello good morning

Yes, look at all my new friends

Ooh a headcollar Yes.

He grew awkwardly, his legs long, his head large. Hard to tell quite what size he would end up. Sid the old boy who started this whole deal, sagely said he would be a “useful” size. He was still angling for a stud fee as it his colt who had sired The Bandit. He often could be heard muttering “two for the price of one” as I walked them past. I did not fall for it.

Two cost twice the price of one.

He still was not staying.

Apart from handling him on the headcollar, teaching him to lead and tie up, he was pretty much left alone to grow into whatever he was going to grow into. Living at first in a field with his mum and later Pippa, then with Apollo where he learned how to play (excuse me the girls did not play!! At least not with him). Apollo was delighted to have a playmate, and generously got down on his knees to make it fair.

Mean time I got on with the task of learning to drive his mum. No easy feat, I quickly worked out that she really wasn’t that keen, and I did not have the skills to teach her. As Pippa had arrived and quite liked to drive, I focussed on her, often tying Alby to the back of the carriage so she could come out too for the exercise. Pippa was fearless, happy to trot along in the heaviest of traffic, Alby faithfully trotting along behind. The various sets of wheels and axles we inherited along with the ponies, had been skilfully turned into a respectable lightweight carriage by my clever husband.  I count myself incredibly lucky to have ended up with someone with both a welder and an engineering type mind. Oh, and patience. Pippa and I had a lot of fun as did the various children who came long for the drives. Never short of a willing extra pair of hands, we got reasonably proficient and she got beautifully fit and healthy. She looked a vastly different pony to the sad girl who lost her foal and who had been overridden by over heavy children. Her coat gleamed; her eyes shone. She was a pure, gentle, always try my best kind of a girl. I felt blessed.

The Bandit continued to grow. He still looked quirkily beautiful to me, if a little awkwardly leggy. But he was not staying.

We went through a few changes of yards at that time, The Bandit along with Alby and Pips took it all in their stride. Living at different times in a bull pen (that was an awesome home with indoor digs as well as a large concrete pen outside) various fields either alone or with multiple other horses. The Bandit I remember was a particularly big hit on a rather fancy dressage yard. Full of thoroughbreds and  warmbloods, he learnt to cause maximum disruption leading breakneck gallops across the huge fields that we had (those were the days before horses were regularly confined behind tape in sterile,  half acres squares and allowed no interaction with another horses unless they braved the electric pulses). The Bandit by now had no idea that he was small, and he certainly was not vulnerable. Once he was weaned from Alby he was adored by the dressage mares, who groomed, chased, and nurtured him.    

At some point the “he is not staying” refrain got old and I accepted the fact that, as Sid would say he was “part of the firm”. Sid, I certainly owed him a lot.

As he was now part of the firm, a “useful” size, and getting older I needed to get on with the training to carriage drive aspect of the deal. I became the worlds’ keenest long reiner. I even taught him to do flying changes. Well maybe he taught himself and I was along for the thrill. I certainly never managed to teach another horse to do so on long lines….. 

We explored the world on long reins and headcollars. He was not afraid of anything and said yes. He seemed to love being out and…..doing.




He started to lower his head into the headcollar when I presented it. I was no expert on horse behaviour, but I took that as a resounding YES.

And so, he stayed.    

playtime whatever the weather