I grew up surrounded by ponies. Not the mane plaited,glossy hoofed, gymkhana jumping kind; but the wild ponies of the forest, with their docked tails, dusty coats and deliberate habit of congregating on narrow roads to prevent easy passage. Part of the local scenery, they nonchalantly hung out with the donkeys; a picture postcard for snap happy tourists...... but I loved them best galloping wild across the heath, spurred on by some invisible force, their hooves muffled in the scrub; or in the early morning, stoically standing swathed in the rising mists; whinnying to foals lying couched in heather. These were the free - unfettered by saddles and bridles, skittish and unpredictable; accepting the odd pat from gentle hands only if the mood took them, soft mouthed for picnic treats, but with a vicious nip for the unwary.
I wasn't a child who yearned to ride, but there was something soothing about being amongst these beasts. We would go to the stud where dad and his friend had Welsh Mountain ponies, and I would bury my hands into the oats to breathe in the smell of their soft breath. I did not fear them, and would happily clamber into a saddle, should the opportunity arise; which from time to time it did.
I was not an elegant rider like my father mid polo match, or my sister who seamlessly flowed as one with her chosen mount. I was the Thelwell sketch, awkward in the saddle, all elbows and knees-spurring on my steed with blind optimism; ever hopeful that the pony was far better versed than I, and would carry me safely on my way. Mostly this method worked, but one afternoon as we trotted up the field, I suddenly found myself forcefully ejected from the saddle, landing in a vicious gorse bush. Pride battered and jeans full of prickles I picked myself up, dusted myself down, and did the only sensible thing..... gingerly remounting and heading for the stables; my blind trust in ponies forever dented.
Lately, after months of uncertainty leaving me somewhat battered and bruised, I have managed to pick myself up,brush myself down, and once again climb back into the saddle.
Being at work once more has soothed me, but my blind trust is now, like my trust in ponies, somewhat tarnished.