I’ve been riding at my riding school, Woods End Stables, for about five years now. My parents aren’t horsey, so for the first year they hoped it was just be a phase, but they soon realised I was determined to stick at it!
I didn’t get to ride as often as I’d have liked – I had one lesson every two weeks that I had to earn by doing chores around the house. That is, until my fourteenth birthday. My parents announced that they were so impressed with my hard work that they’d decided I was ready for a share pony. It was the best birthday ever!
It turned out that my parents had been chatting to my instructor, Lisa. She’d told them about a pony called Sparky. He was owned by a friend of hers who was moving him to Woods End and they were looking for a sharer to help exercise him.
I couldn’t contain my excitement as we headed to the yard the day after my birthday to meet Sparky. I rushed out of the car and over to his stable, which had a brand new nameplate attached to it.
A fluffy palomino head poked over the stable door, munching on some hay. His forelock was sticking up in all directions and he had a mischievous look in his eye.
“Meet Sparky,” Lisa said, smiling as she walked over. “He has a rather big character, but is super-friendly. He’s yours to ride twice a week, as long as you keep on top of the mucking out!”
A turn for the worse
My first ride with Sparky was brilliant – he was as good as gold. I had a flatwork lesson with Lisa and it couldn’t have gone any better. Sparky seemed like such a great pony and I was sure we were destined for great things. I couldn’t help but daydream about us winning our first dressage rosette and qualifying for the championships.
But the second time I rode him, things started to go wrong. First of all, it took me about 40 minutes to catch him. I was chasing after him with the headcollar with no luck. When I eventually managed to catch him and bring him in, I tied him up tightly to make sure he didn’t escape, but while I was grooming him, he just wouldn’t stand still! It took me another half an hour to get him looking even half-clean.
The problems continued once I’d tacked him up – he wouldn’t stand still by the mounting block so I couldn’t even get on. Frustrated, I sat down on the mounting block with my head in my hands, close to tears. This wasn’t what I expected my share pony to be like! How could I tell my parents Sparky just wasn’t right?
“What’s wrong?” Lisa asked, surprised, as she walked past to find me slumped on the mounting block. I tearfully explained the problem to her. “I think you need to have a chat with Sparky’s owner,” she said firmly. I gulped, would Sparky’s owner accuse me of doing a bad job?
I needn’t have worried in the end. Sparky’s owner, Rebecca, was lovely. She explained not to chase him when trying to catch him and to hide the headcollar behind my back. She told me how tying him up so short to groom only makes him grumpy and fidgety. She even showed me how to encourage him to stand still at the mounting block and we had another amazing ride afterwards.
Putting the work in
It took a lot of time and effort for me and Sparky to get to know and trust each other properly. Rebecca gave me plenty of tips for handling him on the ground and I had regular riding lessons with Lisa, too.
He was totally different to the riding school ponies I was used to and I fell off him a lot in the first few months! But I’m so glad I decided to stick with him, despite all the difficulties we went through. I’ve now been sharing him for more than six months and it really has been the best time of my life. I’ve even entered for our first dressage competition next month – I wonder if we’ll win our first rosette?! Wish us luck!