My love became a passion


In 1961, having recovered from a traumatic illness my parents were advised to take me for a holiday, where I could convalesce. My parents had always been keen campers and lovers of the outdoors. As we lived in Newcastle, they thought maybe two weeks holiday to Polperro, Cornwall would be nice.  In those days, we camped on farmland, pitching a tent in a field which wasn’t always free of animals. Unlike the commercial holidays of today. My father drove the whole way down from Newcastle, in his little black Austin A40, which was his pride and joy. On this occasion, we parked in a farmers field having asked for permission on arrival. My father removed the tent from the top of the car. It was a heavy green canvas, which meant we all had to muck in but it didn’t take long and soon it was up.  We filler the burner with paraffin lit it and sat the kettle upon the flames. The kettle was soon whistling a tune and ready for a well-earned pot of tea.  Meanwhile, my mum and I unpacked the car and our sleeping bags were prepared for later. We had the use of washing facilities but they were minimal in those days. Once outside of the tent, the sun was rising and the dark clouds from the early morning light had disappeared but the temperature was warm. After we finished our tea, I went exploring and I was delighted to find a brook, a little way from the tent with small willow trees along its banks. The countryside was idyllic with high hedges on either side of the very narrow roads. Usually, it rained on our first-nights arrival and on this occasion we arrived around lunchtime.  After a short walk, I could smell the bacon cooking on the burner whiff past my nose, which drew me back towards our tent and we sat on our waterproof cushioned seats and munched our bacon rolls. Boy o boy did they taste good!

As the days progressed, I became a little braver and I learned that there was an Equine Stud and Riding School a little down the road. At, this point I had no experience with horses or ponies so I was very excited. I took a walk along the road one day and a black horse came over to see me. He was enormous to me and was jet black all over. This was the day I met the owner, Her name was Cathy and we became good friends. I went out riding, with her one day on a grey horse called Hannah and occasionally, I rode another called Vida. Vida was more forward going and so Cathie suggested staying on Hannah, which I did. I spent every free minute I had with Hannah and enjoyed many hours out riding, much to my mum’s disgust. In her mind, she had almost lost me once and this new interest was going to have unexpected repercussions in her mind. She was not used to animals and these tall, long-necked beasts where terrifying to her and she always kept her distance. However, a seed was planted during the holiday and my love of this new hobby was growing at a fast pace and by the end of the two weeks, I was hooked.

On return home, I started going to a riding school near my home. It wasn’t as nice as Cornwall, but we rode around the Town Moor like cow boy’s n Indians which was fine. The pony I rode was a grey Welsh Mountain, called Silver. Due to my parents not being wealthy or landowners I could only ride on occasion as we didn’t have much money. I made up my mind to save up all the pocket money I had, to pay for my lessons which in those days was 10 bob, per ride out for an hour. I befriended some people who lived near my home with competition ponies and horses. I learned to groom, tack up and look after them. Occasionally, they would give me a ride. By the time I was fourteen, I was thinking long-term about the horses.  My mum was in a major panic about them and me. However, I was determined and eventually, mum said they would buy me a horse and I could keep it a little closer to home.  However, after serious thinking, I decided I wanted to learn how to care for horses properly and also be a better rider.  With this in mind, my knowledge began to grow with every experience. I took a weekend job working with hunters whilst I was still at school. The horses were enormous but they were hired out for hunting with the gentry. Having left school my first job was working with hunters during the Autumn and winter season. Later when hunters were turned out to grass, the ponies came in for handling and showing in hand and I stayed two seasons.  I went to Yorkshire and worked with small Welsh Section A but moved north to the Scottish borders later that year. Here I continued my horsemanship on with all levels, completing NPS Diploma.  I learned a great deal from the head groom at the castle. I handled and broke all youngsters for a dear old lady and her husband and also her friends. I loved my job, I was passionate about them all. No job was too big, or too small. I worked for all kinds of people and they all gave me amazing recommendations. I moved around working, breaking, handling youngstock of all kinds. I even looked after a farmers dairy cows whilst his manager went on holiday for two weeks, milking cows in the early hours and when finished feeding piglets, taking milk to dairy and separating the cream for making into butter and cheese for the main house. I still did my horses in between. I worked with racehorses, Point-to-Pointers, breaking horses and ponies into traps. Schooling young horses for other people. which I loved, I did showing in hand and under saddle. winning rosettes galore.

“And that, dear reader, is how a 45-year career in working with horses began.”