By Lizzie Hopkinson
One of the best ponies that I ever had was already a teenager when he came to us. We had found him in Wales, he was skinny, lame, fairly blind and I fell in love him with. My mother had him vetted. The vet told her he wouldn’t last very long, and not to touch him. So, we carried on looking, but, he was the only pony that had made me feel confident. Eventually my mother, ignoring the vet’s advice bought him for a reduced price. Every other person who had been to view him had been told not to buy him by the vet. She got him very cheap, and then spent the money she had budgeted for a pony on getting him fit and healthy.
She transformed him from a skinny wreck to a gleaming perfect looking pony. He was, she says, the best pony she ever bought. I competed him all through pony club, inter-schools, he taught my many cousins to ride and was endlessly patient. He was the best of ponies, the sort of pony that would go incredibly slowly in every pace for nervous riders, then gradually as their confidence increased so would his speed. He took many riders from terrified to brave with the same technique.
In his old age my mother used to lend him to children who had lost their confidence. He would be despatched off at the correct weight with a list of what he needed to be fed. The weight would stay on him till the child got their confidence. At this point he would then turn into a galloping machine and run off all the weight. This was when he would then come back home, and my mother would patiently fatten him up again before sending him off to the next scared child.
Gradually it took longer and longer to get the weight back on him, and finally we could no longer keep any weight on him. By this time, he was in his late 20s. I wished I could have rung the vet who had told my mother not to buy him some 15 years earlier and shown him that you can have many fantastic years with an old horse as long as you care for them.
He was the perfect example of what you can achieve with a good team of professionals. At that time, people in general didn’t collect a team of professionals to care for their horses. Most people had the vet and the farrier, but that was it, especially as far as ponies went. But my mother collected a dentist, a back-person, an acupuncturist, a saddler, a farrier and a vet. And that team of professionals kept that old pony, that had been written off by the vet, going for another 15 years.
I’m not advocating ignoring your vet, but it was a perfect example of what you can achieve with a fantastic team of professionals behind you.
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