Saturday, 11 May 2013
Gypsy, Part 1
Gypsy was the pony that started it all. I was 11 and super shy and unconfident. I was on a girls softball team and made a friend who happened to love horses, just like me. The difference was she actually had a pony to ride and spent her weekends 'at the ranch'. I desperately wanted to be a part of that but was way too scared to ask my parents for permission, not to mention the funds. Luckily, my friends mom interpreted the situation correctly and convinced my mom to let me give it a try.
We showed up at the barn one weekend and walked inside. The barn was a work of art. Completely hand built from lumber off the property, it was a traditional style with a row of stalls on either side of a wide centre aisle way. Over the stalls were haylofts, and way above them,over the centre aisle, was a third hayloft. The stalls were filled with about 20 or so horses and ponies of various sizes and descriptions. I was in heaven.
It was rare for me to see even one horse in real life, this was almost overwhelming! Again, luck was on my side because the ranch owner took one look at me, asked me if I liked horses and was willing to work hard. Of course I said yes! With a few perfunctory introductions, she shuttled my mom out to the car, told her to come back at 5:00, and sent her on her way.I would be able to work on the ranch in exchange for the lease of a pony.
My first job was to go out to the field and catch the pony I would be riding. Armed with a vague description, off I went to catch my new pony. Gypsy took one look at me and quietly walked off, keeping a 10 foot distance between her and I. All the other girls had their ponies in the barn
already, preparing for the days rides. I kept walking, and walking, and walking some more, for what felt like eternity. Surely the barn owner would 'fire' me if I couldn't even catch my pony? Finally, Gypsy stopped and let me approach her.I put her halter on, mentally visualizing the 'how to' pictures I'd seen in the horse books I'd checked out of the library. Armed with a great sense of accomplishment, I led Gypsy to the barn. When I arrived at the barn, the barn owner let out a bit of a surprised laugh. I had caught the wrong pony! Seeing the look of dismay on my face, she quickly assured me Gypsy would be just fine and if I wanted to ride her, she'd be a good horse for a girl like me. She added that no one had been able to catch Gypsy before. They usually relied on letting her into the barn for her morning feeding along with the rest of the herd and simply leaving her in if she was going to be needed that day. It was decided she must like me.
As a horse crazy 11 year old, I soaked that right up. Having read the Black Stallion numerous times, I knew that of course my pony would trust only me! Close up, I looked at my new pony. Even to my uneducated eye, Gypsy was no Black Stallion. An elderly black and white pinto standing around 14hh ('she looks just like a cow!', the girls would tease) with a short neck and a big head and feet, she was homely at best. Those feet were also shaped pretty funny, but my ignorant eye couldn't have told you they were the marks of repeated laminitic episodes.
Before I got to groom Gypsy, I was warned not to tie her and not to ever use a whip near her. She had been tied and badly beaten numerous times at her previous home. The local horse community had stepped in and found Gypsy a place at the ranch, which was a trail riding business for the most part.I wish I could say she lived happily ever after, but looking back I remember her having more of a defeated air than anything else. Nevertheless, I understood Gypsy. I'm pretty sure people then would have described me with similar words.
Considered ugly by the majority, to me she was a miracle, a dream come true. She gave me freedom, security and confidence. What could be more beautiful than that?
to be continued :)