If you have a Pussycat, a Treacle, a Candy and a Bridget, a posse of other riding school ponies and oft times a box of Golden Retriever puppies, as well as an obligatory tolerance for teenage hormones, you may be bestowed with the honorary title of Mother Hen. I was.
In another life, starting around 27 years ago, I began with a potato field ,an enterprise that grew into a veritable monster, a full blown Equestrian Centre that began as a little Riding School. The clientele flocked and before long I could not leave the house without a string of children, from toothless to hormonal, at my heels. Following me was a means to an end….. a pony. Apart from my own brood of one son and three daughters, husband, and a live-in father, my maternal instincts and love of horses assured us all of a constant presence of pony-mad children.
They were happy days and special times for many people, including ourselves.
Enterprising is the word, for cash was short and ingenuity was never far away to stay ahead of the game.
We used to make an annual pilgrimage to the East Midlands County Showground; the largest show solely for ponies and horses I know of. A whole week of indulgence, hoof oil, plaiting thread, timetables, brow-bands, successes and disappointments.
One of our livery clients with us one year, Louise, hugely successful in her own right now, was struggling with her confidence and ring-craft. Her father asked me to be firmer with her when we worked the horse before her class. Louise’s problem was she couldn’t stop her cob, Riff-Raff, after the obligatory gallop. Duly encouraged and sent into the ring to ‘strut her stuff’. Well, she certainly did get to gallop, and the judge, fortunately, was looking the opposite way as she took some time to ‘pull him up’. The end result was a place in the evening finale. Despite the horse’s exuberance she certainly merited her place in the evening performance.
We tickled around and beautified the horse, his tack was impeccable, his coat shone like no other and his rider…….didn’t have the correct top hat and tails! So we begged and borrowed (we didn’t steal) and in the final moments the hat went on……..and dropped over her eyes ! Yikes !
Louise was distraught. What could we do ? Can we find another one now, at this last minute?
I ran into our horse-box and pulled out the very thing to ensure a snug fit and not too much discomfort for her head. A lovely big night-time sanitary towel, ‘Always’. Just the thing! Oh what a fuss! No, she wasn’t going to wear the hat with that inside! What if it fell off and the thing came out. ‘Well’, I said, ‘they’ll say « Oh, Pat’s here again »’ ! More encouragement from the sidelines, more lipstick, more rouge for the cheeks and a slap on the bottom ( for the horse) and away she went. No turning back.
Tense moments, and again, she galloped and showed her horse off so well we could applaud no more. Such success is so sweet, especially when your hat stays in place !
When, in 2003, we decided to move on to a quieter life, (Ha Ha) our clients, past and present, each presented us with a book of memories, ……. a wonderful reminder of special times with some extraordinary and special people. More of them later.
At the beginning of the book of photos of past livery clients and their horse/pony , is a lovely picture of Louise and Riff-Raff ready to enter the ring that evening….and the offending article inside her hat. The inscription is as follows………..
Those were the days, those Happy Days, when you were our ‘Mother Hen’.
We will remember you ‘Always’.