Christmas. New Year. Family holidays. Trips away. Then back to work and a dozen pressing deadlines. In the midst of all this ‘life’ Dante gets left in the paddock more than he should, more than I consider ideal. He doesn’t mind of course. He hangs out with the herd, eating hay, dozing in the shade, rolling in the sand, flicking flies away. Sometimes he goes for a hoon around the paddock with his big brother and whoever else they can cajole into joining the fun. But as Dante’s sixth birthday approaches, I have to admit that my scrawny little green horse is scrawny no longer. He is quite obviously fat.
I think he actually looks quite good for it. His rump has rounded out – “That’s the Quarter Horse in him,” I say to doubtful friends. His ribs have disappeared under a layer of … I’ll call it flesh.
He’s not obese, but would definitely be a condition score 4. He’s spent most of his life below condition score 3. Somehow the extra weight makes him look more grown up. He has been slow to mature – physically and emotionally – but at six and a tad fat, he now looks grown up.
But he needs to lose weight. He needs to get fitter. Simply put, he needs more work. I’ve struggled to find the time to put into him. I live an hour away from his paddock, so every time I go to see my horses, I need a solid block of time to make it happen; two hours of my ‘horse time’ on each visit is consumed with getting to and from the paddock. Those solid blocks of four or five hours are not easy to find and I’ve struggled to find more than two a week, juggling other commitments of family, work and life in general with horses.
As 2019 dawned and my fat horses (my old girl Floss is fat too, but she is always fat so I worry less about that!), I thought that maybe I needed to rethink how and why I was doing this whole horse scene. Perhaps I should consider selling or leasing them out. Our little Welsh pony is off on lease and that’s going very well. Maybe Floss and Dante should move on as well. Perhaps I need to cut my losses and move on; accept that for now I live in the city and horses are a difficult fit with my current situation.
I turn it around in my head, dreaming of what else I could do. Think of the time and money I’d have if I didn’t have horses! Ideas drift in and out of my head. But here’s the thing: if I had extra time and money, the thing I would most want to do would be to get a horse or two.
Clearly, I’m a lost cause. Certified horse nut. I’ll keep my horses. I’ll find a way. I want the joy of that raised head and ears turned my way when I pull up at the paddock. I want the smell of them and the joy of sneaking off for a mid-week ride, or the occasional few stolen days away with horses and friends. I’ll find a way to give them more exercise. I’ll continue to slowly work on Dante becoming less green.
So I hatch a plan. I can’t ride Dante enough to get him fit and strong so I bite the bullet and enlist the help of Rachel, the talented teenager at my agistment centre, to ride him in between the visits my daughter Lauren and I make to our horses.
Boot camp time. Dante, you’re six now. Time to grow up.
Green pony chronicles the adventures of Jill Griffiths and her young horse, Dante, who Jill ‘accidentally’ bought as a yearling in 2014. The first instalment appeared in Horses and People magazine in February 2016 and the series has continued in every issue.
Today it’s just me and the horses. No one else is around. I go into the paddock and say hello to the herd one by one – Tango, the beautiful, athletic palomino; Magic, the retired Standardbred; Cruiser, young fit and curious; Floss, my old girl, eyeing me to see if I have carrots and not very interested in me if I don’t; and Dante, my young boy, my green pony.