Sunday afternoon trail riding. Me on old Floss; my teenage daughter Lauren on young, green Dante, which is becoming the way we go.
Four years ago, when I bought Dante as a yearling, I thought I’d bought him for myself, but as he has grown up, so too has Lauren. She’s outgrown her little Welsh pony who has now gone off on free lease. We are down to just Floss and Dante, and Lauren loves Dante best.
Floss is mine; really my dream pony – the little chestnut with a white blaze and socks that I dreamed of as a child and finally got in my forties.
Dante was meant to be my replacement for her when she retired but, rising 23, Floss is still sound and strong, a feisty little mare who loves being out on the trail. And I can’t deny that Lauren handles Dante beautifully. She rides him with the calm assurance of fear-free youth, her young hands soft on the reins, her seat secure, her adrenaline slow to rise. Unlike me, she has no fear.
They are a good match, Lauren and Dante, but Lauren lacks time, busy now with the final years of school and other commitments. During the week, when I take time away from my desk, Dante becomes mine again, but on weekends, he is hers.
On the trail, some horses in the adjoining paddock gallop up to the fence to check us out as we pass. They are bucking and cavorting, all tossed manes and streaming tails. Their rug buckles rattle and their hooves pound. Dante spooks. Spins to watch. Prances. Lauren sits deep, gives him a moment to look, then gently guides him away, mini-serpentines on the trail to engage his feet. His mind follows. He is back with her, on the job. We walk on.
Later he jumps at the shadow of a windmill where it falls across the trail.
“Why is he so spooky?” she asks, stroking his neck and murmuring to reassure him.
“I’m not sure. Maybe the weather,” I say, noticing storm clouds gathering on the horizon and the breeze picking up. “Or maybe he’s just coming to realise what a scary big world it is.” We walk on.
In another paddock kids zip in and out among bushes on quad bikes, appearing and disappearing, the high-pitched hum of the engines incessant. A barking dog runs along keeping them company.
Dante spooks again. Head high. Eyes wide. Nostrils flared. Flight beckoning. Lauren sits deep, circles him around with one rein, quickly regains control, and puts his feet to work again.
I watch them both, watch them working together, learning together. He listens to her, responding instantly as she asks him for small circles one way and the other. His breathing slows. He calms. Adrenaline dissipates. We walk on.
“What are you smiling at?” she asks me.
I shrug. “Nothing really,” I say. “Just smiling.” We walk on.
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 in February 2016 and the series continues monthly.