For many a little girl, the cliche Pony Obsessive Years start around, perhaps 7 or 8?
Earlier, obviously if One is lucky enough to have Pony Folk as Parents.
Some of my earliest, strongest friendships (and I realise now, the bulk of my current, most profound friendships) may have started with but were certainly cemented by Ponies.
Myself & my Young Pony Gal Pals bonded over:
🐴 'Have you ever Cantered?',
🐴Pony Story Books (Jill & her a million Pony books - enabled me to reassure my parents that I was TOTALLY going to be able to finance a pony on my gymkhana winnings. And lemonade stands.
Even though we didn't really have regular Gymkhanas, and they didn't give prize money. And I've never made lemonade in my life),
🐴Showing off Naming Parts of the Bridle, whilst de' & then re'constructing one
🐴The covering of bedroom walls and doors with pony pictures from a multitude of pony magazines
🐴Fantasies of The Pony We Will Have One Day (FYI that Palomino never did show up)
🐴Multiple drawings of stable blocks with every pony named
🐴Conversion of bedroom doors into stable doors with some stick-on poster (this was the ACTUAL one I had.)
🐴Hours of cleaning & oiling the foulest and filthiest of School Tack. Pfffft. Nobody called it Child Exploitation back then. We loved it & couldn't get enough of it.
🐴Hours of helping out in lessons for Beginners, just waiting for the nod for the Instructor (who we ALLLLL worshipped. My love of silver bangles, I KNOW came from my 1st Riding Instructor)
🐴Hours of pretend lessons - each of us taking turns to be the Instructor (see above), whilst the others trotted or cantered on our 'naughty' ponies in a circle around her.
🐴Hours of Showjumping course construction - sometimes out of sunbeds, sometimes flowerpots, brooms & pea sticks. Once, a lawnmower. Perhaps Arena Eventing was invented in my grandparent's garden in the early 80s?
🐴Hours of cantering imaginary naughty, snorting, refusing ponies, who sometimes went clear but sometimes unfathomably would have a pole down around the above showjumping course*
*to date, imaginary is the only kind of showjumping course I've ever done, clear or otherwise)
🐴Sometimes if Showjumping was on telly, my mount was the back of the sofa, with stirrups made of 3 belts and reins out of a 4th. We had many a successful Hickstead this way, Sofa & I.
🐴The hours till the Weekend were counted down. The routine of 'all day, every day' at the Stables was sacrosanct
But then, for many, there is a point when The Pony Girl Life stops.
It might be school pressures, perhaps moving to University.
Perhaps an unpleasant injury (my case).
Certainly, when one stops being bank-rolled by the Parents, Ponies do often take a back seat for a while.
But, y'know, for many of us, they never get out of the car completely.
You glance up at the rear mirror and there they are - smelling all gorgeous, soft whiskery muzzles at the ready - just waiting.
Till you find your way BACK to PonyLand.
And you find your way to Grown Up Pony Pals.
But the most amazing thing about your Grown Up Pony Pals is .... that when you are together, you AREN'T grown ups at all.
Our inner pony-obsessive 12 year old girls rise to the surface again. We recognise each other joyfully and FINALLY we get to speak to each other in a way we can speak with no one else.
We aren't Mums or Wives or Teachers or PAs or other such terribly grown up things.
Together we are those 12 year old girls again.
(apart from the imaginary show jumping courses, cos lots of us have, y'know, sciatica and bad knees and shit now)
🐴We'll talk about our ponies, each others' ponies, for hours.
🐴We'll watch pony stuff on telly for hours (granted, this often is accessorised by a Something & Tonic and gorgeous nibbles)
🐴We go out and have adventures together - sometimes there are ribbons to bring home, sometimes there aren't.
🐴We celebrate each other's victories (& we know what they are, however small they might seem to someone outside the Inner Circle)
🐴We love & watch over each other's ponies as if they were our own - we know their personalities, quirks and trials.
- We shove them onto horseboxes cos "Enough is enough dickhead, we are all bloody knackered now. Let's just go home".
- We stay out of range of certain teeth.
- We roll our eyes at their annoying door kicking. And then, give them a carrot.
- We worry if we hear one of Us has a tummy-ache.
We know what that means to a Pony Person.
- We send Whatsapps about the appearance of Poo.
- We worry with each other & We help calm each other down.
- We ask help from each other. And we give it freely
And we also cry together and we share the sad times.
Shoulder to shoulder.
When One of Us has to say goodbye to their Pony, the 12 year Old Girls weep.
We weep for the Little PonyGirl who has just lost Her Pony SoulMate.
We weep with Her and we weep for Her.
And We weep for ourselves.
For we have lost one of Us.
Until we all meet up again by the Big Polo-Patch in the Sky.
Just don't expect me to canter there either.