Nobody knows where my love of horses comes from. My Dad sometimes jokes that my first word was horse. It must be somewhere in my DNA though; I have a cousin who is equally horse obsessed. My cousin had a pony, and became an AI. She is a lot older than me, and grew up in Staffordshire, a long way from me in Devon. However, hand-me-down toys and books used to feed my enthusiasm. My cousins mum, and my mum, were the youngest daughters of a man called Harry Wakley. I hardly knew my grandad,as he died when I was very young, but I have been led to believe, that when he was a young man, he used to ride point to point. I have also heard a family rumour that he was in some way related to Richard Wakley, the jockey and racing pundit. I will never know if these things are true, but if they are, perhaps my DNA theory isn’t as daft as it sounds.
As a child, if toys, books and games didn’t involve horses, or possibly dogs, quite frankly I wasn’t interested. I read every book that the Pullien-Thompson sisters wrote, I practically new black beauty word for word, Learned about Australia through the eyes of the Silver Brumby, rode the range with My Friend Flicka, and read every pony care book I could lay my hands on, even before my parents gave up and let me start having riding lessons. I watched champion the wonder horse, Folly Foot, White Horses, Horses Galore, Horse In the House, and the adventures of Black Beauty. I would watch any western, be glued to the racing, and when I was 10 I wrote a letter of “complaintment” to the BBC because they kept putting showjumping on after I had to go to bed. Every Birthday, and every Christmas, I would ask for a pony. I never got one though. I did always get the black beauty Annual, The Follifoot Annual, and the Princess Tina pony book (I have absolutely no idea who princess Tina was)..
Growing up in the hinterland between the city of Plymouth and Dartmoor there were a lot of horses around. There were always moorland ponies, no designated the Dartmoor hill pony, and I used to dream about taming one to be my own personal playmate. However a boy in my class at primary school got kicked by one, and broke his leg, so I decided to give them a slightly wider birth from then on. Lots of people in our area had horses and ponies, and I would go running enthusiastically to stand on the back fence to watch them go by every time I heard the clip clop of hooves, dreaming that one day it would be me riding past on my own horse.
Of course there were people who I was very very impressed bye. Caroline Bradley, John Whitaker. Virginia Holgate (later Leng), Mark Todd; but it was the horses I was more influenced bye. Tigre with his unusual high tail carriage, Ryan’s Son, Priceless, Charisma. Later I became influenced more by people who advocated different ways of handling horses, such as Monty Roberts, pat Pirelli, and Mark Rashid.
Today I draw my inspirationfrom people who I admire on a personal level. My friend Amy who handles horses so quietly and confidently, and who never seems to get in a flap. Are riding instructor Melissa, Who can find the positive in every situation. Young Ben whose enthusiasm and can do attitude, remind me what it was like to be 11. Hal, Who always seems to manage stay calm when the chips are down, and who is not afraid to put me in my place when he thinks I am being unfair to the horses. Florence, Who, every time I sit on her back, makes me feel like I could take on the world.