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Friday 22 September 2017

One little pony's plea after a hard year working her way off Santa's naughty list

Saffron’s Christmas wish is for Santa to make the festive season a happy one at Searrach Grove Stables after a delightful year of actvities
Saffron’s Christmas wish is for Santa to make the festive season a happy one at Searrach Grove Stables after a delightful year of actvities

I hope this letter finds you well. I have been nominated by the other equine inhabitants of Searrach Grove Stables to write on their behalf.

DEAR SANTA,

Our owner Claire says we've all been terribly well behaved this past year -- with the emphasis on "terrible". I'm sure I don't know what she meant.

Personally I think I've had my best year yet. I began 2013 as just another bold, scruffy pony but I was recently elevated to "a little dinger", a position which is granted to very few ponies, I'm told.

What did I do to deserve this promotion, you might ask?

Well, to be honest, it was quite confusing at times. My journey to redemption began one summer's day when Claire was overheard muttering about "getting that mare pony to earn her keep". Needless to say, I pinned my ears flat back on my head, imagining all kinds of horrible torture that was to be inflicted on me.

Within minutes, I had been tacked up and Claire put the heart crossways on me by putting her foot in the stirrup. I'm only 13hh and -- not to put too fine a point on it -- Claire's not known for avoiding the dessert menu.

DELINQUENT

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After a few minutes of me staggering around the yard under 'she who must be obeyed', she got off again, thanks be to God. But that was only the start of it all. Apparently her ladyship had been expecting me to buck her off and when I didn't, I sealed my own fate.

What followed is known as Operation Pony Club, a covert mission in which Claire would attempt to convert me from an cheeky, overweight Thelwell-style delinquent into a sleek, svelte child's show pony -- complete with shining halo.

For days I was tacked up and driven in long reins around the highways and byways of Tipperary, stopping only when Claire gave her express permission.

We marched past tractors, across streams, up banks and over drains. I would infuriate her ladyship by taking every opportunity to snatch a handful of grass from the riverbank and I was loaded into the horsebox and taken back out again.

I was tied to the wall outside my stable for no good reason, washed with a hose and had the humiliation of having my mane pulled.

It often crossed my mind that I should complain to the union but I was so exhausted at the end of each session that I promptly fell asleep in the straw.

As I shed the pounds, Claire took to the bike and I kept pace with her in a spanking trot.

I was fitted with shiny new shoes -- complete with road studs so I wouldn't slip -- and I started to prance whenever I saw the saddle being carried from the tackroom. After six weeks of fitness training, Claire announced that I was ready for Phase Two.

Needless to say, I pinned my ears back again, afraid that Ten Tonne Tessie was about to mount up again.

You can imagine my sigh of relief when she arrived at the yard the following day with nine-year-old Sarah in tow. "That's more like it," I thought to myself.

NEIGHBOUR

I was tacked up as usual but this time my nearest neighbour Maxwell was also tacked up.

Maxwell is 14 years old and he's been around the block a few times at this stage. (Don't tell him I said that please!)

The whole gang -- Claire, Maxwell, Sarah and myself -- were to ride out together. Well, what a fantastic idea! Sarah was a little bit nervous at the beginning but I soon convinced her I was going to look after her.

I stood rock-steady when cars past, trotted steadily behind Maxwell without breaking rank and gave my very best impression of a well-mannered equine.

On the way home, we even went for a bit of a "yee-haw" canter up the laneway. Sarah was under strict instructions to "Run her up Maxwell's bum if you think she's going to get away on you" from Claire. I was quite miffed at the insinuation that I would do such a thing.

Well, the past few months have all been a bit of blur since that day. I've been so busy it would make your head spin.

I've been prancing around "doing dressage", which basically involves walking and trotting at different letters randomly spread around the haggard at Claire's house.

Sometimes I have to trot over poles on the ground and other times I have to walk between them while Claire shouts about serpentine loops (she obviously didn't listen to her history teacher in school -- everyone knows St Patrick got rid of those).

She's got a fairly morbid sense of humour too -- she keeps threatening to bring me to the local cross-country course to see me "over a coffin". I don't find it particularly amusing.

MOUNTAIN

On the plus side, I've been allowed to go to several parties, officially known as fun rides, in which a large number of adults and children take their horses and ponies up the mountain for hours at a time.

I wasn't allowed to hang around with the other ponies at first because Claire said I was "an unknown quantity" in a group. What she meant by that was that it was unclear whether I was going to kick the living daylights out of everyone else in the group.

Honestly, she could have just asked. I don't want to kick anyone but I do reserve the right to discipline any pony that tries to walk on top of me. Stay back 2ft and you'll be grand.

After our second week, Sarah and I were allowed to mingle with the rest of the gang. We had great fun jumping up and down the banks and cantering up the hills. Sarah is a great little jockey and we jumped everything in sight. I felt sorry for some of the other ponies whose riders would slip out of the saddle if they so much as took a sideways step.

I thought the fun rides were the best thing since sliced bread until recently when I got to go hunting with Sarah's older brother Paul.

I had watched every Sunday as Maxwell and all the other big horses were washed, plaited, polished and preened before being loaded up in the horseboxes, only to return at the end of the day sweaty, dirty and happily exhausted.

Paul and I spent the day charging across stubble fields in pursuit of a mystery fellow called Charlie, who was clearly playing hide and seek with us.

We would dash from one field to another, stopping to listen for the hounds and then gallop on again. It was so exhilarating that we nearly passed Claire and Maxwell (note to self -- do not try that again).

That evening, Claire told me I was "a right little dinger". I looked it up on www.slang.ie and apparently a dinger is something very reliable so I'm hoping that means I've been transferred from your naughty list to the nice list as a result this Christmas Santa.

Please find attached the wish list for the horses in Searrach Grove Stables. We promise to be so good in 2014 if you visit us.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS,

SAFFRON

STABLE 3

SEARRACH GROVE STABLES

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