I used to ride when I was younger but hadn’t really learned much about horses then. I (like a lot of young girls) had a dream of owning my own pony/horse but it just wasn’t possible at that time. I started riding again about eight months or so before I got Obi but what I knew about horses could have been written on the back of a postage stamp with room to spare. I first met him back in 2007 just before he turned 8. I’d been looking to buy a weight-carrying cob-type for a little while but not having a lot of luck – most of them were bought within 24 hours of being advertised and as I was working, my time was a bit limited for getting to view them. One day, during a quiet period at work, I discovered Freeads where it was free to place a wanted ad. A little voice inside me told me to compose an ad detailing what I was looking for, so I did. Within 20 minutes, I had a phone call from one of the daughters of Obi’s owner. That must have been Kismet.
I broke all the rules when I got him and just went on my gut feeling: I didn’t ask anyone’s advice before going; I didn’t take a horse-knowledgeable person with me; I rode him around a field to “try him out” (anyone who knew me was gobsmacked that I’d got on an unknown horse and ridden it). I fell in love. Completely. Just over a week later, he had flown through his vet inspection so I arranged to pick him up and brought to his first home with me. I was very fortunate in that the yard where I took my riding lessons did working livery so they took good care of him while I learned what I needed.
He needed schooling when he arrived as he was still a little green but, as I was about to go and work abroad for a year and would only be back in the UK for occasional weekends, that wasn’t an issue so I left him in their hands and they did their magic. He did quite a lot of work while he was on working livery so he was fully hogged and clipped. The first time he was hogged, I bawled like a baby when they were done: Although he looked very handsome, he didn’t look like my boy any more. It didn’t change who he was, just my perception of him. It was the most practical thing for him at the time and he was much more comfortable.
He has been, and continues to be, a very good teacher for me. He knew that I was also very green in the horse owning stakes. I lost count of the number of injuries I received from being pulled all over the place, especially when taking him back to the paddock. Every single blade of grass on the short 1/4 mile journey had to be inspected and, preferably, eaten. I used to turn up at work on a Monday morning with bruises covering my arms. He’d barge into me all the time, walk away from me in the paddock when I went to collect him and generally buggered me about chronically. Let me say here and now that there was absolutely nothing malicious in this – he has always been cheeky and mischievous with more personality than any horse has a right to have. He just had to teach me a lot of lessons, mostly about myself. What I learned first was that I was a completely soft pushover. I listened, read, questioned, googled and watched and pulled loads of information and snippets from anywhere I could get them.
“It takes a couple of years to bond with your horse properly”
That’s what they told me. In my opinion at the time, it would be far less for me. Life was viewed with distinctly rose-coloured spectacles.
Needless to say, I was wrong. They were right.
There were times when I’d be in tears coming home from the yard after a particular bout of “bad behaviour”, wondering why I was so utterly useless with my horse and wondering what I’d done wrong. I got the teacher I needed rather than the teacher I wanted and I learned way more than I’d bargained for, mainly about myself. Some of the stuff I didn’t want to learn but I absolutely had to! I didn’t give up learning and asking questions and he didn’t give up educating me. I moved him to a yard closer to home about five years ago (1/2 mile instead of 15) and he’s in communal barn livery with up to 10 other geldings. He lives in all winter and out all summer. He loves working as much as he loves doing nothing and I still sometimes have to pinch myself when I think how lucky I am to have him. I’ve learned how to become calm and breathe properly when he tells me I’m being an idiot (much less frequently now). I’ve learned how quickly he synchronises with my mood and reflects it back to me, how sensitive he is to the slightest shift of a muscle when I’m on his back, how quickly he loses his confidence with an unassertive rider on his back and heads for home irrespective of what’s being asked of him and what a beautiful mover he is for a big horse when he’s being ridden properly! After eight years, we’re still both learning and I don’t think we’ll stop as long as we’re together. I understand him much better now and whenever I become complacent about anything to do with him, he takes out the Human Owner’s Handbook and refreshes my memory for me.
My heart swells with love and pride every single time I see him. He will be with me until they day he takes his last breath. I cannot imagine my life without him.