by Livvy


Horse Dealing is a very risky thing, and when I found out about Spirit, my new pony, I realized it can also be very dangerous. I thought breaking in a horse would be the easiest thing in the world, but I couldn’t have been more wrong...

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted a pony of my own. After years of begging, my mum finally agreed, and the very next day, I began my search for the perfect pony. We visited many horses, but none of them felt quite right, I was devastated, I thought it would be easy finding a horse, but it was the complete opposite.

Eventually, I found an advert at the back of my local feed shop. The shop was a run down place, badly painted, with thin flea-bitten horses outside. I had never liked the place, but since it was the only local shop, and it was cheap, I had to put up with it. I had always felt that there was something odd about it, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. The horse I found was a 14hh 9 year old mare. The advert said:

Safe, reliable and fun. Spirit loves hacking and is perfect for a novice, wanting more confidence. Spirit loves jumping and has a very loving nature, she loves other horses and is great in traffic. She is an amazing jumper and you will win hundreds of rosettes with her. Very sad sale, £3500

She was perfect. Just what I was looking for. But she was £3500, highly above our price range. But she was nearby, so my mum gave in and we arranged to see her. There hadn’t been a photo on the advert so I spent a few hours thinking of what she what be like. I imagined a flashy chestnut with a long white blaze, or a jet black show jumper, or a snow white beauty with dark points.

My heart was beating as we drove up the narrow road to Spirit’s owners council house. As we drew up at the small run down bungalow, I looked out for Spirit, but I couldn’t see her, and, as we got out of the car, I was beginning to wonder if there actually was a Spirit. But then I saw her. She stood in a small, ramshackle stable in the far corner of a small field that was filled with weeds. I bet you are expecting her to be scruffy with a tangled mane?! But she was far from it. She was tall, with long, slim legs and an arched neck. Her sleek dapple-grey coat shone from the sun and her dark eyes locked into mine.

She was darker grey down her legs until lower leg was almost black, and she had dark grey points around her eyes and nose. She moved towards me with long, graceful movements and stopped a few meters away from the fence. Suddenly, the sound of a front door opening sounded in the morning air and a small round man came out of the house, and made his way over.

“So you’ve met ‘er?!” He grunted in a gruff voice and held out a hand. I didn’t take it. He had a bald head and in his left ear was a gold ring. I disliked him at once. He looked at me with cold, blue eyes and smiled without warmth. I didn’t smile back. My mother was the first to break the silence.

“She is seems a very lovely horse, shall we go inside and discuss her sale?”

“Sure, and the girl can stay here, the ‘orse would love some attention” He said this with a smirk in his voice and I glowered at him. He, who we later found out was called Bill, went inside with my mother, leaving me with Spirit. The beautiful creature who stood before me, turned and sunk her dark eyes into mine, and then, after a second, a single heartbeat, she shook her long dark mane and took a shaky step towards me. Only a gate stood between myself and Spirit. I reached out a hand, and, as if she had read my mind, Spirit swung round and galloped off into the shelter of the trees.

I called out to her, but to no avail, I also tried tricking her by offering a handful of pony nuts, but she wouldn’t come. She had obviously never been handled before, and was frightened of human contact. She had no head collar, just a thin chain hanging from her stable, but that was broken in half. Bill must have lied on the advert, there was no way a horse like Spirit was the same as the one advertised. It had said she was nine, but this horse was only about four. She had probably never been backed before, let alone stroked or brushed. I gave up on her, so, I thought, I might as well have a snoop around. I slunk round the side of the house and looked through the plastic window.

My mother was busy signing papers and drinking tea, and Bill’s back was turned. That was the only window at the side of the house, so when I got past it, I was free to run. I ran to the back of the house but the grass stopped at the edge of a road behind the house. After the road was a field and after that was nothing but an old farmhouse.

I turned away and walked back to Spirit’s field. She was still standing there, looking at me from the trees, but now she was standing a little bit closer to me. I turned just as Mum and Bill came out of the front door, carrying papers.

“Okay, honey, Spirit’s yours!” I turned to her and smiled, but inside my heart turned cold.

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by Livvy

It was surprisingly easy to get Spirit into the trailer. At first, she refused to come over, but she did come when I produced a carrot from my jeans pocket and held it out to her. She stood quietly after that, and even let me slip a new head collar over her noble head. She allowed me to lead her too the ramp and and load her in.

I was secretly pleased and, as we drove home, a tiny flicker of hope glowed through me, and I thought that maybe there was a chance I could train and break in Spirit. I kept looking over the back of the Land Rover into the trailer and my new pony, Spirit. She was standing, quietly, in the corner, back facing me.

“Spirit’s very quiet, is she alright?” Mum called from the front seat.

“Yes, I think she’s fine, I don’t think she has ever been in a trailer before, though!” I replied.

“She was very well behaved for a first timer, though, wasn’t she?”

“Yes, she was amazing, I can’t wait to ride her” I said, and I really meant it. I did want to ride her, and I was sure I could break her in.

The field where we were to keep Spirit, was a two minute cycle from our cottage. It was half an acre and the grass was long and weedy. We had got it very cheap, £30 as the Farmer was selling it as quickly as he could, because his farm was moving. It was surrounded by three fields, which I secretly planned to use one to train Spirit in, one to jump in, and one as extra.

Before we had got Spirit, we had bought the field. It had been there for a few years, and I had always noticed the other fields, and no one else used them, so I am sure no one will mind if I ride in them. We stopped off at the field and unloaded Spirit. She was very good as I lead her into her new paddock and unclipped her head collar. She trotted round her field and then settled down to graze in a far corner. Mum left me to sort her out and unpack her old tack and muddy second-hand red rug, to put in the Tack Room, which was a small brick roofed room by the paddock.

There was also small stable, but only the bottom half of the door was there, we would have to fix that. I unpacked Spirit’s tack and I found an old saddle rack, where I placed her second-hand leather saddle. We had bought it from my old yard, where I had rode a 14hh bay mare called Py, so the saddle was a quite a lot smaller than Spirit. We had also got a bridle, faded brown, with a black noseband. I hung up her winter rug on a hook, and shut the door of the Tack Room. I gazed, thoughtfully, at Spirit, she was standing beneath the shelter of the trees and she must have sensed me watching, as she looked at up and whinnied. I called out to her and held out a handful of pony nuts.

Spirit’s tail whisked, and she shook her head, and trotted, briskly over. Again, she stopped a few meters from me, but this time, after a minute, she walked, boldly, straight up to the gate. I reached out a hand, and Spirit didn’t pull away, but walked closer, and let me brush my fingertips, lightly over her velvet nose. Her nostrils quivered, but she stayed with me. I moved closer, but she snorted and took a step away from me. She swayed her head, and cantered back to her grazing spot. I sighed, but inside I was much happier.

Spirit had let me stroke her, and because it was the holidays, I could spend every day, for eight weeks with her. I had eight weeks to break Spirit in. I said goodbye to the grey pony, who carried on grazing, and walked back along the cobbled road to my house. Our house is surrounded by pine trees and bushes, so our little cottage, with the red front door, is about the only bright thing around. My room was surprisingly big with a sloped ceiling and a crate, where a fire once burnt, long ago.

There was a small damp patch on the ceiling when, a few winters back, it has rained so hard that rain had gone through the thatched roof and into my room. My old walk-in wardrobe stood lowly and battered in it’s corner. My small bed, with it’s red horsey duvet and quilt, stood also in a corner that had a little alcove next to it, where I had a stack of horse and pony books.

There was a bunch of tattered cushions in the corner, where I sat every night, reading up about Horse care, pony club, grooming and training. I stood there looking at the pile where I used to sit and long for a pony. And now I had Spirit.

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by Livvy

The next day, the sun shone through my red and yellow curtains. I threw the covers over my head, it was the summer holidays. Eight whole weeks with Spirit, eight weeks to break her in. I jumped out of bed and ran to my wardrobe. I pulled on jeans and a jumper and raced downstairs. Mum had made bacon and eggs, and I gulped it down, grabbed an apple and got my bike.

Mum waved me off as I cycled fast along the lanes. I reached Spirit’s field and jumped off my bike. Spirit was grazing by the paddock gate, head down, but as soon as I ran towards her, she lifted her head and whinnied at me. I scrambled over the gate and stood a few meters from Spirit. I reached out a shaky hand and she let me run my fingers across her smooth nose. I tickled her under her fluffy chin and after about a minute she relaxed.

I edged closer, still stroking her and talking to her the whole time. I ran my hand down her back, tracing each dapple, and felt her spine quiver at my touch. She allowed me to brush down her dark legs and slowly and gently, pick her hooves from the ground. I straightened up and gave Spirit a light pat. This made her jump and she took a step back.

“It’s okay, Spirit” I whispered, careful not to make eye contact. She took a step forwards, I reassured her and talked softly to her all the while. Spirit nickered quietly and stepped even closer, so that my cheek was brushing against her soft ear. I breathed in that lovely horsey smell and carefully wound my arms around Spirit’s neck. She didn’t walk away, she stayed there, allowing me to embrace and talk to her.

We stayed there, for what seemed like forever, and was actually only a few moments. But they were the best, most special moments of my life. I was the first to break free, and Spirit stepped back at her release. I backed away to the gate, where the head collar was, this was too good a moment to back out now. I had to take the risk. Whether Spirit would let me put the head collar on her, was entirely dependent on her.

I took a deep breath and edged closer. Clicking my tongue, and holding out a handful of Pony Nuts from my pocket, I walked, steadily up to Spirit. She didn’t move, she didn’t even flinch when I stepped even closer. I sensed her relaxed air, so I relaxed, too. She craned her neck to reach the treats and as her soft muzzle made contact with my palm, I slipped the head collar over her head. Spirit didn’t react at all when the head collar touched her head. She carried on nuzzling my pockets for more treat and, as I clipped on the lead rope, she obediently walked forwards.

I knew grooming was one of the best ways to bond, so I tied Spirit up by the gate, grabbed the Dandy Brush and walked back. I let her sniff the brush and after a minute, she snorted in approval. Ever so gently, I stroked the bristles over her back. Spirit quivered but stood still. I repeated this for a few moments, and then brushed harder, not too hard, but hard enough so Spirit felt it, properly.

After I had brushed her all over her body, I untied her, and let her go. She looked at me with her dark eyes, with almost love in her eyes. This was progress. Maybe she was starting to trust me, and treat me as a friend. I hoped so.

The next morning, I tried leading Spirit round the field. She walked, halted and followed me, listening to my commands. I was on top of the world, she was responding to me, walking and halting. And even a few strides of trot. This carried on for a while, me leading me.

As I walked back inside, my heart glowing, I thought about how far Spirit had come, how much confidence she now had in me. Maybe it was time to saddle her up.

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