I always start to feel nostalgic and a little emotional around this time each year when I think about my little field ornament, Zach.
I’ve not shared much about him on my social media channels, but those of you who know us know that we’ve had quite the journey. I’ve known Zach since he was about 4 and he is 18 now. He was at my stables where I spent all of my time as a kid, though he spent most of his time in the field not doing much.
A number of people would start to work with him with the plan to back him and get him to be a safe riding pony, however he didn’t have a good start in life- he was a troubled soul and this made it difficult. Over the years people would get to the point of riding him, and then he’d explode and they’d end up on the floor. This became a pattern and then more of a learned behaviour for him and he never had one person stick with him for a long time.
Eventually in 2010 I was offered him on loan. I don’t even remember how it came about and honestly I don’t know why I said yes. I was far too inexperienced to work with him but in the June of that year I took him on. We stayed at the same stables where he was settled and I tried to spend as much time as I could with him. Even catching him was a challenge, over the years he had learnt to act scared to get out of being caught as it had always worked. Once you had him though he was a dope on a rope.
Over the first year we did a lot of groundwork and I would just spend time with him, not asking anything of him. We had a pretty good relationship by this point and I was a young girl obsessed with her little grey pony. Soon I was riding him bareback in a halter and he was ace, though this was something other people had done before. The issue came with his saddle.
In October 2011 I bought Zach and we moved to a new yard. This was both good and bad for us, it was good to be somewhere new but it was an adjustment. We had both been at the same yard for most of our lives. We had regular lessons with my instructor and by that December I was riding him properly, something that hadn’t really been done before.
With college and work I didn’t have much time for him over winter and we didn’t do much, and honestly I was still scared to ride him on my own. He was never ‘dangerous’ but if he did freak out I couldn’t stay on.
Over the years we didn’t really get anywhere so in the summer of 2014 he went to spend about a month with my instructor. That month he was worked every day both on the ground and ridden. He was the best he’d ever been in every way, but come the end of the summer I had a decision to make. We sat down and had a long chat one evening, and we spoke about how he was never going to be the easy, jump on and go type of horse. He would need riding daily to keep up his education and I just did not have the time. I ultimately wanted an easy, happy hacker and it broke my heart when I had to accept that was never going to be Zach.
That September I made the decision to sell him and I was absolutely devastated. It’s never easy selling any horse, but he was my first horse and I had put so much time, energy and emotion into him. I remember messaging friends and people I knew in the horsey world, wishing someone would take him so I could keep in touch and trust he was going somewhere perfect. That never happened though and despite getting interest from people, I was very fussy! He’s not the easiest horse in the sense that he would need a lot of time to trust people and I was so particular about the type of person who would have him.
He was advertised all winter but in January I managed to find the most perfect little yard for us both, so I took down all of the adverts and we moved. He lived there for a few years having the best life, living out 24/7 with a stable if we needed it. He had two lovely ponies to keep him company and it was just ideal. February last year we moved again and funnily enough, he is back where he was when he was originally rescued. Now he really is living the best life doing nothing, but this time of year is always a little hard for me.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t give up and if I could go back and do it all again I would. Now I’m older and have more knowledge I really think things could have turned out differently. He taught me more than any other horse has, I had to learn be so very patient and if I did something wrong he would for sure let me know. I try not to look back at certain pictures as it just makes me feel like a failure, though ultimately I know at the time I made the right decision. I just wish I had more confidence in myself to make it work back then.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at least I know that my once terrified, troubled and lonely pony is happy, healthy and living his absolute best life. Maybe one day I will get another and have the easy going, happy hacker that I’ve always wanted. But for now, I’ve got my little Z and he’s never going anywhere.