Just Because My Horse Is Little … Don’t Jump to Conclusions!

As soon as I started my first job in my teens, I saved up my wages to buy my first horse. I had longed for one since my sister threw me on the saddle of her friend’s pony when I was 3. 

I started the search for the right horse, but to be honest, it was more a horse to fit my purse. I found out about a gypsy chap selling one and I knocked on his door. He took me to a field where a large herd came galloping over the hill towards us, led by a beautiful buckskin dun Welsh cob. She galloped up to us, snorting down her nose, full of attitude.

Immediately my thoughts were, “Oh please let that be the one he’s brought me to see; please let that be the horse.” 

I could not believe my luck when he pointed her out. “That’s the one. The dun there.”

I tried to look nonchalant, but I was bubbling over inside with excitement. I paid him £400, and he shocked me by giving me £20 back, spitting into his hand thrusting it towards me to shake.

Rita Gwennog was now all mine. But I soon changed that name to Tabbitha.

There was a slight problem in that she was only 3 years old and unbacked. I had absolutely no idea about looking after a horse, let alone breaking one in. But two years later, with help from a friend, she was rideable, and we were inseparable.

I started taking her to local shows where she proved to be a superb jumper – as long as it wasn’t a purple jump. We started notching up the rosettes.

One day, the local show had a special event run by Spillers Feeds. All the winners qualified to go through to the next show at another showground in a few months’ time. I was so excited; I felt as if I had the chance to be knocking knees with David Broome and Harvey Smith.

Off I trotted on my faithful steed down to the show, paid my entrance fee for the class, and stood in line, awaiting my turn. The jumps were a little bigger than we usually jumped, but I knew she could do it. Thankfully, there were no purple ones.

I had been chatting with my friend before my turn and hadn’t noticed there was a jump down from the previous contestant. For those who don’t know, if a jump is still down when you start your round, they do not consider it as a fault. It is an error of the course management.

I set off around the course. We flew! Then we came to the jump that was down and jumped the poles on the floor. Clear round! 

Unfortunately, one girl, who also had a clear round, started complaining. She lodged an official complaint to the judges. And she was not quiet about it. She made such a fuss. People started coming over from the other events to see what the commotion was all about. Eventually, there was quite a crowd around the arena. 

While she was arguing with the judges, I stupidly said to my friend, “I didn’t know there was a height requirement of 14.3hh and above. I think she’s only 14.2hh.”

She heard me and swung round on her shiny expensive boots and almost pounced on me. “WHAT! She’s not the right height?” she spat out. 

Pandemonium broke out again. The judge sent for a measuring stick. You could have heard a pin drop as he measured her. “14.3hh” he shouted. There was an audible sigh of relief from the even larger crowd.

She was still not happy, though. And mummy and daddy were backing her tantrum. 

I was getting quite fed up with the accusations. “I’ll jump the jump.”

“You can’t,” said the judge. “We have put it up for the next class, which is the Open.”

I saw a smirk cross the girl’s face. “I’ll jump it as it stands,” I said defiantly. 

The crowd gasped and my friend tried to talk me out of it, but I was sure Tabbitha could do it.

We entered the ring. 

All other events had paused, and all eyes were on us. Not a murmur was heard. I cantered once around the ring then headed for the jump, which now stood at 120 cm. A big green and white oxer. I pushed her on and without hesitation, she lept into the air and flew over it.

The crowd erupted! I swung back to look. The jump was standing strong. YES!

We had won first place. Tabbitha had an extra big bucket of feed that night. It was well-deserved.

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