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My horse as my mentor...

Before and after photo of a one eyed ex-racehorse that came to Pippsway for rehabilitation, Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington, Somerset near Devon

When I first met Bronson it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, he was a big, gangly coathanger of a horse and to say he was neurotic would be rather the understatement. I’d been chatting with his owner who had brought him to a Pippsway Horse Connection Clinic I was attending. She said he had been bought for her children but he’d proven to be rather a handful so they were no longer interested in riding him and having two horses to exercise was proving a bit much. He’d also been behaving in ways that had put her off wanting to ride him either. Despite all that I was very drawn to him. I’ve always had a soft spot for greys and the sight of him was pulling on my heartstrings. The conversation in my mind went “Could I take him on? Could he be ‘my horse’?…...but my head wasn’t having any of it! No! He’s a thoroughbred, you don’t even like thoroughbreds and he only has one eye!” Most importantly I had decided only the week before that I wasn’t going to buy a horse for at least five years and would instead concentrate entirely on learning the art of horsemanship. I should know by now in life to trust my gut feelings! In trying to be sensible, I could have missed out on being with this horse, a fact which frankly doesn't even bear thinking about!

I'm very lucky that, as it happened, he came back to Pip’s yard and I ended up working with him during my lessons. Over time I found that being with him made me extraordinarily happy. If I was ever feeling sad or low I just had to think about him and it cheered me up! We did groundwork together for months and he gave me such confidence. When eventually I rode him, he gave me a feeling of lightheartedness I hadn’t felt since I was a child. He really is very special. The top photo above shows our first riding lesson together. He'd been with Pip for 6 months by then and it had taken that time to build him up enough that he had sufficient muscle to carry my weight. The bottom photo shows him as he is now after a year with Pip.

He’s not always the easiest horse on the planet, although he can be, and Pip has only let me take on his guardianship on the proviso that we stay under her wing (I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else anyway!) because I am so inexperienced and she needs to continue working with him to rehabilitate him. In fact she explained at the outset that I would be able to do much more, far sooner with a different horse. But I really love this horse and he has inspired me to do whatever is necessary to make our partnership a success! Pip assures me that, providing I'm willing to put in the work, she can guide us safely to the point where we will be able to ride on the Quantocks, do pleasure rides and so on. At the moment those goals seem a long way off, but I know from Pip's other clients that if I put my trust in her and do exactly what she says we will get there, as she always delivers on her promises. Bronson and I have had our ups and downs already and it’s only been a matter of months, but each time we hit a bump I only have to change something within myself, that always really does need changing anyway, and we are off again progressing together and having fun.

Pip was talking to me the other day about the roots of classical horsemanship and how people would go to this monastery in France to learn to be the best person they could be, in their own way of being. The ultimate was to have a wild horse as their mentor, which they would only be given once they had reached a certain level of enlightenment. Some never made it but for those that did, their wild horse would bring them to a much higher level of enlightenment. It was more about what the horse could teach you and not what you could teach the horse so the human ego was taken completely out of the equation.

I feel like Pippsway is my modern day monastery (only with tea and biscuits) and Bronson is my wild horse. At least they are as close to those as I am likely to get! What is true is that learning Pippsway of Classical Natural Horsemanship and working with Bronson is definitely a path of becoming the best that I can be, in my own way of being. It is such a privilege. It isn’t always easy but it is so fulfilling and rewarding and I am loving every minute! This is the journey of a lifetime!

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