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Thursday, November 1, 2012

I'm back in the USA......but remembering English bridlepaths.

Well, I did it....I managed to get all the way to England and back and live to tell the tale.  You know there was a time, a long time ago, when I wouldn't think twice about taking off all alone for far away places I'd never even been before.  For many years I have been a happy hermit living on this eastern Washington farm/ranch, so going to England again was a really big adventure for me alright.  I will be giving a complete report of my six weeks in England in the coming weeks.

I had a lovely time in my home town with kith and kin and walking the familiar paths of my youth.  It brought back a lot of (equine) memories.

I have posted these pictures before...but....
Here I am in 1963 on my way to spend the day at the riding stables where I learned to ride.  I'd spend every Saturday there.  My lesson was only one hour long but I'd hang around grooming the ponies or cleaning tack in the hopes of leading a pony back to the pasture when the day was done.

Being home in England and seeing those familiar places reminded me of the equine who for me was 'the one'.  Brandy was my special horse (even though he was in fact a pony), we covered many miles of  Bedfordshire together and seemed to read each others mind.  Without a doubt some of the best times of my life were with that little fellow.  I've owned some very well trained horses in my life and one was in fact even a famous show horse who had been featured in glossy magazines and had been trained to perfection.... but it was Brandy with whom I had the most fun and enjoyment.

I bought him when I was 16 years old.  He was a very pretty dappled bay and some said he was a Exmoor pony, but he was too big to be one really.  Once I overheard two elderly farriers/blacksmiths talking about him as they leaned over a fence...they both agreed that he looked like one of those American horses ... a Morgan.  Funnily enough I went on to spend 30 years of my life owning at least one Morgan and my favorite horse colour is the one Brandy had.  They say you never forget your first love.  :)

In the picture below was taken in 1973 in Clapham, Brandy is tied to a fence, of sorts.  There was a gate here between the two fields and Brandy and I being too clever to mess about with gates, would jump the hedge/fence.  One day I was with a group of other people who pastured their horse/ponies with Brandy and I bragged how you didn't need to open the gate when you could just jump the fence....but Brandy wasn't so keen to jump the fence with his buddies standing behind him and refused at the last moment and I ended up riding his neck...oh what a strong neck he had!
Brandy tacked up

Below I am posing with my best boy in 1970.  I was all about fun....but notice the protective head gear and proper foot wear.  I think the bay next to us might have been the mare I jumped for this fellow to see if she had potential.  He kept raising the bar and she was clearing well over 5' with no problem.  I was fearless back then and the same man who owned the potential jumper would have me ride green horses into the busy areas to get them used to things.  The horses would behave really well with me....I was all for going forward with no monkey business from young horses.

Here we are with me posing for the camera again in mid jump!  Look at Brandy's ears perked forward in eager anticipation of the next jump....don't notice the fact that we are jumping in the wrong

More posing....

Brandy was strong... here he is hauling my cousin and me.

and hauling me and my baby boy on his first ride in 1976.

Brandy and I would take off early in the mornings, just the two of us.  We'd start taking bridlepaths and footpaths to explore the Bedfordshire countryside and villages.  Brandy was a full partner in the expeditions and was allowed to pick routes a lot of the time.  He had a keen sense of adventure alright but would sometimes refuse to move on past when he saw a pub sign or a village shop.  Brandy knew those were the places that delicious treats were to be had for a hungry horse/pony.  He would scoff down a whole packet of crisps (potato chips) and a Mars Bar with no problem.  Oh and there was no need to tether him while I shopped for his snacks.

Another interesting feature about Brandy was he would return to me and wait for me to jump back on when we parted company .... he was a spooker but it seemed he only shied when we were going at a very fast clip.  Because we didn't spend much time going slow we frequently went very fast in different directions.  Walking and trotting he was okay....except for that bolting thing he did...till I changed his bit.  The best ones aren't necessarily the best behaved ones.

Below is a map of the area we covered in Bedfordshire.  I never could get him to go into a trailer/horse box and so we hoofed it everywhere.  We crossed the brick bridge over the Great Ouse River at Great Barford and forded that same river the over side of Bedford in Clapham.  We made it a point to cross as many bridges was we could in the town of Bedford, including the town bridge and the Suspension Bridge.  My farrier had a forge in the Black Tom area of Bedford and I rode Brandy there a few times to get him hot shod and had the pleasure of trotting Brandy up the Bedford High Street!  Oh...he understood traffic lights as well!
Being in England again brought back so many wonderful memories of when I was still a Bedford girl traveling the highways and bridleways on my dear little Brandy.

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