Never get involved with an intelligent horse

Most people will agree we are drawn towards certain characteristics in the animals we own. Some love a pet to be adoring; others like an independent spirit. Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify what it is that appeals to us – we know it just does ... like human relationships, I suppose.

My last horse (after several disastrous equine partnerships) was George. He was a thoroughbred cross Dutch Warmblood, a breed well known to be equable and co-operative. I went to view George at a yard on the Ashdown Forest with a horsey friend. He looked out of the loose box at me (George, not the friend) and I was smitten.

The friend said: “That’s it then. You’ve got to like the look of your horse. Nothing else will get you mucking out in the sleet when you have ’flu.”

George’s quirky character displayed itself when he arrived. He did not like a horse box – in fact he would not get into one. If I needed to go to a show it was no good dressing him up in his travelling gear ... I had to wander over waving a carrot, pick up his headcollar rope and saunter casually to where the box was waiting.

If I was casual enough he would walk in. But then of course I had to get him home – we had the occasional overnight stay at a showground, after which stable staff would advance on him with raised pitchforks ... and he’d walk up the ramp without a murmur.

He could jump like a stag but hated ditches or anything strange on the ground (I would end up wound beneath his neck.) He disliked school work immensely and would swerve in an attempt to mow down whichever brave instructor was teaching me at the time.

He terrorised our bull terrier Bosun who dropped to his doggy knees to scurry past the paddock fence.

He loved our local bridle paths but learnt to allow a shoulder to dip a few yards from home dumping me in the muddiest part of the ride. And a favourite trick was escaping onto a neighbouring golf course, whence long-suffering greenkeepers would ring me at the office. “George is out again.”

His character blazed out from his intelligent eyes. I met jump jockey John Francome once who told me: “Never get involved with an intelligent horse.” I’m glad I did. SK