This horse-rearing business is not for the faint-hearted. I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought an eight-month-old filly out of the racing industry. Well, I wasn’t thinking, was I?
I went to see the Builder Boyfriend’s mother one Sunday for a nice trip out. She owns a small private yard in Sussex and had just picked up a few acquisitions from the sales. The Builder had asked her to get him a driving pony and, as the pair of them looked over the stable door at the speckled blackand-white cob he was going to hook up to a trap, I made the fatal error of looking in the next stable. A little bay foal put her head over the door and said hello. And that was it.
She came home a few weeks later, with me thinking, ‘I’ll work out what I’m doing at some point.’
When I looked at her papers I realised what I had got myself into. Father a famous flat racer, a few removed from Nijinsky. Dam sire a renowned steeplechaser. A friend in the racing industry researched her for me and after looking at her charts — pedigree, not astrological, I assume — told me I should definitely have a go at getting her in training. That was plan A. I approached a trainer nearby and he was up for it.
Then I fed her and petted her for two years and I couldn’t face the thought of letting her go. She might make a nice hack, I thought, as I veered off towards Plan B.
A showjumping friend has been helping me back her and she had been going very well. I had visions of a bucking bronco when we first got on but Darcy was cool as a cucumber. She calmly did everything we asked of her with no sign of the lunacy or capriciousness that race horses are renowned for. ‘Fine, these top thoroughbreds are a bit highly strung. But what’s the worst she could do?’ I kept asking myself.
The other day my friend got on and was putting Darcy through her paces. All was going well until Darcy decided she wanted to go backwards, with her nose in the air. So she did that for a few seconds and made herself dizzy looking up at the sky. And then she fell over in a heap. My friend bailed out the side as the filly sat down on her bottom looking stunned. She looked pretty embarrassed, to be honest. Meanwhile, my friend was spitting bits of sand and tyre pieces from the surface of the school out of her mouth.
‘Oh, I see,’ I thought, as I stood by the gate at a safe distance taking it all in, ‘so that’s the worst that can happen.’
‘I guess if I can just get my head round her doing that I will be good to go,’ I told my friend. But she disavowed me of this notion.
‘Oh no, she won’t do that again. It will be something else next time.’
‘Any idea what?’
‘No. It’s impossible to say.’
And then my friend, who is up for these capers in a big way, had an accident with another horse she rides and broke her arm.
I went through my address book desperately searching for people with no sense of self-preservation and came upon the number of a Frenchman the size of a jockey who is a world-class event rider, based just down the road. He backed my friend’s young Arab, when no one else would even bring him in from his field. Within weeks of the Frenchman climbing on board, the raging beast was trotting obediently down the road.
Ever since then, I have had it in the back of my mind that if push comes to shove, I can always ring Monsieur Sticky-Bottom.
So the other day, as I proceeded to Plan C, I did. ‘Please come and sit on my three-year-old thoroughbred and do whatever it is you do’ was my pitch.
My heart skipped a beat as the Frenchman sighed and said he would have to disappoint me: ‘Ah’m afraid ah’m a beet busy right now-uh. Mah wife just ’ad a bebe six weeks ago.’
Zut alors! I was sitting at the kitchen table staring into space and trying to formulate Plan D when the gamekeeper popped round. ‘What’s up now?’ he said, for he knows there is always something. I showed him the videos of the filly galloping around the school on the lunge, her absurdly long legs effortlessly propelling her in circles. ‘For goodness sake, look at those legs. What are you playing at? She could be our fortune.’
Back to Plan A, maybe. If anyone wants to join a syndicate, please let me know.