By Helene Mauchlen

As a grandmother who is “between horses” on account of a Scottish grand design going on in my personal life; I have recently entered into the realm of the lead rein pony with all that that entails.

Love entered our lives in the form of Dolly (on loan from her local fond family) a very pretty and opinionated (in a pony way) 11.3hh (sort of Welsh) 20 year old mare. Who arrived without passport or microchip on account of living locally in Strathearn and never having seen the need of one? Needless to say one passport, a chip and set of shoes later she is “on the road “as the family pram, and can often be seen perambulating (with or without kid) alongside me on dog walks – to fix both our figures!

Now as someone who can’t differentiate between Helen and Elizabeth on the Archers and gets her Jo Wiley’s confused with her Sarah Cox’s it would be fair to say that there is a massive and looming differentiation between horses and ponies. Of course there is the objective differences including height and breed – but it’s the subjective ones that are glaring.

The first thing the loan pony did was get colic on account of my paradise paddock or fatty track being too large early April; so a £400 vet fee and an anxious weekend later – she is further confined to an electric lined, tennis court sized plot as smooth as baize billiard table (give or take some dockings) right outside the kitchen window. Being so close was a godsend in the pericolic days when every bowel movement, inch of water drunk, carrot eaten and lie down was reported to the vet (poor vet but this is not our pony and it is awful when you are looking after someone else’s crown jewels!) But then the proximity means you can pick up the poohs whenever you see them – but it also means the pony can see you! And she directs me with her eyes, this morning she made me move the electric fence by six inches, when it poured last week she made me bring her in. When the new Simmental bull is curious she tells on him and when the calves run she chastises them – OH My Goodness – we are being bossed by an 11hh mare!

But the strange thing is – we like it! She has inveighed her way into our hearts in the way only a pony can. She does what is says on the tin – she is the perfect lead rein pony, when she has child on board she won’t even eat grass and carries her young charges with a pride and care that shines out of her glossy bay coat. In an effort to burn more calories than she consumes (our farrier told me she was plain fat!) she lunges to the voice and she lets the small people swarm all over her at grooming time and stands for hours being pampered. But she has her lines in the sand – travel is a no no – Dolly has an aversion to lorries or trailers so even if we wanted to (and she would) she could not win the lead rein class at Perth or Braco – which is just as well because we ride in shorts and tutus currently – but off course the children all have correctly fitted proper standard riding hats which double well for cycling and climbing scaffolding (goes with the grand design). She reminds me of Paddington Bear who brought people together and made them smile and always kept a marmalade sandwich under his hat “just in case”. Dolly has a similarly important name and also thinks a merry –go- round is the best way of going anywhere! There is something magic about a pony and their children - aren’t we lucky!