I’m guessing you’ve landed here as you are intrigued to find out more about me. Probably not the photographic side, but more about who I am and what makes me tick in life. So, in this blog I’m going to give you a personal insight into how 3 separate animals in my life have impacted on me as a person. What they taught me and how I try to remember them too.
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I always had animals in my life growing up. Not great herds or even a wide variety, but there was always either a cat or a dog in the house. Rabbits and Stick Insects lurked at times too. There was the school Guinea Pig that came home at holidays too. I loved them all (bar the Stick Insects) and was sad when each one left for good. Again, probably bar the Stick Insects! Having animals from a young age teaches you about life and death and that in itself is a big lesson.
However there were 3 that individually taught me a huge amount. Each with valuable lessons and each with a personality all of their own to get to grips with.
Blue Shamrock – Independence & Responsibilities.
Blue was my first ‘proper’ pony really. I’d loaned a few and part owned one too but Blue was the first one that had my name on his documents. I was 13. Back then there were no passports, but he was registered in my name for Insurance and for exciting things like British Showjumping – or BSJA as it was back then… He was a Connemara pony, long in the tooth and a real jumping diamond. He was calm and sensible but forward going.
There wasn’t much he wouldn’t jump and he could turn on a sixpence, so what he lacked in speed against his nippy rivals he made up for with his ability to turn and jump off nothing. He neck reined, he drank straight from a hosepipe, he’d tie to a dumper truck and not bother and he loaded himself. So in all of this he was the ideal ‘first’ pony. Although the flipping reality is that he left a very high benchmark when the time came to retire him!
13 is a very impressionable age, whatever the era you grew up in. It was 1985 when Blue came into my life. OK so technology was low back then, but kids were still massively led by others. Blue coming along at that point was a blessing. I wasn’t part of the cool gang or wasn’t part of the nerdy gang at school. Just one of those that mostly blended into the background and avoided the extremes. I was intelligent but not a leader in any subject and I liked nice things but I didn’t follow fashions as rigidly as lots of the girls did. There was a lot of pressure to conform to one group or another though and I struggled.
I was a bit of a tom boy in many respects too and lots of my friends were boys, not girls. Much easier to read! Still do if I’m honest..
When I met Blue through a friend at school and started riding him, then taught him, he took me away from all that pressure that school life delivered. Together we developed a good relationship and were pretty successful at showjumping. He taught me more than riding skills though, he gave me the independence I needed from the crowd. Blue also taught me responsibilities. My parents weren’t horsey. My mum rode as a kid but 40 years later she’d not know how to look after a pony. So if I wanted to do this, I had to do it myself. So I did. I had a 2nd hand fold up bike and I cycled to the stables A LOT!
Blue lived too a very ripe age. I’d say that was down to my skills but to be honest he was just a bit of a freak in that way. He won Veteran classes in his late 30’s and looked very well the day I said goodbye to him.
Puzzles Sweet Sensation – Resilience
Patsie was mine from the moment she dropped out of her mum basically. I’d owned her mum before her and I knew the stallion really well, both were owned by a friend. So I was super excited for this foaling. Never really the prettiest of foals, or until she got to about 2 or 3 when she caught up with her leggy phase. She had the sweetest of natures growing up and was shown in hand a lot as a youngster, proving regularly sucessful at county level.
Paste had stayed at the stud where she was born all through her young years and they backed her for me too. It was a delayed backing as a late 4 year old as she had a few set backs that spring, however she took to ridden life really well and came home to me.
As a 5 year old we really hit health issues with her, it was one thing after another. After a lot of head scratching she spent a period of time at the Royal Vet College in North London. She underwent a sinus operation that required drilling into her skull. With each issue she fought back and was always so incredibly gracious about every test and every piece of equipment she wore to aid or diagnose. Then she went down hill all of a sudden and colic frequently. Each time she got weaker and weaker and back to RVC she went. A mis firing heart complicated things for a few days.
During all this time she was still happy, still sweet in nature and always pleased to see me. Sadly things didn’t get better and ultimately I took the decision to say goodbye on the day she stopped fighting. At just 5 years old with much ahead of her I’d lost this truly wonderful little mare. It was a really difficult time for all, including the team at the RVC. We discovered that she was riddled with stomach cancer and had fought so bravely through each of the tests and times away from home.
The sweetest of mares taught me much in her 5 short years. Most of all, resilience. My photography business takes it’s name from her so I’ll never forget her. More of her story can be read here
William – Companionship & Loyalty
I was leaving an office based job to work from home and although due to be married, my partner was in the military working in such an environment that I was going to be alone a huge amount. With no children the answer was to have a dog at home with me. I was looking for the perfect companion. The list was for a smallish dog, that cuddled well but not a lap dog. Gun dog breeds had always been a favourite. A Cocker Spaniel was the answer. “Intelligence and love” was what I was told by those with them.
I pretty much had the pick of a litter when I chose William, well to be honest he chose me. That was the start of it, much like many other new puppies coming to their new homes. I gave him basic training and he was pretty good with obedience. He sat, he stayed, his recall was great. We grew the best of buddies and he was always at my feet, or not far from them. He was highly intelligent and could do a number of tasks and knew the names of each of his toys, retrieving them on command. He hated being in the house on his own though and LOVED being in the car, so naturally he came with me pretty much everywhere.
Over the following 8 or so years we moved house 7 times. The last 2 after my marriage broke down at which point he really didn’t leave my side as he knew his ‘Mum’ needed him. On shoots he came with me, he was a regular at BE events and he loved his days on Cross Country courses watching the horses go by. He was a real ‘busy’ cocker spaniel, always happy and always ready to do something too at the drop of a hat.
Bit noisy though. Err, that’s probably an understatement. He was a good doorbell…
When Tony and Stitch came into my life he really took to them both. I was a bit anxious about how William would accept another dog but he loved Stitch loads. They were an odd couple really. She’s lean, quiet and straightforward. He was bouncy, noisy and always went from A to B via XY & Z. They ran and ran and ran together at times. He’d always have one eye on Stitch and one eye on me and would run back and forth between us both. They’d been brought up differently so had slightly different rules but over time William understood and he adapted really well. For a needy little shadow anyway, but the point was he did his best to always please. He gave me so much in life and rarely queried anything with me how some dogs can.
I was heartbroken when I lost him in an accident, I still am. William taught me that cuddles and companionship without words will get you through some very testing times. That life with your ears flapping madly in the wind is what life is all about. Just go for things and worry later. He did.
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For all the terrible heartache there is when you lose an animal that means so much to you I’d not change owning them for a second. The additional skills learnt in life through just these 3 that have been in my life are indicators that a life without them would have been a much less rewarding experience. Having the ability to try and understand the feelings of another living being that can’t express itself with words, ever, is frustrating. However when you get it right and you see the joy in their eyes or behaviour then you know you’ve become a better person for it.
What have your pets taught you, how have they shaped your life?
I bet you’d be surprised when you sat down and thought about it.
Have a fabulous day