Once There Were Ponies.

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When I was a child there were ponies.
waiting in line or trotting out on the sand.
I knew all their names.
Capino, Girlie, Shandy, Fred,
Danny Boy, Calypso, Sherry, Ben.
All sizes, all shapes, all tempers.
Round bellied shetlands,
long legged thoroughbreds,
chestnuts, blacks, skewbalds and bays.
All special.
All mine.

I learned about girths, bits, bridles and reins.
I groomed, picked and polished.
I was taught to rise to the trot,
discovered the easy rhythm of a steady canter,
and the heady fear of a full out gallop.
I was shown how to stop.
Sit deep in the saddle,
grip with your knees
and resist with your hands.
No lessons, no pay,
just experience soaked up
by a longing to know.

Every morning I rode out
with the wind in my hair
and my thoughts flying.
No hard hat. No worries.
Ten shillings eagerly exchanged
for an hours worth of freedom.
The beach rushed by
under the feet of my horse,
and the sea roared its approval.
The cliffs changed shape
while the town shrank behind us-
This was new territory,
outside my limits.

For the rest of the day
I walked proudly up and down
leading small children
as far as the beach hotel.
Plod and turn,
plod and halt,
and sometimes- just sometimes-
I was allowed to jump up
and lead a faster, older child,
from a horses back.
That was a badge of honour
that the local kids didn’t like.
“Gerroff my horse.”
Yeah right.
“Joan said.”

For two weeks or more
my world smelled of horse.
It was a time of soft noses,
hard hooves and flickering eyes.
A time when anything seemed possible-
I was young and in love.

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