Sometimes on a wet Sunday it is best just to batten down the hatches and give up trying to do anything except curling up with a good film on the TV and a fire – well it is June after all! I was just getting ready to stop for the day and curl up with The Devil Wears Prada when my telephone rang. It was Badger’s last rider, Lauren. She was in the area and would love to see the old chap if I were around. Ah well – it wasn’t as if I couldn’t record the film and watch it any time.
A short time later Lauren and her father arrived. She hadn’t seen Badger for over a year since he had come home to retire when she became too old to compete on him. As she came into the house I could see there was no point in making small talk, her thoughts and heart lay elsewhere so we pulled on coats and braved the rain to go to the stables.
With our appalling Irish weather I often get chance to thank my lucky stars that my stables are all under cover, just as I did that day. We were able to get Badger out of his stable to eat the carrots we had bought and so that Lauren could hug him properly. Within moments it was crystal clear that he remembered her very well as he was soon lifting his left foreleg, begging for treats, something I had taught him years and years ago. I don’t often get him to demonstrate his skill, but Lauren clearly had and he very obviously remembered her.
I was so impressed by him remembering her so well that I recounted the story to my farrier who came the following day. Of course, in the horse world everyone has a bigger fish story and my farrier was no different. While he shod Kinsale he told me about a Thoroughbred who was bred by one of his clients. The horse stayed with them until it was four. During its time with its breeders it was let out daily into the sand arena for a roll, something he clearly enjoyed very much. At four, he went to be broken in and was then sold on into training. After a number of years in training and many successes the horse was injured and had to be retired. He, like Badger, was returned to his original owners.
The sand arena that the horse had loved so much had been grassed over as the family did not need it any more, but as soon as the racehorse was turned out into the field where the arena had been he trotted straight to his usual place and began to dig up the soil, looking for the sand he loved rolling in.
Another story the farrier related was of a family who had a black pony, who would whinny each time it saw its rider’s mother, presumably as she was the one who fed him. Some six or seven years after the pony had been outgrown and sold on out of the area, the original owners were at a show and parked next to a lorry which had a bunch of ponies on it. As soon as the mum got out of their jeep and started to talk they could hear whinnying from the lorry and eventually established that the noise was coming from a black pony who had once belonged to them. So clearly ponies and horses do have really long memories!