True love does exist. Especially when you’re 11 years old and horse-mad.
Ashgar Leam was born on 8 December, 1992. His dam was Ashgar Leslie and his sire Ashgar Doonan. He’s bay, with black points and a blaze down his face. He is my soul mate.
My riding instructor introduced me to Ashgar Leam in September, 1996. She took me to his stable and said ‘This is Leam, he needs a little girl to love him’. I looked over the stable door and that was it.
Head-shy Leam was hiding in the corner of his stable, and in the dark, all I could see was the striking white blaze down his very handsome face. I didn’t care about how narrow he was, or how his hindquarters were a little higher than the rest of him. He was awkward and shy and scared of everything, much like I was – a kid on the cusp of adolescence.
The first time I rode him I couldn’t get him to move. This was a blow to my ego, because I was the best rider at the stables at that stage. But the groom who was training him led me around and I was grinning stupidly – thoroughly happy.
Leam was not my first horse. Curry was – but he’s another story.
A year after being led around, I got back on. Leam was 5 and I was 12 and I was still crushing on him. We got along famously. Leam carries his head nicely and will jump anything, but his virtues as a riding horse end there. He’s lazy and hates to be schooled. He would spook at everything and was always a little mad. But he was fast (and when you’re 12 this is a top priority). But Leam hates to work more than any other horse I have ever ridden.
I convinced my dad to buy him for me and a few weeks later he arrived at the plot. And that’s when my hell started.
Leam was terrified of everything and still head-shy. He was impossible to catch and would occasionally refuse to go into his stable at night. He would freak out when the farrier came to trim his feet and go beserk every time I tried to take him out. He was difficult in the school and threw a number of my friends.
He didn’t understand what treats were and it took a month of leaving carrots in his feed to get him to actually want them.
He was also filling out and became a round, solid, tank of a pony. But he would still clear anything I put in front of him. I jumped him 1.1m, which is impressive for a 14.1hh pony. Our show history was shaky – we never really did very well, but Leam is not a show pony, handsome as he is.
Eventually I just rode him (and I rode him badly). I refused to take his nonsense and made him do as I said. He started to shy less and we started to trust each other. It was easier to calm him down when he was scared and we started going out more. Eventually I introduced him to swimming, which, to this day, he loves.
But Leam was accident-prone. We was forever cutting himself and once nearly lost his foot, which meant for six months, while he healed, I couldn’t ride him.
When I went to university, he stayed behind, getting fat and lazy. When I went home and rode him he would put his head between his knees and buck (learning how to sit out bucks is a handy riding skill) and squeal like a pig. This means he will forever have the nickname of Pig. But he’s my Pig and I say it with love.
Leam was a difficult pony. He would do stupid things and I would fall off. I would spend hours trying to catch him and swear and scream and lose my teenage temper on him at least once a week. Leam put me in the hospital. Leam has made me angrier than anything else in this entire world. If he wasn’t so handsome, he would have had it a lot worse. I struggled with him, I regretted taking him on. But no one else would, and I was always in love, so I kept him.
In 2008 I had to have Curry put down. Curry loved Leam and they were inseparable. It nearly killed me. And it meant I needed to move Leam back to the farm where he was born. He was 16 and slightly more sensible.
I don’t know if it was the loss of Curry (for both of us) or being in a proper herd again, but things changed. Leam has become easier to catch (15 minutes vs two hours). He doesn’t shy at ridiculous things anymore and he doesn’t panic in real danger. He’s affectionate with me when no one else is looking. And even though he is 19 now, and we’ve been together for 14 years, and he’s starting to grey around his eyes and his back is starting to dip, he can still give it stick.
Leam is my entire world and there is nothing I love more than that horse. He has become a dream pony (minus the laziness)…
I can go up to him after a month apart and get on him and take him out, just the two of us. He is completely safe (except for one time when he ran away from a sheep – but only because he thought it was trying to hurt me, from the other side of a fence).
Leam will stand quietly, calming other horses, when we’re riding to the game and the Wildebeest stampede.
Leam has become a bit of a slut too. He has a harem now and they get very upset when he is ridden and isn’t on the mountain with them. I have also seen my gelding mount a mare and the mare get upset because, well, he can’t, you know…
My little pony is the nicest pony I know. He has never kicked me. The only time his hooves ever made contact with me was by accident and entirely my fault. And even though he thinks with his tummy, he has never bitten me. He once caught my finger in his teeth and immediately let go. Unlike other horses, Leam does not try to step on me. As soon as he feels human foot under his, he steps back.
And maybe it’s because I know him so well and he likes me now, but I can ask him to do anything, no matter how ridiculous, and he will try. And that means more to me than the most schooled, high-bred horse on the planet ever good.
He is mine and I am his and that is how it always will be.