Annie has a new book out Recipe for Mr Super! As part of her Recipes of Life Serise so I caught up with Annie to talk Horses????
All my books so far have had dogs in, but in Recipe for Mr Super, I’ve been allowed to indulge my love of horses. A quick disclaimer – all horses in this book are based on horses I’ve known, but, except for Charlie Brown, the Shetland Pony – that was his real name, names have been changed to protect the innocent!
The names weren’t the only thing I made up, okay, I’ll admit I never evented. I have acted as groom, helped at cross country events, been a dressage writer for many, many dressage tests including some major competitions over a long period of time, but I just couldn’t face competing. So, it’s fair to say the eventing world in Recipe for Mr Super is entirely imaginary, except that one event is held at Tweseldown – a real place, and my absolute favourite eventing venue. A place I have spent happy hours, helping, or watching, some talented riders compete. I’ve even gone cross country schooling there on my own horse several times and loved the experience, but never had any desire to compete at any level.
People always tell me that the adrenalin high you get from doing well in competition is the ultimate thrill and worth the anxiety of getting ready to compete. I never agreed. Even the clear-round competition at the local show would have me hyperventilating.
I can’t remember when my love affair with horses started. I was very young. I’d ride anything whenever I had the opportunity, but the only person we knew back then with a horse was my godmother.
My first book was Black Beauty. I still have that copy, the colour plates in it are amazing and it would be my desert island choice. I’ve had it so long; I can’t imagine ever being without it. I was 11 years old, when a lady, my mother worked with, who had a pony, which was a bit of a handful, asked her if I’d like to ride it. Her own daughter had outgrown it, so they’d bought her a horse and needed someone to exercise the pony. I’ve always assumed my mother didn’t understand what a bit of a handful meant at the time, rather than she thought she could afford to lose her eldest daughter. The pony was a rig, with a mind of his own – initially I spend a lot of time on the floor, but it was a great learning curve and I loved him to pieces, spending all my free time at the stables. Eventually, I outgrew him too, but was offered the ride on another horse at the same stables, a lot steadier, and a true gentleman, until a permanent home could be found for him.
I’d been married less than six months, when I finally had the opportunity to buy a horse. I’d been having riding lessons and hacking out at a local stable for some time, but it wasn’t a considered decision. I didn’t go out that day having decided to buy a horse, but I was told during a lesson that the horse I was riding, would be going to go back to the dealers and not available for lessons the following week. She wasn’t popular with clients other than me, being a head shaker and very green about everything. The deal I struck with my husband was that if I gave up smoking for a month, I could buy her. I never smoked again, I couldn’t, because although I didn’t tell him, I’d already paid for her.
We went on to develop a really special relationship, (both horse and husband). She taught me so much about unconditional love and trust. I like to think I taught her to jump. She’d only ever been driven, until shortly before she came into the riding school, and responded well to simple voice commands like, “left” or “right” and you had to tell her to “jump” if you wanted her to go over, rather than through or round any obstacle!
My biggest problem with her was that she hated being tied up and could untie herself from just about anything and sometimes her mates! She was a real Houdini, but having done it, she wouldn’t move further than the nearest hay net or patch of grass. She just didn’t like to be attached to anything.
Sadly, she was fatally injured in a road traffic accident, which left such a huge hole in my life that I was finally persuaded to look for another horse and found a huge tri-coloured mare. The picture is by the very talented equestrian artist Lydia Kiernan. I’m not aware that she ever met my horse, but this is just the most picture, it hangs on my wall. It has her facial markings spot on and has really captured her expression. This horse and I clicked, and I just knew I’d found somebody special. There were all sorts of alarm bells that should have rung. She had sarcoids, a cracked hoof, an irregular heartbeat, a dust allergy – I could go on, but the vet took one look at her and asked me what I thought I wanted.
I told him, I needed a horse, no bigger than 16 ½ hands to take care of me, to rebuild my trust in riding. A horse I could hack on my own, and maybe occasionally jump.
The vet turned and said, ‘Then she’s perfect for you. I’m not going to vet her, because she’ll fail. Just one thing, promise me you will give yourself a year with her to build a relationship. There will be times during that year when you’ll struggle – wonder what you’ve done and wish you’d never bought her. You’ll get her home, think she’s perfect, but give it three weeks and she’ll go through that difficult toddler stage. She’ll start testing boundaries. Don’t let her get away with anything. Always be kind, but firm and soldier on. It will be worth it. If after a year, and I really don’t think this will happen, but if you haven’t bonded then you owe it to both of you, to find her another home.’ He issued a passport for her, and in it said she was 16 ½ hands – years later my then vet said, you do know she’s a lot bigger than that – don’t you?
We did bond and had sixteen amazing years together. She put a broken person back together and we both learned to trust each other. She overcame her fears about walking through water and I learned to accept that if something was really frightening, in horse terms, it was better to walk, or trot past it backwards!
I have just started having lessons again and recently met a lovely horse – a real black beauty!
Where’s a hero when you need him?In Autumn Rigden’s case, enjoying semi-celebrity status on the other side of the world. Although Nick Flynn is no superman – talented horse rider and Super Sportstar of the Year he might be, but he has a habit of leaving Autumn in the lurch when she needs him most.
Anyway, Autumn is too busy with her new career to care about Nick. Okay, so she’s had to give up her OIympic dressage dream, her childhood home and beloved Shetland pony – and all to the benefit of Gordon, Nick’s money-grabbing father. But Autumn’s new ambition is to become an heir hunter extraordinaire, and with a promising commission and only a few weirdos demanding she prove they’re related to royalty, she’s all set.
But when Mr Super returns, will Autumn find that forgetting about horses and the Flynns is harder than she could have ever imagined?
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