Welcome to the first episode in Jimmy’s Journey!
Jimmy arrived here towards the end of January. I was so excited when this 11hands high, skewbald Dartmoor Hill Pony walked out of his trailer and marched happily into his newly made up stable bed of wood shavings and began munching on his hay looking very unperturbed about the entire situation. I learned very quickly that munching food was, without a doubt, his very favourite pastime. His owner had broken him to drive the previous summer and I am very inexperienced so our journey together was just beginning.
My very good and experienced carriage driving friend Allen Button had been to see him with me and advised me that he would be suitable and was able to take the necessary measurements to enable me to order the right size of two wheeler vehicle for him. Then began the six-week wait. Oh, I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a good thing as it gave us that time to get to know one another and make a start on building the bond of trust which is absolutely needed if we were to have a happy driving career. Lots of time together, grooming, long reining and walking out around the village, all invaluable for a steady beginning. At last, my new Sycamore carriage arrived, blue with a silver coach line, so smart, I was bursting with enthusiasm (good job one of us was)! Then my hopes of my first drive out were dashed. I had asked Nigel Sycamore to deliver and fit the carriage to Jimmy which he did, but when he saw the harness his reaction was that that would just not do, Jimmy needed a new harness. Another week passed, it seemed like forever and hurrah Minta Winn arrived and fitted a brand new set of harness on Jimmy and he looked so smart. The next day Allen arrived to ensure that the harness and the carriage were all fitting properly and we were off. Our domination in the world of carriage driving was at its beginning.
Perhaps a little exaggeration, my first foray was a drive around the village. Allen took the reins for the first part and talked to me about how he felt Jimmy was going and parts of the harness to look at to make sure that nothing was too tight or too loose and how to keep a steady contact on the reins so that Jimmy would have the very necessary reassurance that he was not on his own and that he had a good driving partner helping him. All the time he was also giving Jimmy encouragement and letting him know that he was doing the right thing. Then we stopped and it was my turn, for the first time, to take the reins. Suddenly I felt a little sick, bravado departed and with trembling hands took up the reins and gave Jimmy the command to walk on. Well after the first few steps I knew I was ‘hooked’ this was brilliant. We walked, we trotted and walked again and all too soon we were home and I was grinning from ear to ear, brilliant (a word I seem to use a lot whilst driving). We soon unharnessed Jimmy and brushed him down then left him munching in the field, looking very content. Allen jumped in his car to go home, a merry wave and ‘you’ll be fine now’ and he was gone.
The next morning, I leapt out of bed and rushed to give Jimmy his breakfast, came back to the house and informed my poor unsuspecting husband, Bill, that he was now my official groom and we would be going out for a drive! Collecting the harness from the tack room, trepidation set in – would I remember how to put it all on, would I remember how to attach the carriage and said harness to the pony? I had to look brave and be confident, mustn’t put the fear of God into my only willing groom. To my amazement, it went well and the groom returned grinning from ear to ear. We spent the next 3 months driving different routes around the locality, it was great fun but I soon realised that if we were to make progress we needed to do a lot more work to increase both our skills. Allen suggested some driving cones so that I could create some obstacles to safely drive around which would be good for steering skills. I was soon on the phone to a supplier and after quite a lengthy chat, I was able to call Allen to let him know that the cones were to be delivered along with a four wheel carriage!