Just Mickey

Irish Draught x Thoroughbred

Died aged 10 on 21st May 2000

Mickey's Story

Mickey came to me when he was 9 years of age and I was just 11. At 14.3hh, he was bigger than all of my friends' ponies, but this proved no deterrent to me. Stubborn and foolish I may have been, but when my mother and I see him standing, alone, dejected and thin in that bare floored field, there was no way we were leaving without him.

Mickey's tale was a sad one, and nobody will ever truly understand what happened to him. All I know is that he was abandoned for no apparent reason, left in a field with no rug, no food and dirty water. He was fortunate enough in that the owner of the livery yard took pity on him after a few weeks of his suffering, and decided to sell him in lieu of the money she was owed for his keep. Thus it was that we heard of him, and thus, although he was everything that we were not looking for, he found what was to be his last home.

But in spite of the gentleness and care with which we treated him, Mickey found it hard to trust. His noble face bore the bumps and scars of many a beating, and he would flinch away from any brandished object, terrified of the pain he feared it was about to inflict. For weeks and weeks, I sat with him, trying to gain his trust, to be his friend. And at last, a breakthrough was made.

At first, we decided just to take him out hacking; it remained to be seen whether he would ever trust us sufficiently to compete. For the most part, he behaved like an angel; granted, he was strong, but never, seemingly, to excess; I never felt threatened or fearful of him. But when we did finally take him to Pony Club, he became wild again, charging around with his head in the air, to the extent that every Pony Club mum felt compelled to tell my mother what a huge mistake she had made. But I did not care; I still maintain that not once was I ever scared of Mickey. And we continued to work with him, having specific schooling lessons, the occasional jumping lesson, and eventually, to my delight, he calmed down enough for us to take him to a small competition.

Mickey loved to jump, so much so that once he decided to go, I had to do nothing but sit tight and steer. Not once did he refuse, and in six months, I never fell off him. We were a team, and our miraculous friendship was cemented by his fifth place rosette, won in our first, and subsequently only, competition. For, after that wonderful day, things began to fall apart. Mickey trotted up lame one morning, and after a vet came to see him, it was ascertained that he had strained his check ligament. The prospect of nine months box rest did not, however, dishearten me, for we were more than just horse and rider. We were soulmates, and I did not need to ride him to enjoy his company. And so, I looked forward to a summer of taking him for long, gentle walks up the lane, of grooming him until his red coat shone. But even this was not to be.

On the 21st May 2000, Mickey collapsed in his stable as my mum and I were setting his bed fair for the night. It was quick, and he did not seem to know what was happening. But all I can remember is the wild look in his eye as he staggered to stay upright, the terrified neigh as his legs crumpled, and the splinter of wood as he fell for the last time. For what seemed like hours I cradled his lifeless head, as my mum tried desperately to revive him. The vet's words bore a finality, a curtness that I could not comprehend. He was not even in his prime; at just ten years old, he could have lived to perhaps three times that. But a massive heart attack had claimed his young life, stealing away from me the most wonderful friend I had ever known.

I take heart in the fact that those last seven months were most likely the best he had ever known. We gave him love when he had known only fear; we gave him comfort when he had known only loneliness. I still travel up to the Downs, every now and again, to stand and reminisce by his grave, and often I fancy I can see him, galloping free along the crest of the hill, doing what he loved best. And a part of him will remain with me forever; he will never know just how much he gave me.

Goodbye, my friend.


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