Putswa the Pony

Putswa means grey.

Putswa was a 14hh basuto pony from Lesotho in Africa.

He was also my first pony and I will be honest with you…he was the best pony ever.

HOWEVER…he was everything you probably wouldn’t put on your list.

  • He was grey (hard to keep clean)
  • He loathed cuddles
  • He didn’t want anyone near his back end – this includes instructors standing in the middle of an arena…because I mean…they could be interpreted as at his back end. Especially if he reversed at them. Then they were definitely at his back end.
  • He had only ever been a pack pony. No circles, poles, jumping, pony club etc.
  • He HATED having his ears touched so he had to have a bit that clipped onto his headcollar. This would lead to problems in competition where there are equipment rules.
  • The list went on.

HOWEVER.

I didn’t care about any of that. I had wanted to do all these things my whole life and I finally had the opportunity to. An angry pony with many a complex would not dampen my passion. We would just have to learn together. Me, how to have a pony and him, how to have a little girl love him. And you know what? We did.

He bit me when I handled him wrong. I learned to pay attention to what he liked and disliked. He stopped dead when he didn’t understand something. I learned to help a horse understand what I was asking.

He hated having his ears touched so for years he rode with a bit that clipped on to his head collar until he trusted me to put a bridle on. He didn’t like things behind him (including instructors) so I spent ages teaching him to lunge and long rein til he got more confidence and could walk behind him without being kicked. I had minimal balance with no stirrups and he caught me several times which gave me the confidence to persevere until I could find my seat. I never fell off him because he always caught me which made me bold. He disliked dogs so my dog came to the yard as often as possible til he decided she wasn’t so bad and so maybe the others were ok to. Together we overcame it all.

He developed a wobbly ear that flicked back and forth when we tried something new as if to check in…”You ready back there?” and as long as I encouraged him he would give it a go. He learned to trust me.

“OK so jumping is scary. How about one pole and I’ll go first. You follow me. Trust me. I promise you will be ok. There you go! Can you carry me over it? Just one foot at a time! You can do it! Clever lad!”

Our first dressage test I was so nervous I made myself ill and barely slept the night before. I spent it trotting round my living room, learning the test.

We scraped through BUT I will forever be proud of the judges comment.

‘He tries so hard for you.’

A year or so later we won a show jumping competition. Then a dressage one. We won a lot over the years.

Once he got it he would jump anything I asked (except shark teeth fillers. He hated those and nothing on this earth would make him reconsider that.).

In fact, Putswa did anything and everything little me wanted to try. We went on adventures into the surrounding land often for miles, we competed successfully at dressage, showjumping, cross country, mounted games…oh you name it but there was more that he did that maybe he never knew.

He was a friend. Someone who carried me away from all my problems. I didn’t always have the easiest time growing up, like many of us, but Putswa gradually trusted me and we soon became best friends and with him at my side my problems didn’t matter so much.

He taught me that champions come in all sizes. He taught me kindness and patience are the most valuable tools and you should never give them up.

The confidence we learned together kept us strong when we were apart. I had to leave the country at 18 and no matter how hard I tried he was never going to fit in my suitcase. This, now awesome, pony went on to teach a young girl to ride. He knew how to do it all now and it was his turn to teach someone all about it. He stayed at the same yard with his best pony pal until the day he died. When the news got to me, I sobbed. As an adult, many years later, on the other side of the world, I cried for my childhood best friend not being in the world anymore.

I just wanted to thank him. I had made a whole career based on the confidence he taught me. I have worked with countless ponies and horses who benefited from the skills he taught me. So many rehabilitation cases that needed me to show them something one step at a time.

Now, over 20 years since I first met Putswa, I have another pony to call my own called Grings. His personality under saddle reminds me so much of him that I honestly feel Putswa must have seen him from the heavens and said ‘I know just the girl for you’ and sent him to find me.

The year Putswa died is the year I met Grings.

When Grings became mine we began work and one day I asked him to do something new and we tried a jump and…he threw a temper tantrum. He just didn’t understand what on earth I was asking and without thinking I got off and told him…

“OK so jumping is scary. How about one pole and I’ll go first. You follow me. Trust me. I promise you will be ok. There you go! Can you carry me over it? Just one foot at a time! You can do it! Clever lad!”

The other day Grings carried me over a jump confidently and I’m sure I saw his ear wiggle to check in with me as we approached it.

Thank you Putswa. I’ll always remember what you taught me.

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