Posted by on February 12, 2013  Add comments
Feb 122013
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Patrick was the last of our farm bred horses.  When horses were widely used on many of the hill country properties our  farm stallion, and his half dozen mares, saw a high point of nearly thirty horses of various ages on the property.  The sturdy but short legged horses also made sensible and reliable mounts for pony club riders in the days when there was more of an emphasis on fun and participation along with learning about how to care for your horse.  High levels of competition and finance were yet to enter the equation.  Patrick was born a few years before we all got excited about Sir Peter Blake and the boats that were described as plastic fantastics.   After a couple of years of solid farm work Patrick was loaned to a young rider who developed a wonderful rapport with him and one thing led to another and the pair of them wanted to compete at local events.  An appropriate name was needed to raise his status from farm pony to elite equestrian mount.  Trying to decide what he should be called, we were watching him in his paddock, when  a plastic bag caught in the wind and began to skud over the ground towards the grazing horses.  Patrick saw the bag tumbling over the grass and began to follow it, closer and closer until he could catch it in his teeth.  To our amazement he began to devour it, and we thought that was quite the most crazy thing to do.  Someone made the comment that we should call him Plastic Fantastic which, after a bit of a discussion, ended up as Patrick Fantastic.  And that's what he was called for the next 20 years as he initiated several other riders to some wonderful days of riding and jumping.  Dressage was never his forte, the dent in the corrugated iron wall of the shed testament to his refusal  to accept a rider's legs closing around his sides.  In his book that meant go faster not engage your hindquarters because the rider wants to prepare you for a command.  His signature characteristic when jumping was to flick his beautiful  white tail high over his back as he landed, it was a crowd pleaser and marked his progress around a cross country course.
The hills on the farm are not kind to old horses.  Shoulders, hips and joints become stiff and once teeth become worn to little stumps the lack of long grass means that it is difficult to get enough to eat.  And so the day comes when the decision is made to put down a valued friend and workmate.  Normally the practical nature of farming requires that the farm dogs need to be fed.  But for Patrick, the last of his era, a ridge was chosen, where he used to like to stand to keep an eye over all his equine friends.  The other horses are kept well away while the shot rings out and my husband and I bury him where he falls. 
Movingly, the next day, when the horses are returned to the paddock, they all gather on the spot where Patrick is buried and remain there for the next couple of days.  Heads together, or tails flicking idly and a quietness, a calm, surrounds them.  I like to think that they are taking the time to say goodbye to their friend.

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  4 Responses to “Patrick”

  1. Wow. I cryed! My first impression of the image was that it is the south end of a north bound horse. But of course that is exactly what it is. Fantastic!

  2. Lovely story Pauline.
    It amazes me how animals spend their whole lives teaching us things. Their last lesson is always to teach us to have the courage to let them go with dignity and to say goodbye but forever hold to a memory.

  3. He was such an amazing pony Pauline. Will fondly be in our memories forever x x

  4. Wow Pauline, thank you for sharing that. I feel privileged to have ridden him. I still have the many photos, especially the famous tail flick.

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