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June 10, 2005

Hunting Life - A Horse Named Frwd

Posted by Jorocs

"Five hundred and fifty pounds", categorically stated the Welsh hill farmer.

"Five hundred", demanded my recently married bride.

But the Welsh mountain farmer was as immovable as the mountain behind him. He had started life as a farm worker, and now he owned that mountain and farmed it, and he hadn't achieved that by allowing some slip of a girl get the better him. His seven sons ranged around the yard behind him, and the Welsh cob was put back in his box.

As we left the farmyard and drove down the farm track, my bride of seven days burst into tears. On stopping to inquire what was wrong, she sobbed, "I always dreamed of owning a horse like that".

"That's alright", I said, "I'll pay the extra fifty quid". I was feeling very magnanimous because we were honeymooning in Wales and we'd heard of a horse for sale, and she was buying it as a wedding present for me. And so came into my life Frwd Lwyd Phenomenon, translation "The Dark Valley", a beautiful, dark bay cob with four white socks and a white blaze. He proved a great favourite but his name always caused a problem. We called him "Frydd" but I once rode into the show jumping ring announced as "John Jorocs on Fried".

Thinking back, in his early years, a friend was kind enough to remind me of the ditty:

One white sock buy,
two white socks try,
three white socks pass him by,
four white socks and a white nose, throw him to the crows.
Luckily Frwd was an absolute exception to this rule.

Now twenty-six years later, I've had to have Frwd put down - at the age of thirty-one. And, although I walk away with tears welling, I have nothing but happy thoughts of the wonderful times we had together. Frwd was a superb all rounder. We bought a governess cart and broke him to harness, making a truly international combination: a Welsh cob pulling an Irish cart made in Limerick and a Scottish harness made in Frazerburgh, driven by an Englishman. We always came last in driving competitions at the local shows, but he was in his element giving cart rides to the local children after the show was over and giving bareback rides once the harness was off. I'll never forget the day I rode him into the beer tent where we spent the rest of the day, and he became almost human in his responses to the attention of the crowd.

Memories flood back as I remember the local gymkhana fancy dress when he carried the whole family on his back round the ring in a depiction of Uncle Tom Cobley and Widecombe Fair. And there was the time he and I did Lady Godiva, with me leading and him carrying a blow up doll, and the giggles from the crowd as I attempted to secure sell tape on a leak in her most intimate area as she crumpled and wilted in the sun.

We never did make that trip with a tent round the John Moore county of Hereford in the hop-picking season, one of the few things we didn't accomplish, but hunting was his real forte. He proved a natural jumper. I can still remember the day we were alone with hounds, me on Frwd followed by the visiting chairman of a very prestigious hunt. We were brought up short by a double stranded barbwire fence. "What are you going to do now?" he asked. "Jump it of course", I said, as I spun the cob round and flew the fence. I then witnessed him dismounting, carefully placing his smart hunting coat over the wire, jumping the fence and then retrieving his coat. As we galloped on in pursuit of the hounds he kept chortling with amazement, "I've never done that before".

When Frwd got too old for hunting, he was sent out to a loan home where he was royally cosseted, but came back this last summer and became an ideal companion for the foal we had just bred. I don't think he particularly relished being pursued round the paddock by the troublesome foal but it certainly cured his arthritis.

Sadly he was led out of the stable one morning and his back leg had gone. Compassionately the local hunt attended and he died in the corner of the field where he had liked to doze, idly flicking flies with his tail. I was drawn to walk out to the field after milking next morning and suddenly realised he'd chosen to be put down in the very spot the foal had been born. I am sure, on those long summer days stood nose to tail with the foal, words of wisdom on how to conduct oneself in life and the hunting field would have been passed from the old to the young.

Jorocs writes about hunting life for the Social Affairs Unit. To read more by Jorocs, see Hunting.

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