INSPIRED TO RIDE.
The little girl in this photograph was 11 years old. The pony was called Blackie and technically stolen. The little girl was in love with horses and had been since she was cognitive. Her earliest memory is of the pony that pulled the milk float up the hill to her home on Taymount Rise, Forest Hill, in London. When her parents decided to move to Chertsey her dream came true she was going to be allowed to ride.
At her school, the Silesian Convent in Chertsey, Surrey, to the left of the entrance gate was a circular gatehouse. Sweet chestnut trees and rhodendrons lined the road which went up the hill to a Victorian house which was the nuns home and contained classrooms. The classrooms in the 1958 were just up the path from the gatehouse on the right hands side and to the left was an old coach house where the children had their luncheon. The buildings were old and may have been converted stables.
Opposite the gatehouse was a little paddock and in that paddock a small black pony, munching his days away happily in the knowledge that he was retired. But his peaceful life was interrupted by an event that may not have altered his life but certainly enhanced and enriched the life of a little girl.
After school each day the little girl waited until all her class has left. She would then hide her satchel under a bush and then she climb over the gate and catch the pony and jump up on its back and ride it round the little paddock. The pony didn’t seem to mind and the little girl was in heaven. Until one day, she was caught by Sister Stephanie. The resulting row over her outrageous behavior put her into detention and being late home she had to tell her mother and father what she had been doing.
The nuns were quite sure that riding ponies was naughty especially if you did not own the pony, but the owner of the pony got to hear about this from the people who lived in the gatehouse. Duly a saddle and bridle was delivered to the gatehouse for the little girl to use and she was given permission to ride the pony whenever she wanted to. She was also told its name, ‘Blackie’.
The little girl’s father came down to captured this event. He took these photos of his daughter doing an impression of a jockey. Little were her parents to realize that this little girl was to become one of the first women to be granted a professional flat jockey’s licence. She also travelled the world in search of the Golden Horses and was literary advisor to a well-known horse whisperer who lived in California. The rest as they say is history.
The little girl was me.