To the ones I love: Valentine's Day messages for our RDA horses

Share the love: don't be shy!

Ah, Valentine's Day. I was prepared to maintain my normal cynical stance towards it until a couple of weeks ago, when at the stables, I realised it would be the perfect time to express my love and appreciation to those who bring love and happiness to my life and many others': our horses. What would you write in your favourite RDA horse's Valentine? 
(Disclaimer: my group currently owns 14 lovable horses, but for the purpose of this week's post I have written about eight of them. No poor reflection intended on the remaining six: 14 would have made for a very wordy post!)

Dear Candy...

I'm not sure whether it's your lack of tolerance for the geldings when they are being silly, your slightly diva-ish nature, or your genuine excitement about your work, but I think we have a lot in common. My riders love your smooth paces and openness to interpreting their instructions. You may be ageing gracefully (choosing my words carefully here...) but you've still got a lot left in the tank. One of your biggest fans says you make her feel like she is flying. So long as this never becomes literal I will always be happy to see you pricking up your ears and throwing yourself into an activity. I know you like to come across as a bit stand-offish to anyone who isn't one of your young riders, but I know you've got a big heart and a smart head, and that both of them care a lot about your job.

So, we're besties? Oh, ok, fine. No hugs in public. Cool.

PS Forgot to give you any acknowledgement for the fact that you only have one working eye, probably because you are so deft at operating with only the other one that I often forget you can't see out of it...

Dear Jasper...

Roses are red,
You are (according to one of my riders) "orange".

Despite your seemingly mismatched confirmation, occasional overenthusiasm, and the fact that you turned out to be ten years older than the people who sold us to you said, our group would not be the same without you. Even if your choppy stride makes me feel like I'm being cruel by requesting sitting trot of your riders, or if you are inclined to teach leaders some abrupt lessons about paying attention and setting boundaries, you are bothered by nothing and haven't been lame a day since you came to live with us. My riders find you cute and funny, especially when your trot is extra bouncy, and I don't think you've ever been given enough credit for how much you've picked up in the time you've been with us.

Dear Bryn...

The adorable My Little Pony of the yard, I am glad that you have almost overcome your fears of almost every item in the games cupboard, even if tinsel at Christmas remains a step too far (there's no accounting for taste). Thank you for being a glorious lead rein ride for our smallest riders, even to the extent that nobody needs to break out of a walk to lead you in trot. Your short stature has made me able to keep hold of wiggly, wobbly tinies in their first riding lessons without my equally short arms being stretched out to Mr Tickle proportions. If I had a garden, I would be very eager to keep you in it. (I know, I know, you're probably happier hanging out with Jimbob...)

Dear Princess...

You are such a stalwart of our group it's easy to forget that your journey to move in with us was pretty dramatic (her trailer flipped over in high winds) and that your first few weeks were spent amazing everyone that you were happy even to walk around your field. You were definitely born to be an RDA horse: I have yet to find a rider to whom you are not sympathetic, or a rider who doesn't love you. You even took to the hoist like a consummate professional in a matter of minutes, and trusted us enough to travel again (then again, when you qualified for Nationals on your first outing!). We are genuinely so lucky to have you.

Even Candy has to admit that she enjoys the occasional hug!

Dear Jimbob...

Sweet JB, if your affections are expressed most sincerely by the charming way you pin your ears back against your head, I have no doubt that we are soulmates. I am very sorry for the many times I have referred to you as "pudding" in a squeaky voice. The lilting saxophone of "Careless Whisper" will forever remind me of you, foxtrotting your way into another horse's freestyle floorplan with flair and fleet-footedness the late George Michael himself would have envied. I know that underneath your gruff exterior there lies a truly dependable soul, and it makes the whole yard happy to see you happy (because we're used to seeing you acting like a complete misery).

I wish you a day full of illicit blueberry muffins (your favourite snack). Please do not feel the need to lick my face again when you receive this message.

Dear Mr Brown...

Every RDA group needs a horse like you in their lives. Quiet. Unassuming. A lovely mane and tail for children to brush and plait. Seemingly immune to strange noises and movements. A sense of humour (a penchant for the apples on the Countryside Challenge course, wherever it may be...). A gentle, lolloping trot. A gentle appreciation of the affections of small people. If more human beings could be as sweet and as tolerant as you, I think society would be a much kinder place. We just won't talk about your coordination over a line of trotting poles.

Dear Ernie...

You have lovely dapples
You are greedy with apples
You can be such a wimp
But on your progress do not skimp
I've faith in your RDA abilities
If not your on-the-ground civilities

Genuinely though, thank you for teaching Laura her walk to canter transitions the other weekend xoxox

Dear Speckles...

26 years old, more than two decades into your RDA career and you've definitely still got it (can you give me some advice?). Some weeks I wonder if you've forgotten that you are an old gentleman on lighter duties, and pretty much every week I'm convinced that you know my lesson plan better than I do... even when I haven't written one. Nationals? Para training? Event displays? Driving? Done the lot. A steadfast choice for every first in the book. Your sense of humour is still keeping us all on our toes (is he actually going to stop on the centre line in this dressage test, after keeping us in suspense for three months?) but there isn't a nasty bone in your body, even if there are a couple of creaky ones these days. People seem to know you even if they don't really know our group, and we are very fortunate to know you best of all. Long live the king!

Lots of love from Coach India, your unashamedly unanonymous valentine

Bryn and his fan club - one of my classes has to have a "Bryn rota" because he is so popular...