Bracken is semi-retired, but sometimes takes very young children on lead rein

Bracken is our cheeky little Shetland pony. We bought her from a Spanish school friend of the children, about 10 years ago. When the children told us about her, we didn’t like to say no – Shetlands do not tend to have a great life here in Spain and can often be seen as live merry-go-rounds at fairs and fiestas. We felt we were justified in buying her as a cute addition to the herd, for our guest’s small children to ride. She only lived about a 20 minute walk from us, so it was easy to get her home and she became a very happy and popular member of our herd.

As Shetlands go, she is a good one, she willingly stands for small children to groom and fuss her, and allows us to lead her around for toddler pony rides. On the very rare occasion that we have a young rider wanting to take her out on a ‘real’ hack , she is in her element, she loves to go out and can easily keep up with the bigger horses on a 2 hour ride. Sadly most children who are big and strong and competent enough to ride her out are at the age where they want to ride a bigger pony, so she is quite wasted really, though I doubt she thinks so. She has lives with the oldies – quite a clever move as it ensures that she gets plenty of food, she’s not silly.

She has led us a merry dance over the years with her Houdini antics though. We have to have extra bolts on every door that she might come in contact with and also padlocks, as she has an incredible ability to open anything. Being so small, she is good at escaping under top bars of gates and with her thick coat and extra layer of fat she has no respect for electric fence tape. One day we thought she had disappeared when we came down to the horses in the morning – there was no sign of her. We ran around the garden calling for her and she was eventually found in the pool pump house – silly creature had let herself in but when the door closed behind her she couldn’t get back out. Her worst trick is to lock us in the hen house which is situated in the horse’s paddock. It has a bolt on the outside but no way of opening it from the inside. I always try to keep my mobile phone in my pocket just in case!