Blackie, always the more wary of the two ponies, has taken a little longer to get to grips with pulling a carriage. After an equally successful ridden career as his soulmate Brownie, he is now really enjoying his driving, both in tandem and as a team leader.
Blackie was rescued from slaughter along with Brownie in 2002 (click here for full story). Unlike Brownie, Blackie was suspicious of everything, and took longer to break in. Despite his small size he was incredibly quick, and combined with his sensitivity this made him a very tricky ride. His particular quirk was that he didn’t like the rider’s legs to touch him as soon as they got on, which led to some careful mounting and ‘twizzling’, as it soon became known. Once this ritual was complete he would then do whatever was asked of him, not minding the leg at all!
A typical Shetland, Blackie could be very strong. He was mainly ridden by small adults until Mike came along, and a great partnership was formed. Unlike Brownie, Blackie loved to jump and so did Mike, who proceeded to make Shetland-sized cross country fences out of anything he could! With Linda’s help and encouragement they began to compete in showing and dressage classes, doing extremely well at county level before Mike grew to tall for a 39″ pony!
As Mike began to grow, Anna started to take over the ride on Blackie. Under the tutelage of Jo Wright-Graham of DHI Performance Horses, the pair worked their way up from Prelim level. Although Blackie was always regarded as the better example of a Shetland pony in the show ring, his pony confirmation made dressage much harder for him. While Brownie moved like a little horse, Blackie was pony through and through, with a thick solid neck and very short legs! However, with a LOT of hard work he began to learn to make the most of what he had, and before long he was bringing home the red rosettes regularly from local dressage competitions. His accuracy in a test was second to none, and his scores rarely dropped below 67%, indeed they were often in the 70s! In 2009 he was placed 3rd at the Trailblazers National Finals at Stoneleigh, an amazing feat as he was in the senior class competing against warmbloods! After many years of schooling, Blackie has now become something of a ‘clockwork mouse’ when it comes to dressage, easily carrying out lateral movements from shoulder-in to half pass!
As Blackie’s ridden work improved, so too did his driving. He has taken a bit longer than Brownie, and although he was initially driven as a single by both Mike and Linda he found it hard to relax with the carriage directly behind him. However, his breakthough came when we put him as the leader in tandem. With Brownie behind him he grew more and more confident, and the two of them competed at the Indoor Finals for the first time in 2009, driven by our friend Lesley Goodden, a tandem expert. They came 3rd at the Finals after only a few months of being driven this way for the first time, and with Lesley’s help Mike went on to perfect his tandem driving. His hard work paid off as in 2010 he back National Tandem Champion at the Indoor Finals, a title he successfully defended in 2011!
Since then, Blackie’s confidence has come on in leaps and bounds, and he is now driving happily in the team and tandem as a leader, and even occasionally in the pair! Today his main job is helping keep the youngsters in line in the field, eating as much as possible, giving rides to local children and going for a good gallop with Anna! Recently, he has also resumed his tandem career with Linda at the reins, and we will be watching avidly to see what kind of ‘interesting’ manoeuvres he pulls off this time round!
As Blackie likes a varied life, in 2014 he was part of the Antrobus Riding Club’s quadrille ‘Snow White & the Seven Dwarves’. Ridden by Lucy, he and his pony friends Brandish, Del Boy and Cloud, along with their young jockeys, narrowly missed qualifying for Olympia by 1%!
Like Brownie, Blackie also works with special needs children who ride through the Mid Cheshire Riding for the Disabled (referred to as his ‘Saturday job’!). He will stand at the mounting block like a rock for his young riders, and happily is not bothered by anyone climbing aboard any more!