Interesting Horses & Pockets Full of Treats
The Tollgate Riding Stables – Interesting Horses and Pockets Full of Horse Treats
As a child it was hard to keep me away from the Tollgate Riding Stables. Just a couple of miles from my home, the stables were perched on top of a hill next to the A2 near Gravesend in Kent. Sadly the stables were bulldozed in the 1990’s during the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
Life was never dull at the stables. Mainly because they featured such idiosyncratic horses. Weirdness seemed to be the main qualification for becoming a resident at Tollgate but it made for some interesting riding!
The Fruit Loop
Take Fruitgum, for instance, an attractive chestnut with a white blaze who was incredibly placid. The perfect horse for a beginner you would think. Except that this bizarre animal had a habit of suddenly dropping to the ground and rolling over! If you rode Fruitgum you always had to be ready to make a hasty exit via the side door!
A Major Mission
Apollo was also problematic. This gorgeous black horse was a great jumper with a pleasant nature but had a morbid hatred of tack. One brief glimpse of a bridle was enough to send him berserk in his stable. We all developed elaborate ruses to trick him when he needed tacking up in the morning but he got wise to them all. We then started to introduce diversionary tactics in the shape of horse treats. If we could get him munching we could at least get the bridle and saddle into the stable. The new approach worked for a while but he soon began to associate horse treats with tack!
The Horse Treat Menu
Talking of horse treats, they were a serious source of amusement. I kept a supply of and Likits but I was still at school and so couldn't afford to buy too many. (Nowadays we are spoilt for choice with a ) I started to pinch treats from home like carrots but it soon became obvious that each horse had a different favourite. With such bizarre personalities to tackle, I needed the right treats for each animal. Otherwise I might spend more time trying to pacify the horses than riding them.
I was forced to carry a selection of treats which meant that I was always ridiculously weighed down with what amounted to a three course meal in pocket. Some horses liked carrots, some cornflakes and the memorable Be Bop Deluxe, better known as Boppa, would only behave if bribed with apples.
Boppa! Now there was a horse. He was a fine looking and athletic bay. Swift of foot and with an impressive spring he was the perfect jumper, especially against the clock. Unfortunately he was picky about riders and most people who attempted to mount him were bucked off immediately. He liked me, but only if I had apples!
Against the Clock
Tollgate riding stables also boasted an odd horse who would only walk around the school in an anti-clockwise direction (left hand rein) and who was terrified of rabbits! I can’t remember this horse’s name but I do recall the many unbelievable performances he put on when rabbits got into the arena. There was another interesting mount who was fascinated by trees. If you went out for a hack in open fields this strange creature would suddenly charge off he spotted any wooded areas, often leaving his rider sitting on their posterior in the field.
Never a dull moment!