A real-life pony story: Jacqueline Darnborough

The story of this amazing lady and her struggle to get her own pony arrived in my Facebook inbox. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jacqueline last week, and she told me more about her story.


Starting off

At school I was good at needlework, and I was asked to make a mascot for my house team. I designed a horse but it was much much bigger than the ones I eventually made and sold. We had a family friend called Harold the egg man, who was disabled and raised chickens and sold eggs. He had an invalid carriage and went round the village selling the eggs from the carriage. Harold would display my horses in the invalid carriage window, and sold my little horses to people who bought his eggs.


Eventually I had enough, and I bought my pony with my earnings in 1962. His name was Shadow and he was a black 13 3hh New Forest pony. I was lucky to live in a village surrounded by fields so had no problems with where to keep him. When I was 9 I had weekly lessons at a well-known riding school called Ruth Bennett’s so by the time I was 13 I knew what I was doing. My Grandad was the guru to go to if I needed any advice so my poor pony wasn’t left to the mercy of a 13 year old entirely!

Shadow lived in a large field with 10 other ponies. There were loads of trees, and the weekly field rent of 10 shillings (50p) included hay in winter provided by the farmer who owned the land. The ponies (mostly native) were used to living out all year. We would ride most days after school in summer – it was safe on the roads then.

Summer shows

It was a very special time I had with Shadow. We formed a bond and had some glorious summers together. I would get up very early to fetch him from his field and then back to Dad’s garage to get him ready for the shows. I’d groom him till his coat shone like black silk, plait his mane and tail and oil his hooves. Off we would go with my drawstring bag tied to the saddle and hack to the gymkhanas, then ride him home both of us tired out after a long day. He was so willing I didn’t realise what a gem of a pony he was.

He had no vices and he didn’t bite … but he had a red ribbon tied to his tail. He was definitely boss pony at his field.

There was never any difficulty catching him from the field. I would stand at the gate and whistle for him with two fingers and there would be a thunder of hooves, and the whole lot would come galloping with Shadow in the lead. The hard part was getting him through that gate without the others coming too.

My grandparents also lived in the village. Shadow loved to visit them at the back of their cottage for his treat of sliced apples and carrot. In fact one day he turned up at their place without me because someone had left the field gate open.

keeping going

My pocket money paid for his upkeep and I carried on earning as I have always done.

I’ve always figured out ways to earn money to get by. With Dad’s wheelbarrow I went poo picking in the field and knocked on all the doors in the village to sell it for 6d a bucketful. All the old folk couldn’t get enough for their roses. I even got Shadow doing pony rides with the younger kids for 6d a go in the field.

I’ll never forget the hardest winter on record in 1963. It was hard for us and the ponies as the ground was covered in deep snow for weeks. That is another long story of what we had to do in order to make sure everyone was fed and had water in the frozen landscape … and all before we went to school.

Shadow was the first of my many horses over the years but he was the one closest to my heart.

and now

I stopped riding when I was 47 due to having surgery on my spine. I go visiting horses owned by my friends now, get photos and paint them on commission.

Jacqueline and the last horse she owned

That’s me with Penny, my last horse. Wish I had more photos of me with Shadow. I did have a few black and white one taken by my dad at a show but mother threw them out years ago.

It was my grandmother who kept the paper cuttings and those two felt horses. My daughters played with them when they visited gran so they are now bedraggled. When gran died these were found among her belongings and came back to me. I didn’t know she had kept them all these years.

These days I work full time at home, though I retired about 10 years ago being 74 now. I still do what I love, which is restoring antique rocking horses for long standing customers and custom painting model horses.”


Thank you Jacqueline for sharing your amazing story.

If you like model horses, you can read more about them here and here.


2 responses to “A real-life pony story: Jacqueline Darnborough”

  1. Anne Stewart avatar
    Anne Stewart

    I think that story would make a great autobiography

    1. Jane Badger avatar
      Jane Badger

      It is a great story, I agree.

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