Over the last few years I have often seen my friends Eddie and Lorna Bilous, with their small dog Bazil, driving a carriage pony around the Chiltern lanes. They live half a mile away from me in Turville. We stop to chat (if the pony allows it) and occasionally I offer advice about where they can drive (byways and restricted byways but not footpaths or bridleways).
The story of how they took up carriage-driving and fell in love with the chestnut Welsh pony, Henry, is recorded in their book Henry, A Carriage Driving Pony’s Life and Adventures.
When they brought Henry home they little knew what they were in for. The book documents the progress they made in winning Henry’s confidence, teaching him how to be driven (and themselves how to drive) and learning how to handle difficult situations.
There were plenty of hazards, from horses and riders, cyclists, lorries, pheasants and squirrels to the village christmas tree—all of which scared the nervous Henry. Even the vicar’s wife in her garden (‘doing the things that vicars’ wives do’ as Eddie puts it) gave poor Henry a fright. But he was enormously willing and wanting to do the right thing. A plucky pony, he gradually overcame his nerves.
Unfortunately Henry had laminitis and this developed into Equine Metabolic Syndrome. He bore it bravely but it became so bad that he couldn’t stand. The vet could do no more and he had to be put down at the age of only 11—a tragedy for his owners.
Eddie and Lorna had secured the loan of Charlie the cob before Henry died, and they eased their sorrow by working him. In six months they converted him from a frightened, unsure horse into a beautiful, responsive loving one. And Henry taught them how to do this.
Was it all worth it? they ask. It’s a rhetorical question for the answer is most definitely yes. Henry was a very special pony who made a great difference to their lives. They have calculated that in only just over two years they drove with Henry along 1,700 miles of highway in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, an impressive distance.
You can buy the book here.