Olga Pyne Clarke (1915-1996): Horses

At the age of four, Olga recalls receiving her first pony with delight. The pony’s name was Snowdrop, and although it often misbehaved by using her teeth on ‘anyone or anything that displeased her’ (p.42), Olga loved the horse more than any other that her family owned. If anyone approached Snowdrop, she would be inclined to bite them, but, as Olga explains, she would never bite Olga. This relationship with Snowdrop established at an early age what would be a life-long love of animals and horses for Olga. It was this love of horses that made her future work enjoyable and rewarding.  

     Through Olga’s experience of horses, useful information is obtained about how horses are cared for and the rider adapts to the horse. When a rider (such as Olga) becomes older, the horse they ride also changes. Younger and lighter riders (such as the four-year-old Olga) are given smaller animals to ride. For example, when Olga first begins hunting with her family, she rides a donkey. In her youth, horses were used to help Olga and her family farm; however, as an adult, Olga would pick up odd jobs in England and Ireland that had her caring and training horses for landowners. In these jobs she describes details such as the amount of food the horses should be given, how she would ‘dress up’ (p.217) the horses stables by removing dung and save the horses resources during wartime. Tricks of the trade are occasionally revealed in these explanations. One that comes to mind is the explanation of brushing a colt and a filly and how you must brush the colt first so that you do not take the smell of the filly to the colt and ‘excite him’ (p.218), especially if he is a sexually-mature older horse.       Other facts about horses are obtained through Olga’s experiences of trading, transporting and selling horses in Ireland and England. Olga recalls how the price of transporting a horse from Cork to Cirencester costed her ‘£3 per animal’ (p.193) but also how she felt guilty about the conditions the horses had to endure along the journey.  It was on this journey that that Olga saw the lives of industrial work-horses at the Mersey Ferry. She compares them to the Irish Guinness horses who are also ‘a-glitter with brass’ (p.194), working silently as a unit. In London, when Guy was posted abroad and she was feeling bored, Olga would pass the time by taking horses out on rides through ‘Rotten Row’ (p.205). Much like the horses working on the ferries, Olga felt sympathy for the horses working on the Row: she empathised with the horses because they were treated poorly. She describes how these horses were ‘waiting for hire all day’ (p.206), left in the sun with no food. By working with them though, she was able to pass the time by working with an animal she loves. With horses, Olga always felt at home.

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