While we still had not received any word from Spain to fill in his past, we continued to
work with Piyayo putting him in every situation possible to 'see' what he was capable of.
I worked full time in the Armed Services so during the daytime Piyayo was left to himself
in his stable with a view of the village.
But as I soon discovered my 'dangerous' horse was not bored. During the daytime Piyayo
literally 'hosted' tea parties in his stable; his elderly landlady and a number of the pensioner
retired stockmen of the village had, through their love of animals become best friends to
Piyayo. They regularly visited for afternoon tea in his stable, through them Piyayo had
acquired a taste for rich tea biscuits dipped in tea, and toffees!
I did not need to ask or have pointed out to me
who Piyayo's new family were. The herd instinct
in him meant that he regarded himself as
responsible for his elderly charges and from his
stable he could view the village cottages and thus
the homes/stables in which each of his human
herd members resided.
If any ventured out from their home while Piyayo was on watch from his stable or
working on the village green, then he would not settle until he had spied them safely
returning to their home.
It was a quiet friendly village but I often wondered what would happen if any mugger
had tried to do harm to any of Piyayo's human herd. Knowing him as I do now, they
certainly would have met the wrath of a herd stallion guarding his strange human herd!
In the same village around the corner Piyayo had made friends with a ride and drive
gelding that often rode out hacking with us. Two weeks into my ownership of Piyayo,
while bedding him down for the night I turned from filling water buckets to meet my
great big grey walking calmly towards me down the drive. He had executed his old trick
of opening bolts and decided to take himself for a night time stroll to see his friend.
When confronted with 16hh of muscled stallion determined to go exploring there is only
one thing to do; grab head collar and rope and calmly with feed bucket follow!
As later similar adventures were to prove Piyayo did not go mindlessly thundering out if
he 'escaped', he always would have a set agenda of who he was visiting and that would
be followed to the letter. On this night he was off to the smallholding around the corner
to see his riding companion.
Unfortunately his navigation became confused and instead of turning up his friends drive
he wandered up the drive next to the field and stables he was heading for and found
himself blocked by a padlocked five bar metal gate securing the neighbouring pig
barracks and yard.
As he stood there at the gate contemplating the problem I set too slipping his head collar
on and had only completed buckling it up to have him sit back on his haunches beside me
and launch straight up and over the gate effortlessly, leaving me standing outside the pig
yard while he thundered around the concrete yard ringing the piggery building, working
out the next route to his friend.
The commotion had brought out my friend, and she and I having assessed that we had no
means to open the padlocked gate came to the conclusion that our only option other then
leaving him for a night building up steam charging around, was for Piyayo to return the way
he had come.
I had no choice but to climb over grab the head collar rope and jump aboard bare back
to try and get Piyayo to repeat his flight pattern over the gate. It's one of those moments
when your brain has a very warped notion of what is the better path and blocks all thought
about it being suicide. The stressed reasoning was that 'the idiot horse had managed to
clear the gate once so there was no way even with me hanging on top that he should not
be able to repeat the jump'. Seemed a sensible plan at the time!
Amazingly we did it! Perhaps not so amazing given our later knowledge of exactly what
Piyayo really was capable of. But for me, not something I would ever contemplate in the
cold light of day when sane and not blinded by anger at the mess he'd put himself in and
determined he was going to go home and sleep it off while I recover with a glass of brandy!
Retrospectively that moment of knowing the full power of Piyayo and trusting blindly in
him as we flew over that gate was breathtaking.
As his fitness increased I looked to expand Piyayo's work and experience, and I came to
know a local self taught rider who gave riding lessons on her family horses and ponies.
Maria was an excellent rider with a total love and empathy with her horses, and in need
of a horse to bring the children on from their ponies as well as a good 15 stone weight
bearing mount for adult beginners to ride.
I had total confidence in Piyayo but it took a leap of faith and a genuine love of horses for
Maria to accept the challenge of trusting an unknown horse, a stallion at that, to become
part of her little equestrian empire.
No need for worry, Piyayo and Maria fell in love with each other, she talked daft to him
and he drooled over every word of nonsense that she uttered to him! If she had been a
horse he could not have been more in love with her. From then on Maria worked with
Piyayo when I was not free to ride him, she continued to schooling him, used him to give
lessons to adults on the lunge and steadily became the first horse for the children to ride.
We discovered that Piyayo was a natural schoolmaster. If, like Maria and I you could ride
he expected you to ride and not be lazy about it, he made you work equal to what you
expected from him and did not suffer fools pretending that they 'knew it all'.
But if Piyayo felt he had a beginner or novice astride he gave all control to the commands
of the instructor on the ground. I had from the beginning been aware that Piyayo's early
voice commands would have been in Spanish but with my spoken Spanish limited I had
steadily reinforced every aid with the spoken English word intially using polo mints as
reward, you could stop Piyayo at full gallop with the words 'do you want?'.
Maria and I had hours of fun being entertained by Piyayo, the schoolmaster. He hated
rain and if it started to rain during lessons he would dive for the instructor on the ground
and try and hide his head inside your coat. With the children we found he had similar
notions of his own about how to help them with their lesson, in essence as Maria put it
'he cheated' to help the child rider!
He literally listened to Maria's instructions to her class and then did the exercise for the
child, it made no difference showing the children, by Maria walking the routine on foot
around the arena rather than saying the instructions.
Piyayo would still set off and do exactly as he had 'seen' Maria do, turning on the
forehand, reversing, leg yielding, it made no difference he was going to treat his child rider
to the perfect lesson in which the child just sat passively on top.
It became a regular sight to see Maria demonstrate a lesson with Piyayo beside the other
ponies and riders but with his back turned to Maria in her attempt to stop Piyayo from
'cheating' by watching her! Needless to say the children loved him.
At this time we still did not know about Piyayo's prestigious show jumping career, only
that attempts by amateurs to hurl him at the Midland Bank National Cross Country course
on his previous owners estate had resulted in disaster and of course the impromptu night
time flying leap over that solid five bar gate!
For us, Piyayo's first lessons in jumping was with the children over rainbow and poker
dot coloured home made jumps. To our amazement Piyayo calculated the distance and
pace required to calmly 'puissance' jump, with child safely on board, every obstacle in his
path. He graduated from there to successfully competing in his first cross country novice
hunter trial with Maria's eight year old daughter as jockey and Maria on her mare as lead.