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  • Writer's pictureNondiarist

Tinker and the Lion

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

The magnificent mare in this photo is Tinker – aka Tinkerbell, Tinksy-Winks, Princess Bellatrice and a few other things that I won’t repeat here.

Her owner, the equally magnificent and wonderful Mr Les Travers (standing, in the photo), told his granddaughters that they could choose a name for her, and they looked at this sweet little new-born foal lying in the straw and christened her Tinkerbell. And Tinkerbell grew up to be 17.5 hands of muscle with an attitude problem. Hence she became known as Tinker.

When I started competing on her, Les decided to give her the show name of Princess Bellatrice and yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit that when I was feeling fond of her I did call her Tinksy-Winks.

She was fast, she was strong, she was intelligent and she was the most complicated horse I’d ever ridden but she taught me a lot about riding and horse psychology – as well as some new vocabulary. Yet for all her superiority complex and her mareishness (Is that a word? Equestrians will know what I mean), she never pulled any malicious stunts and she was bold enough to go past anything as long as I allowed her a little time to take a look and think about it.

But she wasn’t beyond running the odd check that I was still believing myself to be in charge. So when she started backing off that innocuous bush at the entrance to one of the tracks we’d used often, I put on my best cross voice and applied my heels.

“For God’s sake, Tinker! It’s a just a bush.”

“Uh-uh,” she said, side-stepping around a bit. “It could easily be something masquerading as a bush.”

“How many times have you gone past it before, you stupid…….girl?”

The amount of leg I was applying would normally have sent that horse into the next county in three seconds but she wasn’t having any of it. We skittered left, we skittered right and we continued to argue.

“I don’t remember seeing it before.”

“Yes you do.”

“Well it wasn’t on that side of the track last time.”

“Yes it was.”

“Well it might be hungry today.”

“It’s a bush. It doesn’t eat horses.”

“How do you know? And by the way, I’m not stupid.”


I became aware that we weren’t alone. On the other side of the not-so-innocuous bush was a couple, out for a walk. Well, they’d stopped walking and were frozen to the spot with eyes like saucers. From their perspective, the way was now completely blocked by a horse as tall as they were and that was snorting, rolling its eyes and weaving about on its haunches like it was about to launch an attack.

I grinned at them but they just goggled at me.

I dropped the sarcasm and the cross voice and went for the growl.

“Tinker, if you want to go home to your stable and your dinner, you’re going to have to go past it.”

And screwing up my courage, gave her an almighty kick. She hesitated just a fraction of a second, then relaxed completely and went, “Okay, okay. Keep your hair on. It’s just a bush, silly,” and she sauntered past the offending plant towards our small audience.

Now the model of a polite, well-schooled horse, she responded to my request to move sideways off the track to give the couple space, while they flattened themselves against a tree on the other side.

“Sorry about that!” I greeted them, breezily, “There’s a lion in that bush.”

When I looked back, they were scuttling towards the road on tiptoe, through the long grass and scrub in order to give the bush at least a five metre berth, without taking their eyes off it.

I’ll bet they still dine out on the story. There was this formidable….well it was a horse, but hell, it was the size of an elephant you know….prancing around in such a threatening manner, ridden by this mad woman who seemed convinced there was a lion lurking in the vegetation. In a quiet, conventional English village. She was, like, nuts man, I tell you what.

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