Humphrey, Humphrey, I defy you !

This is a true story submitted to on the theme of Courage.

Monaghan , the true centre of the Universe, holds a dark secret. It was once the setting for an epic battle between the forces of good, i.e. me, and the Devil himself. Close your eyes for a moment and picture the devil.

Red ? Horned ? Little goatee beard ?


The devil is white, rather small,  has four legs, a swishy tail and a mane and goes by the name of Humphrey. I have stared into his coal black , soulless eyes and lived. I am the most courageous person ever, ever.

When I was eleven my family had more pets than anyone else I knew. But they were all tiny, we weren’t allowed to play with them and they lived in Dad’s aquarium. My friend , MIcahel , on the other hand had two dogs and a pony. And not only did he have a pony, his two brothers and two sisters all had horses or ponies. They all went to Monaghan Pony Club gymkhana’s and Pony Club socials, which were like disco’s , but with no one dancing with each other, or at all really, just an awkward swaying of the arms, feet bolted to the floor. The highlight of the Pony Club year appeared to be the annual Pony Club Summer Camp where you spent a week away from home, and your parents, camping out with your horse, there would be discos , campfires, and eating barbeque every single night. They made it sound so exciting. I wanted to go, they wanted me to go, but I didn’t have a pony, which seemed to be the most important criteria in order to attend the Pony Club Camp.

Then one day at school Michael told me that his younger brother wasn’t interested in going to camp and I could take his pony, Humphrey. I was thrilled.

Humphrey was a tiny little white thing, my feet wouldn’t quite trail along the ground when I sat on him, but wouldn’t not far off. I didn’t care, I was going to Pony Club Camp. I hadn’t had much experience with horses, but Humphrey was so small I didn’t have any fear. I had no fear of Humphrey, until I actually met Humphrey. Everyone just saw this tiny little playful pony , but the moment we met, he fixed me with his coal black soulless eyes and as I got closer his eyes appeared to roll back into their sockets and he bit me. I yelped, Humphrey laughed, I looked at him and as he glared back at me defiantly, I saw it for the first time, Humphrey was the Devil Incarnate, or rather the Devil In-Pony-ate.

Camp started badly, and then went rapidly downhill from there. If I dared try to steer Humphrey in any direction other than the one he wanted to go in he would simply contort his neck back and nip my leg. If he stopped and I had to kick him with my heels to get him moving he would go forward a few paces, stop again suddenly and lower his head, neck and front legs so that I would slide forward over his head, slowly. And woe betide me if I dared to try and get him over a jump. He would simply run at it full tilt and stop short or swerve suddenly at the last moment. Both actions resulted in me flying off. I fell off so, so, so many times. The only thing that saved me from serious injury was the fact that Humphrey was so small that I didn’t have a long way to fall.   

The worst part of Pony Club Camp, for me, was cleaning and looking after your pony. This involved using medieval instruments of torture called ‘curry combs’, hoof picks and sweat blades. This grooming was performed every evening after we’d finished our horsey activities for the day. Humphrey and I had one thing in common, he hated being groomed and I hated grooming him. He seemed to take it as an affront that I dared to approach him at all let alone approach him armed with metal combs, scrapers and picks. He regularly stood on my toes and nipped me as I laboriously tried to clean the ungrateful little git. On the second night of camp I was woken at 3.00 am to be informed that Humphrey had got out of his stable and that I had to return him and that he had to be presentable before we headed off the next morning. I wandered out to the old yard to find Humphrey rolling around in a large muddy puddle. I dragged him back to his stable and started to chip off the caked in mud from his little white body. I went back to bed at 5.30 and was woken at 6.30 for breakfast.

On the third day we set off on a ramble through the Castle Leslie estate. There were about 50 kids on the camp varied in ages between 10 and 16 and had a variety of ponies or horses in all sizes. Humphrey was the smallest. On our way back to camp I was in the middle of the group chatting to people either side of me on bigger ponies. I hadn’t noticed but in front of Humphrey and I were two giant horses’ asses belonging to the two oldest camp member’s horses . Humphrey had noticed. He decided to nip both horses’ asses in quick succession and both horses kicked back hitting Humphrey and I. Humphrey galloped off through a forest of thistles with me hanging on for dear life , stopped suddenly and I flew over his head landing on a bed of thistles and nettles. As I looked up I’m sure I saw Humphrey laugh. Others thought he was being playful, considered himself the bigger horses equal , but I knew that he was simply downright evil.

Camp was rapidly losing its allure.

Humphrey went for his early morning spa treatment again and again I was woken to put him back and clean him. Each morning I considered pretending to be ill so that I’d get out of the morning session with him, but I found the courage to get up and face him. Also I couldn’t pretend to be ill and then have my breakfast, and I was starving.

On the last afternoon we went out for a last ramble around the estate. I just wanted to go home. I dreamed of sleeping the night in a nice warm bed, without having to listen to fart jokes, without having to get up in the middle of the night to wrestle a stubborn tiny ninja pony into its stable and without dreading having to use an outdoor chemical toilet.

But for the moment we were out on our ramble.   

On the way back to camp there was a very large hill and as it was the final day we were allowed to race up it. I had no intention of racing anywhere, I just wanted to go home. Humphrey had other ideas. He tore off up the hill at high speed. I was trying to hold him back. I was literally standing in my stirrups, leaning back as far as I could straining my bony little arms to pull the reins back as far as I could. It was all to no avail. Humphrey stormed ahead. I looked like a kite he was pulling after him.

Humphrey stormed past horse’s ass after horse’s ass. Soon we were in front. My initial fear was replaced with delight. I sat in the saddle. We got to the top and had a moment to catch our breaths before the rest caught up. I gave Humphrey a ‘well done’ slap on the neck, he turned , smiled , nipped my leg and bucked, I ended up on the ground. This was Humphrey’s victory , not mine.

Humphrey was a tiny little pony, but he had the heart of an Arabian stallion. An evil minded, bad tempered stallion, but a stallion nonetheless.
That evening we were assessed on what we’d learnt during the week. There were 7 beginners with me in my group and as is the way of these things there was to be a presentation at the end , with parents present, and the camp leaders had categories for awards and would be presenting rosettes for each category.  I don’t know why rosettes are so desired by horsey people, but they would kill their own mother for one. The rosettes were ranked yellow for third place, blue for second and red for first. In the beginners category they tried valiantly to make sure that everyone got at least one red ribbon. God bless them. I got one yellow and one blue. They hadn’t got a category for ‘Most bitten by evil midget  Pony’.

And me? I never sat on a horse /pony ever again. The only time I ever think of Humphrey now is when I use a Pritt Stick to glue something and I wonder if there is a little part of Humphrey in there…and I smile.

 Who’s laughing now Humphrey?

Stay safe, keep well.

Author: paul

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *