In this month’s Paws for Thought, KAREN HUNTON remembers the Jennifers in her life

PERHAPS it was the heat, but today has been a forgetful sort of day. I forgot to fasten the dog gate between the kitchen and the dining room this morning and Jamie forgot that he doesn’t steal things from off the table anymore.

To be fair, it could have been worse. He did, after all, only take my diary, and he did only destroy the cover and the first few months, so I have no excuse for missing my forth coming dental appointment.

But on the table, next to the diary, was the watercolour painting that I had just finished the day before.

It is a painting that I have been working on for many months and it is a bit special, in that it is a portrait of my son’s mare Jennifer, who died in November 2018; now had that painting been destroyed instead of the diary, I think I might have cried.

Of course, you may remember, that up until recently I also had a little dog called Jennifer. Interestingly, both Jennifer’s were already named when they came to live with us, which was just one of the many coincidences that were to follow.

In 2004 my son James was at university and working part-time at the Stanley Grange Stud. As a youngster, Jennifer had been sent to the stud by her breeder, to be backed and sold.

Exceptionally well bred, Jennifer was destined for great things and it wasn’t long before potential buyers began showing an interest in such a stunning mare.

Now at this time James, being a student, didn’t actually own a horse of his own, but he did have one on loan from a friend. A handsome riding horse, Moony was in his mid-teens when he came to us, but sadly he soon began to suffer age-related joint problems and so the decision was taken to retire him, meaning that James no longer had a horse to ride.

At the same time that all this was happening, however, many miles away, Jennifer’s dam suffered a freak accident in the field and died. Her distraught owner rang the stud and asked for Jennifer’s sale to be halted, as she was now the last surviving mare in her line.

It was eventually decided that Jennifer would be kept to continue the line, but that in the meantime, she would be leased to a showing home, in order to complete her education, and the owner at Stanley Grange was asked if he knew of anyone who might be suitable. It was at this point that James’ name was mentioned, but there was no way that we could afford to lease a horse of Jennifer’s value.

I was a recently divorced, self-employed, single parent and James was a university student, living at home with two part-time jobs to help fund his hobby.

However, such was the glowing reference that James received from Stanley Grange, that Jennifer’s owner decided to forgo the lease fee and an arrangement was reached, whereby James could have Jennifer on loan for a year, after which time she would return home to continue the breeding programme.

What a year that was! So much fun, so many shows, so many wins and so much to learn. They narrowly missed out on a Horse of the Year Show qualification that first year, but it was so close that Jennifer’s owner decided to extend the loan period, as she too felt that great things were about to happen.

The following year Jennifer qualified for the Royal International Horse Show, the Hack and Cob Champs, numerous evening performances and eventually in 2007, the Horse of the Year Show. They were placed third that day, in a very strong class and that night we all drank champagne to celebrate. It was unforgettable.

In the end, Jennifer never did actually “go home”, as her breeder decided that Jennifer’s home was in fact, with James. She did ask him though, to please make sure that Jennifer had some ‘really good’ foals, and that she certainly did, with the first one being born on the same day as my youngest granddaughter … another coincidence?

Personally, I think that some things are just meant to be.