The Shetland of Christmas Past

I’ve been quietly panicking.  The holidays are whirling in, there’s so much to do! I’m stuck lying around with ice on my leg.  I don’t do well with…resting.  When my body can’t move, my brain instantly thinks it needs to dredge up every possible thing that could go wrong.  In the next 5 minutes.  How helpful is that?  Each 5 minutes is then followed by another new 5 minutes.  So instead of relaxing and getting better, I’m clenching my teeth, making lists of all the ways I’m failing, and ignoring the stuff I am actually capable of doing, because much bigger stuff needs to be done.  Like making lists of how I’m failing.

Welcome to the Jane psych ward.

I couldn’t sleep.  Many well-meaning but bad things happen when I can’t sleep and feel useless.  But I had to do something to get my brain to quit messing with me.

I dug out our old Christmas stuff to donate: before Christmas. That would be useful, right?  Someone else could get it before Christmas!  See? Doesn’t that sound plausible?  At midnight?

I made a huge mess.  A whopper of a mess.  I hate my brain.

In the old Christmas stuff, I found a shoebox stuffed with hundreds of photographs. Great.  Now I have to deal with these too. I pulled out a fistful, fully intending to toss them without sorting, if they were pictures of an era I’d rather not remember.  There, staring back at me balefully, was my first horse, Spitz.  A 38-year-old photograph.  She’s clean, and severely annoyed by being clean.  Green was her favorite color.  I’m thrilled: I didn’t think I had any pictures of her.  I turn the photo over.  Date is on the back.

I was 15.

If Spitz is in here…?  The ghost of Mr. Chips shakes his mane, paws at the floor, and whumps me with his head.  Holy crap.  Mr. Chips might be in here!

What was a slightly contained mess goes Nuclear.  Hey, there’s our bunny, and the birds! No Wall O Rabbits though.  There are a couple more of Spitz and me in which I’m supremely, mortifyingly, fifteen.  It’s all about me.  She’s a living accessory.  To me.  The center of the universe.

I almost stop, I’m so embarrassed.  Mr. Chips stamps a hoof in my mind.  Okay, okay! I smile.  Pushy little guy.   I flip through more photos.

Is that…Roz?  I tilt the photo.  It’s Roz!  I frown.  This is not where we lived in the middle of NoWhere.  It’s after we moved back to civilization.  No grass.  But lots of places to ride.


When I lived here, I still had Mr. Chips, and Roz’ daughter, Connie.

“Right”, Mr. Chips says in my head, “Brilliant.  Helloooo.  Keep going!”

Mr. Chips, Ghost of Christmas Past.  “Are you going to rattle a chain?” I say, shuffling through photos.  He tosses his  head.

And then:

I burst into tears. It’s 2 am, and I am looking at Mr. Chips for the first time in almost 20 years.


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10 thoughts on “The Shetland of Christmas Past

  1. Kerry

    Thank you Jane, you’ve dug up a gift for all of us. Now I have something to go on when I finally illustrate your Mr. Chips book for you (nudge nudge wink wink). My husband says he looks very much like a palamino shetland stallion he use to have named Little Bit. Who’s this Connie anyway? I guess I’ve missed out on some history here.

    1. Jane

      Confidance aka Connie, is Roz’ daughter. I didn’t own her when Mr. Chips came into our lives. Roz was a private rescue. She was owned by a nice family who did look after her physical needs but was petrified of her. As much as I could get out of them, Roz never did anything to instill this fear, and I came to believe that. She was rock solid, well trained, a supremely easy and hard working horse.

      I found out later the other (annoying) horse in the pasture was her daughter, who at 4 years old, had never had a halter on (sigh) let alone any training. In Connie’s mind, she was still a foal at side. Her behavior made sense when that was plugged into the mix. They called me a year or so later and asked if I’d take her too.

  2. grey horse matters

    Well I don’t want to say it pays to get hurt and stay up all night, but what a find! He’s so adorable. I think it’s great you found those old photos, now instead of picturing him, we can see what he looked like and imagine him getting into all sorts of predicaments.

    I’d probably throw something at someone if they told me this but,keep cleaning out that mess you never know…

  3. theliteraryhorse Post author

    It’s funny, the photos that lived through the fire were all the ones I deemed not good enough to go into an album. All the albums burned up, so we’re left with Roz weirdly twisting her, a blurry Mr. Chips with devil ears (though that’s appropriate) and Connie showing off what was, at that time, the latest in equine fly protection headgear. (pre-fly masks!)
    The colors are a little off from age, their coats were all slightly lighter colored.

    But it’s still a powerful photo: I look at Mr. Chips, and I can smell his coat, feel how annoyed he became when I hugged him around the neck, and remember how HUGE I felt cleaning out his itty bitty hooves. If he even thought I was laughing at him, he’d start stamping his cute wittow hoofies. I am Regal!

    Oh how my farrier hated trimming days at my place. The farrier was really, really tall. Every 8 weeks, he’d say “I don’t do ponies”, as slammed the door shut on his truck. He trimmed and rasped. “I really don’t do ponies.” I’d hand him the check (extra for Mr. Chips) and he’d say as he was leaving, “Just remember, I DON’T do ponies!”

    He didn’t do ponies for about 15 years, every 8 weeks. 😉

  4. dressage rider

    Aw! It’s so nice to finally meet you Mr. Chips, Roz and Connie. What a cutie. BTW I LOVE the Shetland pony stories. Merry Christmas!

  5. Marissa

    I love it! The bushy blonde main and tail and the little round pony butt and belly are just as I had pictured them. Thank goodness for your holiday- and bruise-induced insomnia! I can’t tell if he’s having a silent conversation with Rozz, or if he’s eyeing that garden and wondering what the best approach is for breaking into it. Did he ever actually manage to get in there and squash someone’s carefully planted tomato plants? On the one hand, I hope not, but on the other hand, I bet that would be a funny story. See what you’ve done? I love Mr. Chips stories so much that now I make them up!


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