Farmer columnist Gilly Fraser talks life before Coronavirus.

WHEN my friend Angela started chatting to me about ‘the olden days,’ I thought she maybe meant the Dark Ages or possibly the days when Queen Victoria sat on the throne.

No. More like twenty years ago. Thirty tops.

To say I was a wee bit horrified would be more than an understatement. That’s practically yesterday for heaven’s sake – life can’t have changed all that much in such a short space of time – can it?

Okay some things have moved on – like computers and mobile phones and digital cameras. But the important things in life – horses – are still the same surely? Well maybe not.

I actually got my first pony around thirty years ago. She was, rather inaccurately, called Beauty.

A 13hh-ish, Fell-ish, goodness knows how old, contrary mare who had been happily bumbling about in a field for several years expected to do nothing more taxing than keep the grass short.

Having a saddle plonked on her back and expected to actually work for her living did not suit her one little bit and she wasted no opportunity to let me know as much.

I had been grabbing every opportunity to ride ever since I was a kid but this was my first venture into actually owning one of the critturs and I plunged in headfirst, wanting nothing but the best for my new steed.

Off I went to the feed merchant to stock up on pony nuts.

Unfortunately, I must have missed the bit about introducing new feeds gradually, so about a day and a half after I got her, having happily gorged herself on bucketfuls of stuff she was entirely unaccustomed to, Beauty went down with colic.

It was a harsh but valuable early lesson.

Thankfully she was a tough old biddy and rallied quickly.

Nowadays there’s an incredible variety of feedstuffs, not to mention a mindblowing array of supplements and you would need a degree in equine nutrition to work out the best possible diet for your horse.

Back in the days of Beauty, even though I had managed to mess it up royally, it was pretty straightforward.

Grass all summer, hay and pony nuts all winter with a warm bran mash if they’d been working really hard.

Somewhere along the way someone decided powdered garlic was the bees knees, so for several years I probably carried a permanent garlic aroma round with me, like Pigpen from the Charlie Brown cartoon.

Then of course there was the question of rugs. Beauty’s wardrobe consisted of a jute rug.

If you’ve never seen one, they weighed a ton, were very scratchy, could only be worn in the stable, and if you came home from riding out with a wet pony, you’d have to create a layer of straw beneath the rug in a process known as thatching otherwise the jute rug would get wet and stay wet.

For extra warmth in Baltic winters, you could sacrifice one of your own blankets to the cause of keeping your beloved pony toastie.

They said of early Ford cars that you could have one in any colour, so long as it was black.

It was the same with New Zealand rugs when they first came on the scene, except that they were exclusively green.

That was a severe point of irritation for me because I’ve always disliked the colour green.

There’s no good reason for this, but stems back to early childhood when at the age of about three, I totally mortified my mother by screaming the place down when we went shopping and she tried to put a green frock on me.

I can cope with grass and trees being green, but it really went against the grain to clad my pony in the stuff.

So you can imagine my utter delight one Christmas morning when I unwrapped a present from my then boyfriend to discover a blue New Zealand rug.

How he found it I will never know, but I still reckon it was one of the most romantic gifts ever.

In another thirty years, these times will be regarded as ‘the olden days’ so heaven alone knows what horses will be wearing and eating by then!