There’s a Horse in my Land Rover!!

Well, not quite.


Every Series Land Rover owner knows that a few extra horsepower can sometimes be helpful, especially those with the diesel engine. On the whole, the 2298 4 cylinder diesel is fine, especially when well maintained, but once in a while (such as when heavily loaded and going up hill), some extra horse power would be handy. But stuffing a horse into the vehicle isn’t the way forward!

Actually it wasn’t a real horse. And it was done for another reason.

As part of our work with Graham Equestrian Center, we take a display and information booth (aka the “Graham Roadshow”) to various events throughout the year to promote general awareness and our activities. Towards the end of September, it was the Family Farm Fun Day at the local agricultural center. It turned out to be a beautiful day, with the first hint of autumn. As well as various organizations such as arts and crafts societies, local food making, there were things like petting zoo’s for the kids, sheepdog displays (ironically conducted by someone from the next town over from where I grew up back in the UK), breed groups (the goats were particularly cute) and other agricultural related activities such as Master Gardeners Associations and beekeeping demonstrations. So we arranged to have a booth at the event. Normally, when we go to these kinds of thing, as well as taking various displays, leaflets, etc., we take our secret weapon – Mechanical Missy!


Mechanical Missy – in her home enviroment

Missy is our mechanical horse who usually lives in our class room. Basically it’s a giant hobby horse that is actually designed for Jockeys to warm up on before a race! However, we use her to train first time riders how to mount a horse, how to sit properly and how to dismount. The motion fairly accurately replicates the motion of a real horse walking and does so very realistically. It’s safer to do this than with a real horse, especially if the rider is anxious or nervous – horses will pick up on the fear. On the other hand, Missy will stand still as long as you need, she doesn’t kick, buck or get bored and she doesn’t need feeding or mucking out. And we’ve had a few potential riders mount up and decide that this isn’t for them. Again, much better than trying to do this with a real horse. Once a rider is comfortable with Missy, then they progress to a real horse, usually in the first lesson, so they don’t actually spend a lot of time working with Missy.

Missy also has another purpose, relevant to this posting. She also goes out with us as  part of the Graham Roadshow, as she attracts a lot of attention and kids all want to clamber up, sit on and ride her. Basically, its a marketing tool to get people to stop by. And oh how it works!

Now normally when we do this, I borrow Jim McDonald’s F250 pickup and load Missy in the bed of the truck, along with tables, tents, hay bales (for use as mounting blocks), etc. You get some VERY odd looks going round the Baltimore beltway with this thing in the back of the truck, the head nodding up and down! However, on this case, we weren’t able to use the truck, since Jim needed it to pull his horse trailer, as he was taking his horse, the REAL Missy (for whom Mechanical Missy is named) along as well to do a demonstration.This lead to some thinking about how to get mechanical Missy to the site, until it dawned on me that LWB land rovers come in pickup versions and that we should be able to squeeze Missy in the back of Libby. Which turned out to be the case. So in Missy went. It was a little cramped and Missy’s head was essentially in the front seat area. But not too bad and it was certainly derivable in a safe manner.


Missy and I, with her hay bale


All loaded up

As it turned out, Libby became our second secret weapon. As well as what we had to offer and a ride on Missy, many Dads (and some women) also stopped by just to inspect Libby. And more Dads crept round to have a look whilst their kids were riding Mechanical Missy. Some even wanted to sit in her! Heh, whatever works! We should take Libby to some of the future events!


The GEC Display, with Me, Missy and Libby tucked around the back.


Jim McDonald with the real Missy explaining something to the audience

At the end of a VERY long and tiring day, we stuffed Missy and everything else back in the Landy and I drove it all back to GEC for unloading. A very successful day and Libby proved to be a really useful vehicle (with a nod to the Rev W. Awdry).

As for Jim and the real Missy, they were very good too and Jim put on a good display. However, Missy was very confused and wary of those white woolly things being herded around by dogs. I think she needs some more exposure to sheep!


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