I love animals. This is no secret but some are more disconcerting than others. Stroking a Lion, though not impossible, would fill me with unease, and I would be careful not to have a bottle of ketchup on my person in case it drove him over the edge. My attitude to horses is a bit similar. I love them, but prefer to conduct my conversations with them when protected by a fence. It is therefore surprising that a few years ago I was persuaded to go to a riding stable for a supervised ride.
My host was well-known to the stable owner, a women who looked hardened by many hours spent outdoors, was dressed for the weather and not to impress, and with hair held efficiently in place by what looked like a collection of rubber bands. As she gazed at me her admiration was well masked. “He’s very little riding experience” said my host, referring to a couple of walks I had as boy. “Ah” said Miss Rubber Band. We’ll give him Blossom: she’s bomb proof”
. It was a pleasant winter’s afternoon, with the air crisp and refreshing. I climbed onto Blossom who seemed to be in full working order. There is a natural pecking order among the horses, so off we set with rubber band leading the way and Blossom firmly at the rear. Up the path we went and then onto the road. I sat on Blossom who moved steadily enough and began to feel myself relax. In front of us a lone car headed in our direction but on the other side of the road. Blossom, without discussing the options, moved up onto the pavement but continued walking. “He’s gone onto the pavement” I shouted out, just to confirm that this was normal. “Ah, she doesn’t much like cars”. said Miss Rubber Band. “Oh I see,” I said, thinking to myself, “bomb-proof but doesn’t much like cars” Interesting.
Soon we turned left down a track leading to some fields and reached a gate set on the right side of the track. As our leader skillfully leant out of her saddle to release the lock, Blossom decided the time was ripe for a snack and began eating the hedge on the other side of the path. I wasn’t too concerned but then I heard the bark, “Come along” and saw that the other two riders were already in the field. Tugging on her reign I managed to get her facing towards the gate.
I’m not skilled in the subject of horse psychology but it appears that horses who spend most of their walking lives looking at other horses bottoms are not used to a sight of a wide open space. Seeing the green field before her, Blossom decided to investigate and set off at a brisk canter across the field. As I caraeered passed at speed I saw Mrs RB’s mouth fall open, but I was now moving too swiftly to make any comment. Pulling on the reins in a desperate manner I finally managed to get Blossom to stop. The slackers behind me eventually caught up and we proceeded on our way without comment. The rest of the walk was without incident and I looked around me at the lovely view now shaded as the early evening dusk took hold of the day.
At last we returned to the road. We clip clopped along pleasantly enough till we neared the stables. A car approached us, again on the other side of the road,but now with headlamps on, and then I heard the sound of a lorry approaching from the rear. Blossom quickly grasped the situation, and again without discussing the options, decided to take a short cut home through the nearest hedge. Her movement propelled me through the air and I landed, surprised but unhurt in the ditch leaving Blossom tangled in the undergrowth. Mrs RB was swiftly on the scene and grabbed at Blossom’s reigns. We decided to walk the rest of the way back. “I should take some lessons before you ride again” said Mrs RB. Wise words indeed. There has never been a next time. Not counting the sheep, of course. And that was without a saddle.