I was born to be a duchess: I was left sprawled in the mud like something out of a cartoon

Photo from Pixabay

DEIDRE was a fairly accomplished rider while I, after only five lessons, merely knew how to stay on. And my confidence in my ability to do that was based only on the fact that I had never actually fallen off. The horses looked very old, tired and lazy and we didn’t expect too much trouble from them.

My horse started by playing the classic trick of blowing its belly out while I was tightening the girth.

I, being new to the game, merely thought it was a fat horse. It was also, for some reason or another, an extremely slippery horse, so that the pressure of one foot in the stirrup caused the saddle to slide through a hundred and eighty degrees, leaving me sprawled in the mud like something out of a Thelwell cartoon. Deidre was already mounted and looking very professional, except that she was killing herself with laughter.

I righted the saddle, tightened the girth and did much the same thing again. This time I finished up on top of the horse, which was a definite improvement, but I was leaning over at a crazy angle and the slow side-slip seemed to be continuing. I started again, but this time I accepted a ‘leg–up’ from the stable lad in order to avoid putting any weight on the stirrup.

Well, at least I was on board, though I had the gravest doubts about my chances of staying that way.

We decided to walk the horses out of the stable yard, trot around until we got the feel of our mounts, canter up the hill, and then review the situation. The horses thought differently. Deidre’s steed set off at a spanking trot. Mine refused to budge. Deidre’s slowed to a walk. Mine decided it was breakfast time and put his head down. When I finally persuaded mine to move, I got rather more movement than I had really wanted. He went straight into an extended canter and we shot past Deidre and up to the far end of the landing strip at the top of the hill.

From there, Deidre wanted to turn left and the horses wanted to turn right, but I had had enough excitement for one day.

I wanted to turn round. It would, I thought, be a relatively simple manoeuvre. All the horses I had met liked nothing better than to be pointed in a homeward direction.

Not so, these two. I got mine facing the right way reasonably easily but, when I gave it an encouraging kick, it walked backwards. Deidre had hers pointing in the required direction approximately once every thirty seconds.

It was going round in ever–decreasing circles and seemed in imminent danger of either proving or disproving Einstein’s theory. We dismounted. It seemed the safest course of action at the time, though I regretted it later. We explored the path to the right, leading the horses, and decided that they had perhaps had the best idea after all. So we re–mounted.

Now this was the first time I had ever tried to mount a horse which was not being held for me, so I was not particularly adept at hopping around, with one foot in the stirrup, while I lined up for take-off.

After some minutes of fruitless hopping, I had a brainwave. I would let him get on with his interrupted breakfast, so that I could mount while he was standing still. The only tricky bit would be retrieving the reins once I was in the saddle.

The plan worked perfectly, apart from one thing. When I retrieved the reins, they were crossed under his chin. All the way back to the stable, I had to remember to pull left if I wanted to turn right. It nearly put me off equitation for life!


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Susan Cooke
Features Editor

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