Runaway, Runaway, WHOA!!
Mini – Series – Episode 1: There May Be Trouble A Head
I never had any contact with horses until l was married and my [ex] wife one day in 2001 decided that if we weren’t going to have children as a couple [long complicated story] then she was going to become a hoarder of animals and try and compensate for the lack of little feet running through the house by having hundreds of little paws trapsing through instead.
We had cats and dogs aplenty, way too many and way above the average household quota, but there was no stopping her, it was kind of like manipulation to her, as in, ‘Give me children and the animals will stop arriving! ‘Thankfully she and l NEVER had children, but we had too many domestic animals.
Now don’t get me wrong l love animals all animals, but at one point we had 8 dogs and 20 cats and it was all becoming very stressful, especially as she never had any intention of cleaning any of them out or up. So muggins here did, which was a huge burden considering that l worked all day with my business which was animals and then instead of coming home to relax l then had to clean out a dozen litter trays and then proceed to clean up the garden of the mess left by the dogs, and then walk all the dogs.
By 2004, however things had changed marginally, and we had moved out of rented into our own house and we by then had a respectable and more manageable number of animals in the household. This doesn’t mean that we lost them or rehomed them, no! It just meant that l had built a huge run where l was with my business for the cats and l rehomed all the surplus cats to there until l could find suitable homes to have them adopted into, which over the course of two years l managed to secure.
At that time however the dogs were placed into two packs, one was the home pack and the other was the business pack. However of the five dogs l had with me during the day where l was with my animals, only two stayed with the business overnight notably Scrappy and her Stepmother Misty, whilst Dora, Wolfie and Lucy travelled back home with me to join Frascal, Misfit and Paddy. By then we only had three cats which were Pooh, Tiggah and Teddy. It was a very hard time and l had very little spare time to do anything else except work with animals almost 20 hours a day.
During the previous year, 2003 my ex had decided that she would try to rekindle her lost love of horses and declared one fine day that l would love to learn to ride! That it would bring us ‘closer’ together as a couple? So, we booked ourselves in for a block of ‘Loving Couples’ lessons in Peterborough on a huge stables there and that is when my real accidental adventures truly began with horses!
I didn’t have a fear of horses, in all honesty l didn’t really have a fear of any animal, but admittedly l was somewhat concerned about being quite a few feet off the ground on a somewhat heavy beast. My ex told the instructors on our first day that whilst she wasn’t an expert under any circumstance, she had learned to ride horses when she was younger and had done shows and l do remember when we had been dating that she did have quite a few pendants and ribbons in her bedroom and they had all said horsey this or horsey that.
I on the other hand had never been on a horse in my entire life and did have a few problems with 1] coordination and 2] balance and 3] more importantly eye to hand coordination and balance. “Oh we get a lot of that here, never mind, we have all sorts of horses for all levels of rider and we have some very good ‘bombproof horses’, so you will be fine.”
For the novice here, a bombproof horse is a beast that is supposedly ideal for a new rider, the veterans, the gentle giants, the easy to mount, the easy to ride, the so laid back, they could fall over type of horse. they had seen it all, had the t-shirt and had the rights to their own movies type of horse!
I also hastenly added that l was somewhat accidental and clumsy and would this affect anything? But no they assured me that everything was fine. My ex however simply thought l was trying to back out.
For our first lesson, we learned the basics, how to kit up the horse, put the saddle on, put the bridle on and all the trimmings. We learned how to maintain horses, feeding, exercising, mucking out and that was all we learned, and l thought okay this seems relatively easy enough. The ex however was insistent on at least getting on a horse, she said to try and show me how easy it was, and l suspected that if anything it was more to do with a little bit of showing off. However the instructors told her that she was pretty good, but was a bit stiff and needed to limber up a bit more before our next lesson, which happened to be the following day, Sunday.
Our ‘block’ of Loving Couples lessons, which for the record l detested the implication behind that name, as it made us sound as if we were, which most of the time, sadly we weren’t. However, this was supposed to be helping us through as a couple, so one had to let that roll out.
With the basics l actually felt pretty confident, and for me the basics were the husbandry of the animal and not so much anything else. However Sunday came about pretty damn quick, and from the previous days teachings of ‘kitting up’ l was suddenly expected to ‘mount up’ and try my horse ‘Truffles’ in the ring. A supposedly totally bombproofed horse that had seen everything that humans could place upon her.
I knew from the moment l looked Truffles’ directly in her eye that she had me sized up pretty quick, and l also knew that whilst she may have been bombproofed l wasn’t and furthermore, l knew she knew that too! The moment l saw that was the exact same moment that l knew there may be trouble ahead!!
I had an instructor in with me in the stables, and she watched everything l did when putting on the saddle and the stirrups, the bridle and the bits and she tightened things up and then asked me to lead truffles out of the stables…….
…….. which as far as my horse was concerned wasn’t going to happen! Truffles simply stood her ground and looked remarkably bored. I was told to firm up my voice command and not let her see any fear in my eyes or hear it when l spoke, or she would take the piss. Outside the stables my ex was already saddled up and sitting on her horse yelling instructions at me, “Oh for goodness sake come on, we haven’t got all day, the day’s not getting any younger you know!”
Finally l managed to lead Truffles out of the stable, and then after five attempts at getting into the saddle, just as l did it, Truffles moved and l prompty slid right over the other side of her landing into a huge puddle and completely soaking myself!
Everyone laughed including Truffles!
“Next time Mr Matier instruct your mount to ‘stand firm!’ The instructor shouted out. However in the end, it was only due to the instructor holding my horse steady that l was able to get into the saddle.
“You don’t have very good balance Mr Matier, and your coordination is somewhat off. Head up, rein in, legs tighter, back straighter!” However l let it all slide, despite having said all of this before hand, just to show everyone that l was ‘good for it’.
Of course the ex was all ‘Oh l say, this is all rather lovely, it’s been years but it’s like it was only yesterday and it’s all coming back to me now.” In a voice and clipped accent that she didn’t have, so l knew she was in her element of showing off and thoroughly enjoying herself. Well it’s her time l guess, at least l must show willing.
Learning to ride as a complete and utter novice wasn’t easy, not helped by comments from the instructor of ‘”Hardly a natural are you Mr Matier?” Or “You do understand that the object of riding is to actually have the horse moving, yes?”
I came off in the sand arena twice, once from the side, and once after Truffles thought it might be a nice ‘jolly’ to speed up and stop profoundly and let me fly out over the top of her head and land directly in front of her all tangled up in my reins. Such fun, and something l was fast willing to accept that as a sport ‘this may not actually be for me?’
I didn’t have any dreams of becoming a dressage rider, or a western cowboy or a ranger, or, or, or anything glamorous, my sole focus was to survive Truffles!
When the lesson was over and l had stood about as much humiliation as l could from everyone including my bombproofed and sarcastic mount, l was relieved, my bum and thighs and calfs were aching somewhat, never mind that l had sand in places l didn’t want sand, my nose hurt from landing in the arena and l was cold through from the earlier soaking, all l wanted to do was get off the damn thing , muck it out and then get home! This was an adventure that hadn’t started off well for me, maybe the next time would be better and l had one full week to recover and read up about horses and riding!
However Truffles had other ideas and without any warning suddenly shot off out of the arena once the gate had been opened and took off down the pathway towards the stables with me yelling out .. “Whoah, stop, quit it, are you mad, stop, fucking stop, no, no, no!!” You know, those professional noises one makes when ‘one’ is on top of a runnaway horse?
I could hear shouting behind me, “Stop your horse Mr Matier!!”
Oh yeah l was thinking that’s so going to happen, l couldn’t start the damn thing, what hope did l have in stopping it?
In a matter of moments we had entered the stable area, and l suddenly saw that Truffles was looking to run into the actual stable itself?? So in the few seconds l had l tried even harder to stop her, and luckily the instructor unbeknownst to me was miliseconds behind me and managed to grab my reins and bring the horse to a very slowed movement! Perhaps it was the sheer terror l was experiencing or perhaps it was the fact that l had never ridden a horse before that day and as such had never been on a runnaway horse in my life who knows [well logic should have dictated all of those things] but l completely missed the yelled instruction of ‘Head Down!!”
When my head came into contact with the low beam of the stable and that’s the last thing l remember! Apparently l was very lucky that l had my riding hat on! That’s not how l saw it, l saw it that l was a novice rider on a supposedly bombproof horse that shouldn’t have taken off like it did and l was readying myself for suing the stables! However my ex said l was making a fuss and it was only a slight bump. Maybe it was, but seeing as l was out cold for nearly ten minutes, l beg to differ!
However, THAT was my first ever proper introduction to horse riding, and despite me saying that my ex could continue the ‘Loving Couples Lessons’ by herself, l found myself returning to the stables for the next lesson the following weekend for for more adventures … just this time on a much better ‘bombproofed horse called Nigel!
I will introduce you to him next time!!!
Thanks for reading.