Things don't quite go to plan when Kate Flynn ropes in a friend to help keep her daughter's pony fit while she's at school
The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence, doesn’t it?
Whether you keep your horse at livery, or in your own “home” environment there are pros and cons to each.
My happy trio have the “benefit” of living at home, which means that they are turned out every day, rain or shine, coming in to a stable at night.
That said, it does come with its own set of problems and limitations, and with the advent of nights dark by 4pm and Daughter unable to ride in the evening, there has been the issue of maintaining the fitness of all the horses, but in particular Munch.
Now, being the lazy-bones that he is, I’m in no doubt that he would be more than happy to slack off idly for the winter in his paddock, but Daughter has other ideas ranging from hunting to Pony Club rallies, arena eventing and training sessions.
So, Operation Fitness has called for some lateral thinking on my part. With no horse walker or arena on hand, who did I know who would enjoy a spot of hacking out on a sensible, safe pony? I contacted a friend who had expressed an interest and who was more than eager to give it a go assuring me that she had ridden in the past.
“The only thing is, I don’t have a hat, and what should I wear on my feet?” she asked.
The alarm bells should have started ringing at this point, but I put it down to her not having a horse or riding regularly – why should she have the gear? The agreed date arrived and Friend arrived bedecked in skin-tight leggings, an anorak and brown suede wedge-heeled boots.
My heart sunk a little, but still… benefit of the doubt and a pair of my boots and a hat later I thought we were set to go. I led Doc, my newly loaned mount, across to Munch’s stable to find him watching Friend bemusedly as she struggled to make head or tail of the bridle.
It was held upside down reins hanging like strings of spaghetti. I tacked him up and ‘reminded’ Friend which side to get on.
This did not bode well for the hack. We set off, and very quickly Munch began trailing haphazardly across the road, wandering up and down grass verges like he had been drinking.
A sidewards glance and I realised Friend had no contact and no steering — whatsoever.
A quick trot revealed even less riding ability, and worryingly, by the time we were half way round our hack, I noticed a certain glint in Munch’s eye. He had been faultless and generous in his behaviour so far, but now he had clearly rumbled Friend.
Here was a complete beginner who had absolutely no control over him — game on.
Eager to get the pair safely home, I realised that it was a matter of time before Munch was going to take advantage of the situation, but he was one step ahead of me.
Before I could react, he had locked onto some lush looking shrubs growing on the other side of the beautifully manicured lawn belonging to the local stately home we were riding past.
‘A food-focused guided-missile’
With one flick of his head, Munch took a headlong dive across the turf taking a helpless Friend with him, yelping and pulling with comical lack of effect on the torpedo-like pony who had turned into a food-focused guided-missile.
As you might expect, he stopped as soon as he arrived at his picnic location, but not without leaving a trail of deep half moon cuts across the carefully maintained lawn.
Now we had a problem — how to retrieve the pair without crossing the lawn and making yet more divots, further incurring the wrath of the Marquess and his fleet of groundsmen?
I couldn’t walk on foot — who was going to hold Doc? — certainly not the watching hotel guests for whom we were providing some unexpected entertainment.
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There was nothing for it, than for Friend to dismount and drag the snacking pony away, while I waited on the sidelines.
With absolutely no remorse or contrition, indeed more miffed than guilty, Munch arrived back on the tarmac led by a shaken and embarrassed Friend.
I hooked the pair up to my lead rope and we ambled casually back home.
“There’s more to riding than there looks, isn’t there?” Friend reflected as she slithered off Munch’s back at the stables. “Shall we do it again next week?” she asked, pulling her diary from her pocket. No comment.