One weekend, we were asked by family to look after the house plus a dozen horses for a day and an evening. What could be better for two horse-deprived people? Escaping from the city for a weekend to play house (and stable!), and, even better, it fell on the weekend of our first year anniversary. How romantic!
Unfortunately for us, we had decided to get together not during those long summer days; instead, a wet and foggy February, which a year on, was looking just as sodden and cold as the original day. (Next time, I mused, I’ll be more organised and make sure I meet someone when the weather is a bit more agreeable…).
He and I wanted to go on a celebratory hack and planned to make the most of the day despite the terrible weather. I envisaged a romantic ride gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes and holding hands as we cantered across the fields…
Selecting two mounts that we had ridden many times before with no problems, we tacked up — just as the wind decided to blow a gale, while the clouds couldn’t decide whether to spit and shower — but we carried on, undeterred.
The fun soon began. We hadn’t got the memo, but His mount seemed keen to play that children’s game where one imagines that the ground is made of lava. As a result, there was no time when all four hooves were actually on the ground together. He sat patiently and calmly, gently trying to steer the beast down the drive — there was not much else to be done other than to sit tightly!
Meanwhile, the pony I was riding had suddenly decided that he wanted a career change and to try and make it as a racehorse. No amount of half-halts or cooing noises was going to deter him from his persistent jog, which soon broke into a resolute trot. The horse and Him were thus getting more and more left behind on the drive, making the horse’s gravity-defying stunts worse. The wind picked up more and it started to rain (again), as I managed to direct pony towards a hedge that acted like an emergency brake.
The charade continued as we (eventually) made it on to the country lane. Hand-holding and dreamy gazing were firmly off the cards, as pony trotted faster and faster while horse leapt more and more vertically.
Finally, after an incident involving a car, horse, a 4ft deep ditch and some grand prix-style dressage movements, He admitted defeat and got off. He explained he was turning for home (but not before a four-minute yelling match ensued, as it was difficult to be heard over the howling gale and the fact our mounts seemed determined to head in opposite directions).
Just as I attempted to turn for home with Him, pony bolted off at a spanking trot round the village. Pony had set his neck so with no chance of stopping I concentrated on dodging cars and praying that we both made it home in one piece. I looked back and caught a final glimpse of Him being dragged homewards, with horse still insisting on playing his lava game…
Okay, we thought, after shakily embracing when I eventually made it back, that hadn’t gone quite to plan. However, all we could do was look ahead — how about a nice dinner and glass of wine once evening stables were done?
I elected to start with the hay and water. There was one particularly carnivorous chestnut mare who you had to watch when delivering her hay. Once having her hay, she usually settled down and was far more manageable. Eyeing her up, I stealthily distributed her supper, and the flat back ears pricked forward as she contently began to munch. Phew! I turned away from her pen at which point she struck like a viper, grabbing my poor fleshy ‘bingo wing’ in her teeth.
“YEEEEE-OOOOOOOOW!” I yelled in pain, sending Him crashing into the barn to see what the matter was.
Embarrassed, I hastily tried to style it out and pretend the bite wasn’t as painful as it felt. It didn’t work, and before our eyes my arm began to swell and bruise from elbow to shoulder! I ran inside to desperately search the freezer for something to cool down the swelling. I found two rogue ice lollies that I strapped to my arm, before running upstairs to take painkillers.
Exhaustion from the day soon set in. By the time He finished a solo evening stables and had come in from the cold and dark, I was in bed out like a light upstairs (melted lollies still in place). Any plans of drinks and a candle-lit dinner were evidently off the cards. Once sure I was okay, He left me and the swollen red arm to it, and collapsed in front of the T.V. It was certainly an anniversary to remember… but maybe not the reasons we had planned.
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When He next came upstairs, in my stress-and-medication-induced coma I seemed quite keen for Him to hear me out:
“I was wondering…just been thinking…IF we manage to survive each other’s company for another year, do you think we could celebrate by going to a nice restaurant? I don’t mind where, just maybe we should give the horsey-anniversary a break for a year or two?”