Having a “horsey-boyf” has lots of benefits, but one of the few downsides is that He’s harder to impress with my horsey feats compared with boys in the past. Before Him, a non-horsey pal would have been in awe by my just getting on a horse — but now I was with someone who, where horses were concerned, was probably more talented and brave than I was.
I actually found that I now needed to up my game just to keep up with Him, and trying to impress Him was totally out of the question. Therefore, if there was an opportunity to prove to Him I wasn’t totally useless at riding, I took it (not that He’d even notice, but it made me feel better…!).
A few months ago, another kind friend of ours took us out one morning on her horses. This friend was brave and had been jumping hedges on her childhood ponies probably longer than she’d been able to walk, so I knew that anything she put us on would be safe and capable. While she and Him hopped on a pair of sturdy hunters, I did slightly question her judgement when she led out a 13.3hh pony for me — not because I’m “poniest”, but more that I was worried I’d squash the poor thing! However, after five minutes of the spritely pony jogging up front, making lightweight of his load and trying to outpace horses twice his size, I realised he was fine and just as happy to be out as I was.
Due to a lack of time and opportunities, He and I hadn’t hacked out for over two months, so my poor friend was dealing with Dumb and Dumber. How many people does it take to open a gate? (Answer: at least two, especially if it involves Him and me insisting — and failing — on being helpful, a couple-squabble in the middle, and multiple misunderstandings of who’s catching the gate).
Other than that, the hack was uneventful. As we passed many inviting jumps through the fields, I wistfully explained to my friend that I hadn’t jumped a twig out of the arena for over a year now and how I wished I could get back into it. She told me how brilliant my mount was at jumping, and that there was a nice rail in the next field, and did I want to have a go? I enthusiastically agreed.
However, when faced with this (tiny) rail, I suddenly found all my courage had escaped me and I turned to my friend in a panic.
“I really can’t do this,” I said, quaking at the thought.
“Of course you can, it’s only 2ft6, tops!”
“Only,” I thought…
“You can definitely do this, it’s just the nerves — I promise you this pony can do it with his eyes closed on three legs!” she said encouragingly.
He was out of earshot and completely oblivious to my wimpish ways. I prayed that He would have an out-of-character loss of braveness and decline to do the jump, so that I would look less of a scaredy cat.
“Are you jumping?” I yelled over.
“Of course,” He said, grinning, “you can give me a lead!”
His answer made me realise He had no idea how terrified I was. I groaned internally. Plan A (politely declining the jump) was out of the window. Plan B (to jump) seemed more and more likely.
Eventually, the friend made the executive decision that we WOULD be jumping, and she kicked on over the rail, making light work of it. My game little pony was raring to follow on, so with white knuckles we picked up speed and headed towards the jump…
…Whereupon he neatly cleared it (despite the rather large lump clinging on to his back!).
On landing, my grin was so wide; you would have thought I’d just cleared a puissance wall. Giving the pony a big pat, we turned to watch Him and His mount pop over the fence and canter over to us. I think my friend was quite bemused by both my terror beforehand and my sheer elation after jumping such a simple fence! I had actually really enjoyed it, and good to remind myself it was all still there.
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In the car home, He turned to me and out of the blue said how impressed He was that I’d jumped, and He wasn’t sure if He’d have done the same if His mount wasn’t so tall. I quickly made the decision NOT to tell him what a scaredy cat I’d been, and instead sent mental thanks to my friend for helping me get over my initial fears (and in the process making me look bolder than I actually was!).
It also made me realise that I WAS glad that He was that little bit better than me at riding, because sometimes it gave me the motivation to quite literally kick on and enjoy myself.