Shropshire called us again, only this time we dragged our friend Lindsay along (pictured above l-r: Jonathan, Ailsa, Diane and Lindsay). She’s a bit too young really, but we’ve given her honorary membership of the Knackered Riders Club due to her bad knee. No one seems to know what’s wrong with it but it seems to pull and twinge at the slightest bit of exertion.
“You’ll be fine, it’ll be an easy ride this time,” we lied. There was no point telling her the truth. That it would be a six hour trek at speed, with a few optional jumps thrown in along the way. Best keep that under our hats — she would find out soon enough, then it would be too late to change her mind.
I had Puzzle, a 16.3hh coloured mare, whose claim to fame is that she has been ridden by the star of the War Horse film. Such a gentle soul, she is a lovely ride but boy can she go, as I found out later on. Ailsa settled on her usual Lucky, while Jonathan was given a beautiful, dainty coloured gelding called Indie. We had already decided that Lindsay would do well on Flash, a steady cob who would just carry her and her bad knee along without too much fuss.
In true country treks style, it wasn’t long before our leader, Ash, asked if we wanted a canter on the disused railway. We obviously said yes and duly set off in a line, one after the other. It was only when we stopped that I heard a strange puffing noise from behind. Worried that there was an animal trapped somewhere in the brambles, I turned only to see Lindsay, red in the face, and breathing heavily.
“What’s up?” I called, trying to sound sympathetic.
“He wouldn’t canter,” she gasped.
“What do you mean?” I asked, mystified, as we must have covered quite a distance, yet she was right behind me.
“He just trotted all the way.”
I stifled a giggle and murmured something suitably supportive.
“You need to hold him back,” called Ash. “Next time, don’t let him trot, just sit down and squeeze then he’ll go straight into a canter.”
“Ok I’ll try my best,” panted Lindsay, her face the colour of the red hawthorn berries either side of the track.
We walked on for a while, passing some scary-faced sheep that had escaped onto the track, until Ash led us into a gateway and told us we could have a proper gallop. This time it was my heart that was pounding as I looked at the field stretching endlessly into the distance. This was a seriously long field. Had Ash mistaken us for a group of jockeys at Aintree? I opened my mouth to protest but my feeble moans were lost in the wind as we plunged forward. Puzzle was off like Red Rum, streaking away with me clinging on for dear life like an ancient Lester Piggott on her back. The only problem was I didn’t have his skills, all I had was an old body with poor core strength and wobbly thighs.
Ailsa was careering alongside but I had no idea where anyone else was. All I could see was a hedge at the end and we were hurtling towards it like the original Exocet missile. I had already been told that Puzzle was fearless on the hunting field and she seemed to be gathering speed. There was no way I fancied jumping through the brush. She might be good but I definitely wasn’t. It had been 30 years since I took a fence. Somehow I managed to pull her up and we slowed to a walk. By that time, adrenaline had kicked in and I was laughing manically. It was like being 13 again and it felt good. I turned to the others and was glad to see Lindsay looked happy. “He cantered,” she called, patting Flash’s neck with pride.
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Lunch was at the Boyne Arms, where there was a field for the horses while we went inside for soup and sandwiches and a restorative pot of tea. Our afternoon trek home took us back along the railway with, you guessed it, another chance to canter. Off we went again, in a line, with Lindsay at the back. Halfway along, I was surprised to see Ash expertly hanging off like a Cossack rider, waving her whip in Lindsay’s direction.
An unpleasant thought ran through my mind: “I hope Lindsay’s not trotting again. It would be most uncomfortable,” I called to Jonathan.
“Surely not,” he replied.
I couldn’t bend round to check as my old bad back was starting to stiffen up but as we pulled to a halt I heard the dreaded puffing again followed by hysterical laughter. We stopped and turned.
“He trotted all the way,” she wailed. “My bottom’s gone numb. It’s as flat as a pancake.”
That was it. We all set off laughing at the thought of Flash’s legs going like pistons with poor old Lindsay flying up and down in the saddle for miles on end. We were still smiling as we reached the yard.
“How’s your knee,” we asked.
“I’ve no idea, the only thing I can feel is my aching bottom,” she replied.
Perhaps next time she should try a different horse, unless she fancies setting a new trend for the streamline flat backside. You never know it could catch on.
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