The Knackered Riders Club: the day I wrecked the garden

  • When I was 10 I had a great idea to take my coloured pony Jinx home and put up a jump in the back garden. My friend, Debbi Hall, came too, with her Exmoor pony Rufus and we managed to squeeze them through the door at the back of the garage and out on the lawn. It was one of those 1930s semis with a very long back garden, perhaps 80 feet or more, so perfect for a good run up and a jump. Now this was the 1970s, so just to set the scene a bit more, there were no jodhpurs for kids like us, just dodgy purple hand-me-down cord flares, hand-knitted tank tops and cheap rubber riding boots, if we were lucky.

    Mum and dad were out so we set up a makeshift pole, resting on two buckets, and took it in turns to canter up and down, popping the jump each time. It was great fun and we spent a couple of hours practising for the clear round jumping at the forthcoming Romiley Young Farmers Show.

    Jinx was pretty good, lumbering up to the jump then flopping over it from underneath the pole or standing back and charging it at speed. We did attract some wide-mouthed looks from the neighbours, but we thought they were obviously admiring our burgeoning equestrian skills. To be honest, they were always moaning about something so it made a nice change to think they were proud of our efforts.

    Eventually, a couple of hours later, we got bored and decided to take the ponies back to the yard. We’d made some pretty good progress and were confident of rosettes, with a bit more effort we might even be good enough to enter the novice jumping. Chattering away about our plans, we rode away, never bothering to look back at what we’d done.

    We failed to notice that the lawn had turned from a lovely green expanse of grass, mown in those daft stripes, into a bog closely resembling the Somme. Big clods were strewn across the surface and the whole thing had turned into a huge mud bath. Even the fence was splattered with mud from our not-too elegant charges up and down.

    I heard the neighbour shouting as we trotted up the road, something about what would mum and dad say, but I thought they must be talking to someone else. There was a girl who lived the other side who was always up to no good so it was probably her.

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    I can’t actually remember what happened when I finally rolled home, I’ve probably blocked it out, but it still makes me laugh even to this day. The fact that there was nothing else in my head apart from ponies and horse shows. I even had Mr Jinx’s name written on my pencil case at school.

    But as the years have gone on you would have thought I’d have grown out of it. Perhaps I have to a point – well I don’t actually have a pencil case any more so I can’t test that theory out – but nearly 50 years have gone by and I’m still hooked on horses. There’s just something irresistible about them. The way they look, the smell of them, the sound of their hooves on the road, their whinny when you call them.

    Alright, I’m now a member of the Knackered Riders Club, with a lardy bottom and wobbly thighs but I’m still horsey and proud of it. I’ve no intention of changing and I’ve just starting jumping again, only the smallest log in a field, but a jump nevertheless. As we soared over it, Puzzle and I, a memory shot in, the day I wrecked the garden and it made me laugh out loud.


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