As I was mucking out Painter’s stable recently, moving around with my shavings fork and yard brush as he chomped at his hay with his highly-efficient toothless gums, a Zen feeling came over me. A warm glow of satisfaction and contentment, despite my creaking back and aching knees. It made me think for a moment. How long have I been doing this in my life? Filling haynets, sloshing water buckets down my legs, carrying feed buckets and mucking out. Bending and lifting, breathing in stable smells. Getting hay in my hair, feed in my pockets and unidentifiable stains on my clothes. The answer is 54 out of my 57 years and I don’t know anything else.
Since Painter retired seven years ago, I have been adamant that he would be my last. But a thought dropped slowly into my mind. Should I get another? Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself. You’re being silly, you’re too old. It couldn’t happen anyway until Painter’s galloped off over Rainbow Bridge to the heavenly pastures beyond, by which time I could be well in my 60s or even heading towards 70. But once the thought lodged there, I struggled to bat it away. Justifying the madness, my riding has improved recently thanks to lessons with instructor Dan at Country Treks in Shropshire. My old body is getting stronger too after so many six-hour day rides there that I’ve lost count. Strangely even my bad back seems less irritated and my posture has improved. All good reasons to carry on riding. I wondered what anyone else thought about getting a new horse in later life? It would be great to hear anyone’s stories about this, good or bad, so I can mull it over at my leisure.
I hadn’t even mentioned it to my mother when she announced she was leaving me something good in her will. My moment had come to make my dream reality. If she was going to give me the money to buy a new horse, perhaps I could even bring it forward a few years. Waiting with excitement, I started flicking mentally through the horses for sale columns. A beautiful steel grey hunter gleaming with condition, a stunning black Friesian, a chunky Welsh D. The endless possibilities rolled through my mind. I could get my own transport as well so we could join a local endurance group and head off to the hills every weekend. I was just choosing myself a comfy seat saver and some of those fantastic knee-saving stirrups when she shattered my illusion.
“I’m leaving you 28 Lycra leotards, a box of vintage sheet music and responsibility for a pensioner’s ukulele band”.
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Oh God. My heart sunk. I should have never let my hopes run away with me. As if a horse had really been on the cards. Her passion has always been the theatre. She’s spent her life writing and performing in pantomimes, treading the boards, even swinging from the rafters of the local theatre in a pink leotard like an overweight, over-aged Roly Poly. I had deliberately blocked that memory out for many years to avoid having to pay for extensive counselling sessions.
“Mmm thanks,” I mumbled, unable to tell her what I really thought of her amazing legacy. I can only hope she’ll live so many years that I’ll be too old to worry when the leotards and ukuleles come my way. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking in the horses for sale sections of magazines just in case my moment ever comes.
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