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Relatable Ronnie: facing the music

Penny has always enjoyed music. She is not musical as such — can’t sing in tune for instance — but loves all sorts of movement to music; gymnastics, ballet, ice dance, street dance and, of course, dressage to music. While driving her car, Penny often trots to Classic FM, or pictures the perfect extended trot to beautiful floating melodies, but converting this into reality is beyond her scope of musical or I.T. knowledge.

Fortunately for Penny, a Musical Friend lives not far away, and the subject crops up one day on the phone. The Musical Friend has a husband who turns out to be a dab hand at all things I.T. and, big bonus, he enjoys music too. Even more fortunately for Penny, they both seem very keen to help.

Penny sets about configuring a floorplan for a novice test. Ronnie is consulted about which moves to include, and an approximate test is devised. The Husband, who infinitely prefers things musical to equine, is quite keen to help too, and readily videos the provisional test. This is then sent to the Musical Friend and her husband to work on the music.

Many earnest conversations and musical interludes follow. Everyone is very happy and jolly and laughing a lot on the Zoom strategy meetings!

Penny hires a 20x60m school ready for the first run through. In the absence of any suitable equipment The Husband decides that he will drive his car right up to the school and have the sound system turned up LOUD, and the car doors open. Penny does a quick check for nearby neighbours.

Several of the letters around this particular school are missing. Penny has given The Husband a copy of ‘the test’, and asks him to time her as she rides through. He looks at the piece of paper blankly. He cannot see ‘G’. Penny re-explains this, and then, to be safe, she goes through the letters on the school perimeter, some of which are represented by buckets and logs — she foolishly doesn’t see the problem. The Husband foolishly doesn’t confess that he sees a problem.

Ronnie warms up. Penny announces she is ready. The Husband turns on the music just as Ronnie goes past the car. Dusting herself off, Penny suggests, between sand grated teeth, that he might start the music when she is at the far end of the arena when she puts her hand up, as agreed. The Husband says he has received no such instruction. Ronnie is enjoying this immensely — he has scored a huge point for the dismount, and now his ally, – The Husband, is adding a nice edge of irritation.

Penny puts her hand up. The music is audible as long as the wind doesn’t blow. It blows. Ronnie comes down the centre line and does an unscripted half circle away from the car. Everything stops as Ronnie is conditioned once again to the music. His self-satisfied smirk is quite clear to see.

The Musical Friend and her husband, who have come to see the results of their labours from a safe distance, are beginning to shiver — no-one is smiling apart from Ronnie.

Penny is in her shirt sleeves at the end of a first run. The Husband has given up trying to work out if his wife is actually doing what it says on the paper. Penny asks him to write in an alteration and his bewilderment is a picture to behold. He has, however, successfully started the stopwatch to see the run time. Sadly he hasn’t remembered to stop it.

Take four is probably the best attempt. The Musical Friend and her husband get out of their car and are quite excited. The Husband has an exact time and a crumpled bit of paper which is, as far as he can see, irrelevant — Penny surely knows the test, and Ronnie seems able to perform it.

The day arrives for the first virtual competitive airing of ‘The Test’. The Musical Team reconvene at the hired arena. Ronnie is sporting his bridle number and white saddle cloth. He is slightly miffed that he doesn’t have bright white boots like all the other big horses. He shuffles his black ones bashfully in the arena surface. Luckily the offending objects will be removed before his video debut.

Penny sits somewhat stiffly, partly due to unscheduled nerves, and partly due to the fact that she bought this black jacket second-hand when she was 16, long before middle age was on her agenda. It is now a shade tight, but they knew how to cut a jacket 40 years ago. The jacket gives a bit as she warms up and Ronnie settles to his work.

Once they start the actual test, the music seems a bit different. Penny notices her lack of ability to count bars and concentrate on riding at the same time. This is harder than she thought. The canter starts a little before she is ready and her final halt is not quite where she had envisaged it, but she gets to the end facing in the right direction.


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Ronnie comes out of the arena to greet his fans — they may be few but they are smiling and The Husband is happy to hand out Polos. Ronnie preens himself and sashays back to the lorry for the patting session. The Husband has a hug too — he has pressed all the right buttons, “It’s in the can,” he announces. Ronnie can’t see a can with, or without, treats in it.

On the whole, Ronnie decides, dressage to music is a lot more fun that straight dressage, especially as he only has to do the movements he likes. He is, however, a little concerned to hear Penny say ‘the next time…’ because he didn’t hear her breathe a word about eventing.

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