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Relatable Ronnie: when your rider goes through ‘The Change’

Ronnie is deeply concerned. He watches Penny with ever-growing alarm. He has heard about women going through the ‘change’, but he has never felt that Penny was heading this way before.

It is November and, instead of being on holiday in the field as usual, Ronnie has been caught and put into the stable at night. He has been hacked out for the past three weeks each morning, apart from Penny’s work days. Today he is lulled into a false sense of security by the unseasonably warm weather. He has come in from the field early and is just adjusting his resting back leg for another 40 winks, when he is taken out and that awful noise starts up. Ronnie doesn’t really mind being clipped and Penny is very relaxed about it, but she is too slow for his half thoroughbred brain. Thinking she is being kind to his back, Penny has opted for a blanket clip. She will regret this decision in April when his Welsh coat will rain out on every possible surface, especially her black jacket.

After making a bit of a mess of his girth and belly — well no one can see that low down anyway — Penny hops backwards and forwards with a bit of string measuring each side equally. Ronnie leans from side to side and distorts the line. Finally, however, all is accomplished. Ronnie is swaddled in warm rugs and put back into his stable. He is not duped. Something is up.

A wonderful thought passes through Ronnie’s mind — perhaps he is going hunting? Ronnie doesn’t sleep a wink and his stable shows this in the morning. It will take Penny a good hour to sort it out.

Ronnie is wrong. Another week passes and then he is back into The School With No Jumps. This is when the thought occurs to Ronnie that Penny might have reached The Change. Ronnie has been warned about this by his neighbour. It is a time many women come to, he is lead to believe, when they make the decision to change from eventing to dressage. Some reach this point after having children and some a little later, but Ronnie had assumed Penny was well past both these danger points. It is giving him sleepless nights and Penny hours of mucking out.

Ronnie’s worst fears are confirmed when he arrives at Another School With No Jumps. In the corner of this school is a huge sack of some description, which Ronnie can amuse himself with by spooking at it. Suddenly, and without warning, this ‘sack’ turns in to a person who has been trying to keep warm. He is a very different kettle of fish to the previous trainer. This trainer has a very loud voice and Ronnie’s diversionary tactics just don’t cut the mustard. Ronnie is affronted and alarmed. Penny has not warned him about this. He has to work hard, and, worse still, concentrate on what Penny wants.

Ronnie is back on the lorry, his mouth sticky with Polo slick, but it doesn’t seem to have cheered him up as much as usual. He has been washed off, and he needed it despite his clip. Penny, however, is happily sipping a cup of tea watching the next horse. She is very cheerful Ronnie notes gloomily.

When Ronnie only grew to 15.2hh he had planned to be a teenager’s horse, preferably ridden by a boy who wanted to do tetrathlon. Dressage had NOT been his ambition. At four years old Ronnie was told he was grown up enough to have a new home. Penny arrived to ‘try’ him, and though Ronnie was very dubious at first given her advancing years, he decided after a very jolly ride and scooting over a fair few jumps, that he would pass the vet and move house. Now he is deeply saddened by her treachery. No more jumping. Life won’t be worth living. She has let him down!

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That evening, settled by the fire with the dogs and The Husband, Penny looks into her glass of Chablis and says to them “You know, I think with the help of this new trainer I just might qualify for the grassroots championship at Badminton”. A warm smile seeps across her face as she imagines galloping across the hallowed turf, she just has to knuckle down and nail the dressage first. Luckily, she muses, Ronnie is such a willing little horse she is halfway there, she just needs to ride better.

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