Kate Flynn's bike is losing its appeal as she struggles to keep up with her daughter merrily trotting along on her new pony — and soon thoughts turn to a new horse for herself
The other day, Daughter asked me what it had been like in the “olden days“.
“Were ponies still pulling you round in carriages then,” she queried all innocently. I gulped. I really hadn’t realised quite how old she thought I was, but clearly, my expensive ‘Age-Smart’ moisturiser was not doing its job.
I quickly put her right on one or two historical facts about the era of my youth and its modes of transport (Ford Cortinas and Austin Allegros for those of you that were wondering!) and got to thinking about my own childhood ponies, or lack of them.
I was 22 when I owned my first horse — not from a lack of desire, more a set of un-horsey parents who were excellent at resisting my persistent form of pester power coupled with a desperate, and for them, convenient allergy that brought me out in hives, itching eyes and red rashes whenever I came within spitting distance of a horse.
They say allergies run in seven-year cycles, and by the time I was old enough to earn my own money, my sensitivity to horses had reduced to a sniffle and I was finally in a position to indulge my unfulfilled lifetime passion.
During my twenties, I was lucky enough to click with a marvellous mare with whom I had years of fun. I had a little time out when the children came along, but was soon back in the saddle and a small succession of equally wonderful horses ensued.
I hung up my spurs for what I firmly believed was the final time six or seven years ago and following the initial “what am I going to do with myself” period, found, to my great surprise that I wasn’t really missing it.
So when Daughter was offered Sweetie the loan pony, I knew where this was going to end up, but despite my resistance to getting back into horses again, I felt unable to deny her what I had longed for during my own childhood. Indeed, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed helping and watching her with the pony. The only struggle turned out to be hacking.
For anyone who has ever tried riding a bike alongside a pony or horse – you will know just how incompatible they are when it comes to speed and pace.
When Munch was walking, I was swerving and wobbling on the bike to maintain the slow pace.
At trot, we were somewhere close to similar, but a canter left me standing no matter how hard I pedalled! Now, I can only imagine how bedraggled and exhausted I must have looked on more than one occasion when we met my neighbour exercising her string of racehorses along the lane.
What could be more wonderful than sharing your beloved sport with your equally beloved parent/offspring? A few of these problems…
‘You don’t want to be riding that bike’
“Ah, Kate, you don’t want to be riding that bike,” she trilled, peering down at me from atop her streamlined thoroughbred, “you want one of these!”
“No thank you, been there, done that,” I laughed hollowly, as I wearily dragged myself and the Raleigh up the hill. This little scenario was to become something of a Groundhog Day for us, each time, my resolve quietly weakening in spite of myself.
I was growing to hate the bike and the idea of some horsepower beneath me was starting to become more appealing by the day.
A few weeks and many more two-wheeled slogs later, we once again bumped into my neighbour on the lane. This time she had a glint in her eye.
“Have you had enough of riding that bike yet?” she queried. It was a particularly warm day and despite my MAMIL (middle aged mother in lycra) biking togs, I was wilting. I had to concede the bike had lost any charm it might once have had. The idea of getting fit had also lost its appeal, and I publicly admitted as much.
“Good,” she said, “ I have the perfect horse for you. I’ll drop him over on Friday!” And, before I could protest she had trotted off with a cheery wave of her hand. Daughter and I surveyed each other in speechless wonder. Who (or what) was coming on Friday? We only had a few days to wait to find out!