Britain’s more traditional weather returns along with the first steps towards a new normality, but nothing can dampen Tessa Waugh’s spirits as she becomes rather too involved in her kids’ riding lessons
It made a nice change to be trundling down the road at the weekend with Mary and Alec in the pick-up beside me and a trailer containing two ponies. Going out en masse is such a rarity these days that there was a celebratory feel in the car despite the rain bashing at the windscreen and the wind whistling in the trees. Lockdown seems to have that effect – it turns the most ordinary things into an event.
The ponies, however, weren’t feeling the love as we unloaded them at the other end. Sally was bracing herself against the swirling winds and Rusty was taking in the outdoor school with a jaundiced eye. He hates riding lessons. Karen was there to teach them, all smiles under a woolly hat, and they began to warm up, doing the obligatory circles in walk, trot and canter.
I’ve spent weeks nagging Mary about her reins, which are always like spaghetti, and Karen spotted this in seconds. For a while it was lovely to hear someone else issue the instructions, “Feel his mouth,” and, “Shorten your reins,” at varying volumes depending on the response. I should have chilled and let the professional get on with it, but I was struggling to stop myself from chipping in.
You see it at rallies sometimes, the mums who lose the fight and start joining in with the lesson. It starts as a hissed “sit up” when the pony passes them at the ringside and gets slowly louder if the mistake isn’t rectified. It is never a good look – irritating for the instructor, embarrassing for the child – but I was sailing dangerously close to those waters as Mary completed another circle without achieving a stride of canter.
“Reins,” I growled. “Squeeze!” Two more circuits and I could feel my ankles flexing in imaginary stirrups, the tensing of the lower leg. This involuntary riding of thin air often happens while I’m watching a lesson. Admit it, you’ve been there.
Luckily, Karen’s partner, Steve, stopped for a chat which distracted me for a while. We talked about hunting and the obligatory Covid-19 stuff before turning back to the lesson.
“Look at that pony,” said Steve, pointing at Rusty who had just refused a fence. “He doesn’t want to be doing this rubbish. Just wants to be hunting.”
Which summed it up really. He then turned his attention to Karen as she did an impression of Rusty’s lacklustre performance post fence.
“What’s she doing now?” he asked, appalled.
“Imitating the pony after a jump,” I replied, which seemed perfectly normal to me.
That was enough for Steve. He said his goodbyes, cast another despairing look at Karen and drove off. Perhaps he thought it was contagious.
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 June 2020