MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE (No Thanks!)
Ray regales us with his dislike of horses; a feeling that stems from his childhood
What a fine sight it is to see a horseman, or woman riding by. From their elevated position they can enjoy the views over walls and hedgerows that we pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists can only guess at.
But not for me that elevated position. Horses and I definitely do not go well together.
At the age of three my Grandfather lifted me up and sat me on his carthorse Bess, who was a fairly docile old thing, at which point I screamed my head off and had to be lifted off. So I wasn't in Grandfather's good books, and Bess wasn't too happy about the idea either.
When I was seven, myself and a school friend, on the way home from school one winter's afternoon, decided to check the ice on the pond in a neighbours field. (Yes I know it's not a good idea, but this pond was only a foot deep at the most.) Now the only problem was the neighbour kept a horse in this field and it was prone to run after you if it saw you. But boys being boys the ice was too tempting, and the horse was miles away on the other side of the field wasn't it!
So in we go and we're just testing the ice when we hear this drumming of hooves; you guessed it, the horse had spotted us and was running across the field. Well we legged it as hard as we could go and the noise was getting louder. Then horror of horrors, I fell over. This is it I thought as the noise of his hooves and breathing rose to a crescendo, he's going to trample me. Just a minute though, I'm still in one piece. The horse had leapt over me and continued running after my friend, so I got up and legged it to the gate while my pal just managed to make it to the hedge and scramble through. Needless to say we didn't test the ice on that pond again whilst the horse was there.
Many years later when we were enjoying a camping holiday with our daughters I was persuaded by the middle one, who was mad keen on horses, to take her and the eldest one pony trekking. What was I thinking of!! But it seemed like a good idea at the time, and hey I was bigger now and it's only a horse.
So we arrive at the stables and good old Dad pays the money, (Notice it's money beforehand!) and I'm given this horse called Boogie to ride. He's huge!! The girls are fine; being small they're on little ponies. So I'm helped up and the convoy of some twelve or so gets going. With one stable girl at the head of the column and one at the rear, Boogie and I are in the middle of the line.
It's a lovely day the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and I can see over the hedgerows as the horses walk along. I'm thinking this is a great way to travel and see the countryside. Suddenly my reverie is shattered as all the horses break into a trot. Now of course I realised afterwards that these horses are a canny lot because they've been this way a few times before, and know the points on the way where they trot and where they walk. But nobody told me!!!
There was I hanging on for dear life trying to get into the rhythm of the horse and not succeeding. Every time my backside came down it met the saddle coming up. You've seen these films where they fix a dummy to the saddle and as the horse trots along the dummy is bobbing up and down and around like mad, well that was me, certainly feeling a bit of a dummy!
To make matters worse the stable girl at the back was shouting instructions to me via the horse. That is to say, because she didn't know my name she was shouting the horse's name. The problem being of course I couldn't hear what she was saying being in the middle of the column and the wind whistling past my ears.
Then, as if by magic, a switch was flicked and all the horses went back to walking again. Phew!! Back to something I could cope with. Except I hadn't reckoned on the pecking order. Boogie decided he was not in the right place in the column and ought to be behind the one behind. Now we had been told which levers to pull to steer the horse, so I was having none of that and managed to get him going straight again, only to find as we were going through the forest he was looking out for all the low branches he could take me under.
Out of the trees and into the open, and yes you've got it, back to another session of backside bashing whilst hanging on for dear life. We finished up with a walk back into the yard where I was not too sorry to dismount. (I like to get the terminology right; although think it was more of a collapse off the horse.) Where I was treated to a bit of ear-bending about not doing as they instructed, much to everyone else's amusement. My excuse of not being able to hear the instructions was not apparently a good enough reason.
So there you have it. Horses and I are best kept apart, and I will just have to forgo the pleasure of seeing what is on the other side of the wall, or hedge.