Saturday, 24 October 2009

Horses for courses.


Yesterday, cleaning out my study looking for my carefully filed instruction book for my Bernina machine, I came across an envelope full of old photographs. The one at the top of this post made me smile. The farmer and I reminisced about it during the evening, and today I thought I would share the story with you. The year is 1992 - I have been widowed for just over a year and the farmer and I are just beginning to pussy-foot around each other prior to doing some serious "courting." (yes it is still viewed in this way in rural Yorkshire - well certainly amongst those of a certain age!)

I was at the time Chairwoman of a Craft Committee for a local organisation. As such I was asked to arrange a course on "Horse Riding for Beginners." Let me start by telling you dear readers that I am afraid - very afraid - of horses close up. I love them in fields where there is a fence between me and them. They are beautiful animals but - they can kick, they can bite and they can be a bit frisky.

However, I felt that as I was organising it I had to conquer my fear and go on the course myself.

When the day came there were sixteen of us (all middle aged and older) brave souls, none of whom had ever been on a horse before (well once or twice I had been on cart horses in the hay field as a child, but that didn't really count.) We duly presented ourselves at Earl Masham's Pony Trecking Centre at Masham and met our sixteen horses.

Because I was the organiser it was decided to put me on a horse first and they brought out an enormous grey horse and managed to get me on its back (don't ask for the details). I was scared. "Oh don't worry," said our tutor, "he is a gentle soul - he carries the big drum at the local festival."

Then they left me, to attend to the other fifteen novice riders. Immediately my horse saw some of its friends in a field, whinnied and strolled over to chat. I had no idea how to stop it or take command - so I had no option but to let it do what it wanted. Well, that more or less set the tone for the whole episode. If my horse saw a tasty morsel in the hedgerow it would wander off and have a nibble at it. "Show it that you are in charge," said the tutor. "You can transmit the control down the reins and it will know who is boss." It knew who was the boss alright, and it wasn't me. On my return I told the farmer who said I needed to get on a horse again to get my confidence back (they always say this when you have done something silly in the car!) Also the farmer, who had never been on a horse other than "cart" agreed to come with me.

So, here we are at the riding stables, the farmer having leapt up into the saddle like a gazelle, me having been pushed up into the saddle from one side and almost falling off the other side like one of those old silent films. This time I have a slightly smaller very pretty pale buff horse with a dark mane. I was hopeful.

Although he had never ridden before, the farmer took immediate control (well he has controlled all other forms of large animals for years hasn't he) and his horse was perfectly behaved. Mine, however, knew a pushover when it saw one - it hung behind to eat grass, it popped into the hedge bottom to eat a bit of this and a bit of that, and suddenly it began to trot towards home. I was like a sad sack of potatoes on its back - everyone else was rising and falling in time to the music(!) but oh dear no, not me.

We arrived back at the stables, the farmer leapt off, I slid off in an ungainly manner and we both agreed, without a word being spoken, that I was never going to make it as a rider. From then on I have kept both feet on terra firma and fully intend to keep it that way.

22 comments:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, this made me giggle. I can just visualize the scene. Horses really do know who is in charge and tend to take incredible advantage of those they deem pushovers. I am impressed at your bravery and spirit. I do think you could learn to ride, though!

Bovey Belle said...

I used to teach riding and had horses myself until last year. I can sympathize with your riding "experiences" though - these ponies are very cunning and take full advantage of someone who doesn't know how to make them behave and have ever-open mouths for some grass! It's never too late to start again you know - a few lessons in a manege or indoor school and you would soon find yourself in control. Rising to the trot takes a while though (but believe me, it is a LOT more uncomfortable for a bloke!!!)

Crafty Green Poet said...

I enjoyed reading this! I've not got much experience with horses, though have found myself surprisingly at ease with most of those I have ridden. Wouldn't want to have been in your shoes on that course though...

Hildred and Charles said...

I have great empathy for you Weaver, - I was thrown off the back of a great white horse at my uncle's farm at the age of eight (probably) and have never attempted to ride again., - although the children all had horses and I love to sidle up to them and rub their noses.

Friko said...

the chairwoman of a craft committee arranges a horse riding lesson? How come?

btw you look beautiful on your horse, to the manner born; you look brave and handsome, in full control - of yourself, if not of your pony.

Cloudia said...

LOL!

Fun post, Weaver



Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Heather said...

What a lovely story Weaver, and it did make me chuckle. At least you looked attractive even in that riding helmet - when I wore one I looked like Mussolini! We were on holiday with our youngest daughter, then about 12, and she had never ridden before so we only went for a hack. Even so, when we got back to the stables and dismounted I could barely walk. I hadn't been on a horse for about 35 years prior to that and then it was to ride a retired police horse which was enormous - it seemed an awful long way down to the ground. He was very well behaved and riding him was a joy - cantering was just like being on a rocking horse.

Poet in Residence said...

I reckon you did ok. You didn't fall off. You and horse came back both in one piece. Horse had a great time. Well, both horses did. You were kind to them. I like that.

I wonder if they still have those ancient flea bitten donkeys on the beach at Morecambe. As a youngster I got to go on one. Cried all the time. Me that is not the donkey. That was the start and finish of my riding days.

Gramma Ann said...

That is a great and amusing story. I can just picture you trying to get on your horse. I only ever tried to ride a pony, that our children had for a year or two. I only climbed on it once and as soon as I was on it I said, GET ME OFF OF THIS THING. I was scared out of my wits. Well, of course my children thought it very funny.

Golden West said...

What a good sport you are, Weaver, to have given it another go. Our town was quiet enough during my childhood that we could rent horses and ride around. On a surf trip to Mexico with my sister and 2 buddies when we were in our teens (1960s), we rented horses to amble about. A thunderstorm came up out of nowhere and my horse spooked and bolted as the lightning cracked and rain pelted down. He slipped on a patch of slick concrete and we both fell into a barbed wire fence... We were both spared any injury but I've been afraid to ride every since! I, too, prefer terra firma.

gleaner said...

Weaver this gave me a giggle -
the chairwoman of a craft committee, with a fear of horses, organising a horse riding class - a delightful read!

MARGARET GOSDEN 2 said...

But what about the farmer? Are you still courting!

Elisabeth said...

I have a similar photo taken when I was about twenty years old. I am sitting on the back of a tan coloured horse with a diffident smile on my face.

The look does not bear testimony to the horror of the ride ahead and I have never been back on a horse again. Like you I'm wary.

Elizabeth said...

At least you didn't fall off......
a wonderful story
my riding experiences were not stellar ( Idid fall off!)
and yes, I'm a bit scared of them....

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Funny story. I love the way it feels to ride a horse when they canter, but I must say, their size has always caused me some fear. And I've never figured out what to do when they're trotting.

Jenn Jilks said...

You are so brave. No regrets. You know you had to try it. You must be terribly proud of yourself. You go, girl!

The Weaver of Grass said...

As usual you have all risen (if not into the saddle, onto the page)to the occasion. It seems to me, reading all your comments, that we fall into two camps - those who love riding and feel confident on horse-back and those who don't. I wonder maybe if the answer is to start early (like ski-ing and learning a foreign language) -growing up with horses must make you feel in control - and that is surely the point.
I don't know about donkeys on Morecambe beach but there are certainly still donkeys on Blackpool beach -and Scarborough. A friend had two to over-winter last year but they were very unfriendly. Can't really blame them after days of tramping up and down with children on the beach can you? Mind you they are better treated than donkeys I saw in Marrakech who had to pull very heavily laden carts to market each morning.
As to me getting up in the saddle again now - sorry but I am a bit too old in the teeth for that - believe me it is a long way down from a bicycle saddle let along a fifteen hands horse!
Thanks for the interest. Have a lovely Sunday.

Totalfeckineejit said...

I'm reminded of the song....
" Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat ?"

Rachel Fox said...

Oh well, we can't all be good at everything!
x

steven said...

what a super memory weaver!! i too have the very same fear of horses and i'm sorry but i'd be leading the group from the vantage point of any place with a fence between me and the horse! have a lovely day in the dale. steven

elizabethm said...

I would love to ride but have not been on a horse since i was about eight and then only once. I keep dithering about whether to pluck up the courage to have a go but life is so short and how long would it take to get any good?

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

That gave me a little laugh - not at you, you understand, just the horses' antics! I think I have mentioned before that I too am wary of horses. You recounted this tale so amusingly.

Having decided to skip a couple of days, here you are with loads of posts for me to catch up with!