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.