15 12 2013

I spent another very pleasant afternoon at the riding school with my volunteer hat on today. I managed to convince myself that even though I hadn’t mustered the energy to get going to be there any earlier it would still be worthwhile, and would do me a world of good to get out there rather than languishing indoors the whole day.

I was right, of course, and far from treating me as though I was somehow lazy or unhelpful for not being there any earlier, they were as gracious and welcoming as they have been on the previous occasions when I found them. It was a quiet Sunday this week and there wasn’t an awful lot to do, so I mainly swept up, kept water buckets topped up and tidied away tack and equipment that had been strewn across the floor throughout the day.

I’d like to blog about my interactions with the horses, though, you’ll be unsurprised to hear. On arriving and being told there wasn’t much to do, I went off to shovel up a pile of droppings I’d seen on one of the paths, took it to the muck heap and then went around to see Bramble, hoping for a similar reaction to the last time I called in on her. She wasn’t there, but Quarry was in the small paddock next to the outdoor stables, and on spotting me his ears pricked forwards and he whinnied loudly at me. That was a really wonderful reception!

When I did eventually see Bramble, in fact, it was some time later on in the afternoon after she’d come in from a lesson. She made the sort of noise Muttley (of Wacky Races/Catch the Pigeon fame) would make when I said hello to her, and although she greeted me with a snuffle of my hand, she wasn’t really interested in further interactions and retreated back into her stall, so I left her be. Soapy was similarly unbothered by my presence today, but I felt for her upon noticing that she still has an itchy foot.

Mid-afternoon I was asked if I wanted to lead in a children’s lesson. The ponies were Elvis and Li’l Legs; given the choice, I would have chosen Elvis, but I was handed Li’l Legs and told to wait outside for a moment because she’s frightened of him. (It turns out she’s frightened of Duke, too; we were sharing the indoor school with an adult rider who was having a semi-private lesson, and she was palpably wary as we walked along the poles that had been laid down to divide the school in half. Then she is only wee.) I enjoyed leading again, actually; I think I’ve got the hang of having a firm enough grip on the lead rope to be reassuring, but slack enough that the rider is free to control the pony. At first I didn’t even have a lead rope and was just hanging on to her inside rein, but I picked one up from the side of the school as we walked past and clipped it on while we were walking. The little girl I was riding was funny; at the start of the lesson, she was insistent that she didn’t want to trot at all, she just wanted to walk; by the end of it, she was begging me to let her have a canter. Heh. The girl had been wearing a Christmas jumper with a pom-pom on the front of it (it was supposed to be Rudolph’s nose), and when she was on the ground Li’l Legs kept trying to bite it.

After the lesson, I led Li’l Legs back into her stall, loosened her girth and tied her reins up because she had another lesson fifteen minutes later. Then I went across to the other yard to see if I could do anything there. It was swept up and all of the staff were just hanging around talking by the office, so I turned my attention to handsome Duke, who was staring at me again. This week, he was about as affectionate towards me as Bramble had been the previous week, and it was lovely. I looked over from him to see that Quarry was now back from the paddock and looking forlornly at me, as though he wanted some attention, so I went over to give him some. He responded amusingly, with his lips wiggling around all over the place, then giving me sloppy kisses on my hands and face before trying to remove my glasses in his mouth (I soon stopped him), when I heard a disgruntled-sounding nicker immediately behind me, saw Quarry pin his ears and reach over my shoulder. I turned my head, and saw Duke with his ears pinned attempting to bite Quarry through the bars on the front of his stall, then suddenly kicking the wall between the two stalls with a loud bang that made me jump. I asked Duke what was wrong and walked over to his stable door, and he walked back and stuck his head out to greet me again, giving me that daft baby-horse look and breathing on my face. There was a repeat performance of the horsey-posturing the next time I walked in the direction of Quarry’s stall. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe I have been the object of horsey jealously. As flattering as that was in a way, given its manifestation I decided to just go to the other end of the yard and pet the horses there instead. Duke continued to watch me the whole time I was on that yard, and was soppy and affectionate towards me whenever I approached him. It was funny when I physically couldn’t get into his stall to fill his water buckets because I was being mugged for attention.

When they said I could go, I waited in the foyer for a moment to send a text message before setting off home, when one of the owners came and told me there was no way I was walking down the road in the dark by myself, and said they’d arrange for someone to give me a lift. So one of the Interchangeable Emma’s dads gave me a lift home, which was nice. I was shocked to hear their disbelief that I’m completely happy to work at the stables for nothing, though; I couldn’t seem to make them understand that I love horses so much, and I’m so glad to have found a school where they’re so well taken care of without all of the elitism that’s assumed to go hand-in-hand with equestrianism that I was just glad to be able to help out in exchange for more time around the animals.

Tomorrow is my final riding lesson of the year. I’m actually finding myself really hoping that I get paired up with Duke again, partly because I think it’s good for me having to face a bit of a challenge, and partly because I’ve been told a number of times by experienced riders that if you’re friends with a horse that bond carries over into your relationship with them from in the saddle. For having seen him (if only briefly) being ridden by someone else in a private lesson, I’d also be really interested to give that a go myself at some stage in the New Year – I know that horses behave very differently when they’re on their own to when they’re around other horses, and I’d be interested to see how different he would be.

I was going to sign off this post with a video I recorded of some of the geldings all running around together in the indoor school, but my internet connection doesn’t want to upload it fast enough and I’d like to go to bed now, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s exciting update 🙂





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