20.12.2005 08:07 - I Know My Rider
When I was young, I went through a phase of being obsessed with horses. I really should have stuck at it, because it would have been useful for chatting up girls. Well, certain types of girls, anyway, because we'd have at least had something in common. Girls, I soon found out, are strictly unimpressed by anything over 4HP that doesn't run on Hay.
Once, my father took me to a local gymkhana, where he begged one of the horse owners to allow me a ride. The owner was apparently quite surprised when I turned out to be a natural rider. All those weeks of watching "Champion the Wonder Horse" and "Black Beauty" had paid off. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and I didn't have anything more to do with horses until a short family holiday in Wales in 1982.
It was decided that we would go pony-trekking. Off we went, to the local Pony-Trekking place near Harlech. My mother and sister were duly equipped with ponies. Me? I got the stallion, who shall be henceforth known as "Satan". Satan took one look at me and thought "We've got a right one here."
Now, up to that point, my riding experience can be summed up as being donkey-rides at the beach. I had never learnt that the average stallion is an evil, cunning bastard. Therefore, what I expected out of this was nothing more than a slightly more grown-up version of donkey riding.
Satan knew this.
I was about to realise that the relationship between man and stallion is a battle of wits.
Off we went, the daughter of the owner at the front on a dapple mare, then the ponies, and me bringing up the back. Except that Satan wasn't going in the same direction as the others. Satan was going toward a small brook. He stopped, and put his head down to drink. I started tugging at his reins to try and pull his head up. No go. I mean, you've seen the muscles in the average stallion's neck, haven't you? Now compare that to the musculature of the average geek. The daughter rode over, and pulled Satan back into line. Meanwhile the ponies, who obviously knew the way, had carried on, so we required a short gallop to catch up. Ouch. I was not prepared for the spinal compression of my arse being out of sync with Satan's, and so recieving a short sharp shock every time they collided.Â We caught up, and Satan and I took the rear.
Satan, however, had other ideas.
Satan did not like being at the back, with ponies farting in his face. Satan did not like having some bloody idiot grockel on his back, either, and decided to have some fun. This fun consisted of a series of gallopy-gallopy overtaking manouvres, getting past the ponies, so that he could catch up with the dapple mare. Once next to the dapple mare, he was happy.
That is, apart from the fact that he still had an idiot halfway up his back.
So, every time we went under a tree, Satan carefully made sure he went under a low-slung branch, that just grazed his ears. He nearly had me off once or twice, I'll give him that.
Our journey was nearly over. Satan had failed in his task to unseat me and throw me to the ground. However, there was one more chance. Off went Satan to the brook again, plunging his head down in the cool waters. Alongside came the daughter again, pulling at his reins. I'd just about had enough.
"You must think me a terrible idiot, letting him get out of control" I said.
"Oh no," she replied. "You're really quite good. Most of the others fall off into the brook when he does that."
Since that day, Horses and I have come to a mutual agreement. They don't bother me and I don't bother them. I don't know if the Pony-Trekking place is still going. It probably went under due to lawsuits from Satan's other riders.