5 hours ago
Saturday, 6 April 2013
I wonder if I could go out to a bookie today, and place a bet on how many horses will die at today's Grand National race at Aintree? I might make a killing. It is a good day for it, but the going might be a little hard after last night's frost. Ouch.
I used to do a bit of horse riding, but I was never any good at it. I used to ride motorbikes as well, and I was crap at that too. I have always been scared of any animal that is bigger than me, and quite a few which are much smaller. If sheep didn't run away from me when I walk through fields of them, I would probably be terrified of them as well. I get a little nervous when amongst chickens too.
The last time I rode a horse, it was from a hacking stable at Wellow, not too far from Bath, and I was the heaviest I have ever been in my life.
The girl in the yard took one look at me, and said something like, "Ah. You need a big horse. I'll give you Dobbin (I forget what the wretched creature's name was, but I never use real names in blog-posts anyway, Lawrie and Gary, just in case they twist the meaning and use it against me...). He's nice and docile." What she didn't tell me was that Dobbin was utterly mad and neurotic. I don't know what gave her the idea that it was docile.
So we saddled up and as we entered the first bit of open ground, I decided to lengthen my stirrup straps and just after I had both feet out of the stirrups, the leader of the group decided that we would all go off at a gallop, and dug her spurs into the sides of her mount. There were about 15 of us, and my horse decided that it had to be in the front.
I don't know how I managed to hang on over the rough ground, but when we were half way across, the leader saw my predicament and came back to hold the horse for me whilst I got my feet back into the stirrups. Then she decided that they would all gallop off again, but one girl would stay behind and hold Dobbin with his back to his friends, in the belief that if he could not see them having fun, he would not want to join in. Madness.
Pretty soon, the girl became fed up with me, and decided to gallop off with the others and leave me to fend for myself. Dobbin didn't like that either.
Within about 20 minutes, the main group were miles away from me and completely out of sight. Me and Dobbin had to find our own way home, and I was depending on him to remember it. Soon, we came to a narrow bridle-path between two hedges, and about 30 feet in, a black plastic bag was dangling from the hedgerow, gently waving in the breeze.
To my eyes, this bit of rubbish was a simple bin-liner, but in Dobbin's eyes it must have seemed like a terrifying creature from hell, sent above to drag him down into perpetual torment. I could only guess.
We would approach the bin-liner and he would rear up on his hind legs and whinny, performing a few pirouettes in the small space between the hedges before I regained control and turned him around for another attempt at getting past.
Eventually, I got off and actually dragged him past the bin-liner, kicking and screaming.
When I got back on again, he just took off at full gallop for about a quarter of a mile between barbed-wire fences, with me pulling on his bit until his head was almost on his chest. I looked up to see a closed gate at the end of the lane, so I gave Dobbin full rein so he could see it too and stop.
At one point I really thought that he was going to jump it, but he he just went from 40 mph to a dead-stop, right up against the gate. I slid forward on the saddle violently, smashing my testicles into the hard, leather pommel. It wasn't until he had come to a stop that I fell off, but I fell of because of the pain, and I lay beside him on the grass until I could get my breath back. He just stood there waiting for me to get myself together.
Once through the gate, we were on a hard, tarmac road and because we were both exhausted and thirsty, we just strolled along - him knowing the way back and me nursing an awful headache and bruised bollocks.
When we got into the village, the last few hundred yards to the stable involved passing beneath a huge banner which two men were stretching right across the road, advertising the Wellow Fete to be held next day. If Dobbin reacted badly to a bin-liner, you can only imagine how he reacted to a thirty foot-long strip of brightly painted canvas being waved around ten feet above his head by two village idiots.
After much sliding around, more pirouettes and charges, we took off at a gallop again, but this time on unforgiving tarmac. We arrived at the stable and Dobbin took the left-hand bend into the yard at full speed, stopping only at the entrance to his own, safe stable.
I have not been on a horse since, and have no intention of ever getting on one again.
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 05:05