Sunday, 13 November 2011
But yesterday, as a result of a Groupon deal bought a number of months ago, I went horseriding at our local stables. Raised on a teenage literary diet of 'Flanders Farm' and later, Jilly Cooper's 'Riders', I had always imagined myself, jodhpur clad, being cornered in the stables by a virile young squire . It's possible in hindsight,that the fantasy may have been more hormones than horses, but nevertheless I jumped at the horseriding deal when I saw it. And eventually after months of procrastination, and with the expiration date fast approaching, I booked my lesson for Friday.
Getting ready posed the first problem- what to wear? Unfortunately, not possessing a single item of riding attire, it was track bottoms, a green anorak and bright yellow wellies. The other 3 ladies in my group were, predictably enough, bedecked in bodywarmers, jodhpurs, riding boots and gloves- two even had their own hat! Trying in vain to banish the fear of catching nits, I adorned one of the stables' German helmet style hats and the transformation to village idiot was now complete.
The next challenge was getting on to the horse- I had nightmarish visions of three unlucky stable hands shoving my well upholstered bum up from below, but thankfully this was not the case. Using a very civilized wooden step, I managed to scramble on without too much difficulty. As I was an absolute beginner, I was on Merlin, a 'lazy lump', and therefore, a match made in heaven, but I was initially somewhat stunned by how far away the ground was. I soon learned how to make him go- a bit of a kick and 'Walk on Merlin!' and how to stop- pull the reins and 'Woooah Merlin!' Next, I was told to hold on to the saddle for a trot. The instructor told me to 'just feel the rhythm,' (my posterior is still feeling it after the battering it endured), but gradually, and out of a sense of self preservation, I began to work out when to raise myself slightly on and off the saddle. I even had my brief Jilly Cooper moment, as I bobbed around the paddock, feeling like the Lady of the Manor.
But the biggest challenge for me by far, came at the end of the lesson- the dismount!. I'd naively assumed that they'd bring the step round for us and we'd gingerly be helped back off. Ha! It was patiently but firmly explained, that I had to take my feet out of the stirrups and swing my leg over this massive beast and just slide off. 'No, I can't do that!', I panicked, 'you'll have to bring the step round'. 'Don't worry,' replied my calm instructor, 'It's easy! I'll catch you!' I took one look at her petite 5' feet 2" frame and realized that this was a blatant lie, and it was, in fact, much more likely that I would flatten her completely. But with no choice, and the help of encouraging noises from the others, I took a deep breath... and did it. Feet firmly on the ground and still largely in one piece, I led poor Merlin back for a bit of a lie down. And despite my slightly bruised bum and ego, and the uncomfortable realisation that I'm actually a complete wuss, I'm up for another go next week. Walk on Merlin!