Yesterday was the big day for the microbe and me to have our beginners’ horse-riding lesson in Bushy Park.
There’s nothing quite like being 41 and realising that you’re more of a beginner than your 2-year old. Until yesterday I’d never been on a horse in my life, whereas the boylet has had a veritable ‘season’ of summer-fete jollies, from shetlands to cart-horses.
Anyway I tipped him off about his ‘special treat’ early in the morning and got quite a bit of argument-mileage out of it, along the lines of :
“Do you want your special treat?”
“Then eat your eggs / go to the bathroom / stop making that noise” etc etc.
On the way to Teddington the microbe suddenly decided it was nap-time and we had to keep him awake with jaunty songs (and a growing sense of trepidation and the potential grizzle-fest ahead). But he did perk up considerably when we got there and he saw the horses.
First we got fitted with riding hats and a fluorescent gilets…
Then Jimmy got comfy on his horse. He was given a lovely dapple grey boy called Teddy, (who is 14.2 hands, for those of you who know/care about such things).
My horse was a beautiful, white, Russian boy called Prodney. I’m not sure how many hands he is but apparently he’s considered to be “tall”. (I had to stand on a block to climb up on him and then flatten myself to his neck when we went through the gateway into the park). He was also amazingly sprightly considering he’s 30 years old.
“Happy in the haze of a drunken hour…”
“…but heaven knows I’m miserable now”.
(I am afraid, once G had suggested this little edit, it became irresistible).
As you can see, Microbe had a little whinge at the start of the walk, possibly because he couldn’t see me any more. But once he turned round and saw me on the horse behind him he cheered up and enjoyed the ride.
Upon entering the park, we learned how to weave the horses in and out of a row of trees, using the reins…
At this point I had a moment of extreme wussery. We’d only been on the horses for a couple of mins and I was still getting my bearings and working out my posture when a shotgun went off in the park. Poor Prodney went skittery and slightly nuts and I honestly thought he was going to bolt or throw me off.
Thankfully the teenage girl leading him was no-nonsense and calmed him down very quickly and I believe I helped matters enormously by shrieking like a 5-year old girl and declaring “God damn it, that was scary!” (Apparently the shotgun thing was a first, and is banned in Bushy Park.)
Once the horses had calmed down, the instructor said it was time to do a short burst of trotting… at which point I came over a wee bit wussy again because it was way more bouncy than I expected and the ground looked ever so far away. You could say that I was a tad relieved to revert to walking (as can be evidenced by my face in the pic below).
What really amazed me was that they did the trotting with James’s horse too, without batting an eyelash. It’s so rare to come across a walk of life that has not fallen into extremes of ‘health and safety’ caution, especially where children are concerned. But I could see that he was in good hands – flanked by a teenage girl on each side leading his horse and the lead instructor walking alongside and keeping an eye on him. They were all all ready to revert to walking as soon as James said “Stop”. (As it turned out I think he managed about 4 yards of trotting before wailing like a banshee and they went back to walking immediately.)
The rest of the half-hour went really quickly and when we got back to the stable Jimmy came onto my horse so we could have our pic taken, and then it was over… all so quickly.
All in all, it was great fun, and it’s amazing how much more confident I felt at the end of the half-hour than at at the beginning. I suspect the same was true for the microbe. I was also really impressed with the stable staff. They were so friendly and good with James – and really didn’t make me feel like an idiot when I was wussy.
So I think we’ll definitely do it again. I could see it being an occasional seasonal treat.