Sunday, 1 May 2011

34. Two Degrees of Seperation

The auction was surprisingly quiet given the circumstances. Over thirty horses and ponies of varying degrees of quality had been seized from a highly unsuitable owner a few months before by a horse charity and now, after a bit of rehabilitation, the best were being put up for sale and adoption.

David and Nikolai wandered through the building, tutting at the state of some of the ponies and lauding the condition of others. They hadn’t intended to go inside but when they passed a sign that read ‘Cobs and Ponies for saleCHEAP-’ they just couldn’t resist.

They probably wouldn’t buy anything anyway, they were only looking after all.

As they passed by one pen, Nikolai nodded towards the back. ‘What about that one? The little bay-and-white. I like his face.’

David squinted. From what he could see of the horse under all that hair and fluff, he did indeed look like a nice kind of animal. Perhaps even riding school material... ‘Hmmm, ok, let’s have a look at him then. Come on lad, c’mere!’ He clicked his tongue and held out a hand to the gelding, who, after giving the proffered digits a good sniff, padded over to the fence, followed closely by a heavily feathered liver chestnut skewbald.

David nodded approvingly as he cast his gaze across the horse. He lacked condition but otherwise appeared to have good conformation and he really couldn't fault him for looks. Nikolai seemed to think the same and after a moment's pondering, he went off to find the seller to ask all the usual questions. He came back a few minutes later with a headcollar and leadrope which he put on the cob without any trouble. The majority of the other horses had already moved off to the other end of the pen where one of the auction staff had put down some haylage for them. Only the cob they were interested in and the chestnut skewbald remained up at this end. 'According to Mr Murphy over there' he said, scratching the gelding's nose absently. 'his name is 'Pirate'. He is about twelve years old -although this cannot be confirmed- but one thing we do know is that he is partially blind in one eye.' David frowned. 'Argh, that's a pain, I was hoping he'd be completely sound.' Nikolai shook his head. 'The vets have already looked at him and say that it isn't a serious issue - they think he has had it for a very long time and has learned how to cope with it.' 'Can he be ridden though? That's the question.' 'Apparently so. From what they can guess of his history he's well used to tack and has been ridden by one of the people here.' 'What do you think? Should we chance it?' 'I will take him outside and put him through his paces first, then we can decide.' 'Good idea.' As he turned Pirate round to leave the pen, the other cob let out a shrill whinny and threw his head up, Pirate echoing him as he walked off in the opposite direction. 'Hey, hey, calm down lad, calm down!' David said soothingly, patting the gelding's neck softly. 'It's ok, he's not going anywhere!' 'Here' said Nikolai, tossing over a length of soft white rope from the depths of his coat pockets. 'I think he might be quite dangerous if he isn't restrained. Mr Murphy told me that they are never seperated and that he might not know what to do with himself when they are. His name is Simba by the way.' 'Cheers, I'll get a halter made up before you leave, hold on...' Sure enough, as soon as Pirate was out of eyeshot, Simba exploded.

'Steeeady lad, steady!' He bucked and reared, leapt and plunged his way around the small pen, sending ponies skittering to the corners of the other end in fright.

Although still young, he was very strong and after only a couple of minutes he'd managed to wrestle the rope from David's hands. Squealing like a pig, he took off at a canter, spinning on the spot and neighing his head off as he tried frantically to find his friend. Finally he stopped and stood, trembling in the middle, looking completely and utterly lost. David walked over to him slowly, hands out as through approaching someone with a hostage and gently picked up the rope. Now that he'd expended all that energy and fear, he was much more approachable, yet he still seemed worried. He was a very nice example of a cob though, David thought. Green yes, but he had potential... A sharp sounding whinny from the other side of the building announced the return of Pirate and Nikolai, and Simba's ears shot upwards in delight. 'So? How was he?' Nikolai nodded, the traces of a rare smile picking at the corners of his mouth. 'Good, very good. He needs more food and training but he is a very nice little horse. Very nice.' He gave him a pat and let his hold on the leadrope lessen slightly. 'He has a little attitude on him - tried to bite me once - but I rode him around for a minute bareback and he didn't put a...ah...hand wrong?' David smiled. He sounded perfect. There was just one thing... 'Well, he sounds exactly what we're looking for but there's a problem.' Nikolai raised a quizzical eyebrow as he took both halters off the cobs.. 'Yes?' David jabbed a thumb in the direction of Simba. 'We'll need to take him as well. Classic seperation anxiety - if we don't take him too he'll go mad without having his friend around.' The Russian nodded and stood back a little so he could assess the heavier cob's build. 'He's not had much training that I can see but we've dealt with worse -' Roscoe' -and once he's learned that it's ok to be away from Pirate for at least some of the time I think he'd make a really nice riding horse.' Nikolai nodded again and folded his arms. 'So. Prices?' 'Let's go and speak to that Mr Murphy then. I hope you're good at haggling - I can't even talk Aiden into selling me something that he and I both KNOW is only worth a fiver...' As the two men bartered with the seller nearby, Pirate lipped at the ground for leftover wisps of hay while Simba nuzzled into his friend's shoulder. Now that their future was secure, the cobs were calm once more.

33. Breaking and Entering


‘She’s back! She’s back, come on everyone, let’s go and see!’

A cacophony of children’s voices alerted David to the yard owner’s return. Since the unfortunate death of one of the old yard donkeys earlier in the year – Spud - Abigail had been pining for something donkey-shaped and was delighted when she found an advert in the village tack shop for an ex RDA mount that matched that description perfectly. The yard was just north of Cairbre so it was a good thirty mile round trip there and back again, but, as Abigail said, distance was no object.

‘Alright kids, come on now, clear off. Let them unload first, then you can all come up and say hello!’


‘Go on! I think there’s still half a dozen haynets to be filled – go on!

David shooed the kids off with a grin before approaching the horsebox where Lisa had already started a conversation with Abigail.

‘So, what’s she like then? As you expected?’
‘Oh yes, definitely. RDA ponies always have the best natures and this little thing is just adorable. The kids’ll love her.’ She unclipped her seatbelt and opened the door. ‘Oh hi David, you couldn’t get the ramp down for me could you?’

‘Yeah, sure, no problem. Lisa, fancy giving me a hand?’

The ramp was a little awkward to open, even with two people and David made a mental note to spare some time later on to oil the hinges.

Finally, after a bit of elbow grease the ramp dropped down with a soft thud and they stood back to catch their breath.

‘Oooh, she’s so sweet!’ Lisa exclaimed as she peered round the side. ‘What a lovely colour!’

David nodded. From what they could see of her at least.

‘Come on then, let’s get her out.’ She was a small looking donkey, only about 12 hands but she stood quietly as he untied her leadrope and started to back her out. ‘What’s her name by the way?’
‘Lyra’ said Abigail from somewhere behind him. ‘Her breeder was a big Philip Pullman fan apparently,’

David smiled. He 'd liked those books but hadn't read them in a while; perhaps now was the time to excavate them from their dusty shelf and have another go.

‘That’s it, easy girl, steady now...’

Lyra walked out quietly as if she did this kind of thing all the time and stood, quite happily at the bottom of the ramp, her large sail-like ears taking in her surroundings.

He ruffled her spiky forelock affectionately and looked up questioningly at Abigail. 'Where do you want her?'

She furrowed her brow in thought for a moment before her face broke into a smile. 'Turn her out in the indoor for a while so she can stretch her legs. She'll be living out with the ponies but I'd like to take it gradually so we can avoid the Lady Situation again.'

David sniggered to himself. Whenever a new horse or pony was introduced to Lady the welshie, they usually ended up banished to one end of the field or came in the next morning with large chunks of mane missing. She really was an evil little pony. Deceptively adorable but definitely evil.

'I also promised Fiona that she could be the first to ride her so once she's had a little run around and a roll, we'll get her tacked up and see what she's really like.'

'Righto, I won't be long!'

As he'd suspected, Lyra trotted around nonplussed when he let her off the leadrein and he breathed a sigh of relief. It was so nice to be able to rely on a nice quiet animal for a change. He glanced at his watch while he looped the rope over the fence and frowned. Lindsey had asked him earlier on if he could do some loading work with Harper as he'd been getting very nervous around it in the weeks leading up to the big show in October and only barely managed to get in and out in one piece.

Harper was a lovely lad but very dim. He had been known to spook at his own shadow and while David knew he didn't mean it, he often used his size to his advantage and when he didn't want to go somewhere, unless you had superhuman strength, there was no way you were going to win the resulting tug of war. Still, he reasoned, he was getting better. Nikolai had done some bombproofing work with him while he was sorting out Roscoe and he seemed to have made significant improvements since the last time they tried to get him in the box.

His confidence renewed, he strode boldly towards the livery block where his student would be waiting for him. He'd spend ten, maybe twenty minutes with him in the box, put him back in his stable and then, if he had time, tack up Tam and go out for a hack before he lost the light. Yes, that sounded like a plan.


Almost forty minutes had passed since his rather naive estimation of how long it would take to get Harper inside and he was still no further forward.

'Oh come ooooon Harp, it's not scary, just go in!'

The gelding took a single faltering step forwards, ears twitching in all directions before flinching backwards once more. David sighed. He really didn't have a clue what was scaring him - he'd been inside numerous horseboxes during his life and this was probably one of the nicer ones.

'See you?' He looked at his watch and frowned. 'You and your shenanigans have cost me a hack - a hack I was really rather looking forward to.'

Harper stared back at him, eyes wide and innocent and David shook his head wistfully. Why did he always get lumbered with the difficult ones? Ah yes, because he was good at making them un-difficult, that was right.

'Come on then lad, let's try again, just one more step...and...whoaa!'

He nearly lost his balance and fell as the young gelding took a spook at nothing and reared right up, narrowly missing the roof.

'Steeeady lad, steaaady!'

As he finally dropped back down to earth, David realised with horror that the clip of his leadrope had snapped open, releasing all restraints on Harper.

No sooner had he spotted this than the gelding shot off, clearly wanting to put as much distance between himself and the horsebox as was physically possible.

'Argh, no! Come back! Harper! Harper?!'

He grabbed the leadrope off the ground and ran after him, praying that he hadn't got himself into any more trouble. Luckily for him, upon rounding the corner he discovered his unruly charge standing quietly next to Lisa, the noseband of Harper's headcollar in one hand and a freshly opened packet of polos in the other.

'Oh hi David, lost something?'

'Heh, y'think?'

'What were you doing with him to make him run off like that? I've never seen him so scared!'

David shrugged, clipped the leadrope back on and gently steered him back round the corner. 'I was just trying to get him in the horsebox but he just kept spooking. I don't know what's putting him off either.'

Lisa rolled her eyes at him and stroked the grey's shoulder gently. 'Well let me have a go, I'll show you how it's done!' She took the leadrope from him and led Harper towards the trailer, talking to him quietly all the way as though addressing a child.

'Awww Harper! Was David being mean to you and trying to make you go inside that big nasty trailer?'

'Hey, I wasn't being-'

'Yeeees, I know, he's terrible isn't he?'

'What are you on about, I'm-'

'Come on then, be brave - I know you can do it!'

And with that, Harper walked inside.

David groaned.


Now that he was in, Harper seemed to have completely forgotten about whatever it was that was putting him off earlier and munched on his haynet animatedly.

'Ok, good boy, now backup, baaaackup, good lad.'

Lisa backed him out, turned him round, put him in the other stall and even managed to get him to walk backwards up the ramp and down again, all the while David stood, openmouthed outside.

'How? I...just...wha?'

Lisa grinned and patted him on the shoulder cheerily.

'It's just practice!'

'But I've been at it for ages!'

'Yeah, but did you have these?'

She waggled the by now half empty packet of mints and David tutted. How obvious could you be?

'Heh, how long did you say you'd been doing this for?'

David frowned and looked at his watch. 'Oh about an hour or so now?'

Lisa gigglesnorted and leapt aside swiftly as David aimed the end of the leadrope at the back of her legs playfully.



Ten minutes later Harper was happily back inside his loosebox with a fresh haynet and a big bucket of feed (with the remainder of the polos as what David took to be another bribe) and everyone else had gathered round the indoor school to see Lyra ridden for the first time at the yard.

As Abigail had predicted, everyone fell in love with her instantly and it wasn't long before the yard owner was being pestered with requests to get her on loan and for lessons.

'Come on now kids, give her some room, don't overwhelm her!'

Abigail's booming voice cut across the children's chatter like a knife and the crowd gradually dispersed.

'Alright Fi, take her for a little walk and trot and we'll go from there, ok?'

'What's she like?'

'Really good' Fi replied, smiling as she nudged her into canter at the corner. 'She's listening to me all the time!'

She nodded towards one of the jumps which had been left standing after the earlier lesson and looked to Abigail hopefully.

'Oh go on then! I don't know if she's been trained to jump but err...'

'...apparently she has, well done! I think that'll do her for now - walk around for a bit to cool her off then untack and put her in that spare stable next to Giovanni - I need to get her a turnout rug before she can live out so she'll have to stay inside for a little while. Oh and David, are you still here?'


'Could you go out and bring in Tully, Banksy, Cally and hmmm....Maisie? I need them for the three o'clock and I need to sort out a few things so...?'

David shrugged and nodded. 'Yeah, no problem, I'll just go and get the headcollars...'

Ah well. No rest for the wicked.

32. Risky Riding

...conformation and temperament of the driving horse is imperative, should one wish to compete in speed trials or showing classes alike. Most horses take to the harness well, nevertheless, some breeds are more inclined towards it; take the Welsh (all sections) and the Irish Connemara for instance-

‘...and...CANTER! Inside-leg-on-the-girth, outside-leg-behind!’

Abigail looked up from the well thumbed pages of one of her favourite vintage horse books and frowned. Rosie and her best friend Sarah were holding their own miniature riding lesson on the floor of the office and their less than subtle impressions of their instructor were beginning to get tiresome.

‘Would you two mind keeping the noise down a little? Your mum will be here to pick you up soon Rosie so you’ll need to put those horses away before she arrives. As for you Sarah, shouldn’t you be getting ready for your lesson? The others will be here in a couple of minutes!’

The girls responded with a dull, monotonous ‘Yes Abigail’ before continuing to canter their ponies across the floor, leaping over hoof-pick fences and crop-handle trotting poles.

Rolling her eyes exasperatedly, the yard owner turned back to her book.

-Both are attractive and easy to handle and also make excellent riding ponies for young children. Admirers of the more romanticised aspects of horsemanship should look no further than the Romany Horse, or ‘Gypsy Cobs’ as they are often known-

‘...Keep him going round the corner, leg on, leg ON!’

Abigail lowered the book to the desk slowly and tutted loudly. The two girls looked round, eyes twinkling with glee. They knew the best ways to wind her up and had mastered the art over a period of months. There was no malice in it, just a very childish sense of humour.

Scowling to herself, she attempted to get back into the text.

-Colour and conformation vary, yet a good specimen cannot be faulted in terms of disposition and willingness to work. The Friesian horse, originally bred in the Friesland province of the Netherlands...-

‘Abigail! We’re here! Who are we riding?!’

Fiona Moffet and Heather Spalding, two of the yard’s newest clients, materialised at her desk, enthusiastic grins plastered on their faces.

All chances of settling down to finish the chapter gone, the yard owner stood up and turned her attention to her unruly charges.

‘Oh, very well. Heather, you’re on Tully again this week. He’s been out on a lot of hacks recently so he’ll need someone to wake him up a bit.’

The taller girl nodded and smiled to herself. She didn’t like going all that fast either so she and Tully were well matched.

‘Sarah, Sarah can you hear me down there? I’ve put you back on Tegan as the two of you seemed to hit it off last time and as for you Fi...hmm’

She eyed the girl up critically for a moment. Although Fiona had only been riding at the yard for a couple of months, she was very impressed with her attitude. Twice she’d fallen off Banksy when he spooked at a crisp packet someone had stupidly left lying on the yard and again, out on a hack when he bolted at the sight of an unexpected cat in the hedge. Both times she’d got straight back on and even jumped him a couple of minutes later on one occasion. She was very good with some of the more challenging horses and therefore she felt the time was right to try her out on their most unpredictable schoolie...

‘I’ve put you down for Lady, how does that sound? She’s a bit of a handful but I think you’ll manage her just fine.’

The girl nodded eagerly and handed over the payment for her lesson which Abigail took gratefully and headed off in search of the moneybox, which, like many things in the office, had gone walkabout again.

‘Good luck!’ said Heather, sniggering behind her hand. ‘It’s been nice knowing you!’

‘Eh? What are you on about?’ Fi replied quickly. ‘There’s nothing wrong with Lady!’

‘Ha, you’ve never ridden her though, have you? She’s fine most of the time, y’know, with the beginners, but as soon as someone with a bit of experience gets on she chucks them off in minutes!’

The younger girl frowned and put her hat on. ‘Yeah, well, whatever. I think she’ll be fine!’

It was a quiet afternoon at the yard and as there were no bookings for later on, there was no rush to get the horses ready, which gave the young riders plenty of time to groom, polish, fuss and tack up their mounts. Because she was so small, Sarah needed help to put Tegan’s saddle on; a task that fell to Sally, who had come to the yard for work experience and then continued on thereafter.

Fi couldn’t stop smiling as she led the petulant bay mare out of her stable and tied her up outside it. Ever since she’d arrived at the yard she’d wanted to ride her, show the others that although she was a cantankerous old grump at times, she was a brilliant little pony at heart, with loads of potential.

She picked out her feet, groomed her and tacked her up, all the while planning what to say to Heather when she finished the lesson on a high.

She was a good friend, she thought, as she struggled to hold onto the hind foot that the mare was trying determinedly to pull out of her grasp; but had a mean streak that rose to the surface occasionally – mainly out of jealousy she thought, as riding didn’t come as naturally to her as it did to Fiona.

Now fully tacked and ready to go, the pair headed off to the indoor arena, followed at a much slower place by Heather and Tully. Sarah had gone on ahead with Sally and Tegan as with the extra help, she hadn’t taken nearly as long to manage.

‘What’s the most important thing to remember with Tully, Heather?’

‘Err...keep the leg on and don’t let him stop?’

Abigail nodded and smiled at her. ‘Exactly. He’s a grand horse, but he does have a bit of a lazy side to him! Anyway, your girth seems tight enough to me, on you go, out onto the track.’

Heather did as she was bid and nudged the grey forward into a long striding walk, out towards the far side of the arena.


‘Yes Sarah?’

‘Can you check my girth too? I can’t reach the buckles!’

‘Haha, yes, alright.’

‘Would you like to try a jump on her today? You managed very well on Kestral the other week.’

‘Oooh, yes please!’

‘Ok then, I’ll make sure they’re nice and low to begin with – she’ll probably just step over them.’

She turned to the rest of the ride who had filed into order along the track, Tully and Heather at the front followed by Fi and Lady.

‘Right then ladies, I thought we’d warm them up to begin with and do some pole work to get their legs stretching up and over before I lay out a couple of jumps. When you reach ‘A’, Heather, put Tully into trot and carry on til the end of the ride, then it’ll be your turn Fi, and so on.’

After a couple of minutes, it became apparent that David, who had taught them the week before when Abigail was busy, hadn’t been reminding them about their positions in the saddle.

‘Heather! Stop slouching! You’re all over the place, no wonder Tully isn’t going forward!’

As she spoke, the gelding ploughed his way through the trotting poles she’d so carefully laid out in the sand and she clapped a hand to her forehead in despair.

’Right everyone, that’s it! Drop your reins and hold your arms out to the sides.’

Awwww, what?!

‘Nooo, Abigail, why?’

‘Don’t worry about the horses, they won’t do anything – this will help you to sit up straight and have much better balance...come on, arms out!’

‘Keep them walking on, don’t let them stop!’

Despite the mutinous grumbling and aching arms, the girls did start to see an improvement after a couple of minutes and it wasn’t long before Abigail let them pick up their reins again. This time round she raised the poles and watched proudly as all three trotted over them perfectly.

They had a canter on each rein before jumping – Tully took several attempts to strike off on the right leg and Lady nearly crashed into him when it was her turn, she was going so fast.

Well sat!’ exclaimed Abigail. ‘She nearly had you off at that corner!’

Fi laughed and leaned forward to ruffle the mare’s unruly mane. ‘Nah, it’ll take more than a little canter to get me off!’ Almost as soon as she said it, she knew it had been a mistake. She felt Lady’s back tense beneath her and within seconds, the little mare’s hind end exploded with a barrage of whirling kicks and bucks.

No sooner had her feet hit the ground than she was off again, rearing and twisting, arching her back and throwing her head around. Fi clung on tightly but she knew she was losing her grip...

She hit the ground with a muffled thmp and a quiet cry of pain. Lady cantered to the back of the ride where she was caught by a very shocked looking Heather who had leapt from Tully as soon as she saw her friend start to slip off. Abigail sprinted over and knelt down to examine her.

‘Are you alright Fi? Where does it hurt?’

Fiona shrugged and got to her feet delicately, brushing sand from her clothes as she did so.

‘Don’t worry about me, I’m ok. Where’s Lady?’

‘Oh she’s fine – well done for catching her Heather, thank you – but are you sure you’re all right?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, don’t worry! I just want to get back on.’

‘Hmm, alright then, just take it easy and here, have this’ She handed her a crop from the pile by the gate. ‘You might not need it but its handy to have if she starts acting up again.’

True to her word, Fi didn’t push her luck and stayed in trot for the remainder of the lesson. After Lady realised that acting up earned her a smack and a good telling off, she soon started to listen and quietened down. At Sarah’s excited request, Abigail laid out a row of blocks for them to jump. It was low enough for Tegan to pop over without any trouble, yet high enough that she actually bothered to jump it.

‘If she wants to take it in canter just let her, she often prefers it that way. Right, give her a wee kick on and jumping! Oh well done, VERY nice jump!’

Sarah trotted to the back of the ride, beaming. Tegan never put a foot wrong and whenever she rode her she felt like nothing could ever go wrong. A far cry from the other welshie in the lesson...

At Heather’s request, she and Tully just went for another canter instead of jumping. She didn’t really like it all that much and, thought Abigail, as her position wasn’t very good at the moment, it was probably for the best. Finally, and with only a few minutes of the lesson left, it was Fi’s turn to jump.

‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ said Abigail, who looked worried. ‘She’s in one of those moods today and I don’t want you coming off again!’
‘I won’t!’ said Fi, grinning widely. ‘I know I said that last time but I know what to expect now!’

Her instructor rolled her eyes and waved her forward. ‘Oh go on then, just keep your leg on and don’t let her take the mickey!’

The girl smiled to herself. She had no intention of falling off this time. Yes, Lady was a challenge to ride – much stronger than she’d been expecting, but she knew what made her tick now and jumping, as far as she could tell from watching the others ride her, was something that she usually enjoyed. They broke into a fast and choppy trot down the short side and Lady threw her head up at the sight of the jump. Fi closed her fingers tighter around the reins and brought her head down, legging her on at the same time to keep the impulsion going. As they turned towards the fence, the head went back up, as did the pace.

Less than a stride out, she slammed on the brakes and Fi hurtled forward onto her neck as the mare skidded to a stop, hocks well beneath her.

‘Argh, git ON!’

After all the nonsense earlier, she wasn’t standing for this and as soon as she’d regained her balance, gave her a short, sharp smack with her crop.

Lady appeared not to take any notice for a moment before jumping from a standstill and landing on an almost perfect canter stride.

‘Oh WELL DONE! Not the tidiest of jumps I’ll grant you but very well done for getting her over it! Do you want to try again, see if she’ll do it properly this time? I’ll put up some guide poles so she doesn’t try to run out’

She really needn’t have asked. Fi circled her in trot and made the transition to canter just as she reached the next corner. This time Lady didn’t fight the contact and strode towards the fence, perfectly calm.

Abigail gave her a little round of applause as she cleared it well the second time and motioned for the others to walk around on a long rein to cool off for five minutes before calling them all back into the centre to finish off.

‘You all did very well today, I’m really pleased with your progress. Sarah, your cantering has come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks and your jumping was top notch. I think you’ll be jumping spreads and doubles before you know it!’
The little girl beamed and flung her arms around the little chestnut, who flicked her ears up in surprise.

‘Heather, you know yourself the problem areas – we discussed them last time – but you’re definitely improving! I’ll see if I can get you up on Giovanni next week – don’t worry, I know he’s considerably bigger than you’re used to but he’s a lot more forward going than Tully and I think a change in pony’ll do you good. You’re a lot better than you think you are, just give yourself a chance!’

She turned to Fiona, who sat on Lady with all the confidence of one who felt totally at ease with their mount. She noticed too, how relaxed the mare was, standing quietly, resting a hind leg.

‘As for you Fi, well, something tells me this won’t be the last time I put you on Lady! To be perfectly honest, after that fall I wasn’t expecting you to get back on her. When she bucks, it’s frightening and I wouldn’t have blamed you if you never wanted to so much as look at her again but I’m very glad you did. You’ve definitely got the knack for the difficult ones, I’ll give you that!’

Fiona laughed and ruffled Lady’s mane gently. ‘Ahh, she’s not difficult, she just likes to have her own way, that’s all!’

‘Haha, well you reached a very good compromise then! Anyway, off you get everyone. Run up your stirrups and put them and their tack away please and Fi, you’ll need to come and see me in the office afterwards so we can fill out the accident book.’

Untacking didn’t normally take long, but by now, half the yard had heard of Fi’s miraculous ‘sticky bum’ and she kept getting interrupted by kids coming over to ask her what had happened.

Izzy wandered over to congratulate her as she gave Lady a quick groom to rid her of the loose hair, dust and sweat she’d accumulated during the lesson.

‘...sounds like you coped with her nicely! She’s not an easy pony to ride at all, is she?’

‘I don’t know, you do well on her don’t you?’

‘I used to, I’m almost too big for her now so I only ride her on hacks and things or the odd show if I’m lucky. I thought she might have to be sold as I was pretty much the only one who liked riding her so I’m really glad that you love her as much as I do’

Fi smiled. ‘Yeah, she’s a bit of a grump but she’s my grump!’