The Own-A-Pone Day
In the back of the car Rosie McPherson practically bounced with excitement.
“Oh Rosie! Would you stop fidgeting?” her mother Andrea cried. “I can’t concentrate with you jumping around in the back seat!”
“Sorry mum…” the curly haired girl mumbled. She had been looking forward to this for weeks and the day had finally arrived. She ran the window down and poked her head out as the car rolled into the familiar car park of EA Equestrian.
The girl’s mother rolled her eyes and switched off the engine. Booking her daughter in for the yard’s ‘own-a-pone’ day had seemed like such a good idea at the time but now she wasn’t so sure… She didn’t have time to mention this however, as Rosie was already galloping up the drive towards the stables, her riding hat in hand and mass of curls bobbing along as she ran.
Andrea sighed and followed her to the office, shaking the yard manager Abigail’s hand when she arrived.
“I see Rosie’s looking forward to looking after Callisto today then” she laughed, eyes twinkling as she watched the girl race towards the tack room in search of the palomino’s headcollar.
Andrea smiled and nodded. “I haven’t heard anything but Callisto all week! Are you sure you’ll be able to keep up with her?”
Throwing back her head, Abigail laughed. “Oh I think we’ll manage. Jill will be looking after her today so not to worry”
After paying for the day and chatting to Abigail for a while, Andrea waved Rosie goodbye and headed back to the car, smiling.
It didn’t take much to keep some people amused…
After fetching Callisto’s specially made headcollar from the tackroom, Rosie rushed over to her stable to find it empty and cold with no sign of bedding or indeed, horse.
“Where is she?” she asked Jill, who had just arrived from the office.
“Ha, I thought you’d notice that pretty quickly! She’s out in the field just now while her stable is being refurbished.”
Rosie held up the headcollar hopefully. “Does that mean we’ll have to catch her?”
Jill nodded and took it from her. “She’s in with Rocky and the donkeys so she should be pretty easy to catch” She gestured towards the end of the stables and Rosie could just make out some horse shaped objects in the smallish paddock behind the feedroom.
“Well what are we waiting for? Let’s GO!” and with that she tore off into the distance, Jill following at a jog, laughing.
Just as Jill had said, Callisto caught easily and trotted up to them as soon as they entered the field, snorting and whiffling at them in search of polos.
Rosie held out her hand and Callisto sniffed it eagerly before turning her attention back to Jill who was standing ready with the headcollar. “Right then Cally, let’s catch you properly”
As Rosie was just a little too small to reach her head, Jill put on the headcollar and fastened the buckle so that it fitted snugly but not too tight. Smiling, she held out the leadrope. “Do you want to do the honours?”
Rosie beamed and led the gentle mare out of the field, the other inhabitants watching on with interest.
As they walked into the yard they were surprised to see Abigail leading Kestral out of her stable. “What’s going on?” asked Jill “I didn’t think she was being used for the rest of the day?”
Abigail nodded. “I’m just sticking her out in the field for a bit. It’s a nice day for it and she much prefers the great outdoors, unlike her pal here!” she said wryly, gesturing at Tamarind’s dark grey head just visible from behind the stable door. “For a horse from a hot climate he really has something against warm days!”
“Anyway, you can put Cally in Kestral's box for now if you like – it would save her being tied up outside all day” She smiled and gave Kes a pat before leading her away.
Rosie grinned happily and called after her. “Thanks Abigail! Come on Cally, let’s get you inside!” Jill kept a close eye on her as she led the palomino mare into Kestral’s large and roomy box, keeping well out of the way of her feet and turning her around before she unclipped the leadrope and closed the door behind her.
Tamarind by this time had realised that Kestral had vanished and snorted indignantly.
Jill rolled her eyes at him but Rosie rushed over to give him a pat.
“Don’t worry Tammy! Kestral’ll be back soon!”
The stallion looked mortified. Tammy? He snorted loudly, swished his tail and stuck his head into his haynet. For once, being ignored was probably the best option.
“Right!” said Jill. “What do you think we do next?”
Rosie paused for a moment, her brow furrowed. “We…we…groom her, no, that’s later! We..um…feed her?”
Jill nodded and they headed to the feedroom, explaining about cereals and mixes and the differences between concentrates to a slightly bemused Rosie. Ten minutes later the feed was made up and after adding some carrot flavoured treats, was ready to be given to Callisto. Rosie carried the bucket the whole way with no problems…until she passed Tam’s box.
Smelling the freshly made up feed, he craned his neck over the door and kicked at it, banging on the wood with his hoof as if demanding to be fed himself. Rosie got a fright and the bucket slipped out of her hand, spilling its contents onto the ground.
She let out a small scream and clapped her hands to her mouth. “Oh I’m so sorry! What will she eat now!?”
Jill shook her head and smiled at her. “Don’t worry, most of it is still in the bucket, we can salvage it!
She helped her pick up the loose bits and, glaring at Tamarind, swept up the dregs that were too dirty to be put back in.
“There!” Rosie beamed as she shut the door, having given Callisto her breakfast at last. “Now what?”
Jill nodded. She was impressed by how industrious little Rosie was and hoped that she’d enjoy the rest of the day as much as she hoped. “Well, now we leave Cally to her breakfast for an hour or two and go to the staff room and fill out some horsey quizzes!” Rosie grinned and hopped on the spot. “I’ll race you!”
An hour or two later, once Rosie had been shown diagram after diagram on tack and parts of the horse it was time for the real work to begin.
She struggled across the yard with the large grooming kit that was almost as big as she was and eventually managed to deposit it next to the stable. Jill had already brought Callisto out and was waiting for Rosie to arrive.
The curly haired kid nodded excitedly and rummaged around in the box. She had learned a lot about grooming that morning and was keen to show off her new found skills. Picking up a dandy brush, she reached up and started to brush the palomino’s soft coat, drawing the brush backwards and forwards in long strokes. Eventually she realised that she wasn’t going to be able to reach the rest of her without help so she turned a bucket upside down and stood on it.
After wards came the body brush. “But just remember – only use it on her face and mane and tail because she’s a field-kept pony and needs to stay waterproof!” warned Jill. Rosie continued until she arrived at the last stage – the hoof picking.
“Jill?” she asked warily “I’ve never done this before…what do I do?” The trainee instructor smiled and demonstrated the technique. “Here, start off with a foreleg – it’s much easier to do on them”
Once she was completely clean and tidy, Jill sent Rosie off to get her hat on and brought out Callisto’s tack. As Rosie was too small to tack her up, Jill did it for her, explaining how to do it as she went along.
“…and if they don’t take the bit straight away, just stick your thumb inside and jiggle it about a bit…”
“Ewwwww! That’s disgusting!”
"Always make sure the numnah isn’t squint when you put the saddle on and always smooth out any bumps or creases before you do anything or it might cause saddle sores.”
Finally ready to go, Jill tightened the girth and gave Rosie a leg up.
“Right then, how do your stirrups feel? Are they the right length?”
“I think so! Can we jump today?!”
“Perhaps, we’ll have to see what Abigail says”
“Oh go on…can we?”
“I just told you, you’ll have to ask Abigail!” Jill chuckled, rolling her eyes. “I should think so though, Abigail likes to get everyone jumping from a young age.”
“I’m not young! I’m nearly nine!”
Once stirrups and reins had been sorted out they headed to the outdoor arena where Abigail was already waiting for them. Although she hadn’t been riding all that long, Rosie was already confident in trot without a leader so Abigail suggested that she do some ‘steering’ exercises around some cones to get Callisto warmed up.
Once she had done that and had some trots and a short canter (with Jill running alongside) Rosie demanded to be allowed to jump.
“Oh alright then, but Jill will lead you”
“But I can jump by myself! I really can you know!”
“I’m sure you can but we’re just going to take it easy for now.”
Sure enough, after a few small cross poles it became apparent that Rosie had done this before and Jill stepped aside to let her do it herself.
“Very nice!” said Abigail, clapping. “We’ll make a showjumper of you yet!”
They finished the lesson on a high and put Callisto back in her box with a full haynet while they went off for lunch in the staffroom.
Afterwards, Rosie went on a hack around the ruins of Duneachann castle with David and Sue, trotting along the ancient banks and popping over the remains of the old walls.
The ride lasted an hour and a half and by the time they got back to the yard Rosie was knackered.
“Did you enjoy that?” Abigail asked as she held her horse steady while Rosie got off.
“Yeah! It was brilliant! I jumped a ditch and everything!”
The yard manager threw a dark look at David. Ditches were strictly off limits to beginners.
“It’s not my fault! Tam took a freaky at a rabbit and bombed off and everyone else followed suit!”
“Hmmm….a likely story…anyway, Rosie, could you put Callisto away for me please?” Rosie nodded happily and led the palomino back into Kestral’s stable and started to untack, Jill coming to her aid when she found she couldn’t reach any of the straps.
Shortly after she’d put Cally’s tack away, Rosie was surprised to see David approach her with a piece of paper in his hand.
“This is for you"
"What is it?"
"It’s a certificate that states that you are a worthy part-time pony-owner and Abigail’s given you eight and three quarters out of ten for the whole day! Oh and as a special reward we've organised a free ride for you next week!”
Rosie jumped in delight and Callisto threw her head up in surprise.
“For me? Really?”
“Really. Abigail and Jill both said that you worked really hard today and we all agreed that you did very well indeed.”
Rosie beamed and hugged Callisto tightly.
Her mum was never going to hear the end of this.