It was warm in the livery block. Broad shafts of sunlight streamed through the large skylights on the roof, casting alternate rows of light and shadow upon the hay strewn concrete below. The air was thick with dust motes and the comforting scent of fresh shavings and hay was all around. It was a relaxing atmosphere for anyone - horsey or not – and it had become a popular spot to sit in and have lunch or just chill out and read a book – something that the owner of Chego the Criollo was especially fond of.
‘Alright then lad, let’s get goin’. We can’t have you standing around all day now can we?’
The gelding looked up from his haynet and flicked his ears forward as Aiden put his bridle on. It was almost eight months since he’d come to live at EAE and in that time a lot had changed. The pair had grown close and although Aiden still had his ‘noob’ moments, they made a good team. Once he was sure that the girth was tight enough and that his helmet was still firmly attached to his head, Aiden led him out. He, David and Lisa were going to go out on a hack to take advantage of the unusually good weather. He patted Chego’s neck fondly as he waited for Lisa to finish tacking up Kerry.
'Aren’t you ready yet?’ said David, ‘Tam’s tacked up and waiting in his stable and I see Aiden’s finished as well. What’s taking so long?’
Lisa threw him a dark look and called over to Aiden on the opposite side of the block.
‘I won’t be long Aiden! I forgot that he was out last night – he’s filthy!’
The raven haired Irishman waved nonchalantly and smiled.
‘Don’t worry yourself about it, we can wait’
Sensing that getting too close to Lisa would result in lots of grumbling, David sensibly moved over to Aiden and Chego.
‘He’s looking good at the moment – have you been giving him some of those conditioning cubes Abigail bought?’
‘Nope, just good old fashioned treacle.’
He said this as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
‘Right...Ready yet Lisa?’
‘Just give me a minute ok!?’
David winced as she aimed a dandy brush at his head, dropping his shoulders in relief when it flew past his ears and bounced off the front of Chego’s stall.
‘Err...I’ll just go and get Tam then shall I?’
Aiden chuckled to himself and joined him, Chego following on behind him quietly without any need for him to hold the reins.
‘How’s the monster treatin’ you at the moment? Chucked you off much this week?’
David pulled a face and stuck his hands into his pockets, scowling. His face said it all and Aiden fell about laughing.
‘Ach, wheesht! Just because your horse never puts a foot wrong!’ David said huffily.
Aiden stopped for a moment and looked at him, a serious expression on his face.
‘Now that’s not strictly true y’know. T’other day he DID put his foot in the wrong place.’
‘Aye! MY foot!’
At the sight of Aiden’s completely straight face and the gelding’s innocently wide eyed stare, David couldn’t control himself and let out a thunderous guffaw of laughter as he struggled to stay upright. By the time he managed to meet his gaze without giggling he realised that Aiden’s expression hadn’t changed and he looked at David like a man highly offended.
‘Haha, sorry about that. I think we’ve all been there – I tell you, Tam actually plans his attacks on me now!’
The Irishman nodded and grinned roguishly.
‘I know, I’ve seen him ambush you when you think he’s asleep. Mind like a fox that horse.’
He gestured behind him with a thumb, indicating the Criollo.
‘Chego has his moments as well but I think he’s just messing me about.’
David smiled. ‘You know, you’ve done incredibly well with him, especially considering that you’d barely met a horse before you got him’
‘Y’know I think you might be right. Agatha told me – '
‘Aye, her! She told me that I was a natural t’other day! A natural she said.’
‘Well you’ve certainly improved a lot since you arrived – your first lessons were err..interesting to say the least’
‘I don’t know what you mean there David. I took to it - as they say - like a duck to water.’
‘If you say so...’
~~~~~~~~~~Seven Months Previously~~~~~~~~~~~
‘Ok Mr Lynch – '
‘Call me Aiden - ‘Mr Lynch’ makes me sound like a hangman.’
‘Err...alright then, Aiden, you’ll be on Callisto today. She’s nice and calm – perfect for beginners. I take it you’ve never ridden before?’
‘Nope, not once. Well..actually, now that you mention it – do Donkeys count? Only I used to race them on the beach with me cousin when I was a lad – great fun it was...well, until the tide came in and we had to swim back to shore while the donkeys ran away and took our picnic lunch with them...’
‘Right, ok then!’ David said quickly, trying his hardest to steer the conversation back to the topic in hand. ‘If you go into the office – that door there, yeah – and get yourself kitted out with a hat, I’ll get Cally tacked up and I’ll leave you in Abigail’s capable hands’
‘Oh? I thought you were going to be givin’ me this lesson – who’s Abigail?’
‘Abigail! You know, she runs the place?’
Aiden shook his head, a bemused frown on his face. ‘Tall, blonde, wears old fashioned clothes?’ David offered. ‘A bit scary?’
As Aiden continued to give him a blank look, he decided not to continue.
‘Right well anyway, she’s in the office so she’ll get you sorted out. I have to pop into the village – we’re out of mix again and I’ll probably stock up on some other feed while I’m at it. Have a good lesson!’
Aiden waved him goodbye and headed off to the office, a smile growing on his lips. Riding would be easy, he was certain. After all, what was there to it? All you did was get on, give it a bit of a kick and you were away! This optimistic mood was punctured slightly when Abigail (who he conveniently forgot the name of again) gave him a full health and safety drill before he had even left the room. Although she assured him that she had to do that with every new rider, Aiden had the distinct impression that she considered him a special case. By the time they’d fetched Callisto and made the short walk to the indoor school however, Aiden felt ready for anything.
Abigail held the mare while he brought over one of the blocks to help him get on.
‘Right then Aiden, stand on that and put your reins in your left hand, hold onto the front of the saddle, put your left foot in the stirrup and on three, swing yourself over, ok?’
He nodded and was just about to attempt it when Marian raced into the arena, panting heavily and sending sand and bits of poo flying as she galloped towards them.
‘Marian?!’ said Abigail ‘Whatever’s the matter with you? What’s happened?’
‘Come on, speak up!’
‘It’s Tam again Abi, he’s loose.’
‘Oh you’re joking...really?’
‘Yeah, he must have managed to undo the top bolt again – Lisa and Niko are trying to round him up but he’s doing his ‘wild mustang’ impression again and none of us can catch him’
Abigail rolled her eyes.
‘ ...and where’s David when you need him? Out at the shops...typical. Sorry about all this Aiden, I’ll be back in a few minutes. Just don’t do anything silly like try to ride her unsupervised and Callisto will look after you.’
‘Righto!’ Aiden grinned. ‘Have fun!’
As he watched them leave, a plan began to form. It was obvious to him that a ‘few minutes’ wouldn’t nearly be long enough to recapture the Lusi and as he had no one to teach him he’d be as well to do it himself. How hard could it be?
‘Right’ he said confidently. ‘Left hand’s got the reins...check. So that must mean that it’s the left foot..no, no wait, wait wait, the right foot, yeah, that sounds about right. The right foot in the left stirrup.’
‘This shouldn’t be too difficult.’
‘Just swing the leg over...’
...and err...that’s not quite right now is it?’
It wasn’t exactly the preferred riding position but at least he was on. As he flailed around, trying to work out which way to turn to get off and try again, he accidently nudged Callisto who, being the good little schoolie that she was, took this to mean that he wanted to trot.
‘Nooo, slow down! How do I turn this bloody thing off!?’
‘Awww c’mon, steady on there girl! This ain’t exactly fair!’
Eventually he managed to grab the reins and bring her back to a standstill, as well as getting back into the correct position.
‘There’s a good lass, good lass. Now let’s try that again, but slooowly.’
They trotted round the arena a couple of times until Aiden managed to keep his balance properly. He knew he’d have to do that ‘standin’ up and sittin’ down and then repeatin’ yourself’ thing eventually so he gave that a shot too. Unfortunately, he mangled his aids once more and instead asked for canter, which Callisto kindly obliged with.
‘Oooh-er, this is a bit faster than I was expectin’! How in t’ell are you supposed to stay on!?’
After another couple of circuits during which time Callisto had finally cottoned on to the fact that she was being ridden by a complete novice and slowed back down to a walk, Aiden managed to pull her back gently to halt. It was just as well too, as he could hear Abigail’s distinctively thunderous voice from outside the building.
If Abigail caught him doing exactly what she’d told him not to, she’d be furious.
He needed to get off quickly and efficiently.
As he hoisted himself to his feet, brushed the worst of the sand off his backside and readjusted his hat with the other hand, he couldn’t help wondering how they’d got on with recapturing the rogue Lusitano. At the sound of the big double doors opening he regained his previous position beside Callisto; his face the picture of innocence.
‘Oh hello there Annie, did I miss anytin’?’
The yard owner let out a deeply frustrated sigh and shook her head. ‘We’ve managed to trap him in the outdoor school but he’s not letting any of us near him so we’re just going to have to leave him to David when he gets back. Honestly, I wonder what on earth possessed me to buy him in the first place!’
‘His winning personality?’
‘Right then, enough faffing about – let’s get you on.’ She pulled one of the blocks over and seemed genuinely surprised when Aiden pulled himself into the saddle without being told what to do.
‘We’ll just stick to walk for this first lesson – make sure you’ve got the hang of your steering and things.’
After a few minutes Aiden moved up into trot of his own accord and Abigail couldn’t help but look impressed. If she didn’t know any better she’d have said that he’d done this before...
…and just a little something I put together the other day out of amusement.
…I think he’s been at it again!