(In case anyone's wondering, it's pronounced 'Mah-ree' ;))
‘...so what are you planning on doing today then? Got another Olympic training regime to get through?’
Though Mhairi laughed as she slung Fergus’ reins over his head, her friend Kelly’s expression remained unchanged. It was well known on the yard that she was totally dedicated to her riding and often appeared to spend more time working on her position than actually enjoying herself.
‘No, nothing like that. I need to improve my lateral work, that’s all...’ she said, stroking Jazz’s nose thoughtfully.
‘You need to have some fun more like – when was the last time you went out on a hack?’
Kelly shrugged and stepped up onto the makeshift mounting block. ‘I don’t know, last year maybe? I don’t like hacking, there’s too many distractions and things.‘
Mhairi shook her head sadly. ‘What are you like?! Honestly, imagine not liking hacking.’
‘Well you said yourself you don’t like schooling, so we’re even!’
‘I said I don’t mind schooling, I only hate it when we’re going round in circles all day cos’ let’s face it, that’s just dull.’
‘To each their own I suppose.’ replied Kelly as she adjusted her stirrups. ‘What are you going to do today then?’
Mhairi grinned and Kelly groaned. ‘Oh please, don’t tell me...’
After ten minutes of walk, trot and canter, and once she was absolutely certain there were no staff members watching; Mhairi dismounted.
‘This is a really bad idea Mhairi, Abigail’ll give you such a telling off if she finds out!’
‘Ah, but she won't find out, will she? Oh come on, it’s not like I’ll be jumping him or anything, I’m not that stupid!’
‘See? He’s fine! Fergie’s a good lad, he won’t do anything unless I ask him to.’
‘...that’s what I’m afraid of...’
Minutes passed slowly, and Mhairi and Fergus settled into a sedate walk as they watched Kelly ride Jazz up and down the arena, turning and bending down the track with well rehearsed precision.
‘How’s the lateral work going then? That was a really nice shoulder-in you had going there, I didn’t know Jazz had it in her!’
Kelly nodded, a slight smile forming on her face. ‘People underestimate her because she’s so fast, once she knows what you’re asking her to do she’s really responsive and she’s brilliant with leg aids thanks to her gymkhana experience. If only I could bring her head down a bit, she carries it really high all the time...’
A few cantered circles later, the complaints began...
‘You shouldn’t do that you know; it’s really dangerous!’
‘Yeah, yeah, get back on your circle or whatever, everything’s fine!’
‘I’m just saying, it’s not a good idea to do that at any time, even when you do have a saddle on!’
‘I know that but come on, this is Fergus we’re talking about, he’s so bombproof you could put him in a warzone and he’d probably just stand there and graze!’
‘Totally not the point though, horses are unpredictable animals, he could spook or trip or well, anything could go wrong!’
Some people think that everything happens for a reason, that fate has laid out an unchanging course of events for everyone in life, but sometimes, things just happen. Poor judgement might have something to do with it too...
Paddy was in a bad mood. It had been raining the night before and his turnout rug had leaked, leaving him with cold and soggy withers when he was brought in and tacked up earlier in the day. Normally he was positively angelic under saddle and only growled and kicked if you came at him with a curry comb but this afternoon he really wasn’t feeling the need to be amongst other horses.
Sally, his rider, was fully aware of this and for the most part kept a safe distance from the other two when she entered the arena. It was only when she tried to bypass them on the track that his true feelings towards them became known...
The normally unflappable Fergus shrieked and leaped back in shock, Mhairi clinging onto his mane like someone possessed.
‘Steady boy, steady boy, steeeadddyyy!’
Her words were lost on him as he turned in mid air, anxious to escape the threat of sharp, unshod feet.
Mhairi clung on as best she could but eventually gravity took over and she tumbled to the ground in a heap as her mount trotted off.
‘I know I shouldn’t say it...’ said Kelly, ‘...but I really did tell you so! Are you all right?’
Her friend grinned and picked herself up off the ground, brushing sand from her hoodie and jodhpurs. ‘I’ve done worse!’ She strode over to the wall and fetched her horse who was standing sheepishly as though waiting for her.
‘’Anything could go wrong’ – oh you had to go and jinx it for me didn’t you?!’
‘Jinxing had nothing to do with it’ said a rather haughty voice from behind them.
‘It was your own fault for being so stupid. I’ll be having a talk with Abigail later on about this, mark my words. Children shouldn’t be allowed to ride unsupervised.’
And with that, she turned Paddy away and trotted off to the other side of the arena.
‘Children?! Who does she think she is? She’s only a couple of years older than us!’
‘She’s got a point though Mhar, you could have really hurt yourself...’
‘Yeah, well she didn’t have to be so hoity-toity about it though did she? Still, I suppose you’re both right, I shouldn’t have done it...with witnesses.’