I set off this morning with my daughter to have some mother daughter bonding time on a ride together. It sounds rather grand but actually isn’t. Our noble steeds are piebald and skewbald gypsy cobs who live out all year round and they don’t belong to us we just help out with their care in exchange for rides. My daughter is not the keenest of riders although it was her suggestion that we go out together. It just so happened to be a sunny day hurrah! So it was actually pleasant (for once) to be outside.
However once out on the road, me riding the horse and my daughter on the pony, it wasn’t long before I heard a whining voice. “mum my hat is too tight and my head hurts”….(a while later)…..” mum do we have to go this way, can’t we just turn back now please?”. I explained to her that I wasn’t going through all the faff of getting them in from the field, grooming them and tacking them up and rigging up the lead rein so she could follow without too many problems, without making it worth our while and having some decent time out in the countryside. Of course it didn’t help that a friend had stayed overnight with her and the amount of sleep she actually got was questionable. In fact most 8 year olds are hideous when they haven’t had much sleep (so too are adults, even worse in fact).
Then I switch into old fashioned horsewoman mood, “right come on, let’s get you off that lead rein and taking charge of that pony” (my daughter groans). I unclip the lead rein and move off saying to my daughter “just use your legs and ask her to walk on”. A simple command you might think but not when a strong-willed pony takes a dislike to the direction of travel and appears to be oblivious to a pair of 8 year old legs flapping at her sides. I carry on in the hope that the pony will decide to follow my horse for fear of being left alone. Meanwhile my daughter is moving every inch of her body like she is trying to kick-start an old motorbike – the pony doesn’t move a muscle. I soon realise that if I walk on any further I am in danger of losing sight of my daughter altogether so, after failing at the first attempt at horse psychology, I turn back to re-unite the pony and daughter with the lead rein. The next scene in the morning’s activity would have been copied perfectly from a Norman Thelwell cartoon. On attaching the lead rein, I then give pony a tug with it and ask my horse to move off. My right arm then jolts backwards as pony strains against it on the other end. Meanwhile my daughter is still kicking her legs with zero effect although she should have got top marks for perseverance. We then look like we are having a game of tug o’war as me and the horse are one end of the lean rein pulling and pulling while the pony’s nose is outstretched and it’s front legs well and truly rooted to the ground……and my daughter was still kicking. At one point I tried to boot the pony up the bum while mounted on the horse but this only served to push the pony round in a circle as I tried to face the right direction again on my horse, by which point all momentum had been lost and we were back to square one. With my daughter tired from all her exertions and my arms longer than they were an hour earlier, I decided to wave the white flag and said to my daughter that we were turning for home. She then complained about her head again so I passed her my riding hat and relieved her of the skull squeeze hat and rode home looking like a completely irresponsible parent without a hat. It was liberating though to feel the breeze in my hair. My right arm was still being yanked back by the lead rope but at least the pony was moving. Next time we will have both had some more sleep, my daughter will have the correct sized helmet on and we might take a stick and some carrots. Maybe if I stick a load of polos to my right leg, pony might move a little faster.
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