Hey, I have to get to work.....The holidays are kicking my butt. But, I don't think you've read this one, tomorrow I should have time to address a bitting question from someone who has been waiting, I don't know, a decade maybe? So enjoy, I'll be back....I liked the short, clear images, almost like poetry....
- On a Clydesdale at a country fair. My toddler lungs scream until I’m let down.
- We’re at a farm. A lady puts me on a horse on a lunge line. I touch my toes, his ears. We trot.
- My mum gives me a horse magazine. We’ve moved to France, I can’t understand half of the articles but I love it anyway. She says I’m going to start riding lessons. I am deliriously happy and dance around the house.
- My first lesson, a girl shows me how to put on a bridle. I vow I will never put my fingers inside a slobbery horse mouth like that.
- I fall in love with Pablo, then Edelweiss. We canter through the forest, following the instructor in a long twisting line. We put the ponies in the arena and watch them run around.
- New riding school. It’s in the middle of the city : house horse box horse box house. My lesson is Thursday evenings, school finishes at 4:30. In winter we ride in the covered arena because it’s dark outside.
-My favourite horse is Takirou, the ponies are named after chocolate bars. Everyone wants to ride Farouk : he is part Arab, gray and exotic, white-tailed, spirited. I finally get my chance. “Gather your reins, Sophie! How are you going to control him when we go outside?”
- My horse lands heavily after a jump. He swerves and I hit the ground with my elbow. I wait in the office clutching it. It hurts so much I kick the wall. Finally mum rushes in, white faced.
- Two lots of surgery, two nails, one screw, three stitches, fifteen staples. The worst part? No riding for six months.
- A summer treat : four full days of riding, dressage in the mornings, jumping in the afternoons. Helode has the smoothest canter I have ever ridden. Later he finds my afternoon tea apple in my grooming bag and eats it.
- Another summer : camp. We ride in straight lines, all trot together. One girl’s pony jumps sideways, up a huge bank taller than him. His rider is frozen. It’s terrific.
- We’re back in Australia : a bit of a lull. I ride when I can ; I’m paying for my own lessons now, with pocket money.
- My parents send me to riding camp again. It’s way out in the sticks, takes four hours to get there. It’s a 3, 000 acre working cattle station, they also breed Quarter Horses. The riding string of is full of mounts that are worth their weight in gold, the owner is a guru. She sends me back to call the cows to water after a muster. It is the first time I’ve ridden unsupervised. We stand on the hill, just me and my horse, surrounded by mist and cattle.
- After my second camp there the owner calls, wants to talk to my parents. After they hang up they say she wants to know if I’d like to volunteer. I am deliriously happy and dance around the house.
- I peel potatoes for hours in the kitchen, paint fences, clean the truck. Sometimes I leave an hour after the ride has gone out, have to catch up. I saddle my pony and we canter through the paddocks, dodging thistles.
- Now I’m a fully paid staff member. I’m entrusted with lesson groups and trail rides. I chase cows. We staff also get the best horses; the naughty ones, the new ones, the green ones. We come out on weekends to help out on the stud.
- I discover a lady who leases horses not far from my uni. I lease Gregory, achieve a lifelong dream of going to Pony Club. We are jumping there, he twists, I fall and break my shoulder.
- Three months in a sling. I have one ride before Australia is hit by Equine Influenza. No riding for another three months. I don’t know it yet, but I haven’t had the chance to regain my confidence.
- I start leasing Nick, and Harry to go to Pony Club. Dad is perpetually confused because all the horses have people names. “Who are you talking about, a friend or a horse?”
- Nick is getting increasingly nappy in the park. I’d taught him to walk through the creek instead of leaping it, but we can’t even get near it any more. This is in the middle of Sydney, the bus and bike riders don’t help. I’m also getting uncomfortable with the way the horses are kept. Fear gets the better of me. I’m privately relieved when I have to stop leasing because I can’t afford it. I wish I could take my boys with me.
- My confidence returns at camp. The hairy moments are still hairy, but I trust the people, the horses, the wide open space.
- Mum and I are at a horse exposition in Melbourne. I watch a hoof-trimming demonstration, the demo horse, a Morgan stallion, impresses me like no other horse has before. Apparently I return starry-eyed. “You got the see this horse.” We meet the owner. Mum asks: “ Do you have any young stock for sale?”
- The whole family drives nine hours to meet Zephyr. He stands as if hypnotised while we pat him. We spend three days in the paddock with the herd.
- The next time I get to ride the stallion. Helode’s canter becomes the second most comfortable. I hope Zeph inherits his sire’s jump. I also get to ride his dam, a real sweety. This is in February, the state of Victoria experiences the worst bushfire season in recorded history. Three meters away the air is opaque with orange smoke. The breeder explains her fire plan to us. We eat dinner around the portable radio listening to local evacuation warnings. Luckily the wind doesn’t change, the flames never reach us.
- Back at home, my sister films us as we sign the ownership papers.
- The Pony Club president offers mum and me one of her horses to ride. Jo is an ex-racer and spent years doing A Grade showjumping with her son. Mum and I can’t believe our luck, and her generosity.
- Latest visit to Zephyr : he has cut is leg, not deeply, jumping out of a paddock after his buddy Beamer. I sit in the mud next to him in the pen where he’s lying. He’s sleepy, lays his head on my lap. He’s already done this to mum. Beamer ruins the moment by stepping on him.
- This weekend : I’m riding Jo. I’m grumpy. Both of he and I are unfit after a winter of flu, work and little riding time. Jo is pulling, pulling on the reins. I sigh, loosen my shoulders, relax my hands. He quietens. We do an hour’s work, all at the walk. It is perfect.
I’m getting there.