Episode 19

“When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted was a pony. I always used to imagine I was riding through the woods but we couldn’t even afford riding lessons so a pony was absolutely out of the question. Well today my pony has arrived and there might not be a tomorrow so I’d like to go riding now!” said June in a very impassioned manner.

David sighed deeply and realised that there was nothing he could do to change her mind.

Alex had returned at this point with her bottom looking a bit bulgy.

“Crikey! Your bum’s swollen up Alex! Do you need to get it checked out?” exclaimed Sally.

“What?” Alex replied, twisting round to look at her bottom. “Oh ha!” she laughed. “That’s just a load of chamomile that I’ve stuffed in my knickers to soothe the pain!”

“Is it helping?” I asked

“Yes it’s great!” said Alex, enthusiastically.

“Don’t encourage her!” said the ever-sceptical Jack. “What shall we do about this ride?”

After much deliberation and discussion, we all decided to support June’s wish to ride out but just do a very short ride round the farm next to the livery yard.

Getting June into the saddle was no mean feat and poor David looked like he was about to have a heart attack from the stress. However, Jack’s logical mind was able to figure out a way of directing us to help June onto the mounting block and onto the horse.

First, we got her to sit facing sideways on the saddle and then we lifted her right leg and swivelled her round until she was sitting properly.

“Ooh ow!” June cried out at one point.

“What’s happened?” shouted David in terror.

“It’s ok it just twinged.” gasped June, grabbing hold of her back.

“Should we stop?” I asked, suddenly feeling sick with worry. I didn’t want to be involved with completely destroying June’s back.

“No, no it’s ok now. It just needs to get used to it. Give me a moment!” June took some deep breaths but was not giving in she was much too determined for that.

Luckily, Beatrix was a narrow horse so when she was actually sitting correctly it was comfortable for June’s back thank goodness. And amazingly, Beatrix stood very calmly throughout the whole performance!

June was so excited, her grin was literally ear to ear, and it was a really special thing to observe someone suddenly living their childhood dream.

Off we went with Jack leading followed by Sally, June, then Alex and I was at the back. We felt it would be safest to keep June in the middle.

“How are you feeling June?” I called out, anxiously.

“Ooh this is wonderful!” said June. She was sitting surprisingly well, considering her almost total lack of experience, and I was absolutely amazed at how chilled out Beatrix was considering she’d just arrived and she didn’t know any of our horses.

“You’ve got a very good seat!” I said “And you’re holding the reins really well too!”

“Thank you!” replied June. “I always used to watch our Susan when she had her lessons so I learned a lot from that. Couldn’t afford for me to have lessons at the same time mind you. Oh and of course you can learn a lot from the internet! I often watch YouTube videos of horse-riding lessons and I imagine myself doing it.” I was very impressed.

“Did you ride Susan’s horse much?” asked Jenny.

“No only a few times because he was too wide for me. He’s a big lad!” laughed June.

We clattered down the farm track, which was nice and quiet, and June enjoyed having a good look at all the fields.

“Right time to turn back!” called Jack from the front, indicating we were almost at the main road.

“Ahh do we have to? I want to do a proper ride!” said June, sadly. “I might be dead tomorrow!”

Jack turned around, “I bloody hope not!” she said.

“She is sitting very well,” said Alex “So maybe we could go into the village?”

“I suppose so,” said Jack. “The road’s fairly quiet today.”

“Fantastic!” said June, cheerily “Lets go!”

We crossed the road with no dramas and soon arrived in the pretty village, with its lovely old stone houses.

“It’s a great vantage point for looking into gardens isn’t it?” laughed June, who was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“’Yes and people’s bedrooms if you’re on Poppy,” I replied.

June looked round. “Oh heck she is tall isn’t she?!” she laughed. “Hope nobody’s getting un-dressed with their curtains open!”

“Oh I hope they are, especially if it’s a fit man!” said Sally laughing her head off and standing up in her stirrups to get a better view. “Can we swap horses Grace, you’ve got a better view than me!”

“Sally you’re so naughty!” laughed Alex.

“Well we only live once so why not?” said June.

“Absolutely!” agreed Sally.

“God you people!” muttered Jack from the front “you’re embarrassing!”

Finally, we arrived at an old railway track, which wound through the woods next to the village, and was such a magical place to ride - if you were on a small horse. I spent a lot of time bending over to avoid knocking my head into low branches.

“Ooof it’s not easy bending forward in a body protector!” I complained. I was used to doing this ride on my previous loan pony and I never once had to even tilt my head out of the way. This was ridiculous! Poppy didn’t care and just marched on through the branches which sometimes swung back and hit me in the face.

“This is the opposite of fun!” laughed Alex who also had to bend forwards on her big horse.

But eventually the trees weren’t so low and the track widened a lot so we could sit normally and enjoy where we were.

“This is glorious!” sighed June - unfortunately a moment too soon. Suddenly I heard June let out a strangled cry and saw that Beatrix was up on her back legs, snorting!

Thank God Alex had ‘felt a vibe’ so she was actually alongside June at that very moment and with lightning fast reactions she reached out and grabbed June, stopping her from falling off backwards. Beatrix came back down almost as soon as she’d gone up and danced about on the spot for a few moments.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” cried June her eyes wide with terror. Alex leaned over and grabbed the reins and amazingly June stayed on and Beatrix stopped dancing. “What the heck was that about?”

“It was a rabbit!” said Jack pointing to a little fluffy bottom poking out of the undergrowth.

“Oh blumin’ heck! I saw my life flash before my eyes!” gasped June.

The rabbit reversed and hopped across the path again and up went Beatrix once more.

“Oh! Help!” shrieked June. Alex grabbed her again and Beatrix came straight down and snorted and danced. She settled almost instantly so it wasn’t terrible but it certainly was very worrying for June who was very shaken up. Luckily the western saddle had such a big pommel that June had something to grab hold of which helped her to stay on.

The rabbit hobbled along, limping and Beatrix snorted but realised it was ok so she didn’t go up again.

“Oh dear!” said June, terrified. “This wasn’t part of my childhood dream!”

“Thank God you stayed on!” said Alex.

“Well that was thanks to you!” replied June. “You must have been psychic!”

“I had a funny feeling something was about to happen.” said Alex, who was very intuitive.

“Ahh look it’s not well!” said Sally, watching the rabbit hop into a tree and bash its head.

“It’s got something wrong with its leg,” said Jack.

“Oh the poor thing!” said Alex, leaping off her horse. The rabbit hobbled into a bush.

“What are you doing?!” asked Jack, horrified.

“Rescuing it!” Alex replied rushing over to where the rabbit was last seen.

“But it’s gone now!” said Jack shaking her head as Alex got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the bush.

“Little bunny! Where are you?” she called in a sing-song voice.

“God give me strength.” sighed Jack. Sally sniggered. She loved it when Alex annoyed Jack.

June looked on, fascinated, and luckily Beatrix stood quietly. Sally had manoeuvred Malcy so she was ready to help if necessary.

“There you are!” said Alex crawling further into the bush. “Gotcha!” she crawled out backwards, bringing half of the bush with her.

“Oh no you’ve got a little stone in your little fluffy footy! I’ll take it out.” Alex pulled the stone out from in between the rabbit’s toes. As a thank you, the rabbit bit her finger. “Ooh you bugger!” said Alex dropping the rabbit and grabbing her finger.

The rabbit didn’t move and then we could see it was blind.

“It’s got myxy!” exclaimed Sally.

“You’re going to have to kill it.” said Jack.

“What?!” yelled Alex “That’s awful!”

“You can’t leave the poor thing like that!” Jack replied.

“I can’t kill it!” said Alex, horrified at the thought of it. “I’m a vegetarian!”

“So? You can’t leave it to suffer!” Jack slid off her horse. “I’ll do it.”

“No the poor thing!” said Alex, scooping up the rabbit and stroking it. “You can’t kill it!”

“Oh but you must!” said Sally. “Imagine what sort of awful life it’s got and it will end up being ripped to bits by a fox. That would be so much worse.”

Alex considered that and relented.

“You’re right. Oh this is awful!” she said, tearfully.

Jack quietly took the rabbit and expertly dispatched it in a millisecond. The rabbit made no sound so it was obviously painless but poor Alex cried because she had such a big heart.

“We must bury him.” she announced solemnly.

“Are you serious?” asked Jack in disbelief.

“Yes! The poor little soul deserves respect.” Alex replied and pulled out a spoon from her saddle-bag which she used to dig a hole.

“Why have you got a spoon with you?” I asked, surprised (but actually not really that surprised!)

“Because sometimes I like to get ice-cream from the farm-shop when I’m riding.” replied Alex, matter-of-factly.

“Right!” I couldn’t imagine riding Poppy and eating ice-cream at the same time. It would lead to disaster.

Alex dug a deep hole and gently placed the rabbit in, then she covered it over and began saying a beautiful Pagan-like prayer.

“Is this really happening?” sighed Jack.

“Yes, it is indeed!” chuckled Sally.

“I once buried a goldfish,” I said.

“Why does that not surprise me?” asked Jack, rolling her eyes.

“This is the best day I’ve had in ages!” exclaimed June. “I love you lot you’re so mad!”

“Huh!” replied Jack, “This is nothing. You’ve yet to see Flash Dance here doing her crazy routines.”

Alex gave us a ‘look’ and we all shut up. She finished her prayer and smiled. “That’s better!” and then she found a handy tree trunk lying nearby which she used as a mounting block and got back on giant Jenny, her lovely horse.

Just as we were about to move off, Beatrix went up in the air again. June shrieked and grabbed hold of the pommel and Alex once again put her hand out to stop her sliding backwards.

“I’ve got to get off!” said June, terrified.

Sally leaped off Malcy and helped June to get off in the same way we helped her to get on.

“What shall we do?” I asked, knowing that June couldn’t possibly walk home.

“How about you ride Malcy, while I lead Beatrix? I think she’s probably just feeling a bit overwhelmed and needs to settle before being ridden.” said Sally to June.

“That’s very kind but I don’t think I could he’s so wide!” replied June, nervously.

Malcy was very wide because he was a cob. Unfortunately, so was Buddy and Jenny was even wider. There was only one option.

“You could ride Poppy?” I offered. “She’s quite slender! Or we could phone David to come and get you?”

June looked at Poppy.

“I don’t want to phone David because that would feel like I’d failed. I will ride Poppy.” she said resolutely. “She’s so tall though! I’m not sure I’ll be able to get on.”

“That isn’t an option,” said Jack grimly “Come on ladies!”

Thankfully, the fallen tree trunk was big enough and between the four of us we managed to get June onto Poppy. It was nothing short of a miracle that Poppy stood very quietly and seemed to understand June’s problem. She was so calm it was astonishing.

I was secretly terrified that Poppy would start prancing around like she used to do and kill June but no, she behaved impeccably the whole journey home. She was so sensible and quiet that June was able to relax and thoroughly enjoy riding her. She was under the impression that Poppy was always like that so I said nothing and just agreed. I didn’t want to worry her.

“Yes she’s great!” I lied. But I suppose it wasn’t really a lie because she was so much better than she used to be.

Beatrix was ok to lead too thank goodness.

David was relieved to see us return all in one piece but was very surprised to see June on Poppy. He came rushing over.

“What happened?” he asked and June filled him in on the sorry tale.

“She’ll have to go back!” said David, understandably upset.

“Absolutely not!” said June, horrified. “I will not give up at the first hurdle! I’ll get someone in to help me. Beatrix is my forever horse, she was probably just a bit upset about coming somewhere new that’s all.”

David realised there was no point arguing with June when she’d made her mind up so he said nothing more.

We helped June to get down from Poppy and luckily, she could still walk!

“My back’s not too bad!” she grinned. “I can’t thank you ladies enough. I’ve had the best day of my life!”

“It was a great pleasure!” smiled Jack who always loved helping people.

Then Alex helped June to un-tack Beatrix and led her into her stable for the night to settle. She put Jenny in to her stable too so that Beatrix would have company in the barn.

“You’ve got to hand it to June,” said Jack as we led our horses back to their field. “She’s bloody brave isn’t she? I would have poo’d my pants if that had happened to me especially if I had a back as bad as hers!”

“Me too!” I agreed. “She is an inspiration!”

“And wasn’t Poppy amazing too? You should be proud of yourself!” Jack continued.

I smiled and gave Poppy a kiss. She was indeed becoming a very special horse….

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