In the distance, from the safety of the yard, I could see my friend grinning and she shot me a thumbs up. I could have murdered her. What had she been thinking of? She knew I only rode little cobs!
I decided it was time to get off the horse so I racked my brains to come up with an excuse to leg it back to my car and get the hell out of there!
But fate had other plans…
“I’ve decided you’re the one!” exclaimed the owner with absolute conviction, as she strode into the arena. She grabbed my hand and shook it hard. At 6 foot she towered over me. I smiled weakly.
“I can tell our Poppy likes you, so we won’t bother trying anybody else.” she smiled.
“Oh! Er! Ahum well,” I spluttered, desperately thinking of what to say in order to escape.
Of course, all I needed to say was “This horse is too scary for me! I’m not experienced enough!” But the words wouldn’t come out because I was too embarrassed.
“I can tell you’re a good rider,” continued the owner, “so I’m very confident you’ll look after her and do a great job!”
“Oh, erm thanks!” I mumbled. I was like a rabbit in headlights, completely immobilised.
Inside I was thinking “Oh my God nooooo! I can’t deal with a horse like this!”
“So I’ll pay for everything and you’ll look after her and I’ll see you in a few months’ time, ok? I’m just in the middle of moving house and my mum’s not too well and I’m helping my cousin through a nasty divorce…”
“It’s a really nasty divorce!” nodded the niece’s mum, grimacing.
“He’s a bugger!” added the niece’s mum’s mum and then almost toppled over she was so doddery.
“It’s a godsend you’ve turned up. A real godsend!” thanked the owner, shaking my hand again. “I can’t thank you enough. Oh blimey look at the time I’ve got to go! I’ll see you later.”
And with that, she was off. She just walked away!
I was literally left standing in the arena, mouth open in shock, holding on to the type of horse I never wanted to ever have anything to do with.
“I’ll show you her stable.” said the niece, briskly.
The journey from the arena to the stable was like a terrible video game.
First, we had to cross a large swathe of field that was full of ponies- two of which were feral and very dangerous.
The feral ponies belonged to a woman who had fancied learning how to ride. So she thought it would be a good idea to buy an un-backed three-year-old fell pony straight off the moor. The seller could obviously see her coming and he convinced her it would be better to buy two. The woman never had time to learn to ride, because she decided to have a baby, and she had no idea how to train them so these two ponies grew more wild by the day.
“Watch out mum they’re coming for you!” shouted the niece.
“Ooh mum be careful they’re coming! They’re coming!” shouted the niece’s mum.
“Get back you buggers!” panted the niece’s mum’s mum, waving her handbag at them and tottering dangerously from side to side.
The niece flapped her arms about to keep the ponies away. They snorted and reared, waving their legs around in a very threatening way which set the rest of the ponies off running and bucking and farting like nutters. How I kept hold of the horse (Poppy), who was also up in the air, was nothing short of a miracle.
It took an interminable amount of time to open the gate on the other side of the field, mainly because it was a hundred years old and tied shut with several bits of frayed bailer twine. Finally, we managed to open it, keep the band of lunatic ponies back and get through to the other side.
“Those two buggers want shooting!” scowled the niece’s mum’s mum.
“Ooh mum that’s not very kind!”
“It’s bloody true though! And the owner wants shooting too!”
They continued to bicker as we walked across the yard to the American style, indoor stable block.The niece showed me where everything was and I sort of listened but none of it went in because I still couldn’t believe what was happening.
“Right I’ll be off now, I’ve got my own livery yard to look after.” she said.
“Oh! How come Poppy isn’t at your place?” which was the first clear sentence I managed to say.
“We’re full. Well it was nice to meet you, come on mum come on gran I’ve got to get the horses in I’m late!”
The niece’s mum gave me a hug, she was a very sweet lady, and then they all walked away.
I felt absolutely sick with responsibility and fear!
I looked around and realised everyone else had disappeared too so there was just me and Poppy standing in front of her stable staring into each other’s eyes….