Monday, February 07, 2011

The (real-life) Saddle Club

When I was a kid, I wanted a pony so badly it hurt. I begged and begged, but my heartless parents refused, and I had to settle for my collection of Pullein-Thompson novels and Dallas, Prancer and Dixie, my Barbie horses.

Hours I spent grooming manes and tails with teeny little (plastic) brushes and curry combs, polishing (plastic) tack and adjusting teeny weeny little blankets to keep their (plastic) backs warm at night, all the while imagining every other girl in the world dressed in jodhpurs and Fair Isle jerseys, hacking out on their cobby little greys and duns, popping over tricky little oxers with practised ease before trotting home for tea and crumpets, while I sat in my room brooding on the unfairness of life and parents so evil that they wouldn't buy me a Cabbage Patch doll, either.

As it turned out, my parents were right. Horses, even small horses, are much more hassle than the plastic variety. Even though the real-life brushes are much bigger, it takes so much longer to groom a real-life horse- your arms are aching before you've done a quarter of the job. They get real-life tangles with twigs and mud and their real-life coats get absolutely chockablock with dust. It's even harder to get out than that biro mark my little brother left on Dallas' rump- and you can't use Spray'nWipe on a real-life horse. As I've previously mentioned, they can be a bit delicate and prone to expensive vet bills. No Superglue for real-life horses. Plus they have teeth, and don't stand still when you're trying to brush them or do their real-life feet, which keep growing and hurt a lot more than the plastic variety if they step on you. They buck and pigroot when they're excited, and wave teeth and hooves at each other... and in real-life, I'm a bit scared of horses.

So Farmboy's debut at our local Pony Club is both a vicarious dream-come-true for me, and a first step into a terrifying new world. Luckily R has been there and done that all his life, so he's not the one having kittens over the state of Farmboy's riding boots or the appropriateness of our gear or how to load the pony or any one of a hundred things that had me sleepless for a week. He's also happy to be the one who jogs laps of the yard, trying to encourage Dancer (a pathologically "steady" Welsh pony) into a trot. That was a relief, because our first day at Pony Club was about 35 degrees and I would have died.

But Farmboy loved every minute of it, Dancer took it all in her very experienced stride, and R enjoyed the flashback to his own youth. The Ginger Biscuit is already clamouring for her turn.

They're out practicing whenever we have a free afternoon, and it probably won't be long before they move from Pony Club to polocrosse, like R did.

I'm trying hard to learn as much as I can, because it looks like we'll be spending a lot more of our time doing real-life horsey stuff. So far, despite my lack of real-life skills, it's even more fun than the plastic.

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