The trials and tribulations of being mum to a pony rider

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The New Boots

So….. it was Sunday, the day of the Combined Training competition at Blade’s Hill, time to pop on the new travelwear prior to setting off in Horatio, our van. We were quite excited about this brand-new gear, as most of Clyde’s stuff comes from eBay and has vital parts missing or is a dubious colour with a strange smell, so while he was being booted-up in his stable I thought he deserved an audience for his departure: “Wait, wait!” I implored passersby, “Come and see this! Clyde’ll be out in a moment and he’s got his new travel boots on!” A polite crowd gathered while Pony-girl panted and puffed invisibly behind the stable gate.
We waited. Time passed. “Is he coming out soon?” I called, anxious that the audience was becoming restive.
“Yes – I hope he can – “ came the mysterious reply.
Bang! The stable door flew open with a crash and out tripped Clyde, his face dour and resigned, four burgundy travel-trotters clipped around his cobby legs, impelling him forward in a peculiar, high-stepping gait as he progressed down the yard. Each front leg would rise up in the normal fashion, attempt to flex at the knee, be hampered by a solid wodge of burgundy boot, then slap with a crash to the floor while propelling along the rear feet in a series of mechanical, jerky piaffes, exactly like a clockwork horse from one of those cheap tin-toy stocking –filler sites. Far from the ripple of awe and envy I had expected, people were holding each other up, clutching each other with mirth and howling with silent laughter as he passed.

Still, so long as he never tries to move they look very professional and they certainly have speeded up departure times and eased the troubled path of a pony-mum, which has been littered so far not with glory but a succession of dung-stained bandages. And so, to the Show!

Were we to win more points to bump us up the league, or would Lucinda Trophy-Tophat scoop the lot? Would the fabled invitation to the Awards Ceremony ever appear? Would Clyde even make it down the ramp in his bulbous new legwear?

To be continued….

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New Boots for Clyde

As a change from competing at Blade’s Hill, Pony-girl went to the Horse of the Year Show on Sunday – no, no! she and Clyde had not been selected to compete, though Clyde probably thought he was on the team when he heard about the trip: “I’m off to Orse o’ Year Show, Tils! Not before time neivver!" “I fink you got that wrong mah son, unless o'course you’re pullin’ the cart to take ‘em there.” No, this was a Nags’R’Us outing, and Pony-girl arrived home with stars in her eyes from watching the showjumping finals, some dazzling displays including Natural Horsemanship, and of course, 3 hours spent going round the trade stands, her eyes out on stalks at all the wonderful goods on offer. I had cunningly not gone, as where I don’t go, nor does my credit card, a wonderful invention that all teenagers love, because the bill does not have their name on it.

PG came home with a set of four pony travel-boots in burgundy, very smart and quite a bargain. Since we bought Horatio our horsebox and have been going off to competitions most Sundays, we have been using the raffle-prize Winnie-the-Pooh leg bandages to protect Clyde’s legs in transit and frankly, the only good thing about these is that they were free. At the end of the day, everyone else snaps on velcro-ed travel boots, like a team of skilled mechanics slapping on 4 new tyres at a 7 second pitstop and off they go with a gay wave, vanishing swiftly down the road. We’ve hardly started! First the bandages have to be rolled… a simple yet tedious task deemed ideal for pony-mum, although my work usually fails the inspection: “Tighter! Oh that’s hopeless mummy, you’ll have to do them all again!” Then we wrap a sort of foam paving-slab around the first leg: in a sort of cramped half squat, I hold it tight while PG whips the bandage round and round, finishing with Winnie-the-Pooh right over each pony-knee the size of a knobbly pomegranate. The rear legs are less fun: I’m not happy squatting eye to eye with Clyde’s staunch hindquarters (not to mention the large member which may or may not be swinging ominously close to my face) because Clyde occasionally gets an itch in his back foot which sets off a lot of frantic pounding and scrabbling, and something about that lashing leg like a tree trunk topped with a giant iron shoe makes me very nervous. And no-one can say the end result is pretty – the foam padding overspills the bandage here and there and gives the impression of a badly-wrapped piece of furniture you bought for a really cheap price at a garage sale, so we can’t wait for Sunday when he'll sport his new boots for the first time!

Yes, it’s Combined Training at Blade’s Hill and a chance for some more points for their League. No invitation to the awards ceremony on November 25th has yet arrived, but we live in hope! The thing is… it’s not that we need for Pony-girl to win Best Junior Rider, a title she hardly deserves (imagine Pat: ‘you’re ‘avin’ me on, ain’t ya? Pony-girl! Best Junior Rider - ! Lead me away someone, I need a lie down!’) but it’s the thought of our Clyde, the ageing pony who cost peanuts and was reckoned to be nothing more than a riding-school hack, a shabby has-been….. our Clyde who has been steadfast, willing, and the best tutor PG could ever have had….. our little Braveheart who has recaptured something of his youthful glory and shown courage, dash and talent at every turn …. You can see how perfectly wonderful it would be, so sweet a triumph for the underhorse, if he pulled off Best Blade's Pony 2005!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Biting the Dust

Clyde had two water buckets in his stable that were supplied as part of the fittings, and they were, to be frank, nasty. Although I would not go so far as to say that Clyde is a sensitive sort of pony who yearns for the finer buckets in life, it is no surprise to me that he refused altogether to drink from the one with crusty bits. So Pony-girl and I clubbed our dwindling pennies together and bought him two new matching flat-back buckets we chose from a tempting picture in a catalogue. Alas, owing to a little misunderstanding of scale, he now has two enormous mint-green waterbutts hanging from his stable wall, and a matching feed bowl the size of a canoe.

I’ve been watching Dressage to Music on TV and marvelling at those wonderful horses performing their complex and beautiful ballet in perfect time. This has prompted me to consider what might be a suitable piece of music for Clyde. De Sousa, perhaps? Of course this will make everyone think immediately of silly walks, rude noises and clowns, but that seems fitting for a comical pony like Clyde. Or, possibly, the gallopy-gallopy dash of Charge of the Light Brigade since he is perfectly capable of completing a 6 minute dressage test, in say, 3 and a half.

Showjumping is much more his thing and on his day he is always in with a chance of the placings, even given ever so many Arabellas and their speedy Sprinters out to best him. Last Sunday at Blade’s Hill he missed out on a place in the lowest class by 0.5 of a second, gained 4th place at 70cm, and we had high hopes of a higher place at 80cm. PG had the plan sorted in her head: ‘I’ll take it steady and just go for a double clear, hardly anyone goes clear at this height so we don’t need to rush.’ Cool, wise tactics! I thoroughly approved. So imagine my surprise when the bell went and off they shot like a rocket, zooming around the course, taking off, landing and galloping as if a fearsome pack of cows were at their heels! (don’t tell Tilly.. but..big bold Clyde is a bit wobbly about cows) They were cutting corners all over the place, shaving seconds off their time and making a very bold dash of it and we all thought we were looking at the winning round…. Two jumps to go -
Screeeeeeeeeeechhhhhhhhh! Clyde slammed on the anchors at the foot of the spread and PG took off, cartwheeling through the air in freefall till she landed flat on her back some distance past the jump: she had cleared it by miles. Clyde stood there on the take-off side tapping his hooves: ‘c’mon c’mon! If you get back on we could still make it!’ but alas it was elimination and a sad departure from the arena, to quite a lot of applause: it had been a great attack run, till it came to grief.

“So what happened to the tactics?” I said between clenched teeth, while smiling and beaming widely in a jolly-good-sport kindof way for the benefit of the onlookers. “’Take it steady', remember? Go for the double clear?’”
“I just lost my head,” Pg said sheepishly, “100% my fault. I cut too much off the corner and he just couldn’t make it.”

It was a bravura performance though and we couldn’t regret it. The thing is though, it’s getting near the end of the year and Darkest Braveheart is hanging in there in the running for Blade’s Best Pony while PG is in the placings for Best Junior Rider. It’s all very tight with several events to go, some which favour the Arabellas and Sprinters, not to mention the dread Lucinda Trophy-Tophat, though fortunately there are other calls on her time, and it’s only occasionally she comes to snatch rosettes away from the little people. Every point’s going to count… the invitations to the Award Ceremony go out in the next month. Will we be in…. or out?