(Warning: seriously dark photos - you'll find out why later.)
My little friend had her first riding lesson.
Oh me. Oh my. The thrill I felt when she announced she wanted to start. I was only too pleased to nurture this one. I started riding at the local stables in Penzance when I was about eight and went pretty much every weekend for years. Then, when I moved away, I always made sure there was somewhere I could go for a quick hack, be it on holiday or weekends away.
I loved horses so much when I was little that I started spending all my spare time helping out at the stables, for free. Looking back now I can see that I was offering them very willing child labour. Horse mad youngster who'd do anything for a ride, I laboured away; mucking out, grooming, leading a horse and new rider around the arena tirelessly for an hour, all the time wondering when the offer of a free ride would come. It never mattered that the freebie would be on some nag that no-one else had booked, the one that would need constant "encouragement" shall we say, to get it to move away from a particularly tasty clump of grass, or the one that would for sure grab the nearest branch for a quick nibble and carry the entire thing around for the remainder of the ride. The same one that would over-exercise your leg muscles with all the work needed to get it going. And yet, when it realised it was on the homeward stretch, would be a nightmare to slow down as it delighted in leaving you fear for your life. Oh the blisters on your hands after that ride!
I remember Judy, the instructor, running behind one particular horse shouting "sausagemeat, sausagemeat" which did actually do the trick and got it into a laboured trot, albeit for a few steps since by the time it had finally got any speed up, it had already caught up with the horses in front.
My favourite was Robin, a lovely chestnut gelding with a super temperament. I even bought him a headband with red and blue velvet diamonds on it with my pocket money, I was so besotted, and my parents still have footage of me riding him around the ring looking very serious but also very proud. Those were the days.
My little friend had been on a pony only twice before. The first, when very young and I know she hated every moment. The second, last Summer at Lulworth Castle when she was led sedately around the beautiful grounds, which was when I realised perhaps she had some potential.
So the time arrived and she was shown her pony - a sweet little number who was "super with the children". Hmmm.
The lesson was going well, she still looked keen even after walking in circles and not doing much else. But then came the word that they would trot. Uh oh. My goodness she was holding on to that saddle extremely well. The deal was that the riders took it in turns to trot to the back of the line, leaving the rest of the group waiting for their go. But our pony didn't fancy doing that .. what do you know, he pushed the girl who was leading him right out of the way and proceeded to dance about in a way that I just knew she wasn't going to stay on. (Fortunately I'd insisted on being there, despite the fact all the other spectators had been asked to leave.) I was over there faster than Lynford Christie.
Give her credit, up she got off the ground, rubbing the dust out of her eyes. I just wanted to scoop her up and take her home at that stage because all I could think was "sausagemeat, sausagemeat" but there was only one thing for it. She had to get back on, didn't she? And she did. Bless!
And the reason for the dark photos? We'd been told beforehand not to use the flash for fear of upsetting the horses!!