This morning’s painful hip put me in mind of this horse:
Spider – was a good bit thoroughbred, but with something else thrown in I am certain, given her height (very leggy like a supermodel in Westwood shoes). A bay, she was a bit of a cow but reasonably manageable in the school. This day (why do they say that in racing circles? My 5yo also says it when she is looking forward to something e.g. “Is it after this day and that day?”) we were hacking around the Mudchute city farm on the Isle of Dogs. It had passed uneventfully, but when a canter back to the yard was suggested things went a bit pear-shaped. My friend set off in front on Digby, a nice piebald cob, and then I was to follow. Except Spider just took off and to this day I think the t*sser that passed for an instructor smacked her or something given the way she shot away down the narrow track like a BAGS railer at Crayford.
You know those films where there’s a big sawmill about to cut someone in half, all grinding teeth and flying sawdust? Well, that’s what I thought we were going to do to poor Digby as we bore down on his rear end. That turned out to be a feature of this most terrifying of bolting escapades i.e. what I thought would happen didn’t. Somehow we squeezed past Digby at breakneck speed. Then I thought we would definitely stop at the yard as it is an unusual horse that will gallop right past their comfy stable. Spider didn’t stop. She kept on like she was in the bloody Pardibuce Velka. I then kidded myself she was going to grind to a halt by the time we were in the car park, after all cars can be pretty scary for horses can’t they? No chance. By the time we had charged through the car park I was utterly resigned to our hurdling the five-bar iron gate that lay between Mudchute Farm and the superstore Asda.
Spider seemed pretty committed to this suicidal aim, having taken complete leave of any little sense she had, but as she hit the tarmac of the road and tried to rally hard left her shiny and slippery horseshoes just betrayed her and she shot hard right as her legs were taken from under her. I was flung out the sidedoor to the left and we landed in a dishevelled heap at the feet of two police people patrolling on foot (as they once did in days of yore). Of all the hoodlums they expected to see on their beat that day in E14 I imagine Spider and me were pretty much not on the list. I can’t remember much else. I know I hit the road hard on my left side. I drove home and must have taken myself to the hospital later. The doctor could not believe all I had broken was my ring finger on my left hand which must have just been snapped by the reins as we parted company. Neither could I. Apart from that, severe bruising to my hip and not being able to use my shoulder properly for about six months I was grand. It didn’t put me off riding, but I swear the most frightening thing I can still think of is being onboard a crazed, bolting horse.
See, the thing is, I know what to do on a horse that has run off with you. I had bridged my reins already like a jockey and because in a tug of war between a human and a horse you know you won’t win, the thing to do is haul on one side of their mouths, which should unbalance them and start to make them turn. I used this to good effect with that other miscreant, Peggy Sue. You make a huge turning circle like the QEII and eventually they get bored of running in mile diameter circles and slow down. With Spider there was nowhere to turn to. We were on tiny tracks and trails and car parks! Lessons learned though: only start a fast pace where you have room to manoeuvre and don’t trust riding instructors as many are from the dark side.
I was going to do a short run today with the dog, but my back was painful so I thought I could just get away with going out on the bike. Sometimes all that thudding about is not what a creaky body needs. In the wind and the rain on the seafront I had plenty of time to wonder about the niggles and twinges I get. They are definitely worse when the weather closes in and although they mainly wear off as the day wears on, I think the joints are crying out for a little glucosamine. I wonder if a lot of it has been caused by my tumbles from horses over the years. If you have come off a horse a few times you can understand how the jockeys, say at Aintree today, hop back on their next ride with seemingly not a bother on them and you can also understand how poor Timmy Murphy came to be carted off to hospital with concussion 😦
I have ridden too many horses to remember and have fallen off too many times! There have been so many falls I couldn’t actually say how many but there are some memorable ones that I have decided to record for posterity. Posterity needs to be in no particular hurry because when I had finished typing the post was too long. So there follows one fall now and the rest during the week. It’s an occupational hazard with horses but it doesn’t stop me wincing when someone hits the deck at the races.
First up – Peggy Sue – a bison thinly diguised as a horse. She had neck muscles that she was determined to use to her advantage, namely carting her rider off in any given direction. I was out on Salisbury Plain to investigate the general unacceptableness or otherwise of fox-hunting and Peggy was a hireling for the day. They knew what she was like and had fitted her with a bit assembled out of barbed wire and broken glass to aid her rider in their vain attempts to hold her (actually it was called a cherry roller bit but my idea would $have been better). This was the only time that I have been “hunting”. I didn’t see a fox all day and I could only crawl on all fours myself by the next morning.
The two falls were jumping a ditch (understandable) and then when she was (as she tried to all day) leaning on my hands and tanking along only to come upon the inconveniently placed rear end of another horse. Undeterred from her raison d’etre – to get IN FRONT – she simply jumped sideways and carried on. Presumably the horse in front had had the sense to slow for a bit of gravelled road we were crossing, something of no consequence to a real bison. I travelled across the road at speed, and minus my horse, on my very own arse – the burning pain of which has yet to be equalled.
Now of course, when you are being tortured and humiliated in this manner the last thing you want to do is get back on the beast, but 10 miles from civilisation atop a windy plain you have no choice. Sadly neither of these spills were the most frightening thing she did that day. That honour belonged to the occasion when she charged down a vertical cliff with an enormous flood at the bottom and a tree that resembled a redwood. I got the feeling (and I had little time to think about this) that her dastardly plan was to fire me headfirst into the giant tree trunk and then hold my head under the water with her hoof until help arrived, preferably too late. When I asked her about her behaviour, as we loaded the buggers onto the box at the end of the day, she said she just having a bit of a laugh. A more inappropriately named animal it is hard to imagine.