I took part in an endurance ride through Penningham Forest recently, riding Macy Gray, a tall grey mare belonging to Anne Jolly at Calgow. It was a good day; the weather was perfect for the ride and the company I was with good fun. But, boy, was I stiff afterwards. I knew I would be. Gone are the days where aches and stiffness were usually only felt after a fall: now they are an integral part of riding.
Horses have been as much part of my life as pigs, albeit for much longer. From first learning to ride aged four, and getting my own pony at nine, I have done nearly everything you can involving horses. As a child, I loved nothing better than galloping around the woods and jumping logs and ditches. I had a little grey pony called Prince, who used to buck me off so regularly that my parents got rid of him as they were terrified he’d kill me. Getting bucked off didn’t bother me – I developed ways of trying to stay on. Sometimes they worked, though more times they didn’t. In my twenties, I went as a working pupil to a BHS riding stables to train for my Assistant Instructor’s exam with a view to making horses my career.
Nowadays I’m not as brave and I don’t have the spring I once had. Mounting blocks are de rigueur, and God forbid if I have to dismount while out on a ride. It’s ok if there is a gate or tree stump to help remount, but if not I’m struggling. Gone are the days when I’d hop off and land lightly on my feet. Now after any ride longer than an hour, I slide down the horse hanging grimly on to the saddle to ease my drop down, reluctant to actually touch the ground with my feet.
Six years ago I introduced my boys to riding, buying them a little pony called Queenie. It didn’t last long: other hobbies came along and Queenie was relegated to being a companion to a show pony.
Nowadays I keep my hand in by teaching riding at Calgow. I would love to get back to how I was as a child: fearless at jumps, unfazed by badly behaved horses, and able to mount and dismount easily. But age is taking its toll, sadly much faster than planned.