DECEMBER 2006 ‘Anybody ever jumped before?’

Are you kidding me?

It’s December, the middle. I have been riding for… thirteen weeks? Twice a week now since the middle of November so that’s more like sixteen weeks if you count the other days as weeks, as one lesson per week, and— oh, stop it. I’m still bouncing around trying to stay on the correct diagonal, and Argo luckily speaks English, so while my leg aids for the canter are still kinda unintelligible to him, he gets there if Nikki tells him to ‘Canter! Canter!’

So, still a beginner, then.

Gaining in confidence, ready for more.

But jumping? Isn’t that how you break your neck? We all look at each other, grimacing as Nikki sets up the poles on the ground.

I am secretly thrilled.

We learn jumping position. We trot over the trot poles with our bums in the air, hands clutching mane. We’ve all just about managed to sit properly in the saddle [just] and now we have to hover over it— while the horse leaps over a fence?

We queue at M, taking the fence on the left rein. And when I say ‘fence’, I mean two poles crossed between uprights about, oh, one full foot above the ground. Maybe. Maybe six inches.

I go first.

Argo prances in place, ears perked. Hmmm. Somebody’s looking forward to this. Thank God one of us knows what we’re doing. Kicking him into trot, I revert back to the hundred mile stare into the back of his head, as if it were a door to be unlocked, or a screen upon which all the knowledge I knew I didn’t possess would display itself.

‘Look at your jump!’

Argo swings around the corner, I’m rising to the trot, Nikki shouts to kick him on, I’m rising and trotting and kicking and rising and there’s the fence the jump and the pole on the ground in front of the jump and we get to the pole and I lift my arse and there’s this thing, this collecting thing this lifting this little skip and we’re up and we’re over and I thud back down into the saddle and Nikki shouts ‘Well done!’ and I look up at the ride and they’re all beaming at me, and I thump Argo on the shoulder, on the base of his neck, and he shakes his head like, ‘Yeah!’, and I want to go again and again and again.

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