28 OCTOBER, 2006 It was the shittiest hour yet.

There was, of course, no way of knowing how shitty it was going to be. It’s my eighth week of lessons, Argo and I an indissoluble team. I’m feeling pretty good, considering that all I did was walk for my entire first lesson, two short months ago. I had begun to understand that the yelling was for me, not at me, and I felt— well, okay, I felt pretty damn cocky. I had the best horse. I was the best in the group. I was at the front of the ride.

We started as usual. We filed out of the indoor arena to head for the outdoor arena— as usual. We walked a round a bit, we trotted, circled a bit… and then it all went to shit.

Argo bucked.

We were coming around the C end and something happened and Argo just— turned in towards the centre and then I was hanging on the reins, sliding to the right, pulling on his mouth and Nikki’s shouting ‘Sit back! Sit back!’ and I, I must have sat back, because he stops, his sides quivering, my sides quivering, Nikki tersely counselling me as to what to do when a horse bucks, I’m not taking it in, I can’t, this came out of nowhere, and I, it must be my fault, it has to be, I—

‘What did I do I wrong?’ I croak.

Nikki shrugs. ‘There’s some building going on down the road, it must be freaking him out.’

We rejoin the ride. Argo is jittery. I’m jittery— is he jittery because I’m jittery? Will he do it again? It was like, he leapt sideways, left, then right, and I felt myself slip forward first, then to the side, I almost fell, I could’ve fallen, if I fall will I not want to do this anymore—

Where are you? Argo throws his head.

‘Sorry, shaken up. Sorry.’

And from then on, nothing goes well. Nothing. He gets off on the wrong lead in the canter every single time, I keep losing the stirrup, Nikki keeps shouting at me to keep my hands down because I’m waving them around like a fucking semaphore enthusiast and every time I do this Argo rolls his eyes and throws his head up and jerks the reins so my hands go up and Nikki shouts some more and IT SUCKS.

We slouch back to the indoor, Argo relieved, I’m disgusted, disheartened, what went wrong, what went wrong? I hate myself, it’s all my fault, it doesn’t suck— I suck, why bother, who was I kidding, front of the ride, yeah, right— all familiar road signs on the crap self-esteem highway to hell and I’m up to 90 and heading for a Thelma and Louise—

I dismount and bob my head low as I drag the reins over Argo’s head. He blinks at me, a look in his eye that showed me the pony he once was, young, unsure. He rubs his nose on my knee. I feed him his Polo mints. I wanted to cry.

Ach. It was only one shitty hour— maybe a shitty twenty minutes, truth be told. I’d think about it later, figure out how to avoid the off-ramp into self-loathing, but the thing is, it wasn’t just me there, was it? Argo was bumming, too, and I rub his neck, scratch his withers, and we console each other as I lead him back to his stable to untack him, give him another Polo, leave him with his thoughts. There was always next week. There was always another hour.

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