I was leading Rebel out of the indoor and back to his stable a couple of weeks ago. As I passed David, who I think is the head groom— and I know teaches polocrosse— he called out, ‘So, you broke up with Argo?’

I did. I did break up with him. It was time, you know? We’d gone as far as we could go, really. I’d started to want different things, and he, well— it’s no fault of his own! He’s lovely! Really! But it was time for me to move on.

Oh, Argo. ‘My’ first horse. I’ve mentioned him in other posts, but I haven’t really expressed his significance properly. I wonder if I can?

After that second lesson, in fact at the very end of it, I remember asking Nikki, breathlessly, ‘Can I have him next week?’, and getting him, and feeling a safety in knowing that I’d have him. When we had a substitute instructor some weeks later, I felt a flurry of panic. What if they don’t know about me and Argo? What if they try to give me someone else? But of course they knew— everybody knew, apparently, even a guy who I’m sure I thought had enough on his mind to not really notice which horse I worked in the school.

But of course all the horse people, especially those in charge, notice everything. Despite their taciturn exteriors and their endless gazes, which always seem to be fixed somewhere on the Wicklow mountains, every human involved in some way with the running of the yard knows exactly what’s going and on who’s doing what. They simply don’t make a big deal out of it… unlike just about every other authority figure I’ve ever encountered in my life. Hence, I have more respect for them than I have ever had for any authority figure I’ve encountered in my life. [Last week, when I snuck a peek at the Saturday equine allocation list, and the little girls found out, I begged them to keep quiet, because I was afraid that Shirley would yell at me.] They all know what we’re all doing, and how we’re doing it; I can’t picture them all sitting down in anything as mundane as a meeting— maybe the horses keep them apprised.

I think— I know— that Argo’s report on me would have gotten progressively less piqued as the weeks went by and the instruction started to sink in. Once the hands stopped flapping around, and the rising trot began to settle down more into my hips than in my ankles and knees, someone was a much happier horse. And by extension, I was a happier rider because ‘my’ horse was happy. And all the other noobie riders were jealous, certain that my ascendancy [oh, in fairness, such as it was] had everything to do with Argo, and nothing with me. I guarded him jealously in turn, and he me: once, I was answering a question put to me by a lesson mate, and was talking to her around Argo’s head. He took a step forward and started nodding vigourously, obstructing Mary’s vision. We had to laugh. It was adorable.

It wasn’t all wine and Polos: there was one lesson in which the low numbers in both the adult beginners and the advanced kids required that we commingle. Fairly sharpish, it was clear to me that Argo was not pleased. He was throwing his head around, and every time one of the kids passed out the ride, first in trot, then in canter, he got stroppy. By the time we got to the jumping, he was seriously displeased, to the extent that I had to get off him and finish on Delilah. I reckoned, after watching him in the arena over the next few weeks, that he didn’t like the kids much— and that he hated the ponies. The next time we all had to get together, I was not happy, knowing that Argo was not going to be happy, and due to that invisible communication of internal states that goes on between horse and rider, well, it wasn’t one of the better hours.

There was no single event, no single hour, that lead to the parting of the ways. Just a notion, a stray thought, a growing feeling of confidence that caused me to maybe wonder about… moving on. It happened in the blink of an eye, no big drama, no recriminations, nobody got hurt. I can’t say I haven’t looked back— cue the misty montage, set to the sentimental strains of ‘Long May You Run [yikes!]— because I have: I always watch him, whenever he’s in the school, I hang with him round his stable when he’s feeling sociable, and I don’t begrudge his new girlfriends their joy in his demonstrable affection. Args: you’ll always be my first.

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