‘You rode Rebel really well last week!’ One of the eight-year-olds beamed up at me. I beamed down at her. Today was raw, the sky low and grey, but there was a thrilling lack of gale force winds, and having had a break on Tuesday, I was looking forward to Reb and trying out my new skill.

When he was given to someone else, I knew what was coming.

‘Sue, take Tango.’

I muttered my way up to the barn. I stopped myself muttering— after all, the sky was an seamless rank of gunmetal cloud cover, so no pesky sunbeams to contend with, at least.

I decided to change my attitude. He wasn’t tacked, and I’m still on a learning curve when it comes to saddling, but while I waited from one the the dudes to come strap him in, I got Tango bridled. Not too much fuss, a bit of rebellion as I tried to get him to back up so I could have some elbow room [he grudgingly went back two steps; I cut my losses], second time lucky and I got him sorted.

I didn’t mind him much as we walked down the aisle, made our way to the indoor, and I think that’s a good thing. A personal… challenge I have in the majority of my relationships is to talk talk talk until I feel comfortable, and the other is practically hypnotised, so I kept my thoughts to myself, and he seemed happy enough to follow along.

Up, and no problems, even whilst fussing with the leathers, and I only felt my first qualm when it became apparent that we were going outside. The outdoor is big, which is great; in the weather we’ve been having, it is a big mud puddle. Not so great.

Oh, please, don’t let me fall off him today.

Emma had me do up my stirrups even further, and I wasn’t comfortable. I think I might split the difference next time. There was a lot of negotiation about who was going to be the lead— Rebel was appointed first and he declined in his usual manner— then Jack tried, and then finally Vegas got us up to speed.

And Tango went. Listened to my leg, fussed a bit, I annoyed him at some stage, I suppose, and he started throwing his big head around, which I ignored. We kept well to the back of the ride, and he was going. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked, feeling that every rise in the trot was vaulting me into standing position, but we went, and it was… a breakthrough.

And then the helicopter pitched up.

Why did we not hear it? Why did we pay it no mind? We’re up in the mountains, for the most part out of the flight path to Dublin Airport, but there has, in the past, been the odd fly by. By the time we realised that this particular buzz was loud, and low, far too low, it was too late.

Rebel went mental. Having already discovered his, er, advanced ability to perceive sound, the helicopter was too much for him. I saw him leap, buck, leap and buck, like a feckin’ rodeo mule, and in between that and his poor rider going splat into a mud puddle— ohhhhhh!— I had my own problem to contend with.

Tango exploded. Bang! I rocked forward, then— hey! I sat back. Again. I did it again, perhaps with more mental input this time, but there I went, back in the saddle, and he stopped. He stopped! Gigantic, powerful, seventeen hh [maybe even eighteen, someone said he might be eighteen hh] Tango stopped. I stayed ‘sat’, and Rebel did some laps, and Tango twitched, ready to join him— We get to do this now? Excellent!— but I sat back, and once Reb had calmed down, I walked Tango around in wide circles so he could let off some steam.

So fast, infinitesimal, but again, the confidence grows. Something about Tango, I can’t even mention him in passing and up he crops, and believe me, at one point he was going so well I felt he was going to take off like a rocket, but he and I keep getting thrown together, and I’m determined to work better with him now. He’s frustrating, and I get mad at him, and it’s a struggle, but that infinitesimal moment is enough for me to keep trying.

We rode back to the indoor, Tango and I bringing up the rear, his muscular walk, his height and his bulk, drawing all eyes, and I sat, secure, leg on lightly [but on] and I looked down at the watchers, for the first time knowing that I could sit up there and deserve his reflected glory.

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