YES, SHE ABSOLUTELY DOES Once it was decided that our Saturday lesson would take place in the lower arena, I went to fetch Rebel out of his stable.

Beautiful day, the kind of day that finds us cantering up the fields. I wasn’t sure enough abut my thumb to countenance a ride out. There was also a question as to who was going to be available or not, and it transpired that an arena hour would be the best bet.

Excellent. I wasn’t going to be asking for Rinaldo— more about that anon— and I was happy enough to get His Bolshiness. I had been thinking… well, it might be nice for somebody else to have him, and by ‘nice’ I mean ‘time for somebody else to learn her/his lesson’ from the master of the balk.

I paused at the barn doors, having a short chat about Rinaldo’s defects of character [with some humans, not with Rebel], which boosted my morale no end. I entered the indoor to mount, only to be greeted by intent reorganisation: someone else was indeed getting Himself.

‘Sue, take Ruby.’

Ah. Ruby. I remember asking for Ruby about a year ago, and being told, after an infinitesimal wince on the part of the instructor, that she was ‘difficult’. Okay. I wasn’t ready. No problem.

Would I be ready today?

Her previous rider held the offside stirrup as I swung up into the saddle. I gasped. It was as if Ruby had no head. Maybe I’m used to Rebel always checking things out, looking around, but I swear, I sat, and it was as if I’d pulled myself up onto the edge of a cliff. It was as if I had nothing in front of me.

Shit. I had to laugh, though, the feeling of dangling in mid air was actually kind of amusing.

She kept her head relaxed as I adjusted the stirrups. On the walk down, Barbara anticipated my query about rein length and warned me that Ruby was bitted rather more strongly than the other horses.

Shit, shit!

Surely that meant… something. I’d seen in her other lessons, of course: Rebel and I routinely follow behind her in the Tuesday lesson. I’ve seen her land after a jump and pelt away like lunatic. I’d heard that, after a jump, in a Thursday lesson, that she’d chucked her rider off against the wall.

I felt fine, though. She picked her way delicately through the gate, and we started to circle. A little sleepy, maybe, and I put my leg on. Her ears flicked. I nudged her with my heels. She picked up the pace.

After having bounced around like a sack of potatoes on Rinaldo, I learned the lesson of the hands and kept them way down. As we picked up the trot, I realised that nothing bad was going to happen. I felt entirely at home with her collected gait. We changed the rein, and all was well.

Instead of taking turns cantering around the whole ring, Barbara split us into pairs, one circling at the A end, one at the C, and told us to canter in twenty metre circles. I sat back, gave the aid—

And she cantered. Perfectly. Wonderfully. I laughed, and sat back, and went with the flow, an amazingly flowing canter that she seemed content to keep and to go on and go on and go on with.

I looked up at the ride, and laughed again. ‘She’s fantastic!’ I called, and drew her into another circle.

We changed the rein, and she was somewhat tougher to convince on the right, but I think that’s down to my weak left leg. But she gave it to me, and we went and went, and before I’d rejoined the ride, my confidence was back, and I was in love.

And then we jumped.

And she was aaaaaaawesome. Me, eh, I pulled her up a bit, feeling spooky in advance of her reputation, but she was grand, fluent, controlled, and if I bounced a bit in the recovery, well, I’ll just have to keep riding her to get that right, won’t I?

After the last jump, I’d realised that I’d forgotten about my thumb.

This doesn’t mean it’s the end of Rebel and I. There’s be a hella dust up on Tuesday if I tried to literally take her reins, which I respect. But now I’ve got two horses on the go, and I can’t wait to get her again.

Title of this post grace á the Kaiser Chiefs, by the way…

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