…and I know we’re riding out and I just go blehhhhh.

Still not one hundred per cent on the ride out thing… I got Delilah, but she seemed full of beans and I wasn’t feeling the same. Trotting down the lane, something felt funny, something felt insecure, and when we stopped at one stage, Nikki pointed out that the girth was flapping all over the place.

Okay, then, tighten it up, but it was one of those nights when the stirrups didn’t feel right, I kept adjusting them, and Delilah kept wanting to go, and I couldn’t get them right, and did one of my legs stretch longer overnight, or what?

We went for a canter in one of the lower fields: Jack took off, and Delilah belted after him, the two of them, the way they are with each other, for fuck’s sake. Actually, it’s more down to her, she sees him sprint away and she’s like Oh, I don’t think so! and goes flying after him. It was manageable, and I got a smidgen of confidence back, maybe the percentage went up to fifty/fifty.

We jumped, and she was fab, really grand, and so was I, and I must admit that jumping cross country fences can be the absolute business. There’s a jump I call the flowerbed, it’s about thirty centimetres deep, and we flew over it, fantastic. My hands slipped a little again, re-banged the thumb [which is still a little sausage-y, but almost healed] but nothing else strange.

And then we were heading out for the big field.

Nope. Not in the mood that Delilah was in. I spoke up. Could we go last? No, that wasn’t going to work, and in fact would be worse, because if Lady D goes last, she just gets annoyed and tries to catch up the front of the ride, dropping her head down to the ground like she’s mowing the lawn. Will I just skip it? I was ready to skip it. For the first time, I was ready to not do something.

Nikki said, ‘Go get Spike.’ Spike is a big fat cantankerous coloured pony who is often the bane of a lesson. Won’t go. Just won’t.

And that was okay with me, too. I needed to get up that hill somehow without worrying about it, to get up it, and get over it, and Spike seemed like a good enough choice for me. It didn’t matter that I’d never ridden him before. Somehow, it made sense to me, riding an unknown horse. I don’t know why. I suppose I knew enough of him to not be concerned.

Here’s the best part. I trotted away, ahead of the ride, to put Delilah away and fetch Spike. I rode away, on my own, up the road. I rode up to the yard and we stepped through the continuing construction and suddenly I was riding a horse on my own. No one else around. Like a Livery Lady. It was a most excellent trot — as good as the very first one I ever managed. I’d never been on my own on a horse before, and for all of five minutes, I was an independent rider.

And I mounted Spike from the ground! I can remember having to bounce and bounce and bounce on the block to get myself up there, and I bounced twice off the ground and got up there.

Made it to the top. Sitting on Spike was like reposing on a sofa, and he pretty much gave up three quarters of the way. I laughed when we finally got to the top: ‘I learned my lesson!’ I’ll be able to do it next time without too much fuss.

And if not, so what? This is still meant to be fun, after all. And nothing was more fun, right then, as riding away from the rest, on my own, just me and Delilah, just us two, horse and rider.

Five horses — Rebel, Rinaldo, Ruby, Delilah, and Spike — in three days?

Very, very cool.

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