THE PLANET, NOT THE HORSE I was looking forward to my lesson today. After a ride out, I always feel a bit sloppy, and was keen to get back up on Reb — whom [who?] I hadn’t ridden since last Thursday, the Big Day. I had a bag full of beauty products for Ruth, to apologise for unthinkingly putting her forward of the lens as well, and thought we might have a laugh about it all.

I got to the bus stop in good time. The driver was late. It was raining, the traffic was sluggish, so now I was running late. Got a taxi, got out to the yard, it’s 13.50, just that teensy whit late, but I get it together and head for the barn. I’ve got the tacking down pat, but I do hate to rush… Bloody messenger planet anyway, moving backwards through space and screwing with my schedule…

I pick my way around the farriers, now a seemingly permanent fixture on Thursdays, and I look up, and it’s not Rebel’s head over the stable door.

‘Who are you!?’ I demand. The gray in residence blinks at me, and looks away.

I stride down the aisle, looking in all the boxes. Not there.

I rush into the back section of the barn, where the polocrosse ponies live. Not there. He must be with the other lesson horses in the other section of the barn, and I edge around the farriers and out the door.

Not there. I check the lean to, though of course he’s not going to be with the ponies, for crying out loud—

I march up the hill to check the top field. March back down to check the bottom field, check the livery line although I know that’s as likely as the lean to, wander with intent behind the office building where I discover sixteen more stables — but no Rebel.

I ask a groom. He doesn’t speak English, much. I go down to another, lower field. Not there.

I rush up to the dude who I think is the head groom.

‘Where’s Rebel?’ I ask, on a razor’s edge of politeness versus panic.

‘Gone,’ he replies.

‘Gone? Where? Gone where?’ I’m rather breathless.

He laughs, struggling with his English. I smile, as if that would help.

‘On… holiday?’ he offers.

‘Holiday. He’s on a break.’ I nod.

‘He’s on a break.’ The groom smiles, and walks away.

Right. Okay. Right.

It’s 14.11. It’s raining. I stand in the door way of the office. In all my rushing around I think I may have missed Ruth.

14.26. Still standing in the doorway. Fiona walks by, there’s no one in the office, I wonder if maybe my lesson got put back, maybe, or something.

Fiona takes my lesson, Ruth is off sick, and it’s 14.45, and at least I’m getting my lesson — I had a mad thought at about 14.15 of just tacking up Ruby and taking her out, which most certainly would have been my last act as a rider at the centre — and I had a good lesson and figure out that I jammed my thumb last week because I’m doing things wrong with my hands, and I get the 63 back into town, and it hits me that Rebel’s off, Rebel’s on holiday, a holiday he surely deserved last October when he was extraordinarily stroppy, but he’d been so much better, so therefore psychologically that seems a better move, send him off for a couple weeks when he’s feeling pretty well and he’ll come back better—

Will it just be a couple of weeks, though? Tango went off, and came back, so there’s no reason that Rebel won’t. I looked out the window of the bus, it’s glazed with rain, and I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.

Just gone, no warning, and this is the life of a rider of lesson horses, and I don’t like it. It’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, I can ride Ruby, and probably go back to Delilah on Tuesdays and… it’ll be fine.

But, dammit, I’m sad. This sort of shock calls for single malt, couple of cigarettes, and a bubble bath. A dash of detachment, a jot of perspective, and it’ll be fine. He’ll be back, and I’ll be giving out about him all over again. It’ll be fine

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