I lifted my foot and placed in the stirrup, and started to lift myself onto Amigo’s back.

No go.

I had explained all about the injury to the girls before the lesson. One of them rides on Tuesdays now, and I had texted her to tell her to tell our instructor that I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t make it on Thursday, either.

I thought I was going to make it yesterday.

Oh! The sunshine! The heat! Sunshine and heat, simultaneously, in Ireland! There’s nothing like it! And to be on horseback in such weather! You live for days like this!

As my instructor came over to grab the offside stirrup, I told her that I was going to take it easy, see how I got on… except I didn’t even get on. I felt the pull, the ache, and lowered myself back down to the ground.

‘No?’ She leaned around Amigo.

‘Nope,’ I replied, and we pulled up the stirrups, and I brought Amigo back up to the barn.

He took it with aplomb, with no noticeable glee. It was a hot day, and he suddenly had the gift of an hour in his cool stable. I limped back out and joined the lesson anyway, from the unfamiliar position of the ground.

It was torture. Absolute torture. I watched the lesson go on, and watched the faces turn from pale to puce, and wanted so badly to be up there. There were two jumps roughly at X and the jumping was in a figure of eight, with hitting corners and lead changes a large part of the exercise, and I wanted so badly to up there, doing it. I watched my lesson mates canter up, over, straight, around, and knew that I could do it, knew that I looked like that, riding a horse over the jumps and around the corners. I knew how to do that, and I could do it, and would do it again…

I consoled myself by chatting with our instructor, and fetching water up for the girls, and talking to the horses as they stood, blowing in the heat. My newly aggravated muscle did not pain me as much as this … thwartedness. But I am taking the long view, and as one of the teens said, ‘You don’t want to do permanent damage.’

No, because even being there, for two hours — the girl I get my lift from stayed for another hour and rode Tango — and being around the horses, and being in the place, is good, but not all the good that there is. I have never, ever felt like this about any fitness programme I’ve done, and I know, now, if there had ever been any doubt, that this is the way I keep myself going, body and soul.

Even being able to cuddle a docile Tango — well, that was something. Done in by the heat, and by his rider, who refused to take any of his guff, the dude had worked hard, and having worked so hard was quiet, and actually sought some strokes to his big, chestnut face. He even moved in to lean, a little, poor sausage. It was something, but not enough. Not when the weather promises to be going strong for the next several days…

And this scuppers my great dressage debut. Dammit! I was all ready to go! Ah, well. That’s horses, I reckon.

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