The third time I rode this horse the instructor grew worried. The ‘grumpy grandpa’ didn’t tug at the reins, didn’t even bother to theatrically fake-bite me when I tightened the girth before class. He did move out of my way as I tried to climb on – his favourite and most compromising practical joke on new riders like me! But otherwise he didn’t seem quite like his usual, sly self. Even to me.
After class I loosened the girth again and walked him into his stall. He stuck his head in the food bowl and crunched away. I fussed about him shyly, trying to make him comfortable for the night. It was so quiet. I lifted his blanket on him and took some time remembering where all the hooks and straps went. He crunched away. I was high on my post-excercise feel-good hormones and he, by the looks of it, on his oats.
When I was done, I stood at the door and told him goodbye in my own language (my tenderest). He lifted his head out of the food bowl, looked at me and gave my hand a little push, then sighed onto it. I stroked his muzzle very lightly. So quiet! No more crunching even, just a little drizzle falling on the slowly darkening fields outside.
Saturday night. An old school horse. A nervous novice. A yellow lamp in the corner of the stall, about to switch off for the night. Muddy little ponies huddling together under their canopy on the field, ready for darkness to fall.
Lucky little kids fighting dinner in a million kitchens around.
Lucky parents losing their nerves about it and blaming themselves after.
I got into my car and drove home. Hoping he was just in a mellow mood maybe.