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My confidence crisis

Emma loves galloping around the countryside on her loan pony, Smokey, but her love of speed means she struggles to find a hacking partner. Will new girl, Tillie, and her pony, Charlie, be able to keep up?

I felt a flutter of butterflies in my tummy. I was getting ready to go hacking and do what Smokey and I love best – gallop! I’d had Smokey on loan for two years. At 13.2hh, her fast pony strides meant we had loads of fun zooming about. I tacked up Smokey, mounted and trotted off down the lane towards the bridleway. As soon as we hit the sandy track, we were off! I felt a surge of adrenalin as we wound through the paths and I laughed out loud as we reached an open field and Smokey kicked up a gear into a flat-out gallop.

The new girl

After an hour, I rode back to the yard on a long rein. When I arrived, I noticed an unfamiliar horsebox parked in the yard. My friend, Annabel, was leaning on the gate, watching. “Hey, Annabel. What’s going on?” I asked.

“A new livery’s just arrived. Apparently her name’s Tillie.” Annabel said. “Oooh exciting! Maybe she’ll actually be fun and come out hacking with me?” I joked. Annabel refused to hack with me because she said going fast wound up her pony, Cluedo. “Pfffft, yeah, if her idea of fun is going 100mph everywhere!” Annabel scoffed.

Too-tame Tillie

The next morning, I approached Tillie as she groomed her pony. “Hey, you’re Tillie, right? I’m Emma,” I introduced myself. “Oh, hi,” Tillie said shyly. “Yes, I’m Tillie and this is Charlie.”
“He’s lovely! Are you riding today? I’m going out for a hack now if you fancy it?” I asked her. “It’d be nice to have someone to ride with. I’ll tack up now.” Tillie smiled and seemed keen.

We met in the yard and mounted. “Let’s go!” I said, excited to have a hacking partner – finally! As we reached the bridleway, I realised I might not have found the hacking buddy I wanted. Tillie was perched forwards on Charlie’s neck, with her reins tight and her shoulders tense. “Are you okay, Tillie? How about we loosen the ponies up with a canter?” I was getting bored.

“Actually, Emma, can we go back? Charlie feels really strong.” Tillie looked like she might cry, so I hid my annoyance and we turned around. “Sure, no problem,” I muttered, wondring how could anyone could be so worried about having a canter.

“So, how was your hack with Tillie?” Annabel questioned me in the tack room later on. “Urgh, boring!” I told her. “We barely got out of the yard.”

“At least you’re getting your new horse soon so you won’t be bored any more!” Annabel smiled. “Hmmm,” I mumbled back. I’d been trying to forget that my gorgeous Smokey was going back to her owners. As much as I loved her, I couldn’t ignore the fact I was too big for her now. I’d agreed with her owners to swap her with a bigger horse, a beautiful bay called Smartie, who was arriving next week.

New pony, new problems

A couple of days after Smartie arrived, I couldn’t wait any longer to go for a hack. He was a lot bigger than Smokey and I was surprised to feel nervous butterflies, rather than excited ones, as I mounted. As I trotted down the road, I began to relax. Smartie’s paces were amazing and I couldn’t wait to canter. We reached the open field, but as I pushed Smartie on, he leapt forward and shook his head.

“Woah, Smartie!” I said, trying to sound calm. I squeezed my reins, but Smartie bucked, sending me forward onto his neck. “No!” I whimpered. Panic flooded through me, but Smartie just squealed and plunged up and down. By now, my confidence was shattered. I fought back the urge to get off as tears rolled down my face. With shaking hands and wobbly legs, I steered Smartie towards home.

An unlikely friend

Back at the yard, I bumped into Tillie. “Hey! How was your hack?” Tillie asked. “Yeah, fine,” I croaked, holding in tears. Tillie looked shocked. “Did something happen?”
I burst into tears again. “Smartie is so much stronger than Smokey. As soon as we cantered, I felt totally out of control. I feel so scared of him,” I sniffed, “I think I might have to send him back.”

“Don’t be silly!” Tillie consoled. “You just need to get used to him. Let’s hack out tomorrow, we’ll just go slowly.” “Okay,” I nodded, sheepishly. “That sounds good.”

 

A lesson learnt

I go hacking with Tillie all the time now, and Smartie and I are getting on really well. We’re still just trotting out hacking, but we’re cantering in the school now. Tillie has made me see that keeping Smartie and Charlie calm and getting to know them is the most important thing and, this way, we can all enjoy hacking – even if it’s a bit slower than I’m used to!

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