When I first started riding at Pine Lodge Stables, I was super-nervous, as the pony I rode at my last riding school had thrown me off out hacking. As a result, I was terrified of riding in the open. Then I met Strider, and everything changed.
Getting to know him
It took a while to build my confidence up, so for the first few weeks I just spent time with him on the ground – grooming him until he sparkled and giving him scratches and cuddles. Before long, he would whinny every time I turned up at the stables.
Eventually I built up the courage to book a lesson on Strider. I was so nervous as Mum drove me to the yard. “Breathe, Emily, you’ll be fine,” she smiled at me reassuringly, “you and Strider have such a lovely bond, you know he wouldn’t do anything to hurt you”.
Our first ride
I tacked up nervously and led him over to the mounting block. Pippa, my instructor, held onto Strider’s reins and smiled up at me. I took a deep breath, put my foot in the stirrup, and swung my leg over.
As soon as I sat in the saddle, I couldn’t help but smile. I’d missed riding so much but just hadn’t realised it! I patted Strider’s neck and instantly felt relaxed. What had I been worried about?! He was the best pony in the world!
I had a brilliant lesson on him, and in a few months we were even jumping and going out on hacks. I was having the best time, and it was all thanks to Strider!
Too good to be true
One Tuesday, as I jumped out of the car, excited for my lesson, I knew something was wrong. Everyone on the yard went quiet as Pippa approached me.
“Come and sit down, Emily,” she said as she guided me into the tack room. “Pine Lodge has been sold – the owner’s moving abroad. And all the ponies are up for sale.”
My heart skipped a beat – this couldn’t be happening, could it? I’d had the most amazing year with Strider, and it couldn’t all just stop now. I ran into his stable and buried my face into his mane for what felt like forever. I was devastated. I knew my parents couldn’t afford a pony. I’d been asking for one for my birthday for the past three years without any success. But I couldn’t face the idea that another girl would get to love Strider and I didn’t think I could possibly have the same bond with another pony.
When I finally emerged from Strider’s stable, I saw my parents speaking to Pippa. That’s odd, I thought, Dad doesn’t usually come to the yard and he always moans that I smell of horse when I get home, but I was too upset to think about it. We spent the car journey home in silence and as soon as we arrived, I ran up to my room – I just wanted to be alone.
I checked my phone. My background picture was me and Strider. “Happy birthday for tomorrow, Em!” a text from my best friend at school, Carrie, read. I ignored it and got into my pyjamas – this was going to be the worst birthday ever.
I was woken up by my parents knocking on my door. “Happy birthday, Emily!” they exclaimed as they burst in. “Thanks,” I muttered, unable to look excited. Mum managed to persuade me to get dressed with a promise of a trip to the yard – I was desperate to take every last opportunity to see Strider.
We pulled up and I grabbed a half-opened bag of carrots out the car. I walked around the corner to Strider’s stable and stopped in my tracks. I dropped the carrots as my hand flew to my mouth, scattering them everywhere.
Right there, in his stable, was Strider. On his door was a giant bow and bunting that read “happy birthday!”
The best surprise
I still can’t get my head around how it happened. It turned out that Pippa had approached my parents and explained the situation long before telling me about the sale. Somehow they’d found a way to make it work and bought Strider, keeping it a secret the whole time!
We keep him at a DIY livery yard at the end of my road now. I work a Saturday job to help cover the costs and I’m up at 6am, come rain or shine, to muck out and feed him. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m the happiest girl in the world, and Strider is completely worth it. We’ve even entered for our very first competition – I can’t wait to see what the future holds!