It all started when I went to catch my pony, Smurf, one day. It had recently got light enough to ride after school, which I’d been making the most of. “C’mon boy!” I called. Smurf usually trotted over to me, hoping for a treat. But instead, he lifted his head from his grazing spot, then carried on. “Hmmm,” I thought, calling him again. “Smurf! Come on!” but nothing. So I traipsed across the field to get him.
Smurf followed me, lazily. I wondered if maybe he was a bit tired since I’d been riding him every day, so I decided to give him an extra day off a week until his fitness improved.
A few days later, when I was tacking up, I went to pull my stirrups down and noticed they seemed longer than normal. I counted the number of holes the buckle was fastened on from the bottom of the leather. Six holes. I always ride nine holes from the bottom. I frowned. After being puzzled for a second, I decided I must have done the buckles up on the wrong holes after I’d cleaned my tack. Thinking nothing more of it, I mounted Smurf and went for a hack.
Later the same day, I was mixing Smurf’s dinner when I noticed a grubby wooden spoon had been left in one of his buckets. I knew it wasn’t mine, because I used a plastic one. “Weird,” I mumbled, as I moved the old spoon.
I’d agreed to ride with my friend, Jasmine, the next morning. She came to chat to me as I tacked up Smurf. “Oh, you might want to give Smurf’s bit a soak, Polly,” she said, “it’s caked.” “What?!” I said in surprise. I was really fussy about keeping Smurf’s bit clean but, sure enough, it was dirty. I stared at it with a puzzled expression.
“Are you okay, Polly?” Jasmine asked. I looked up. “Not really,” I said, as I began to panic, “I think someone’s been riding my pony.”
I explained to Jasmine all the strange things that had been happening – Smurf’s reluctance to come in to be ridden, my stirrups the wrong length, the mysterious spoon and now the dirty bit. “That is weird,” Jasmine agreed. “Now I think about it, I think I’ve seen Zoe using a wooden spoon to mix feeds…” Zoe was another girl at the yard whose pony, Ronnie, was on box rest.
“Really?” I asked, with a million thoughts rushing through my brain. How? Where? Why? “She comes up early every morning to check on Ronnie. Maybe she’s been riding Smurf when no one else is here?” Jasmine said, excited at the prospect of a scandal. “Let’s come up early tomorrow and see!”
The truth comes out
Jasmine and I arrived at the yard at 6am, snuck into Jasmine’s pony’s stable and waited. Soon after, Zoe arrived. We watched as she fed and groomed Ronnie and mucked out his stable. When she finished, she gave him a pat an headed back towards her bike. “Urgh, nothing.” Jasmine said, disappointed. “Let’s come back tomorrow,” I said, “I know something’s going on.”
The next day, we got to the yard early again. Zoe arrived shortly after us, fed Ronnie, quickly glanced around the yard then disappeared into the tack room. “Look!” I whispered. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Zoe had got my tack, let herself into Smurf’s stable and begun to tack him up! Jasmine and I stared at each other in disbelief.
“Right,” I said. “That’s it.” I got up and marched across the yard. “Zoe!” I shrieked. “What do you think you’re doing?” “Oh, erm, I… erm…” She stuttered and looked as though she might cry. I felt bad, but I had to know what was going on. “Have you been riding my pony?” I said, angrily.
“Yes,” Zoe sobbed. “I’m sorry. It’s just I miss riding so much now Ronnie’s on box rest. And Smurf is so cool.” I was furious, but couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for Zoe. She rushed out of Smurf’s stable, looking embarrassed, and hurried across the yard to her bike.
A lesson learnt
I made up with Zoe, even though I’d been so cross with her riding Smurf without my permission. I figured that she wasn’t being nasty, she was just sad she couldn’t ride her pony. I agreed that she could ride Smurf occasionally until Ronnie gets better – but only with my permission!