New year, new me

Alice was determined to make some friends at her new riding school. But would she go about it the right way?

Pony jumping cross-pole

I’d been thinking a lot about my New Year’s resolutions over the Christmas holidays. We’d just moved house and I was going to be starting at a new riding school. I hadn’t had many friends at my last riding school – there was a clique of cool girls, and I never seemed to fit in.

This year, I was sure, would be different. The people at the new riding school had no idea about my past, so I was determined to reinvent myself. I’d have loads of friends and get to ride the best ponies. What could go wrong?

The first day

“You can pick me up at 2pm!” I told Mum as I rushed to get out of the car and onto the yard, determined that my plan to impress the other riders would work. I strode towards the riding school’s office and opened the door. “Hello, I’m Alice. We spoke on the phone a couple of days ago – I’m here for the 11am lesson,” I announced to the lady at the desk.

“That’s right. Hi, I’m Jo, I’m an instructor here,” she replied, smiling warmly at me. “I’ve put you down to ride Jester in the 80cm jumping lesson – you said that’s the level you’d been riding at before?”

“Erm, yup, that’s correct,” I gulped. I’d only jumped 70cm at my last riding school, but all the popular girls had jumped bigger than me. What difference could 10 measly centimetres make, anyway?

Making friends

The two other riders in my lesson were chatting on the yard as they groomed their riding school ponies. “I hope Toffee looks after me today, Peter. This is my first time in the bigger lesson,” a long-haired girl was saying to an older boy, biting her nails nervously. “Don’t worry, Sarah. You’ve ridden Toffee for a whole year now, and Jo wouldn’t have moved you up a level if she didn’t think you were ready,” the boy said reassuringly.

“Hi guys, I’m Alice!” I said as confidently as I could as I approached them, “I can’t wait for our lesson today, I hope Jester jumps as big as my old loan pony, Sherbert!” Although I knew I shouldn’t lie, I couldn’t help myself as I went on to tell them all about the fictional Sherbert and how we’d won loads of showjumping rosettes.

“You must be really good then,” Peter said, although he looked rather suspicious. “Yeah, maybe you can teach me some tricks!” Sarah added. I smiled. What had I been worried about? I could pull this off!

The lesson begins

I patted Jester nervously as we landed from a small warm-up fence. He had a much bigger stride than I was used to, but I didn’t want to say anything.

“Right, now you’re all warmed up we can start riding a short course of three fences. I’ll put them at 75cm, so they’re only small, and I want you to really think about your line between each fence,” Jo explained.

“I’ll go first!” I announced. This was my chance to prove myself. We jumped the first fence well and I relaxed – this might work out okay after all! But, as we approached the second, I suddenly realised we were going too fast and Jester took a giant leap over. I tipped forwards, but just about managed to cling on as we landed.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as we approached the last fence, and Jester slid to a stop. Still unbalanced, I went flying over his neck and landed in a heap on the floor in front of the others.

The truth comes out

I couldn’t help it, my eyes started watering as I got to my feet. I hadn’t hurt anything – well, except my new reputation. Jo, Peter and Sarah were all staring at me as I tearfully blurted out the truth – how I’d never had a loan pony and that I’d never jumped higher than 70cm.

“Why on earth would you make all that up?” asked Jo, bewildered. “I never had any friends at my last riding school and I wanted to prove myself here,” I sniffed, feeling rather sorry for myself.

Never again

In the end, I realised just how silly I’d been. Jo was really kind about it and told me to come again the next day and join in a different lesson. She wanted me to stay riding Jester, though, as she said we had potential together – I’ve now started part-sharing him!

Sarah’s become one of my closest friends and we talk about everything together. Peter took a bit longer to come round but, after I’d apologised for the thousandth time, he started to forgive me. We’re planning a winter ride over the holidays and I can’t wait. I’ve learnt it really is always best to just be yourself – lying didn’t help me get friends, but telling the truth did!

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December 2019

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