My first instructor, Sally, was brilliant. I started off having a lesson a week but with Sally’s encouragement I was soon helping out at the yard for rides. I’d spend the whole weekend there hanging out with the ponies, helping with the stable chores and leading the beginners around in the school.
My riding went from pretty rubbish to pretty good. Sally started letting me ride the more difficult ponies in the lessons and although I spent a lot of time of the floor, I soon managed to master sticking on. One particular riding school pony, Gremlin, was taken out of lessons because none of the riders could keep him under control, but Sally let me ride him. Week after week he got better and I was allowed to care for him as if he was mine.
One day Sally came to talk to me. She told me she was leaving because she was getting married in a few weeks and moving to a new village, and that we had a new instructor called Josie coming the next weekend. I was sad but happy for her. Getting married – so exciting! I was even invited to the wedding!
So the next week when I arrived at the yard I wasn’t worried. I didn’t see anyone around so I headed straight for Gremlin’s stable to give him a groom. That’s when it started. I was about half-way through when an unfamiliar woman appeared at the stable door. She ordered me out of the box and demanded to know what I was doing wandering around without permission, touching her horses. Her horses? Can you believe it? Gremlin didn’t even know who she was. Turns out she was my new instructor, worst luck.
Once she realised who I was, she didn’t even apologise, just gave me a huge list of yard chores and then stormed off. I only just finished sorting out the muck heap by lesson time. Quickly tacking up half-groomed Gremlin I headed for the school, only to be sent out again by Josie who claimed we weren’t neat enough to take part. I had to watch the lesson from the bench at the edge of the school and I couldn’t help but notice that Simpson, the massive piebald cob, was covered in stable stains. She was discriminating against me.
It wasn’t fair
Things didn’t get better. The next weekend I persuaded my mum to take me to the yard an hour early. I groomed Gremlin until he shone and cleaned his tack for good measure. Then I started Josie’s long list of stable chores, I wasn’t going to be excluded this time. We rode into the school five minutes early and Josie said nothing.
It went fine for about 20 minutes, just like a normal lesson and I was really starting to enjoy myself. Then a girl I didn’t really know, riding Sampson, came up behind Gremlin too quickly and he kicked out. It was nothing really. Just a little warning kick, but Josie went nuts. Screaming at me she said that Gremlin was dangerous and that he was banned from the riding school. She also said that I was irresponsible, a terrible rider and the worst help on the yard.
I felt my eyes welling up, but I wasn’t going to cry in front of her, so I headed for the gate. As I went to open it, Josie stormed up and said that I could expect to pay for lessons from now on and that she expected to be paid for this one. She finished by telling me that she didn’t want me on the yard. The next week Gremlin wasn’t in his stable and I was given Ginger to ride. She rodeoed around the arena when we started some polework then dumped me at the far end. I burst into tears and Josie told me I was a cry baby. When I got in the car to go home I told my mum I didn’t want to ride any more. I’d had enough.
On Sunday we went to Sally’s wedding. After the ceremony, Sally came over to chat to me. She asked about Gremlin and I burst into tears and spilled all – I couldn’t help it! It was the best thing I could have done, because the next week she was back. Apparently some other people had complained about Josie so the owner had asked her to leave and Sally to come back. Sally said that the horses and her students were so important to her she didn’t mind travelling to work for us. I hope I’m like Sally when I’m older – she’s amazing!