It was the day of my weekly lesson at Oak Farm Stables. I had been riding there for over a year and knew everyone in my lesson – we were the Thursday Night Riders! None of us had any premonition that we were going to get the worst news possible once our lesson had finished. And it was such a great lesson, too – Katrina and I were brilliant at pairs jumping. She was on her fave pony, Rupert, and I had the best pony in the world, 14.2hh chestnut Whisper, who I always dreamed my parents would buy one day.
‘I have some sad news,’ said our instructress, Jane, as we loosened our girths. ‘Oak Farm is closing down. Next week’s lesson will be our very last one together.’
Talk about shock! Katrina burst into tears and I don’t know how I stopped myself from crying, too. I felt numb as I stroked Whisper. What would happen to the ponies? Where would all the Thursday Night Riders go to ride now?
It all happened so fast
The woman who owned Oak Farm was getting married and giving up the riding school – regular pupils had dwindled and she couldn’t make it pay. By the next Thursday lesson, some of the ponies had already gone to new homes. I had spent a whole week begging my parents to buy Whisper but deep down I knew it was hopeless. We could never afford a pony and I knew I was destined to see my darling Whisper sold to someone who didn’t love her as much as I did. I thought my heart was breaking.
‘We’ll find you another riding school, love,’ my mum said, knowing how upset I was.
‘But Whisper won’t be there, and I don’t know whether all the old gang will be able to move, either. It just won’t be the same!’ How could I make anyone understand?
At least I could ride Whisper for one last time on our lesson. Katrina couldn’t face it – Rupert had gone to live at a local DIY livery yard with one of the more experienced pupils, a girl called Darcy whose parents were quite well off. For the last time I ran my fingers through Whisper’s soft mane and told her that no matter what happened, I would always love her. I know she understood.
After the lesson I ran to my mum’s car, bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t help it. It all seemed so harsh!
Mum, bless her, tried to cheer me up with the promise of a trip to our favourite pizza place, but I didn’t feel like eating. I just couldn’t believe I was never going to see Whisper, the gang and everyone else at Oak Farm ever again. I told Mum my life was over and that I never wanted to ride again.
‘Don’t say that, Ali,’ Mum said. ‘See how you feel when we’ve found somewhere else to ride. If you’re still determined to give up riding in six months then we’ll find another hobby for you to enjoy.’
True to her word, Mum found another riding school. The Limes is posher than Oak Farm, and the lessons are really good, but I still missed Whisper. I made friends with some other girls on my Tuesday lessons, and Sharon, who was one of our old gang, started riding there too. I rode lots of different ponies but none came close to being such a perfect pony as Whisper had been. She had been so special – and I never found out who had bought her. I didn’t want to know. Six months passed and I realised I didn’t want to give up riding. I loved it too much, even without Whisper.
One Tuesday night I led the pony I had been allocated to ride to the indoor school. Then I saw something that made my heart stop before thudding loudly in my chest. I couldn’t believe it – could it really be true? There, in the school, being ridden by one of the pupils, was Whisper – my Whisper! You’re not supposed to talk loudly around horses but I heard someone scream and realised it was me!
I know Whisper recognised me, too. I explained to our instructress, Paula, about Whisper being my favourite pony at Oak Farm, and she said that the Limes had just bought her from a girl who had lost interest in riding.
Now I ride Whisper again in my lessons. It’s just like old times and I’m so glad I didn’t give up riding after all!