Shaking, I turned my pony, Henry, up the centre line. “Look for your marker, Isla, get your act together!” bellowed my instructor, Fran, from her favourite perch on the arena fence. I turned my head and tried to scan the other side of the arena for the C marker, but the tears that were filling my eyes meant it was all a blur. I rode as straight as I could and asked Henry to stop at the point I hoped was X.
“Are you on X?” Fran called. I hesitated. I didn’t know. I couldn’t see properly through the huge tears that were threatening to leave my eyes at any second. “ARE YOU ON X?” Fran yelled, louder than I had ever heard her yell before. Tears streamed down my face and splashed onto Henry’s neck.
“Oh not this again, you don’t get extra marks in a dressage test for crying, you know?” Fran rolled her eyes. “Right, well, I suppose we’ve done enough for today. Just walk Henry round.” Fran smirked as she hopped down from the fence. Just as I thought she was leaving and relief started to creep in, she turned and said, “You let that pony down.” Her words caused a surge of new tears. “I’m so sorry, Henry,” I whispered, as Fran’s words bounced around in my head.
Does Mum know best?
That evening at the dinner table, Mum questioned me excitedly about the lesson. “So… did you and Henry learn lots? You really are lucky to have such a good instructor, Isla.”
“Hmmm”, I agreed half-heartedly, wondering how anyone could think Fran was a good instructor. “I’ve gone ahead and booked you another lesson for next Friday,” Mum continued. My heart dropped and panic rushed through me. “What?” I squeaked.
“Another lesson next week,” Mum said softly, puzzled by my sudden alarm. “But… but… I don’t want another lesson!” I couldn’t think straight. All I knew was that I couldn’t go through another lesson with Fran. “Why not?” Mum questioned.
I didn’t know what to say. There were too many thoughts rushing around my head. “Fran coaches some great riders,” Mum continued. “It’ll be good for you and Henry.” I gawked for a minute, then stared back at my dinner and accepted my fate: next Friday, me, Henry and an hour with Fran.
Friday morning dawned. As soon as I opened my eyes, my heart started racing. I cycled to the yard and started getting Henry ready. I hardly had the strength to do up my girth I was so nervous. I warmed up and soon heard Fran’s familiar bark, “Don’t just dawdle like that! Push him on!”
After a few minutes of trot work, I felt a lump start to rise in my throat as Fran yelled at me for riding a serpentine loop too shallow. Just as I was about to let my emotions take over, I saw Mum’s car pull up. She got out and walked up to the arena, but Fran was too busy criticising me to notice.
“Come on, more leg! What have I told you?” Fran’s annoyance increased. My misery must’ve been clear, because the next voice I heard was Mum’s. “Excuse me!” She called, sternly. “Don’t talk to my child like that!” Relief overwhelmed me as Fran span round and stared at Mum. They spoke in low voices for a few seconds while I dabbed away my tears.
“Isla, take Henry out for a short hack to cool him down. This lesson is over,” Mum said, firmly.
No more Fran
I arrived back at the yard and led Henry to his stable. Mum soon appeared. “Isla, why didn’t you tell me Fran was being so hard on you?” “I didn’t want you to be cross,” I said, quietly. Then I explained it all – how Fran had made me cry and told me I wasn’t good enough for Henry, and how scared I’d been before my lessons. “Well, you don’t need to worry anymore. We’ll get you a new instructor.” Mum smiled and gave Henry a pat.
A lesson learnt
I now have lessons with a new instructor who’s lovely and really understanding. Henry and I are doing well and are growing in confidence all the time. I guess some instructors and people just don’t mix. I just found out the hard way.