Joys of Horsemanship
Weekends of carefully planned fun – the term ‘joy weekend’ is often optimistically applied – can be unpredictable affairs. Oh dear yes...
Once, filled with a nostalgia for childhood ponies and leaf-lined country lanes, our Auckland Sri Chinmoy Centre planned a horse riding venture, no experience necessary. And off we went one perfect Sunday morning, out to the West in our convoy of ageing cars to relive again the joys of those halcyon long ago years, the sweet tang of leather, the joys of horsemanship, a gentle steed carrying us through sunlight dappled forest.
But on this particular morning, only halfway through our journey, the intended plot began to unravel. One gentle steed took exception to another gentle steed and without any apparent provocation nipped it suddenly in the rump. The victim reared dramatically up, deposited its inexperienced rider into a large path of Scotch thistles then bolted for home. The nipper, sensing retribution, also decided to head back to the stables with or without the co-operation of its rider, and suddenly the morning was losing its romantic appeal. Caught up in the excitement of this sudden turn of events another hitherto docile mount now surged off the narrow trail and thundered into the trees – only twenty metres into the forest a low branch swept its rider to the ground with a bone-jarring thump.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see a new disciple, Keith, sitting on a white mare like a retired cavalry officer, ramrod straight spine, grasping huge handfuls of mane in a desperate attempt to stay on board. “The reins”, someone yelled, “grab the reins and haul back. Take control!” but Keith’s eyes had glazed over in a panic of disbelief, unresponsive and frozen in the saddle. It was his horse, imagining the customary bucket of oats back at the stables that was now fully in control and turned for home, a grim faced Keith bouncing around like a sack of potatoes on its back as it departed down the trail. Everywhere horses were wheeling, snorting, tossing fractious heads like race start at a derby, anxious to run hard. A melee of riderless horses, people shouting.
Eventually though order was restored and we headed back, dislodged riders dusting themselves off and doubling up on the journey home. Back at the stables Keith was crouched over a consoling cup of tea, several runaway horses calmly cropping grass in a nearby paddock and pretending nothing had really happened. “That was fun”, Keith said miserably. But sadly, we never saw him again.