Our Stories from the Stables series from Carolyn Ward continues with a flea-bitten grey with a shocking attitude.
Topper. I swear that pony could scowl.
It was my week to ride him, and I had just hauled him all the way down to the outdoor school and stood him in the middle to check his girth and stirrups. As I reached under to tighten up the girth he turned his head toward me and eyeballed me, then stepped over with his nearside foreleg; and stamped on my left foot.
I hissed a very rude word and frantically pushed him to move him off. My foot sunk into the woodchip surface with his heavy weight crushing it down. By now he was still looking directly at me, so I started punching his shoulder to try and get him to step off. Today’s teacher was a crosspatch I have no fond memories of; if she had found out about it I’d have been bawled out for having my foot in the wrong place or something.
I shoved and shoved the beggar with all my might, and eventually he shifted his leaning weight onto his other leg. OUCHIE! As he took the weight off my foot seemed to balloon upwards.
I climbed on him like normal though, bravely hiding the tears. (OK, it wasn’t that bad) but as the lesson progressed, I could feel my foot swelling somewhat.
By the end, I kind of hopped with him back up to that yard, and swiftly un-tacked him, calling him names to get my revenge. Then I went home.
It took my mum and my dad half an hour to gently pull off my riding boot. My foot was purple and splotchy. I still have a mark there today!
Remember – watch where you put your feet. And NEVER trust a scowling pony.
I have been bitten a couple of times over the years, but luckily, never ever kicked. A horse or pony usually wears iron horse shoes, and has very strong big legs. You do not want to get kicked by those. Be very careful when in a loose box with a loose horse, if tacking up, for example. Give a wide berth when walking around the back of the animal. Some horses are brilliant in the stable, easy to tack up and well-behaved. Many are not, though, and being kicked can cause severe injury.
Even the most experienced horse workers can be injured; my teacher at the big yard I worked at was messing around in the field with two geldings (one was a skewbald, one a big grey). I think the guy was teasing them with a bucket, anyway, the grey whirled around and kicked out with his back legs, catching him right in the middle of the forehead. Incredibly, the shoes just touched him, and he needed a few stitches rather than suffering a broken skull.
Never mess around near horses, they are fast and powerful.
Flea-bitten grey – another odd coat colour/pattern descriptive term. Flea-bitten means little dots or blotches. Grey can mean any shade from white to dark grey – did you know there is no such thing as a white horse? They are all greys.
Girth – the strap which holds the saddle onto the pony’s back. It runs underneath their tummy. You must tighten it before mounting a horse, and again when you’ve been on top for a couple of minutes. This is because ponies are tricky swines who hold their breath or ‘blow out’ their tummies when having their saddles put on, to ensure their girths are as loose as possible.
Seriously, I’ve seen someone try and get on without tightening the girth – disaster as the saddle slid round underneath the horse and he flipped out. She landed in the mud. It took a couple of stable folk to catch the horse, but he was OK.
More stories from the stables (hopefully less accident prone ones!) coming soon.