Writing about horses: these boots were made for, er, paddling

Have you ever asked a twitchy horse to walk down a stream without their having been formally introduced? I had, but usually the horse took my word for it and walked on, trusting me.

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“Moi” on Georgie a, er, while ago
when I was a bit slimmer (ahem…)

But when it came to our Georgie? Nope. This 16hh TB mare was otherwise so quiet you could have ridden her down the middle of an Interstate highway in the rush hour and she wouldn’t have turned a hair.

However … running water (or, as TBs also freak out at, small paper bags rustling by the roadside and various other terror triggers) freaked her out beyond all imagination.

Cue a bridleway (trail) in rural England

Eversholt, a small but perfectly formed village in the English county of Bedfordshire, sports an ancient waterway called “The Baulk,” a shallow stream which runs along part of a bridleway from Church End, across The Ridge. That of course reads like utter bullshit to anyone else but essentially it’s a fairly lively stream – especially in the springtime – that forms part of a bridleway/trail in the neighborhood where the lovely Georgie lived, and I hacked her out.

Well, old Georgie and I took a hack down there one day, having not been through The Baulk for a long time and never in the summer when the leaves were on the trees.  As it was a bright sunny day, Suze for once had abandoned the rubber boots in favor of some rather smart, brand new leather jodhpur boots.

That was my first mistake. We wandered down from Church End in the village, having a good look at the cows, rabbits, gardeners and other wildlife en route, and proceeded to the water’s edge.

Yikes! You’re asking me to cross the Mississippi?

We walked on nicely to the edge of the water. Sudden recognition of swirly wet stuff. Sudden raising up on tippy-toes. Sudden sticking of tippy-toes firmly in the mud and no further forwards progress.

I made encouraging clucking noises. Would Georgie have it?  No way.  Although she never would have dreamt of doing anything unseating, Georgie simply would not enter that dark, evil tunnel with water running along the bottom.

Don’t you know that England is crawling in crocodiles?

Leg hard on both sides, shouting of every imaginable obscenity, breaking of twig off tree to smack bottom (didn’t carry a whip unless there were gates to be opened) but nothing worked. Obviously Georgie had read in her favorite newspaper that crocodiles abound in rural Bedfordshire and she wasn’t going to venture forth without the reassurance of her intrepid rider.

Who by an unfortunate coincidence was wearing those brand new, somewhat expensive boots.

As we agonized over this dilemma, my thoughts strayed to the perceptive words of a good friend of mine, a horse riding instructor here in England – a wonderful equestrian who also had the huge challenge of teaching my son to ride (which she did brilliantly).

“You should remember,’ Lucy once said when faced with her own horse’s reluctance to walk past a boogie-man, ‘that a horse will look to you to be the herd leader if you’re in front of it. The trouble is, if you’re sitting on the horse, you’re not in front of it. In fact the horse thinks with some justification that you’re behind it, so it has no leader.”

B*llocks, thought moi with my eye on my watch and the rapidly approaching departure time of our babysitter, and dismounted. This had better work…

I crossed the stirrups over Georgie’s withers and ran the reins over her head. Then I strode forth into the churning white-water which at this point was at least two inches deep.

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How on earth could a respectable TB mare
be expected to tackle a torrent like this
– at least two inches deep?

Sure enough, as I had now become herd leader Georgie obediently and loyally followed me through the “raging torrents” which to her, I assumed, looked like the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Ungraciously I thought only of my brand new leather jodhpur boots as the water seeped through the elasticated sides, squelching through my socks and trickling round my toes.

These boots were not made for wading

We plodded on to the other end, and through gritted teeth I praised Georgie for her extreme bravery.  I found a convenient stile and remounted, the water now cheerfully gurgling inside my jodhpur boots as my toes pressed gently through the stirrup irons.

“Right,” I muttered, as I turned the mare round and faced her once again towards the heaving rapids.  “Good girl!  What a clever girl!” I screamed as I urged her on through again, again, again, again, and again.

We traveled the stream a total of six times in extremely quick succession, by which time Georgie was shouting at me ‘Enough already. I’ve got the picture!'”

From that day onwards, we went through The Baulk many more times with Georgie quite calm, and moi remaining in the saddle with dry feet.  And, I suppose I must be grateful that my dear old Georgie did, after all, look to me to be her own personal herd leader.

Shame about the jod boots though. They were never the same again.

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photo credit: pdam2 via photopin cc

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