In which I allow someone to ride Aero…

Aero is precious to me.  I was there when he slid out of his mother and I hope to be there when he draws his last breath.  He has been a true and loyal friend to us all his life, doing everything we asked of him willingly and with a smile on his face (well, happy ears, anyway).  I am VERY VERY fussy about who I will allow on his back.

They must be lightweight.

They must be capable riders.  He is extremely well-behaved, but he’s also extremely bouncy when he trots.  Anyone who can’t stay balanced on him is going to spiral into an ever-increasing circle of tension and bounciness.  I am NOT going to have someone bouncing all over his ageing back.

They must accept that he’s not going to have a bit in his mouth.  I’ve made him a promise, you see.  He had been trying to tell us for years that he doesn’t like bits.  This was the only naughty thing he ever consistently did – clamped his mouth shut when the bridle approached his head.  Once I started riding him in a halter, I could feel the relief in him – and a developing confidence that I would listen to him and heed his opinions on certain subjects.

A friend spoke to me ages ago about a horsey Englishwoman who had a house in Reillanne.  “I think she does racing, or something like that,” she told me.  Ah, the non-horsey friend.  So cute.   “Endurance riding?” I suggested.  “Yes, that’s probably it.  Something like that anyway.  I must introduce you.”

Several months later, she invited us both to a dinner party at her house, where I met l’Anglaise for the first time.  We got into horse-talk straight away and blabbered away for the evening.  As you do, when you meet a fellow horse nut.

It turns out that she’s not an endurance rider.  She’s done eventing, dressage and retrained racehorses (maybe that’s where the “does racing” notion came from?).  She was keen to come up and meet my guys, see the farm and meet Alexandrine and her family, but she wasn’t pushing to ride.

She came up a couple of times, helped me with feeding and stable duties, watched while Aero and Flurry did some of their Equifeel stuff.  She has two horses in the UK and is thinking about bringing them down here, so she was really happy to see how my guys have adapted.  She was also curious about the trails for riding.  The easiest thing to do was take her out for a hack, but…

Normally, I put ‘visiting riders’ on Flurry.  He’s wide and comfortable, and usually 100% laid back.  But it’s acorn season right now, and he’s not dependable.  Too much energy.  L’Anglaise is a wee bit older than me, and Aero would be the safer of the two.  But what about my strict criteria?

L’Anglaise is petite and slight.  Definitely not too heavy for Aero.  Having talked to her extensively about her horse experience, I was pretty sure she wasn’t bluffing.  We’ve all met them – “Oh yes, of course I can ride.  Any horse, any speed, any terrain.”  And it turns out they’ve done a week’s trekking in Connemara on a safe-as-houses armchair cob. I came to the conclusion that l’Anglaise is not one of those.

The third criteria – no bit – did not phase her at all.

So l’Anglaise became just the fourth person to ride Aero since he arrived here five years ago.  The others are Alexandrine (once), Tansy and me.

To be honest, I think he’s a bit too placid for her…

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