JULY, 2007 I try another stable for a private lesson.

I feel like I’m having an affair.

‘Pluto’ [names changed to protect the innocent and stubborn] is a strong, well-built cob. He had been taken in from the field directly into the lesson.

Yeah, good idea.

He takes a moment at M, every time we pass, to call for his friend.

He won’t listen to my [much improved] request for the canter.

The instructor waves a lunging whip at him.

I am distracted by the whip, and he leaps to the left, and I slide off right.

‘What? You fell?’ The instructor… well, she doesn’t laugh outright, she chokes it back, she is incredulous.

You lashed the fecking whip at him, I think. ‘Yeah, well,’ I say.

I’ve landed in a damp patch on the ground. It’s an aromatic bus ride home.

A couple weeks later, same yard, same horse, group lesson, outside. A different instructor is busily chatting with some of her colleagues. I am once again trying to get Pluto to canter for me. We come around the C end and he’s motorbiking it, cutting it sharp, sharper, sharpest and I’m leaning on the outside stirrup, I am off effing balance, I feel the saddle slip and slip, I can’t get back up, and I’m down. Softly onto the sand, and right back up.

No biggie. Except that the instructor comes over, shaking her head, gesturing at the saddle, now completely over on Pluto’s off side.

‘See that?’ She stands and looks at it. The ride has stopped, and are staring.

‘Yeah.’ Cow. No shit. I see it. Cow.

She lectures me as she undoes the girth, rights the saddle, I’m so pissed off I practically leap off the ground, get back up.

I am beneath her notice until we start to jump. She puts it up a straight, 60cms. ‘Pluto, you don’t have to do this—’

‘I can.’ We trot, he still won’t bloody canter, not ‘til we’re strides away from the jump, but I take it perfectly.

So there. Pulled out of the ignominy of my fourth and fifth falls.