It’s a beautiful day – the first after a week of sludgy sleet and bitter-cold winds. But today is perfect. Bright blue skies streaked with marshmallow clouds. You have decided that today is the day for a ride. You love the outdoors and there’s no better way to experience it than from the creaky leather on the back of that dappled grey mare.
The air is fresh when you get to the paddock. A quick look and you determine that the herd must be on the back-fence line. You derive this by flicking the dirt with your riding boot and from the placement of the sun and the alignment of the planets. It’s only a kilometre to walk to the other side. Why not go by foot? The walk will do you good and Stormy could use the stretch out. Okay, face it, you are too lazy to get back in the car and drive around the suburb to get to the other side of the paddock. It will take fifteen minutes.
Twenty minutes later, you have climbed the steep rise and can now see the back fence. The herd is not there.
A four-letter word escapes your lips. “Where are those bloody beasts?” you grumble to the looting magpies in the old gum trees sporadically dotting the paddock.
Turning around, scanning the scenery, you find the herd ensconced in the rocks at the top of the hillock in the middle of the paddock. Why didn’t you look up there before walking by?
There is nothing to be done for it, and you climb the hill to retrieve Stormy. You find the going rough and your riding boots – not made for hiking – slip. You fall against a jagged outcrop and slit the side of your jodhpurs.
Happily, your prideful mount is standing, softly nickering to you; her bright silver coat shining in the sunlight. Relief that the extra time taken to catch her will be made up in grooming time. You quickly fit her halter and head back to the tie-ups.
You knot her rope to the rail and head to your car to grab the saddle, bridle, and a brush. Dumping your gear, you rub the silky fur of her near side. Satisfied, you walk around her to groom the far side. Here is the remnants of the mud-bath she took during the rains. You sigh and begin your demanding work. There is nothing more you can do but pull the clumps of mud from the long fur.
The sun has fallen over the yardarm and those wispy, puffy clouds have taken on a darker hue. As you finally step into the stirrup, you and Stormy are not as well turned out as you had hoped; however, it’s still a decent day for a ride and after the nearly three hours you have put in to get to this point, you will go for a ride today. Determination makes the rider.
The sun is hiding behind those darkening clouds and you do not have a jumper to cover your arms. If the winds don’t pick up, you will be fine. Why? Why, oh why, did you have to think of the winds? The Antarctic bite nips Stormy in the hindquarters and she begins to fizz under you. But you keep riding. Having been in the saddle for less than thirty minutes, you cannot justify the hours of work you have put in.
Stormy begins to tighten under you. She is nervous. You look around but see no monsters. Suddenly, in an explosion of equine power, Stormy dematerialises under you and you find the hard end of a sharpened rock. Catching your breath, you mentally examine your body. All your pieces seem to be working and you climb to your feet to begin the trudge back to the paddock. Each step is agony, not just from the physical pain but from the embarrassment of being left behind by your companion.
You stumble and tread for an hour when the skies darken completely and the first of the icy drops descend.
Stormy is patiently waiting by the gate when you make it back. Removing her tack, you release her into the paddock; back to her herd. She whickers to the others as she leaves you in a cascade of mud and muck. You are almost sure that she is snickering about your time together.
Sodden, cold, injured, dishevelled, you slide into the driver’s seat.
It was the perfect day for a ride.