Saturday, 16 January 2016
in parting company with her horses. Frances just does it rather more frequently and with more spectacular consequences than I have ever achieved.
Somewhere around half a century ago I took myself off to Grasmere in the English Lake District one beautiful weekend. I was staying at The Swan Inn which was an old coaching inn built in the 1600s. The principal purpose of my visit was to get some 'pony tracking' in. Having had a bit of riding experience I was given a splendid chestnut called Churchill. I was warned that he had a habit of galloping whenever he got the chance and that prior to taking off he always thrust his head forward.
After several outings when Churchill and I got along very well we went from Grasmere over the side of Helvellyn and down into Grisedale. All went well until the return journey when I was riding down the side of Helvellyn along a ridge. Now you have to be an infinitely more competent horseman that I was ever likely to be to gallop downhill. I was nice and relaxed when Churchill decided that he was going to put my skills to the test. I still had a very firm hold on the reins so when Churchill stuck his neck forward I was yanked right out of the saddle onto his neck. Churchill lost his balance and I fell off. Unfortunately there was nothing for me to land on and I went straight over the side of the ridge.
I hadn't gone very far when bracken broke my fall and I came to a halt. Gathering myself together I climbed back up the hill to the path where Churchill had returned to wait for me. It was then, when trying to re-mount that I realised that I din't have the use of my right arm: the collar bone was broken.
We walked down to the stables and I had to go in and tell them that I couldn't attend to the saddle and the horse and, by the way, where was the doctor's surgery? "You'll find the Doc in the lounge bar of the Grasmere Hotel. He'll be the one drinking Tio Pepe." So there I went and introduced myself and my useless arm. When he asked me what I'd like to drink I had the foresight to ask for Tio Pepe thus ensuring his full attention.
So there in the lounge bar full of people he proceeded to strip off my shirt, examine me for any other injuries and put my arm in a sling. After the drinks were finished he drove me back to the Swan where the full enormity of my plight struck me: it is impossible to get leather riding boots off with one arm. So having had assistance with that from the Head Waiter when it came to dinner he also cut up my food!
Then, thankful that it was a weekend, I had to ask my Dad to get a bus up to Grasmere and drive the car and I home.
Although I did ride again just to ensure that I hadn't lost my nerve that was, in effect, the end of my riding ambitions.