Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Late Starter

Kevin Winkle began to ride at the surprising age of 46. He always tells his acquaintances in the snug at the Trugg & Gussett: “It was my mid-life crisis. Other chaps buy a Harley Davidson or run away with the receptionist. For me, it was deciding between learning to tap dance and riding a horse”.

Even in implementing a quixotic gesture, Kevin was methodical. Having decided to ride, he immediately organised an assessment and then a lesson each Saturday morning at his local riding school.

Bunty Pargeter put him on a serene and thoughtful cob called, with uncharacteristic irony, Flash. Kevin and Flash were soon walking and trotting around the indoor school and, shortly afterwards, cantering to the rear of the ride.

Kevin liked the absorbing quality of riding. It stopped him thinking of his accounting duties at Amalgamated Widgets and his rather mundane life. He also enjoyed the paraphernalia: the tack, clothing and jargon of an entirely new horsy world. It was almost a way of life, a subculture with its own language, attitudes and priorities.

It did not take long for Kevin to become addicted and to start looking around for a horse of his own. Miss Pargeter confirmed that part-livery was available at Vaysey Pastures and even offered to help find a suitable mount.

Common sense dictated that Kevin should go for a sensible schoolmaster, suited to riding club activities, as Flash had been.

Instead Kevin scanned the For Sale columns in “Horse & Aga”. Like Icarus, Kevin was tempted to fly higher than was advisable. His attention soared towards Brendan, a young chestnut Irish draught cross thoroughbred with long eye lashes, a blaze and four white socks.

Sadly, like Icarus, this dream was destined to end up on the ground in a heap of crumpled feathers – or more precisely, with a cracked collar bone and bruised ribs.

Strangely, Miss. Pargeter didn’t warn Kevin off Brendan, even though it was obviously an accident waiting to happen.

Kevin admitted later that he knew he should have started with a Nissan Micra rather than a Ferrari. He simply couldn’t resist it. For once in his life he had acted on impulse and had not carried out a comprehensive audit of risk.

Unlike many middle aged men, however, Kevin wasn’t serially self-deluded. After Brendan had been re-homed with a team chaser near Lutterworth, Kevin quietly bought Flash from Miss Pargeter for cash.

Now, as he hacks around the lanes, he gently pats Flash on the neck and still feels glad he didn’t choose tap dancing.

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