July 11th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Animals Behaving Typically (i.e. Badly): Part Seven (Where Not To Ride Your Horse)

(to recap: we bought the house, we moved to France and our horse was menaced by a ten foot long caterpillar - nothing unusual there then)

Rhiannon was not having much luck on the horse-riding front either. When we first asked about horse-riding in France we were told there was no problem, you could go anywhere. France was a haven for the horse.

I thought it strange that I never actually saw anyone riding a horse in the three weeks I'd spent house hunting but everyone had been so adamant - horse riding; no problem, lots of it.

I began to suspect that perhaps, none of these people actually rode.

The biggest problem where we were was the lack of tracks. Or, more accurately, the lack of usable tracks. There were plenty of chemins, they just didn't go very far. Twenty yards in from the road and they fizzled out - usually into thick forest or a fence.

If Rhiannon had been better in traffic this might not have been a problem. But she had an aversion to large lorries, noise, tractors, cyclists, oddly shaped trees, flapping polythene...

She had a very long list.

Shelagh was ready to give up ... until we noticed a stable a few miles away and plucking up courage - and the ubiquitous dictionary - decided to investigate. Maybe someone there would know of a good place to ride.

And so we met Chantal. Very sun-tanned, very blonde and very talkative. Like many of the younger French we met, her English was much better than she let on. And much better than our French. She'd only just moved to the area herself and was in the process of establishing a livery.

She'd had trouble finding places to ride as well. Although she had found a brilliant sandy square in the village to use for exercise. Or so she'd thought. It was just like a purpose-built menage.

That is until she noticed the word Boulodrome writ large on a sign by the entrance. She was just thinking ‘Thank God, no one saw me’ when she became aware of the large number of eyes peering at her from various surrounding windows and gardens.

It's always the same. Do a good deed and the streets are deserted, plough up a Boulodrome for a half an hour and the entire boules committee are having a tea party next door.

She spent the rest of the afternoon with a rake. The French are very particular about their Boulodromes.

But she'd love to have Shelagh ride with her. She'd enjoy the company. Exercising horses was not much fun on your own. Would tomorrow be okay? She had a friend coming down from Toulouse in the afternoon. A young girl, who, though an inexperienced rider, was keen to learn and had a horse at the stables. Why didn't Shelagh join them?

Shelagh could think of two very good reasons - Rhiannon and her long list of things she didn't like to meet while out riding. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up. She'd meet them at two.

(next instalment: A Gelding Too Far)