It was a beautiful evening on Friday, the rolling Sussex countryside glowed softly with the dipping sun. Just the sort of evening to be going to a dressage competition with Fletch.
You're joking right? We are going out now? It's 5 o'clock woman what are you doing? It's my tea time and bed time. What? You're putting the travelling boots on, well bugger me she's not joking. Looks like we are going to a bloomin competition at this time of night.
"C'mon Fletch!" I cajoled the great big ginger horse into the trailer. I was nervous as usual, the sort of nerves which are so strong they make you feel shaky and rather sick. It was only a little local competition, in fact only five were entered in my class but fearful I still felt.
Where am I then?
He looked stunning when we arrived, all enormous and pointy-eared. Fletch surveyed his surroundings and began to understand where he was - I straightened my stock, polished my boots and put on a black jacket to finish the look before climbing aboard.
Oh brilliant there are jumps, fantastic its cross country. OK, I'll behave myself then. Ooops, just one little spook, sorry couldn't help myself!
The warm up area was a great big field with solid-looking cross country jumps dotted around. Fletch gets excited in big fields, being a race horse in his former career he has never really forgotten the feeling of galloping fast over turf, despite his twenty years of age. Yes, twenty - he should know better. I hung on and asked for trot hoping he wouldn't explode.
Lots of little circles, c'mon, lets get on with it, when are we jumping?
He was so good warming up I began to forget my butterflies and started to enjoy the feeling he was giving me, a nice canter, some medium trot and I felt he was listening, it was soon my turn and I headed for the dressage arena.
Noooooooooo, what are we doing in here? Not stressage. No you're kidding me, how many times have I told you, it's sooooooo boring. Right then, lets jazz this up a little shall we? That'll teach you to give me a late dinner and not jump me over those fabulous looking fences over there -wooooooooaaaaah - a monster! Ha, that's woken her up!
It was like riding a different horse, he was suddenly tense and looking for excuses to fire me out of the saddle. I was supposed to start the test but I gave myself one last trot around the arena and he spooked hard again as I careered down the centre line. It's easy to get distracted in dressage, I tried to get it back together again, but no, off he exploded again - it was a disaster.
This is fun - weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee - oh there it is again, a gremlin, ha ha ha - what was that? What did you just call me?
"Fletch you're such a dick!" I said, it just popped out. I wasn't supposed to talk in the dressage test let alone call my horse profanities. It was all going so horribly wrong.
Well that's not very dressage is it?! Gosh everyone is laughing, they love my version of dressage, look at that, a right-old comedian I am!
I hung on as everyone giggled around me. This was a horse who was doing exactly as he wanted. It was all I could do to stay on and stay sane. I grinned as we tried our best, saluted to the judge and exited the arena.
That's more like it - look at all my fans coming to say how well I have done - thank you little people, yes I know I am utterly fabulous - can we go home now?
My family and friends were kind to me, saying at least I had tried etc etc. I gave Fletch a great big pat and a hug despite his atrocious behaviour, he even managed to get a carrot out of my daughter. He made us all howl with laughter, an old man who feels he no longer has to comply, an old man with more than a spring in his step - a great teacher of not only dressage but humility.
Thank you Fletch, I really do love you no matter what you throw at me, what an enormous privilege you even allow me on your back.
Yeah yeah woman whatever, just get me home and give me my dinner. Oh and take me cross-country next time, OK?