talking to bob

We set off from the ranch line astern. Bob at the front, followed by my spare organs, Miss Whiplash, the human Liquorice Allsort, and me at the back.

Bob constantly chattered as he led us up the trail into the mountains – he was like the Pied Piper, but with much bigger rats. I also had a powerful feeling of Deja Vu, but it took me a while to work out why…

Observation number 1: Horse riding is a lot like Angela’s Ford KA

  • It smelt
  • It didn’t have a working handbrake
  • It wouldn’t go without kicking it
  • Fluids intermittently leaked
  • Your back hurts after 2 hours
  • There was no working speedometer
  • Your knuckles go white with fear
  • I had a constant feeling that I would end up walking back

nerve agents

I wanted to play a cowboy song on my iPhone. I had already downloaded ‘Rawhide’ by the Blues Brothers, but sitting on Lucifer, ‘Disco Inferno – Burn baby burn’ might have been more appropriate.

It didn’t take long before fumes began to leak from the horses in front. By the time the fumes reached the end of the convoy, i.e. me, they were concentrated enough to taste. My eyes watered… They were even worse than the farts Ross proudly wafts around in the car. They were toxic…

Observation number 2: Either horses eat skunks, or Hans Blix was searching in the wrong place for the Iraqi WMD’s.

brain death

I’d had another equine experience with an old nag in Cyprus… I took Angela there on holiday. …oh yeah, and I went horse riding there too. All that particular horse did was follow the arse of the one in front. It was like one of those fairground toddler rides that just go round and round.

These Californian horses were different; they responded to my commands… This was a revelation! I’ve got a wife and two kids – I’m used to being ignored.

I found a reverse gear and made it walk backwards. (I even added the comedic ‘beep beep beep’ noise like lorries make)
The stupid bugger didn’t even try to look where I was reversing it – it obviously hadn’t witnessed me trying to reverse park.

Observation number 3: Not all horses are morons – some can be steered.

edmund hillary

The path was quite steep in places. The horses sensibly took the path of least resistance, apart from mine, which seemed to like the vertical bits. It might not have had cloven hooves, but it was definitely part mountain goat.

If I didn’t keep an eye on where it was going, we would end up free climbing, and it would get bloody enthusiastic about it too. It soon became clear that my horse/goat hybrid was trying to swap places with me, and I was determined not to end up the base layer of a Findus lasagna… I hung on to the saddle horn tighter than Angela and her Prosecco glass at closing time.

Slopes are not much fun on a horse… on the uphill leg, you have to lean over forwards, crushing your nards. On the downhill leg, you slide forwards, hit the saddle horn, and use your balls as emergency brakes. I’m guessing cowboys use this feature as birth control.

talking to bob

Talking to Bob was tricky; He had a speech impediment, it wasn’t his fault, he was American. His list of conversation topics mainly involved American stuff, like baseball, or the wrong football. When he started talking about the Oakland Raiders, I thought he was discussing a ram-raid at a furniture store.

He looked over his shoulder at me, and shouted “ya’ll nose ay hayded da fordy nyners”. I started to panic… Was he talking about cars, or children crossing small streams? Come on Bob… At least give me a friggin’ chance of contributing to the conversation. It took me good couple of minutes to crack his encryption on that last sentence. What he actually meant was, “I say old chap, I’m not awfully fond of the San Francisco football team”.

He was also 50 foot ahead of me, which meant everything was said in his ‘outdoor voice’. Like Angela does when she’s had a glass or two. This made the translation from southern drawl, to Yorkshire English even harder.

Nevertheless, He kept talking, so I nodded, and politely said “uh-huh”, on a regular basis; it was a lot like being married.

The conversation went something like:

Bob – “blah blah blah”
Me – recognise potential syllables…
Me – check for words…
Me – any words that might make up a sentence?
Me – make up the missing words
Me – correct his grammar
Me – translate sentence, watching out for American bollocks words (like ‘al-oom-in-um’)
Me – formulate an ‘intelligent’ response
Me – dumb it down
Me – replace proper words with bollocks words (like ‘warder’ when I really mean H2O)
Me – check: will he understand the sentence?
Me – check: will he shoot me?
Me – enunciate each word loudly between nard compressions
Bob – “uh huh”
Me – (well that was a complete f***ing waste of time)

on the rocks

The route that we followed took us up into the mountains on a fairly rocky terrain. In my naivety, I’d imagined riding through green meadows… Instead, the ground was covered in the sort of pointy rocks that tend to make your skin leak on impact.

Where the ground wasn’t pointy, there was gravel. Not the nice round pea gravel like you get from B&Q; no, the type that gets embedded in a graze when you fall over drunk.

To the left and right of me, were spiky plants – There wasn’t anything on this excursion that wasn’t trying to kill me. Falling off wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

The Marines have a code that says ‘Leave no man behind’… My family don’t have the same ethics – They wouldn’t even realise I was missing until the money ran out.


The uneven ground made it tricky for the horses, and sometimes they slipped on the rocks. So why are horse paws fitted with lumps of bent steel? When Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, I can say with some confidence that he wasn’t wearing tap shoes. If this was my horse, I would have its shoes made by Nike, or Adidas, not Tata…


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