Bob constantly chattered as he led us up the trail into the mountains – he was like the Pied Piper, only 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 old Ford KA
- It smelt funny
- It didn’t have a working handbrake
- It wouldn’t start without kicking it
- Fluids intermittently leaked
- The seats hurt
- There was no working speedometer
- Your knuckles went white with fear
- I had a constant feeling that I would end up walking back
I really wanted to play a cowboy song whilst riding along. I had already downloaded ‘Rawhide’ by the Blues Brothers to my iPhone , but in hindsight sitting on Lucifer, ‘Disco Inferno – Burn baby burn’ might have been more to the point.
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… The smell was even worse than the farts Ross proudly wafts around in the car. They were toxic…
Observation number 2: Either these horses were fed on a diet of skunks, or Hans Blix was searching in the wrong place for the Iraqi WMD’s.
I’d had another equine experience with an old nag in Cyprus when I took Angela there on holiday. …oh yeah, and we went horse riding 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; it even responded to my commands… This was a huge revelation! I’ve got a wife and two kids so I’m used to being ignored.
I found it had a reverse gear and would go backwards. (I added the comedic ‘beep beep beep’ noise like lorries make, but Bob didn’t seem impressed)
The stupid bloody horse didn’t even try to look where I was reversing it – Luke obviously hadn’t witnessed me trying to reverse park or he’d have had none of it.
Observation number 3: Not all horses are morons – some can be steered.
The path up the mountain side 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 Luke was definitely part mountain goat.
If I didn’t keep an eye on where it was going, we would end up free climbing, and Luke would get bloody enthusiastic about it too. It soon became clear that this horse/goat hybrid was doing his damnedest to swap places with me, but there was now way I was going to end up being the base layer of a Findus lasagna… I hung on to that saddle horn tighter than Angela and her Prosecco glass at closing time.
From a mans perspective, mountains are not much fun on a horse… on the uphill leg, you have to lean over forwards, crushing your nards. Whereas 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 at first he was discussing a ram-raid at a furniture store.
Bob glanced 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 Bob’s grammar
Me – translate sentence, watching out for American bollocks words (like ‘al-oo–min-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 Bob understand the sentence?
Me – check: will Bob 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 was a fairly rocky terrain. When I’d first imagined doing this, I was riding through the surf on a beautiful sandy beach… but instead, I’m precariously balanced on a demonic French steak, above the sort of pointy rocks that are guaranteed 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; oh no, instead it’s the type that you wake up to find still embedded in your palms the morning after a heavy drinking session.
To the left and right of Luke, were tall spiky plants – There didn’t seem to be anything on this excursion that wasn’t trying to kill me. Falling off here was a sure fire way of providing my family with plenty of entertainment as I screamed like a girl and shouted “MEDIC!”. Whilst the Marines have a code that says ‘Leave no man behind’… My family don’t have the same ethics – They wouldn’t worry unless the money ran out.
The uneven trail made it tricky for the horses, and sometimes they slipped on the rocks. So why on Earth are horse paws fitted with chunks of bent steel? I can say with some confidence, that when Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, he didn’t do it in tap shoes. If this was my horse, I would have its shoes made by Nike, or Adidas, not Tata…