“Come on, Serene!” Emily, my instructor, clacked her tongue at me, gently pulling at the bridle to urge me to move. Silently, my round belly swayed as I walked over to the arena.
“There’s a good girl,” she murmured, adjusting the reins over my head, and patting my dark bay neck.
“Now, Sophie, let me introduce me you to Serene, she’s our new horse. You already know how to ride, don’t you? You know the three gaits? Cool. Then, let’s see how this goes,” Emily talked to a stranger, who was standing next to me. She was gently stroking my forehead, and it felt soothing.
The stranger stepped onto the mounting block, and eased herself onto my back, while Emily adjusted the stirrups and tightened the girth. "Oh, good," I thought, "she’s a light one. I never liked heavy people who slumped themselves on my withers like a sack of potatoes."
“Now, if you’d firstly like to put your feet in the stirrups, and then we’ll walk for a bit, then trot. I’ll tell you when to do so.”
The girl called Sophie shifted on top of me, and gently dug her heels in my stomach, clacking her tongue as she did so. I started off in a gentle walk. She seemed relaxed, and moved with the rhythm of my body.
We walked around in a circle two times and then, “Now, a trot, please.”
She squeezed her heels again, slightly harder, and I set off in a trot, with Sophie rising and falling in time with my legs. I snorted, and held my head a bit higher to show off. She chuckled. I liked her.
After a figure of eight, Emily instructed, “Could I see you do a canter?”
Immediately, Sophie dug her heels in even harder. I hesitated. She squeezed again, and I went into a fast trot. Sophie didn’t seem to like this, so I went with even bigger strides, hooves digging into the soft sand in the arena. She kicked me a few times, and said, “Come on, Serene.”
Finally, after more kicks and touches of the crop, I merged to a canter. “Oh, good girl.” She said with a kindly voice.
“Well done, Sophie. It’s hard to control a new horse, but you’ve done it expertly. Slow down to trot, now.” Emily called out from the side.
I didn’t even stop when Sophie pulled a little at the reins and sat heavily in her seat, in order to slow me down. I kept going at a canter; in fact I quite liked it by this point. Actually, I wanted to go even faster. And faster.
“Woah!” Sophie gasped as I turned sharply at a corner, still cantering. I neighed and snorted, puffing. “Serene, slow down!” She pulled harshly at my reins, but I set my teeth in, grunted, and slowly, went into a gallop.
“Serene, stop!” I heard Emily yelling in the background, but it was so faint, I wondered if I imagined it.
I even heard Sophie giggle, so I shook my mane, stretched my neck out, and went flying.
I dreamt of being back in my homeland, wild and free with the rest of my herd. Galloping across the plains, tails streaming out behind us, without a care in the world.
But then I was brought back to Earth. By now, Sophie was laughing hard, not even trying to stop me. I whinnied, and, slowly, slowly, settled down to a canter. Then a trot. Then, lastly, a walk. I breathless by now, huffing, flecks of foam gathering around my mouth, but I loved every second of it.
Emily rushed over to me. “Serene, you absolutely naughty girl!” She said savagely, wagging her finger at me. I thought I had done nothing wrong. Then her expression softened, and turned to Sophie.
“Are you alright, Sophie? Gosh, I was so worried! Was it okay?”
Sophie laughed. A relaxing, silvery laugh that made my insides warm. She said nothing for a moment, jumping swiftly off my back.
“I loved it.”