It wasn’t meant to be. It surely wasn’t. He looked at me and cocked his head. I looked him back in the eye and frowned. I’m pretty sure he was unconvinced about me as I was about him.
I took a step forward to try and break the spectre of tension which hung in the air between us. He bucked his head and shuffled back uncertainly.
The owner of Wonk was a local farmer in his early 60s. He’d come as a recommendation from the landlady of the typical cottage we’d found in an extremely pretty village on the outskirts of Buxton.
Wonk was a thoroughbred horse, taller than I by a good foot. He was a rich chestnut colour with a main which frankly looked freshly styled that morning and which would have turned the eye of Jon Bon Jovi in his pomp. I was intimidated in more ways than one.
“So, what am I supposed to do? Just grab that rein and tell him what’s what?” I was hoping my inquisitive earnestness cloaked any nervousness I felt.
“Aye, do just that but if you’re nervous he’ll know immediately. So don’t be.”
I bit my lower lip and struck forward for the reins. I was surprised when Wonk didn’t buck or even move a muscle. He just eyed me silently.
As soon as I’d asked that I realised I’d made a dreadful mistake.
“Walks funny sometimes. Goes a bit sideways. Wonky, y’know. He used to be called Rufus but we renamed him.”
“Sideways?!” I started to imagine horses in some God-awful line-dancing show.
“Aye. You’ll see what I mean. You’ll be all right though. Just make sure he follows me.”
I hadn’t ridden for a couple of years since a fateful adventure (if you can call it that) in the Cuban sierra near Cienfuegos when, a good few mojitos to the wind, I’d found myself roped into a horse trek over the local mountainside to an apparently hidden waterfall the following day. Needless to say, said ‘waterfall’ turned out only to be a demi-trickle from a pipe in a forest and the journey there pretty horrific under a vicious sun and with a guide of whom we could not understand a single word (not through our lack of Spanish mind you, but instead because he had only one lone tooth protruding from the front of his mouth).
John takes Wonk and I over stunning moorland and fells, through farms and woodland and with cracking views over a reservoir. The turf is nice and supple and Wonk seems to be enjoying himself. Though the woodland section gets a little hairy as Wonk stays true to his slightly tilting nature and I lose a few gazillion brain cells to a couple of blows from hanging branches, generally we get on fine. In fact, we get on better than fine - we get on really rather well indeed and my mind is cast back to my childhood years when I first learned to ride a couple of hundred miles north of where we are now.
I resolve to take up the reins again, and soon.