Monday, 13 June 2016

Crackers and the Pony Club Games - Part 2

"Come on Chloe, up you get!" Her mother was stood in the entrance to her bedroom with a cup of tea.

"Urgh..." Chloe rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. It was like this whenever she had a show. The night before she would be so excited that she couldn't sleep and then come morning all she wanted to do was go back to bed.

Edward was already sat at the breakfast table munching on some toast whilst pushing their tabby cat Cali away from attempting to drink his tea.

"Morning" he smiled at his sister as she slumped into her chair and grabbed a slice of toast that had been left on a plate for her.

"It's cold!" She remarked as she bit into the toast.

"Well if you got up when you were meant to then maybe it would be warm" Edward smirked. Chloe glared at her brother before munching on the dry toast and washing it down with some luke warm tea.

Chloe approached Crackers' stable with apprehension. She knew her horse well enough to know that the liklihood of him still being clean this morning was quite small. But to her surprise he was stood there, rugs still on, happily attempting to bite Minstrel who was stood with a look of hate in the adjoining stable.

Within minutes Chloe had Crackers out of the stable and groomed. She plaited up his mane before dressing him up in his smart new blue travel set. Emma smiled as she bounced onto the yard in her usual enthusiastic manner. 

"Morning" she screamed as she ran over to Bluejay's stable and pushed some breakfast in for the blue roan mare. 

"You all ready?" she smiled as she patted Crackers on the neck "I'm so excited, we have such a strong team this year I'm just sure we are going to do well".

Emma's mother appeared and looked Crackers up and down with her usual look of distaste. "We should probably start loading, I presume that creature of yours will be his usual self?"

She was, of course, referring to Crackers' hatred of horse boxes, horse lorries, enclosed spaces or generally anything that wasn't a field or a stable. Over the years Chloe had learned that it was always prudent to allow up to an hour for loading, just in case he had one of his 'moments'. Edward had already prepared the lorry, raising the ramp up to make it less steep, filling a bucket with feed and positioning a lunging whip near by in case it was needed. Chloe slipped on Crackers' bridle to give herself a bit more control and followed Emma who led Bluejay straight in front.

As soon as Crackers saw the lorry his ears went back and he immediately pulled away. "Come squish, you can do it" Chloe soothed, a shake of the feed bucket from Edward and Crackers was momentarily distracted enough for Chloe (with support from her mother behind) to get him up the ramp. At the top he immediately pulled back but Sandra was used to such antics and immediately pressed a whip against his quarters encouraging him to properly load into the lorry. Edward immediately rewarded him with some food and a polo mint and all was settled.

A final check that they had everything and they were away. On arrival they immediately met up with their other team members and started to chat and laugh as they unloaded their ponies and finished grooming and plaiting them. 

Their event was first up so everyone was incredibly nervous. Chloe was just neatening a plait in Crackers' mane when Emma came running up.

"Have *pant* you *pant* seen *pant* the course *pant*?" 

"Not yet, but I presume it's the usual" Chloe turned to look at her friend. But the look on her face told her that something was seriously off.

Dara, another of their team mates, came running up, "What on Earth is milk the cow?!?!?" she exclaimed as she looked at the list of tasks.

The trio stared at each other before joining the rest of their team and a lot more befuzzled competitors where the show holder was explaining the various events they would have to participate in.

Milk the cow, it turned out, was an event that the show holder had seen in Australia. The competitors would be required to ride up to a large wooden cow, dismount and 'milk' it from a rubber glove into a plastic bottle. They would then have to ride to the end of the course and pour the water into the jug, it had to meet the marker which meant they couldn't spill too much on the way!

Most of her team mates were bemused but excited by the new event, but for Chloe it was her worst nightmare. She had spent weeks desensitising Crackers to everything she could possibly think of, but a giant wooden cow had never crossed her mind! The idea that he would canter up to such a strange object seemed farfetched.

It was decided that Chloe should go in the middle of the pack along with a girl named Lisa who had a pretty nervous horse called Banana. Banana tended to be quite silly about strange things and they all suspected that him and Crackers would be the two that would be most alarmed by the cow.

The event was soon under way. Crackers was on his best behaviour, weaving in and out of poles and listening to all of Chloe's leg aids. He shyed a bit when a flag was picked up and didn't approve of the sack race but was generally great. The last event was the cow race. Chloe immediately saw that these cows were causing problems. She watched as a little grey pony reared up and span at the sight of the strange object and most were incredibly wary. Chloe could see why they put the new event in. Many of these ponies would have been riding these same style events for years. A new event really tested how much control the riders had and how well they rode. 

She watched as Emma went before her, Bluejay was impeccably well behaved as always, although she did try to nibble the cow whilst Emma was milking it! Much to the embarrassment of Emma's mother who had been telling everyone how superb Bluejay was and how she never faltered. It was Crackers turn.

Chloe kicked Crackers on and he lept off the start line. After a few strides he noticed the strange object but Chloe kept kicking and although he slowed and side stepped quite a bit Chloe was able to get him close enough to jump off and start to milk the water into the bottle. Crackers stood as far back from this bizarre creature as he possibly could, he DID NOT like strange things and he wasn't a particular fan of cows either.

Chloe had filled her water bottle, she turned, reins in her hand ready to through them back over Crackers head and jump on. She was going to do it! The team was going to do it! She could feel it.

And then snap. Something twinged, something wasn't right. Her right leg almost gave way underneath her. She gave a short shrill of pain before yanking herself onto Crackers saddle and pushing him on. He immediately obliged and galloped to the end.

But Chloe wasn't feeling so great anymore. Sensing something was wrong her mother had ducked under and stood with the official as they helped her down. Somewhere on the course Banana was throwing a huge fit but Chloe didn't notice that, all she could feel was the pain in her leg.

"Come on" her mum said "let's get you sat down somewhere" she helped her daughter off leaving Emma to hold Bluejay and Crackers. 

"But" Chloe mumbled as she hobbled to the side. A medic walked up with a cheery look and sat her down.

"She broke her leg last year" Sandra said, looking at concern with her daughter. 

"It's fine mum, honestly, I think I just twisted something when I turned to get up, can I please just go back?"

"It's probably just a sprain" the medic smiled at her "but best to get you looked at, we wouldn't want you doing any further damage and being unable to ride for months would we?" The medic clearly knew her clientele and knew how to make them stay seated. She carefully manipulated Chloe's leg and felt all of the joints and muscles, asking where the pain was.

"Well I don't think anythings broken, she can put some weight on it which is good, go home and rest and if it is still sore on Monday go and see your GP".

Sandra smiled and took the piece of paper with notes on from the medic before helping Chloe, who could now just walked on the leg without too much pain, back to where the team were all gathered.

"We came fourth" Emma grinned at Chloe "are you OK?" she stared at her friend who was still looking pale.

"Yea fine" she smiled back, "fourth is great, but weren't we in front?"

"Turns out Banana does not like wooden cows" Lisa groaned as she looked down from the palomino horse who had a large bit of green grass sticking out of his mouth.

"Well I wonder whether cows like bananas" Emma laughed and the three girls broke into hysterics. Fourth place wasn't bad Chloe mused, although she suspected it would be a while before she was competing again. Looked like she would have to take some box rest with Clove and she was pretty sure Crackers wouldn't mind a break from competing either!

Chloe and Crackers competing in Pony Club games. Crackers really wasn't sure about that cow!