Magazine article The Spectator

Desperate Horsewives

Magazine article The Spectator

Desperate Horsewives

Article excerpt

One of the highlights of the horsey year for me and my equine girlfriends is our expedition to Windsor Great Park for the annual sponsored cross-country ride. And so with no sleep since the election I hauled myself bleary-eyed to the stable yard at 7 a.m. to start scrubbing grass stains. Why on earth did I buy a horse with white bits? I muttered, as I sloshed around Gracie's back legs with a bucket of warm water frothing with Johnson's baby shampoo.

No sooner had I settled into a satisfying rhythm of scrubbing and moaning than my peace was rudely disturbed.

'Hello, smiler!' said a fellow horse-owner, who seems to live for the joy she obtains from taunting me about lacking the requisite broad grin she thinks I ought to be displaying at all times. I really detest the practice of ordering people to smile. If someone genuinely wanted you to smile at seven in the morning, they would hand you a steaming mug of freshly ground coffee and a cheese toastie. Not scream at you to turn the corners of your mouth up.

'I think I'm going to be sick, ' I said from my upside-down position as I scrubbed the horse's undercarriage.

'Smile!' she insisted.

'Bugger off!' I said. We get away with taunting each other like this because it is seen as yard banter. It is not banter, of course; it is a deadly-serious feud in which one of us will have to be crushed at some stage.

Naturally, the rain came down before I could get Gracie on to the lorry and her legs started to foam where I had failed to get all the soap suds out. I feared my nemesis would make a smart comment prompting us to fight each other to the death with lead ropes and stirrup irons but thankfully she had gone inside the tearoom for a swearing match with someone else.

An hour later and our contingent of 11 women of a certain age was safely checked in at the secretary's tent in Windsor Great Park. Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. That's the horse world for you. One minute you are blaspheming for dear life, the next minute you are dealing with the scrupulously polite members of the Lions Club.

'Have a super time, ' said the terribly nice lady who handed me my number. I nearly told her to get stuffed before I remembered I was no longer required to josh for survival. …

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