Darcy was obviously listening to every word I said. After we got back from the ride from hell, in which she threw the mother of all tantrums, she was very subdued. She stood in her box all afternoon looking sheepish, according to the groom.
‘We haven’t had a peep out of her,’ she said, when I arrived the next day. ‘She looked like she was in a state of shock.’ She was in a state of shock? Holy Moses. What about us?
My friend Karl, as I explained last week, had agreed to swap horses with me mid-hack when Darcy starting playing up. I’m not easily scared but instead of going forwards as we started to canter she began rocking on the spot, as if threatening to unleash the most tremendous buck.
I lost my nerve and Karl, who once worked in a racing yard, got up on Darcy while I mounted his steady hunter. No sooner had his rear end touched the saddle than Darcy erupted into the most acrobatic equine display I’ve ever seen. One minute she was rearing up like a Lipizzaner, the next broncing like she was at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. Then it was the 3.30 at Epsom and around the track she went at full pelt, throwing her legs out the back to make sure the hunter couldn’t get near her. Afterwards Karl was bleeding from the mouth where she had socked him in the face with her head.
But it got worse once Darcy was safely tucked up in her stable. Karl rang me that night and declared himself to be sore at both ends. I was mortified. If she had knocked teeth out I would have had to pay for veneers. Karl is a very handsome man with a lovely set of gnashers. I could only thank my lucky stars they were still intact. As for the other end, well, I didn’t even want to think about what she might have done to that.
So I called the racehorse trainer to whom I had spoken two years earlier about the possibility of putting Darcy in training. I didn’t expect him to remember me but after a few rings he snatched up the phone. ‘So, you’re coming galloping then?’
‘You remember me?’ I exclaimed, relieved. ‘I may be 79, dear, but I’m not senile.’
He had saved my number in his phone. He had been expecting me. He told me when I bought her I would struggle with a horse whose sire was a renowned stayer with stamina that never ran out.
‘Don’t get back on,’ he advised. ‘Or if you do, just trot her. Can you keep her trotting then bring her to me at the end of the month?’
He quoted me a price to get her fit with a view to having her in what’s known as a ‘bumper’ — a training race — in six months or so.
I told Karl all about it. And I must have told someone as I stood outside Darcy’s stable too. Because she must have heard me discussing sending her away, separating her from Gracie, the skewbald pony she loves above all things, and putting her into boot camp.
Three days after the ride from hell, I got back on with a view to just trotting her until she could be sent to the racing yard. I took her out with a friend riding Grace and I held my breath ready for the explosion. But no explosion came. She walked perfectly, she trotted perfectly, and then she cantered as meek as a lamb.
‘What on earth is going on with you?’ I asked her. The next day I took her out again and went faster. She didn’t put a foot wrong. She cantered, she sped up. She didn’t even threaten to throw the smallest tantrum.
The day after that I took her out with Karl on his hunter again. We didn’t venture to the same open field where she had gone berserk but we did let her out a bit. In fact, I changed gears all the way up to five, keeping six in reserve just for now. I may be brave but I’m not suicidal.
She galloped perfectly. She put her head down in a workmanlike fashion and breezed gracefully behind Karl’s hunter, and then, when I allowed her to move forward, she cantered diligently by his side.
‘She feels really balanced,’ I shouted, as we cantered. ‘I can’t understand it. She’s never behaved this well. She’s never performed so perfectly.’
Karl shouted back, ‘Maybe it was worth me nearly losing all my teeth and ending up with no skin on my…’
But he had pulled ahead of me so I didn’t catch the last word. I knew what it was though…
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