Horses: Everything You Never Wanted to Know
Author: Reb Hay

Chapter 13
They Don't Shrink Overnight

‘How about you try riding him again?’ Jenny says as Ben and I walk up to her. ‘I think you’ll find it a much more enjoyable experience this time.’

            I look up to the dizzying heights where the bareback pad is perched on The Shitter’s back. I guess it would have been unlikely he would have shrunk. I could have grown. That’s possible and I would have quite liked that. It has always been my ambition to top 165 centimetres. Or at least, please God, let me be taller than Mum. I so need to be able to stare her down when she gets on a rant. But it’s hard to stare down anything when you’re a short arse. Bugger, now I’ve let slip that I’m not a super model and that’s what you were imaging, wasn’t it? Go on admit it.

            Jenny is slipping on Ben’s bridle and prattling about confidence and control. Confidence and control—that is so me. Cool under stress. Calm in the midst of chaos. Always with the right smart-arse word ready on my lips.

            ‘Ready?’ she asks.

            I stare up in silence. I am sure Everest would be easier, closer to the ground and less fraught with danger. I am so not ready.

            ‘Do you want to walk him around some more?’

            I am also so not ready to admit how scared I am. I climb onto the mounting block and then clamber to his back. Another perk with Everest is that you get an oxygen canister. Where’s my canister? Forget the oxygen; just stuff it with Vallium. Does Vallium come in a gas?

            The Shitter launches forward. Canister!

            Breathe. I suck in a great lung full of air and let it out slowly.

            When I said ‘launch’, what I meant was: Ben commenced walking at a sedate pace.

            I let my hand slide down to his neck and feel his warmth. And I breathe. His walk has a swinging rock to it. With just the bareback pad between him and me, I can feel his warmth and the movement of his muscles. As we round the corner of the arena, I glance back at Jenny.

            She nods approval. ‘Doing great,’ she calls.

            This is clearly a compliment from a teacher. I turn it over and inspect it for worth. What did it mean? Was it sincere? Was it meant for me or was I just in the firing line, like the time I thought the teacher was telling me I had written a good essay on the intricacies of World War II when really she was complimenting the nerd sitting behind me. I should’ve known. I can’t even spell ‘intricacy’, let alone write an essay on it.

            Given that I am not actually doing anything, great or otherwise, maybe I am just in the firing line? She probably means Ben. Let’s face it—he’s the only one doing any work around here, carrying my heavy lump. Actually, can you scrub that, hit ‘delete’? I really, really like the idea of you thinking of me as a supermodel. Keep it up; you’re doing great. Just a bit of imagination and you’ve got it. ‘Heavy lump’ was merely an unfortunate expression; the ‘short arse’ I mentioned earlier was modesty.

            Ben completes a circuit of the arena and comes to a halt in front of Jenny. To me this looked like a pretty good option but apparently it is not good.

            ‘Did you ask him to do that?’ Jenny asks. ‘Or did he make it up himself?’

            Given that coming to a stop after completing a lap is stock standard behaviour—and not rocket science—I think he can work this stuff out for himself. Right now, he’s probably wondering where Jenny hides her carrots. 

            ‘You are letting him look to me for direction. You make him go again and don’t let him stop at me next time.’

            I’m not sure who is more disappointed—him or me. ‘Come on then, let’s go,’ I say. I click my tongue to make it sound like I care and off we go again.

            It takes maybe a minute for Ben to walk around the arena and, now that I am not petrified, I can feel the time going by. 

            The first time Todd asked me out was something of a shock. I was still trying to remember his name. In fact, I was still trying to remember his face. Except for the comb over, of course. No one could forget that. And he asks me out.

            I was going to say ‘Join the queue,’ but then I realized there was no queue. Jarred had kind of seen to that. The fallout from that relationship explosion was like huge and it turned out everyone was Jarred’s friend after that. Even kids who didn’t know the prick. ‘Poor Jarred’ was like an echoed refrain in every dingy corridor.

            It seemed Todd was the only one who didn’t realize he was supposed to hate me so, when he asked me out, I said ‘Sure’ and I’ve now seen every PG movie ever produced.

I sigh. Some of those movies were not so bad, I suppose. 

I sit up a bit straighter in the saddle. We are nearing the great battlefield of the Jenny.

            ‘Don’t let him stop,’ she says.

            I click my tongue and he keeps going.

            ‘Well done!’ Jenny is enthusiastic in her praise but I am not fooled at all this time. Ben is so clearly the one doing well, being tolerant and channeling the years of training he has had. He could make even a complete loser (that’d be me) feel confident and in control.

            This is so not a competition anymore. Ben is actually nice and I don’t often admit that about a male. Actually I can safely say I’ve only had to concede that about one boy and that’s Todd. Nice but boring. Ben is nice and not boring. The double combo. He and I could have something sweet happening.


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