You can lead a horse to water

I enjoy every second of my twelve-minute lie in and then dash downstairs at 6:12 a.m. – chaos.

Start calculations – need to arrive at 11 and it’s a 38-minute drive – allow an hour in case of stops, emergencies, getting lost time and Saturday traffic. 5 to 60 minutes for breakfast and clear up. 30 to 90 minutes for dressing to include, socks, shoes and teeth cleaning. 10 to 25 minutes toileting, jackets and entering car with seat belts buckled. Equals 3 hours and 55 minutes – loads of time and time to spare.

It was a definite possibility three months ago so I jumped at the chance – we prepared just in case. Horses are just like dogs, but bigger. Every time they sat on Thatcher, I’d trigger a meltdown, deliberately – ‘look at you! If you can ride a dog a horse will be easy!’

They’ve conquered ‘fear of dogs,’ and they’ll conquer ‘fear of horses.’

Both the boys have left their warm jackets at school for the weekend – normally this wouldn’t be a problem, seeing as how we rarely venture far from home, and when we do, it’s more likely to be around mid-day when the chill has burned off – today we head out to the wilds of Monterey where they have weather and mud.

Dig out second, old pair of shoes for them both, select favorite snacks as bribes, drinks, check first aid kit, and pack all possibly emergency supplies in the hope of successfully surviving as solo parent during an hour’s drive. Grab camera at the last minute – if there is one single moment of joy I shall capture it for the record.

Watch a woman outside on the road running for her life, otherwise known as jogging – if I could get someone to watch the children, I would do likewise.

We were offered two places at the therapeutic riding center a couple of years ago – the boys weren’t ready. We were offered places again last year – just before the budget cuts. So here we are, third time lucky, possibly.

In the car we try to listen to a CD of Horrid Henry – ‘The Hike’ – written by Francesca Simon and read by Miranda Richardson,* over the din of the boys who scream in the back. I allow my daughter a reprieve, up in the front passenger seat now that she’s only an inch shorter than me. I keep an eye on her – self wrapped, clamped tight and hunched, as she turns her face towards me, “Horrid Henry wouldn’t last five seconds in our household!” Although the boys give every impression of oblivion, they both manage to chime in perfectly, every time the story reader says ‘Stop it Henry! Don’t be horrid!’ My daughter rolls her eyes with exasperation.

“Whadif they won’t talk when we get there?”
“Lets just hope they have their ‘listening ears.’”
“Whadif they say something unfortunate?”
“I don’t suppose it will be anything they’ve not heard before, or a variation on a theme.”
She pushes herself back into the headrest and shuts her eyes.
“I don’t know whichis worse, when they scream or sing that darned song.”
“MANAMANA” is definitely trying, but at least they’re happy.”
“I jus can’t work out how they ever heard it?”
“Neither can I. It’s ancient. From the sixties, I remember my brother, your uncle, singing it.”
“Whu!”
“I can still see it. The singer was this dark character.”
“Dark?”
“Brown, and very hairy.”
“Mom!”
“He was a muppet.”
“Mom!”
“Not that kind of a muppet, a real Muppet.”
“What the heck is a muppet Mom?”
“I keep forgetting how young you are. Bit like Sesame Street puppets. I’ll show you later when we get home. Don’t suppose you’ve heard of Kermit the Frog either? Miss Piggy?”
“Whah?”
“Never mind.”
“Whadda we gonna do if they make a spectacle of themselves?”
“If they can’t make a spectacle of themselves at therapeutic riding stables for differently abled children, where can they?” I beam.
She giggles and flutters her eye-lids – wicked.

Arrive at the stables, late, with two screaming children – doesn’t give the best impression of our family. Vomit noises emanate from my youngest – farm fresh air doesn’t suit everyone, “dat is a worserer smell dan my bruvver!” He falls out of the car, wraps his arms around his skinny rib cage, and tippy toes off like a top, in the general direction of the office. His older brother staggers in the same direction, hunched like an ancient, as if every limb drags half a hundred-weight of potatoes. The pre-teen looks on, aghast, but is quickly distracted by more interesting eye candy – horses.

One whole hour of introductory, orientation.

We drive back home – the boys are out cold in the back, mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.

“That was funny,” she giggles.
“Hmm?”
“When he said to the lady that the horses had x-ray vision and shot laser beams at him.”
“She didn’t bat an eye-lid though did she!”

I ponder.

I think of the many, many hours my daughter has endured in waiting rooms as her brothers were tortured by every conceivable variety of therapy known to mankind, while she would salivate at the window, hoping for the chance to share a few moments occupied with similar activities. She’s been short changed for far too long, just like all the other children in the Siblings book I read last week.

“So when we go next week they’ll be there for a whole four hours. Would you like to stay and watch, or shall we go and do something else, together?”
“You don’t have to stay with them?”
“Apparently not. In fact they’ll probably do better without me.”
“Four hours?”
“Well, probably 3 if we drive half an hour to somewhere and leave half an hour before to get back on time.”
“What’ll we do?”
“What would you like to do? Your treat.”
“Um…a whole three hours? I don’t know.”
“What do your friends usually do on a Saturday morning?”
“Shop.”
“Oh. Really? Sounds great. Lego Store?”
“Not without the boys – wouldn’t be fair – wouldn’t feel right.”

I drive a few more miles in silence as I watch her brain whir, from the corner of my eye. I try to think what I did, more than a decade ago? I have no recall whatsoever. Whatever it was, it’s clearly unremarkable.

“I don’t think there’s anything I wanna buy. Anyway, I owe you three weeks pocket money.”
“You do?”
“Yeah. Remember? I bought a pair of Heelies. You subbed me coz I didn’t have enough.”
“Oh. Right. What else would you like to do then?”
“The beach looked nice.”
“It did. Would you like to play on the beach?”
“Maybe. We could pack a blanket. Sit down and be quiet.”
“We could.”

It strikes me that if I sit down, static, I’m highly likely to pass out – I could win an award for sleeping if I ever had the opportunity.

“Could we take a picnic too..…with real food?”
“Absolutely.”
“No Goldfish crackers.”
“Oh go on! You like them really.”
“Spose…..I’ll take an alarm if you like?” she offers.
“An alarm?”
“In case we both fall asleep.”

p.s. I do not endorse this as being either beneficial or curative, be that cat, dog, tortoise, horse, fish or dolphin therapy, although this does appear to be an exceptionally progressive program. ‘Beneficial,’ is more than enough. Anything else is a bonus. There is the remote possibility of a little enjoyment if we’re lucky. Failing that, in any event, at the very least we shall have spent a quantity of time outside the house, otherwise referred to as the ‘cell,’ and expanded our horizons by an inch or centimetre.

* Highly recommended to improve aural processing, [and fun] but don’t blame me if your children acquire an English accent.

A bonus for the digital and tactile challenged person.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

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