Having failed for years to get Ron to try horseriding a recent weekend in the Achterhoek provided the perfect opportunity to ease him into the idea with the hiring of a horse and cart from the Huifkarcentrum.
Disturbingly enough it was decided (3-1) that I should drive, I’m not sure why as my horse-driving experience was the same as everyone else’s, zilch, and what’s more I was the only one who had never had a driver’s licence. We were given a horse called “Groovy” and after a quick lesson in cart-driving from a man who spoke impenetrable Achterhoek-ese and memorising of the Dutch for “Giddyup” and “Whoa” we set of.
Groovy was old and not best pleased at being dragged out on a Sunday morning and had his own ideas about the route and the pace at which it should be taken. Still we were working out a compromise together which seemed to be working for everyone. Jacob was VERY impressed yelling “Mama paardje rijden!” from the back seat at anyone who would listen. The sun was shining. It wasn’t raining. (break into song…Feeling Groovy…..)
Ron has protested several times that he doesn’t like horses but I hadn’t realised just how deep it went. It goes deep! Having beeing instructed to make small-talk with the horse (as then he would be more likely to follow my commands) I was doing my best to keep up a nice line of Dutch patter. It wasn’t easy with the increasingly shrill instructions from the back of the cart. “For God’s sake Faith, STOP!” (50 m BEFORE the intersection), ‘more to the left’, “There’s a car!” “STOP!” “STOP!” “STOP!” Add to this father-in-law’s efforts at helping by also giving the horse commands, commands which often contradicted my commands, and the peace of the countryside was beginning to be lost on me.
Eventually we caught up with a much bigger cart from the same centre being led by two of Groovy’s stablemates, much bigger and younger stablemates. Not wanting to be shown up Groovy set off after them at a pace that was both surprising and impressive considering his efforts so far. As we turned off the paved roads and onto sand tracks and over grass fields this new found enthusiasm took on an alarming aspect.Whenever his horsey-colleagues vanished from sight behind a hedge or curve in the path Groovy broke into a whinny and a trot, dragging us behind him with little respect for the actual path boundaries, low-lying hedges and market-vegetation. What with the screams from the back, the contradictory instructions from Opa on my left and my efforts to wrest Groovy from his groove we must have provided a good 15 minutes worth of entertainment for the tourists in the back of the cart in front of us.
Eventually I had to get terse and tell everyone to “Shut Up” after which I was able to get Groovy back under control and hold him back until the other cart had disapeared from sight. Groovy regressed to his earlier I’d-rather-be-dog-food pace and we finished our tour of the Montferland countryside in a civilized fashion. Well, except for Ron that is, who as we passed our hotel, leapt out the back and went and hid in the parked car with Jacob.
Till death do us part, in sickess and health, for richer or poorer. But not behind a horse!
PS: This from the Huifkarcentrum website “Met een lief en gewillig paard door de prachtige omgeving van het montferland. Het lijkt moeilijk maar toch valt het reuze mee, het paard is gewend om naar u te luisteren en zal u graag van dienst zijn.” seems to be pushing the envelope a bit when applied to Groovy. But he did add a bit of spice to the morning!