For two days I looked at the mobile number I had been given, then finally decided that I actually had nothing to lose, it was a phone call, after all, if he couldn’t help me he may know someone who could. Decision made, I punched out his number, took a deep breath and prepared myself to leave a message that wasn’t garbled and incomprehensible, that was the first shock ‘hello’ said a friendly voice – shock, horror he had answered his phone, I wasn’t going to leave a message, I could feel a wave of panic, what was I to say, maybe I had the wrong number? ‘Is that Royston Munt?’ ‘Speaking’ said the voice ‘how can I help?’ A conversation then began that was to prove life-changing for both myself and Jimmy.
Royston listened very quietly whilst I described Jimmy to him and how I felt that he was not going quite as well as he should be and it must be something to do with my hands but that Jimmy was very tolerant and on and on with the nervous verbal diarrhoea. When he could finally get a word in he asked me some questions like how long had Jimmy been a carriage driving pony, how long had I been carriage driving? I gave him a ‘potted history’ of us both and told him that I was aware that a novice pony coupled with a novice driver was not the best of combinations and I was very keen on doing everything correctly for both of our sakes. Royston suggested he should come out to see and assess us as whatever we are doing it has to be safe for all concerned and a consistent correct procedure should always be followed, to the letter, to enable that to happen. ‘When are you able to come?’ I asked, ‘I could be with you the day after tomorrow?’ ‘That would be great’ I heard myself saying trying my best not to sound like Corporal Jones, I hung up the phone and went into full Corporal Jones mode, rushing around ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’ down to the yard to tell Jimmy that we needed to smarten up, there he was nonchalantly chewing on his hay and covered in shavings where he had rolled. The following hours were spent, bathing Jimmy, turning him out so that I could clean the yard up, bathing Jimmy as he had managed to get mud stains from the field, cleaning the Sycamore and checking the harness. The day after tomorrow arrived – down to the yard, bath Jimmy, who seemed to have taken delight in covering himself in stable stains overnight. I’m sure the neighbours must have heard my distressed wails when I saw the state of him however he was just fielding his ‘does my face look bothered’ expression.
I was just finishing removing all signs of shavings and the time came, I heard a car, it pulled up in the yard and out of the car stepped a very friendly looking man that matched the friendly voice. ‘Good morning, I’m Roy, you must be Jane and this must be Jimmy?’ He looked Jimmy over and ruffled his mane gently. ‘Do you have the harness here I would like to see how you harness him up please.’ Oh no ‘it’s still in the tack room’ I should have had it ready, oh bother, already demonstrating dis-organisation. ‘No problem,’ he said ‘would you like to fetch it?’ Quick, to the tack room, my mother’s voice in my head ‘more haste, less speed’ gather up the harness, mothers voice still there but it wasn’t working, somehow I manage to emerge with it draped over my shoulder with dangling traces, buckles clanking on concrete, reins around my ankles, trying not to look like ‘all the gear and no idea!’ I am sure that when Jimmy saw me his look said it all ‘and you didn’t want ME to embarrass YOU’!
I think Roy heard me coming rather than saw me, he glanced up, smiled and said ‘I’ll give you a hand with that as he helped me hang it over a stable door. ‘Before we go any further, may I see your vehicle please?’ So I fetched the Sycamore from the barn he had a look and was quickly satisfied that it was safe and sound. Jimmy was watching with mild interest. ‘OK, while you were fetching the harness I’ve given Jimmy a look over and am happy that he has no sores or lumps and bumps that could be irritated by the harness. The only observation is that I think he may be a little overweight, but nothing that a little more work won’t cure though.’ Oh dear me, Jimmy was not impressed, he shot a glance of disdain in Roy’s direction! ‘I can see that your harness is in good order so now I would like to see you put it on him please.’ Crikey, please let me remember Allen’s lessons ‘right oh’, please try to get this right, please don’t fidget, or look for treats at this point Jimmy. I managed to put everything on in the right order and felt pretty good that no adjustment was needed, dear little Jimmy had stood patiently and had allowed me to do my best at getting it right, what a little angel, he has helped me to restore a little self-composure. Next, we put him to the vehicle, Roy’s expert eye checking all details for correctness and safety and it is time to drive. Roy took up the groom’s position at his head and I climbed in and took up the reins. Jimmy stood beautifully so Roy was then able to climb in next to me and said ‘give him the command to ‘walk on’ now and you could take me on a drive that you normally do please.’ So off we went around the village with Roy chatting away and I became very relaxed and started to really enjoy this and it so followed ‘what’s in the brain goes down the rein’ so Jimmy also relaxed. The time passed really quickly, and we were home all too soon. We had so enjoyed our first lesson out, I learned early on that Jimmy’s banana shape, that had concerned me, was not my hands but more due to the camber of the road and Jimmy trying to compensate for it – something that I hadn’t even considered, in fact, there was much that I hadn’t considered and a lot of information was fed to me just from seemingly general chat, it was much more than that, it was Roy’s very relaxing way of instructing. When we got back to the yard we unharnessed, everything in the same order but in reverse for harnessing up, as the harness was coming off Roy was showing me that if I threaded the traces through the breast collar, and popped the reins over the turrets, then gather up the breaching with the saddle it meant that everything was put away in a much more orderly fashion than that in which it had come out in, nothing was dragged along the ground so nothing would be damaged. Jimmy was brushed down, given a light wash down and, much to his great joy, was turned out to graze and it was time for us to have a cup of tea and chat about what I had learned. Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know it at the time, but we were at the beginning of a steep learning curve and it was going to be so much fun.