My horse named Blackberry lazily rested his 1,000 pound frame on my back as I picked the debris out of his feet. Debris is a nice word - any horse lover can tell you that. What it really is, is horse poo, mud and everything gross he's picked up that day.
But it's a necessary chore for any rider. As I argued with Blackberry to let me have his foot comfortably, and to rest his weight on his own damn feet, I wondered about the beautiful Zara Phillips.
She's 14th in line to the thrown, and an Olympic 3-day eventer. Does she pick her own horses' hooves?
I moved on to the saddle. I had just bought a brand new set of reins for my bridle, so I was determined to ride English. I hadn't all summer, because well, all this rain has been wonderful for the grass in our back pasture - which means Blackberry is plump and happy. Getting an English saddle on a fat horse is a chore, to say the least. I admitted defeat in the spring and enjoyed my Western saddle instead.
When he saw the saddle coming, Blackberry puffed up his belly, holding his breath to make himself larger. I struggled and fought to do up the girth, but the billet straps were inches away. I pushed Blackberry over in an effort to force the breath out of him, unsuccessfully.
Zara's horse High Kingdom is much more fit than my little mixed breed Pinto. She would never struggle and engage in a battle of wills to get her saddle on.
I was determined to win - I wrenched my back (which I will add, put me on the couch for two days with back spasms, spooning an ice pack) and my hand slipped off the billet - and then I punched myself in the face. In his little horsey way, Blackberry laughed at me, enjoying the spectacle. My nose ached, but with a final push, I slid the buckle into the strap. It was on!
Blackberry conceded, and opened his mouth wide to accept the bit before I even had it ready. I think the saddling process is what he likes most about our rides - this horse has a sense of humour and watching his rider punch herself in the face gives him endless satisfaction.
Does High Kingdom enjoy watching his rider physically injure herself before she even gets in the saddle?
After our ride, I hopped off in the middle of the ring, and gave Blackberry a good pat. He immediately wiped green, mysterious slobber all over my somewhat clean clothes.
I couldn't even picture Zara covered in mystery horse goo, stained from the grass. She is impeccable; always the model of fashion and often with a wide, perfect grin.
Leading him back, I paused for the gate. Blackberry took the opportunity to rub his head against the fence post, shredding his bridle and ripping it off his face. My brand new reins dangled from the bit that was now no longer in his mouth, but hanging below his chin. I towed Blackberry back to the hitching post by his noseband. He trundled along behind me, clearly satisfied with the destruction.
Zara must have staff to tow her horse around, and replace bits of tack that get destroyed in the quest for equine perfectionism.
Blackberry expected a treat after all of this, and he got it. Because to be honest, I was exhausted, annoyed and filthy, but I love the little guy.
And that's one thing I know Zara and I have in common, at least. And that leads me to believe that she does have rides like I do - where nothing goes right, but at the end of it, there's just you and your horse.
My experience tells me that to High Kingdom, Zara isn't a princess. She's a napkin, rub tree, manicurist, stylist and tackling dummy - just I am to Blackberry.