I Can See You're Sad, Even When You Laugh, Even When You Smile

This is from a horse's point of view.

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 He pulls the bridle over my ears, his hands shaking. I don't know what's wrong with him. He hasn't been the same for a while. He never talks to me anymore.

 "Come on, Star." He pulls on the reins and I follow him to the arena. He keeps me at a livery and riding yard. He pulls sharply on the reins as I greet a bay hunter gelding called Barney. I pin my ears back and stamp my hoof. I'm sick of him.

 He looks at me and I soften. He looks so tired, there's dark rings under his grey eyes. I lower my head slightly and walk to the arena. There's one other livery horse and two school horses.

 Matt leads me over to the mounting block and pulls down the stirrups. He hasn't tightened the girth properly. He pulls his hard hat down onto his mop of dirty blonde coloured hair.

 "Is that your horse?" One of the people riding a school pony called Samson asks. She's new. "I love greys. Mare or gelding?"

 "Yeah, she's mine. She's a five year old Dutch Warmblood mare."

 "Cool. What's her name?"

 "Stargazer. Just Star when I'm not showing her, though."

 "She's beautiful."

 "Right. Mount up," Brenda, the instructor, says, clapping her hands together.

 I flinch as Matt lands heavily in my saddle. "Matt, you can lead." He digs his heels into my sides and I jump forward, breaking into a trot. He yanks on the reins and I throw my head up, shaking it.

 "Stop," he growls. What is wrong with him?

 "Okay, pick up the trot at M." He digs his heels in again and I rush forward. "Matt, collect her up." He sits heavily and puts a huge amount of pressure on the reins. I shake my head again and turn my quarters in. "Get her working, Matt, come on! Sasha, get Samson on the bit. You're all riding like a sack of potatoes."

 I straighten up and begin trotting properly. "That's good, Matt. Tom, you look like a banana! Straighten your back. I don't know how Poppy puts up with you. Eliza, I know the school ponies can be a bit lazy, but Peacock's able to trot much faster than that. Use your legs."

 Matt shifts his position slightly and I pick up my feet like I'm a trotting horse. Just for fun, of course. "Matt, what is she doing?" Tom laughs.

 "She looks amazing, Matt. When did you train her to trot like that?" Brenda asks.

 "I don't know. She just did it."

 "Get her to do that at shows. The judges love it. Okay, change the rein from A to C."

 

 "Canter as a ride at F." Matt sits down and gives me a boot in the side. I just trot faster, pinning my ears back. "What's wrong with her?"

 "I don't know she's just being bold." When Brenda turns to Sasha he gives a tap with the crop and kicks me at the same time. I stop short and Poppy runs straight into me. "Get up." He kicks me again and I shake my head. Again, he digs his heels in. I jump forward and he looses his balance.

 "Matt, what are you doing? She's on the wrong leg. Change. Change!" He moves his legs but I stay on the wrong leg.

 He gives me a tap and I hunch my back. "Slow her to a trot. Use your seat." Matt just sits heavily and pulls on the reins.

 "Please," he whispers. I slow to trot again. I feel so bad. I don't know what's wrong with him, though. I canter at the next marker and Brenda smiles.

 We stay cantering for a few circuits and then change the rein. I preform a perfect flying change, but Matt doesn't even give me a pat.

 "Okay, we're going to do jumping. It's like a puissance with poles. Except, you can't get kicked out. The livery ponies will go higher."

 She sets up a jump. It's small enough. "Take them through the practice jump as a ride. Tom, you can lead this time."

 Poppy trots forward, and we all follow. She canter as she catches sight of the jump and I do too. I pull and Matt gives me my head. I clear it after Poppy, barely having to jump.

 We go over it again twice before she heightens it. "It's only seventy." Poppy tosses her head as Matt changes his stirrups. Poppy rushes the fence and barely makes it over, her dark bay body straining.

 "Matt, you're up."  I canter calmly towards the jump and Matt holds me back. Two strides before the jump he lets me go. I bound forward and clear the jump. Brenda's frowning. Yeah, Brenda, I know, he rode weirdly.

 Sasha goes last. Matt doesn't bother watching her. I can tell by the way he's sitting. She rides up perfectly but Samson spots a wrapper in the sand. At the last minute he shies, stopping suddenly and turning his body so it's almost parallel to the jump.

 Sasha comes off and flies over the jump. She lands painfully and I flinch slightly. Brenda rushes over. "Well, Sasha cleared the jump, anyway," Matt says, dryly. I stamp my back hoof.

 Again, Samson shies. This time Sasha falls onto his neck. She climbs back into the saddle and sighs.

 "What's up, boy?"

 "And now she's the lesson's horse whisperer." Matt again. I take two steps back and he looses his balance for a moment. He's not even holding the reins. I trot forward, towards the wrapper. For some reason, I don't want Sasha to get hurt. I paw at the ground and Matt kicks, trying to turn me. Brenda picks up the wrapper and gives me a praising pat.

 I go back to the centre of the arena and stand still, watching. Sasha gives Samson a pat and turns him towards the jump. He clears it nicely and she gives him a big pat, making a fuss of him.

 The jump's still low, only ninety. It must go up ten each time. Poppy clears it and Matt turns me towards it. This time when he holds me back I hunch my back and go faster. He pulls tightly, sawing at my mouth.

 I raise up on my hind legs in a half rear. The saddle slips slightly. The idiot never tightened the girth. He turns me in a large circle to the jump again. I leap up, all four legs off the ground. There's no way I'm jumping with a loose girth.

 He gives me a tap with the crop and I buck once, twice. He falls onto my neck and I stand, waiting for him to get back into the saddle. He moves slowly.

 "Matt, you own that horse. You should have a good partnership wit her. Try once more." He turns me and gives me a huge smack with the whip. I go on my hind legs and he falls clear from the saddle. I drop to all fours and snort.

 "Sasha, will you switch with him?"

 "Me?" Sasha's eyes are wide with the fear of riding a rearing horse.

 "Yep. Come on. Dismount and bring Samson over." Sasha leads the big grey gelding over and hands his reins to Matt who glares at her.

 "I'll give you a leg up. You're probably not use to sixteen hands horses," Brenda smile at Sasha.

 She legs the girl up onto my back. "Canter around a few times, get a feel for her. Eliza, go on. Peacock's going well for you."

 Sasha's hands are light on the reins and as she squeezes her legs against my sides I walk. She asks me to trot then canter. I do all willingly.

 "Okay, Sasha, you can jump her." She turns me towards the jump and I canter towards it, my ears perked forward. I clear it and give a little buck.

 "She jumped it with me the first time, though," Matt says. Samson wouldn't jump for him s- he has to stand on the ground, holding the gelding's reins.

 She raises the pole. It's now to a metre ten. I snort in excitement, and nod my head. Poppy drops a hind leg and catches the pole. Peacock refuses the first time but then the bay gelding jumps, clearing it.

 Sasha turns me towards it and lets me go. She still has contact but lets me judge my own pace. I snap my knees up and clear it easily. Sasha gives me a huge pat and canters me to the others.

 "Okay, walk them to cool them down. Good riding, Sasha. Matt mount up on Samson and cool him down."

 Sasha leads me back to my stall and begins to untack me. Brenda told her to and Matt is to untack Samson.

 "You're such a good girl," Sasha coos, throwing my cooler rug on. I snort and breathe out on her face. She has  cut and under it a bruise is forming. I think it's from where she fell.

 "Get out of my stable. Just because she jumped for you doesn't mean you can be in my stable." Matt's glaring at Sasha. Her green eyes look confused. She steps out, pulling her blonde hair back into a ponytail. "You're actually a rubbish rider. You should have stayed on when Samson refused. He shouldn't have refused."

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