In theory

Words: Meryl Rosenberg & Neigh-Bours

So it rained. And rained and rained and rained. You call your instructor to ask when you should reschedule your weekly lesson. She laughs and says, “Horse riding's not for sissies you know, lessons as normal in the rain, you won't melt!” Casting a dubious eye at the weather, you agree that while you may not melt, your personal evolution may cause you to sprout gills.

In theory

Nevertheless, you arrive at the appointed time for your lesson to find that your instructor has taken pity on you and you'll be having a theory lesson. In a nice warm, dry stable. Occupied by a nice warm, dry horse. Which leaves very little room for you.

You're still slightly nervous of just how large horses are, especially close up, but this one seems to be quite relaxed. She's quietly alternating between appearing to doze and occasionally munching grass out of her hay rack, despite the fact that there are already two people, your instructor and a groom, in her stable with her. And there's not enough room left to swing ... well, anything, really.

You squeeze in next to your instructor, who has a bewildering array of bondage equipment dangling over her shoulder. She seems quite unfazed by the apparent lack of space, moving easily around the horse. Ok, maybe it's not THAT crowded.

Up until now, your horse has arrived at the mounting block for your lesson fully dressed in saddle and bridle, with everything correctly aligned and adjusted. By the end of the lesson, a groom magically appears and whisks the horse out of your uneducated hands to get undressed again – you assume. (You haven't actually spent much time with undressed horses!) Apparently today is going to correct that.

As your instructor is going through the terminology that identifies bits of the bondage equipment she's carrying, you realise that a bridle is made up of about 10 different bits of leather, each one with its own name. Are you ever going to remember all of this? Thankfully, it turns out that it is all rather self-explanatory. The strap that goes over the nose is called the nose band. The strap that goes over the horse's eyebrow area is called the brow band. The piece that goes over the top of her head is called the head piece. And the metal bit that goes in her mouth is called, well, the bit. And so on. Duh.

Meanwhile, the pretty chestnut mare that is your demo model for the day is getting snoozier and snoozier, and as you're leaning forward to see, she's leaning sideways to sleep ... on you. You find yourself gently but firmly pinned to the stable wall, with a large head resting on your shoulder that is getting heavier and heavier by the moment, while she softly blows warm, sweet-smelling horse breath into your ear. What's more disconcerting is the groom getting the giggles when he notices you being pinned against a wall by half-a-ton of drowsy animal. She proves to be deceptively easy to push off you though, and doesn't seem to take offense. Whew.

You watch your instructor demonstrate the getting-horse-dressed process, which turns out to be called 'tacking up' and then it's your turn to have a go. As you undo the first buckle, the previously and nicely arranged bridle promptly chucks all of its component parts around your wrist, turns itself inside out three times and twists the cheek pieces around in your hands. Wait ... what? You instructor takes it away from you, straightens it out and gives it back, and this time guides you through the process – and more importantly, which buckle to undo first. Once you get the hang of that it's actually quite easy and you feel confident enough to try tackle putting the saddle on next time!

See you for your lesson same time next month!

In theory

Win a horse riding lesson

Answer this simple question and you stand a chance to win a free horse riding lesson at Chikara Stables, in Nooitgedacht, Johannesburg.

Q: The strap that goes over the horse's eyebrow area is called the … ?

To enter, email your answer to . The competition closes at midnight on Friday, 31 January 2014. The winner will be drawn from all correct entries. DO IT NOW’s terms and conditions apply.

About the prize

The prize, valued at R200, may be taken any time before 30 April 2013, on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday afternoon by prior arrangement. Chikara Stables cater for all levels of rider, specialising in nervous beginners or rusty adults! Be sure to wear closed shoes with a small flat heel if possible (think school shoes), as well as long pants (jeans are perfect) and long socks. Chikara Stables will provide you with a safety helmet.