This little gem turned up on Facebook and made me shudder… it shows the indoor horse ride at the Marine Lake – possibly a unique attraction!
Effectively it was a ramp strewn with straw and horse dung set against a pained canvas of a pastoral scene. You’d pay your sixpence, mount up and terminally bored horses would walk you up the ramp, across and down the ramps (I’m simplifying here).
I was never a great fan of horses but I had spent some time buttering up the large grey horse with carrots every time I passed the attraction. He reminded me of Silver the Lone Ranger’s horse. To think I half-inched three penny bits from the tea tin where my dad kept any change bagged up in green paper bags for the bank, for a ride on this horse.
I gave up my place in the queue to ensure my arrival coincided with the big grey being available, and climbed the wooden steps to mount up. The horse turned round and, seeing me smiling slightly uneasily, gave me a look of disdain. He started up with a jolt as the man was giving me instructions, explaining what not to do. I craned my head round to try to take on his words of wisdom, but the horse had decided that I was having no part in the following proceedings.
The grey horse alternatively sped up and slowed down as we continued to climb upwards through a sequence of sharp bends. I can remember my left, then right knee being ground into the post every time we turned. At the highest point of the climb the horse stopped abruptly and then moved right up against the fence which was all that separated me from the thirty foot drop. Slowly and painfully he pressed harder and harder against the fence until my right leg had its checkerboard pattern printed in red welts into it. The way the horse increasingly applied pressure was calculated and premeditated. At one point it turned its head and I swear it smiled.
I learnt never to trust horses after that, especially bored horses doing routine things. Every time I passed that ride after that I could see that tatty grey horse pick up his ears and eye-ball me. Sometimes he would throw his head back and whinny as if to tell the others, “That’s him, that’s the idiot there, who thought he could ride me like a cowboy!”
It was a very poor experience in exchange for a sixpence, and that was before I factored in the rollicking I received when Dad had the embarrassment of being accused of “short changing” the bank when he took the green paper bags in the following week.