I was coming into Cheltenham with Obama, a fair way along my route from Brecon to Birmingham. Yes, I do know there are shorter routes, but I wanted to stop off and see Patrick Meyer, Obama's foot trimmer, hoof boot consultant and a good friend.
We had set off with Saddlechariot and loaded trailer from near Flaxley Abbey, picnicked by the Severn, explored Gloucester, and were now heading round Cheletenham for Swindon, the small Cheltenham suburb, not the distant town, I am not totally stupid.
But we had done near 25 miles, we were running out of daylight, running out of energy and I was rapidly running out of patience. The day before, trying to get the Saddlechariot and trailer down the east side of the Forest of Dean, unbraked, down an appallingly steep road was only possible by unhitching and holding the rig back myself while leading Obama.
I only lost it and piled it into the hedge three or four times, but I had seriously frightened Obama when I tried taking it down with him in the shafts. Luckily, as an articulated four wheeler, the rig stops pushing if you swing the animal to one side, so although unimpressed and frightened, he wasn't damaged or terrified. But I pretty near shredded my left shoulder joint getting down the hill, so when we are outside Cheltenham, me leading from the outside because Cheletenham drivers give no quarter to ponies, every time Obama slowed, or grabbed a mouthful, it hurt like hell.
Couldn't he understand that we only had a couple of miles to go to a nice safe field, that his behaviour was risking both our necks and hurting me like hell. I was looking about for a stick because I know Obama is terrified of them, and he might then MOVE.
And all I had in the trailer was carrots. So I got them out and tried them. Go forward, get carrot. It works.
I had been brought up properly so treats are only used to catch the animal. Once it's caught, treats are an anethema, they make them bite, they make them nappy. You can't bribe them. I am sure some of you dear readers get paid at the end of the week, or month. Do you fling it back and complain to the police that someone tried to bribe you. Er... no, it's why we do the work. For the pay. So why shouldn't the pony get paid.
But the point I am trying to make is that I came close to thrashing Obama, and if I had found a stick before I remembered the carrots, I would have done. I couldn't bang him in the mouth with a bit because I drove the route with a rope halter, but if I had had a bit, his mouth would have been banged.
But this was the start of my carrot carrot approach. And I have gone a long way with it, and Obama and I are about to go further. Obama and Winston, the Mule are going to take Lee, last week a totally novice horseman, but he is driving Obama through town now so is coming along nicely, and myself, from Exeter to London.
We will take the Mark 10 Saddlechariot which was test driven as a prototype from Brecon to Birmingham, and we will take the Three mobile, my latest wheelchair enabled version because I have a few friends who want to drive Rotten Row in London, and this is the only way they can do it. We are raising money for Bookcycle, a brilliant charity, and we will learn lot on the way becuase we will make mistakes.
And when we have made those mistakes, we will look at what we have done, and what we should have done, but we will have to go on from where we are. We can't magically reverse history. We have to learn to say "spot the deliberate mistake" or "the exception proves the rule", or hope nobody was looking.
Lee and I will discuss endlessly what we did wrong, knowing why we made the mistake, what went before, what we thought............ but we can only go forwards. You make a mistake and you have to live with it. Obama still bites me when we start down a steep hill with a load. He remembers that horrible hill. And I get bitten enough to remind me, but then I have learned that bites tell you things. Obama bites when he is bored, he bites when he is scared, and he bites hard. But if I had never bored him, or scared him, I would never have learned that.
Mistakes are an essential part of progress, if you allow people to learn.
And I have learned. The vehicles going from Exeter to London will both have brakes. But Obama will still bite me when we start going down steep hills. I am learning still, I'll let Lee lead him down the steep bits.