Nicola Martin got really bucked off when she lied about being a horse rider in Scone…

Where did you do fruit picking?

The regular backpacking question was put to me recently by Leon from London. I explained that I didn’t do fruit picking for a number of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t think my pale, freckled, red-haired Irish self could handle the heat in Queensland at the time, and secondly, I had heard one too many horror stories of snakes in banana trees and limbs forever lost amongst the strawberries.

Instead, I did my regional work on a horse stud farm in Scone, New South Wales – the horse capital of Australia. I am travelling with a pal from home who is very horse savvy and has two horses in stables back home. I, on the other hand, am goldfish savvy. We Googled every farm in Scone until we found a couple who agreed to let us work on their stud farm. They were under the illusion we were both advanced riders with a history of horse experience. They thought this to be true because that is what we told them.

First morning at the crack of dawn, we tried on the new riding boots and made our way to the stud where we were expected to show off our years of experience. We met Blinky, the resident kangaroo on our way up the driveway, who is a part of the furniture because he is quite talented at avoiding the shotgun.

Cliodhna, my horse savvy friend was first on a horse, ironically called Irish. He wasn’t letting her have an easy ride and she had to prove she knew what she was doing. Thankfully she was able to do this rather well. Meanwhile, I was on the ground quivering. I had thought that I’d be well suited to horse-riding, it’s a natural thing. Cowboys and Indians have been at it for years. The time came, and I was told to get up on Freeze. I got the leg over no problem, just like the movies.

Unfortunately, that is where the movie similarity ends because I couldn’t make Freeze move an inch. I tried the usual giddy-up carry on, the quiet “please move” under my breath, the gentle kick under the ribs and finally the, “Oh God please if you just make this horse go I swear I’ll do anything” prayer.None of which made Freeze go. I hopped down mortified.

George, the boss, said I should have kicked the turd harder. Felicity, the other boss, was very kind and said they would not send me back on the train despite the fact I had blatantly lied about my horse skills, instead I could look after the yard.

Our three months passed by quickly on the stud farm. I was head of the pooper-scooper division and Cliodhna rode the horses. I had my own poo truck and I gained serious upper arm muscle from all of the mucking out. Freeze and I slowly got to know one another. I found out later that he is the kids’ pony and is used regularly as the stud’s lie detector test to prove if people actually
can ride. I had failed that test miserably.

One fine day I did actually make him move, then trot, canter and sort of gallop. We even managed to play Polo-cross together until he decided he was fed up of my inexperienced ways and bucked me off. Rodeo style. Now I am known as the first ever person the kids’ pony ploughed into the ground. We encountered no snakes and lost no limbs, although I nearly broke a few in the bucking incident. I do not regret not going fruit picking.

The experience in Scone was a life changing adventure in itself. I would advise all in the backpacking community to give stud work a go, but please take my advice. Do not lie about having horse experience, it’s not worth shit.