The premise used by the SEP instructors of that time was that the more different horses you rode, the more likely you’d actually learn to ride. That’s one of the reasons there were so many horses in their stable. With some exceptions, I rode all their horses at least once.
Some were a great deal more memorable than others.
The first horse I ever rode was also my mount when I took the “premier degré” test in the winter of 1962-1963. Passaro was a medium-sized brown bay with a fair amount of white on legs and face. I remember he reared in refusal during my test. Getting him to jump 30 centimeters from a halt led to success. That was my first but not my last experience with rearing.
The next horse I actually rode fifteen times, fourteen times in a row, skipped one week and then a last time. I suspect I got him as a mount to try my endurance! He had two very trying habits. He’d wait until you had your left foot in the stirrup and you were in that peculiarly defenseless position of being just on the point of swinging right leg over rump. He’d reach around and sink his teeth into my left hip. Aiiee! Ouch, ouch, OUCH! He didn’t do anything to get rid of me once I was astride but I carried a huge black-and-blue bump for months! His name was In Fine as in Infinite Ouch!
In Fine’s other habit was to stick his nose in a corner and kick all passing horses. The fifteenth time I lost my cool and he quit this routine. I never rode him again. It wasn’t until years later that I learned what I could’ve done to prevent the biting.
The second year at the SEP we were joined by our mother. She had one mount, named Sultane, who was the venerable empress of all the horses; she’d been the first horse the SEP had acquired.
That year, I occasionally got to ride an intermediate-level horse named Baby III. A dark brown bay, he was “cold-backed”. This meant that you couldn’t sit down in the saddle until a good half-hour had passed because he had tender kidneys. Riding him was like driving a Lamborghini instead of one’s usual runabout!
On one occasion, Baby III started to shake all over. I couldn’t talk him out of it while astride so I took him to X, dismounted, and soothed him by voice and patting. The instructor whirled to give me what-for, saw what I was doing and left me alone. After ten minutes, the shaking subsided, I remounted and rejoined the lesson. Nary a peep from anyone but I did ride him several times again without incident.
After a winter of riding around a manège, my mother got fed up. We started trail-riding at the Cercle Hippique de Compiegne in 1963.