The Very Worst Riding School In The World by Lucinda E. Clarke is a short (27 Pages) non-fiction account of an almost love affair between the author and horses. It is available free from Amazon and probably qualifies to be listed in the category “chapbook.” The very catchy title attracted my interest as did the author’s opening declaration best described in her own words. “Who, in their right mind would start a riding school when they didn’t know how to ride, was terrified of horses, had no capital, no insurance and half the stock was at death’s door?” (loc 25-26). This short account might be of interest to young adult readers (or any readers) who have entertained the idea of owning horses, whether for commercial reasons or not, and have really not thought through completely the pitfalls that such ownership might encounter.
Clarke mentions that she remembers loving horses from the age of three but at the same time was terrified of their capacity to do tremendous accidental harm that came from the fact of their immense size. Her mother did not share her daughter’s attraction and prohibited her from even being near horses by such measures as not allowing Clarke to go to friends’ houses where opportunities presented themselves to ride horses. Lucinda was not deterred.
In later married life it was not quite clear why her husband encouraged her to take riding lessons. Was it to please his wife that the husband encouraged her perceived interest? Or was it a way to further his own career advancement by exhibiting a family interest that was consistent with the interests of families of superiors and bosses? Her interest was less than enthusiastic as she described perching (loc 124) on a horse rather than riding one. Clarke provides an entertaining account of riding with a group of far more experienced wives of colleagues, a ride that ended up as a solitary experience when she was not able to keep up with others.
Further work assignments for the then husband led her to a situation where she not only rode horses but had ownership of two behaviorally disparate animals, one compliant with her demands and one far less compliant to her orders. She also was introduced, without the benefit of any experience or access to advice from the internet (it didn’t exist), to unimagined logistical problems such as housing, feeding, and care of horses. Forced into a situation where she needed to house her own horses, she quickly found herself in a care giving role to four horses. There was nothing to do but try to turn this into a money-making proposition. Even if it didn’t make money, there was a possibility that the fledging enterprise would pay for maintenance and upkeep.
This chapbook is about the initial stages of starting a riding school, an unintended consequence of living in Botswana while following her husband career. The author ends the account by giving a brief glance at what would occur after this erratic beginning and promising a fuller account in follow-up publications. She has had a rich career that goes beyond horses and riding schools. This is a 2017 publication and I have yet to find any explanatory sequels but I am interested in reading any that may appear. I am also interested in other segments of her life. In an “about the author” segment it is noted that she made history in South Africa as she handled her own divorce. Given that her activities with a riding school came about due to the insistence of her husband, I feel that this experience would be interesting to read.