Real Rider Stories: My hero Mr. XL

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Read our latest Real Rider Story from Jana Mulacova.

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I have always wanted a horse, ever since I was a child. When I was 30 and a member of a riding club in Malmö, Sweden, my beloved huge gelding Mr. XL, then 21 years old, was about to retire from the career of a riding tutor and dressage master. I bought him, decided to give him a few more nice years in the autumn of his life, spoiling him rotten and giving him all the care a horse can wish for. At first, we stayed in the stable he’d lived at for the past 12 years, slowly changing his routines to a retirement plan.

Unfortunately, my big boy injured a ligament that winter and was recommended to walk on hard surfaces, so from the indoors riding hall, we started venturing out to the neighbouring quarters for strolls. I rode bareback and mostly even bridle-less, as we could only walk on the asphalt and putting on a tight saddle for that seemed like an unnecessary hassle for the old fella. What we did pay attention to was to be visible, having multiple reflective items and several lights on, avoiding any possible traffic problems.

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In Sweden, a horse is considered a vehicle and is supposed to avoid pedestrian and cycling areas, so we took the small streets towards the city edge, passing through a calm villa quarter on our way. Mr. XL is a very calm and friendly horse and he quickly gained many friends and admirers among the locals, their pets and children.

Unfortunately, not all inhabitants of that quarter were the quiet families happy to see a horse pass through…

On one of those strolls, a car drove out of a repair shop at the end of one of the streets and as the driver and his friend spotted us, they punched the gas and speeded towards us with screaming tires while honking and yelling at us out of the car windows. Just like that, for no good reason, they suddenly attacked an 800 kg animal, using their car as a weapon. For fun…

Mr. XL is a wise old fella, but he is still a horse and his first instinct was to jump to the side and run for it, but just as he flexed his muscles to do that, he gave it a second thought, realising that if he suddenly jumped to the side, he might throw me off and leave me on the road to be hurt by the car. So he didn’t. He stood his ground instead as the bully behind the wheel stepped on the breaks in the last moment and stopped so close to us we had to take a few hasty steps back not to be hit. If I was left there on the road after a fall, I would have ended up dead.

Mr. XL stood his ground against a scary, speeding, honking car to protect me. He has shown that he feels responsible for me the same way I feel responsible for him. I called the police and lead them to the car shop in all my fury, rode into their yard on my proud hero of a horse and pointed at the car, making sure the bully will think twice before doing that to anyone else. Shortly after the incident, we moved away to the countryside, where we regularly stand our ground against noisy tractors and herds of flies and spend our days learning the Spanish walk in liberty and bathing in a pond. I have never fallen off of Mr. XL to this day, he sees to it. My hero.

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