I don't want you to think I am cocooned in my own little world of horses and chickens and building maneges, I am aware that there is a world out there. I am, for instance, aware that I am the only person in Britain who benefitted from the volcanic ash spewing out of somewhere unpronouncable in Iceland (and I don't mean the frozen chicken section). This is because Missis was unable to fly to Dublin, so I didn't have to muck her horses out all week.
I am gathering snippets of information regarding our own forthcoming election, but I'm afraid that on that score, things at home are at least temporarily more important.
And so this morning we cranked up the lorry and got the horses in. Today was the first ride put on by the Amber Valley Riding Club. I love this club, because they put on brilliant rides which are very well organised (you follow the arrows and can't really get lost) and they only cost about eight pounds a ride, and you always get free refreshments and a rosette when you get back. If you do a ride with Sport Endurance or Endurance GB you pay about eighteen pounds a go, and with Endurance GB you are practically guaranteed to get lost. They know how to put the 'endurance' into 'endurance ride.'
We did this ride last year, and it's fourteen miles, which is a heck of a lot this early in the season. The difference this year is that I was on Barnaby and Mr O was on Zak. They came out of the lorry and Barnaby was actually quite calm and let me tack him up without stressing. This time last year he'd only just finished hunting and was a bit hyper. He broke his lead rope and gave Mr O a massive rope burn on his arm, before we'd even set off.
We rode down the road and both horses were fine, but when we came to riders ahead of us, Barnaby just wanted to go until he'd overtaken them. I really struggled to keep him in walk, and really thought he was going to get the better of me. I thought I might have to cop out and do the seven mile ride instead, but I wouldn't have been able to separate him off from Zak by then anyway, so I decided to grit my teeth and keep going.
We got onto the Stockley Trail and had a good trot, but when we came to the next group of riders I had to make him walk before asking if it was okay to overtake, before trotting on again. I had him in a Dutch gag, which was just about strong enough. We trotted up a road, then turned up a farm driveway, through a little gate on the right, then we were straight onto a canter track. I had no choice but to canter along it, but actually Barnaby was stunning and just bowled along, and pulled up exactly when I asked him to. He was curious when we went round the curves and was listening to me for instructions, not just tanking along. It was lovely. After that he relaxed and so did I and the rest of the ride was wonderful.
It's just so blissful to ride a horse that looks ahead and trundles along, not spooking at every single thing which puts me totally on edge.
We passed Scarcliffe Hall, an old ruined house, staring out at us through empty eyes, down the grass track and onto a bridge that spans the motorway. I don't like going over here, but it's very wide. I find the roar of the traffic below very offputting, but Barnaby didn't take any notice and neither did Zak.
Both horses picked up then, as Barnaby did the ride last year and knew he was nearly home. They trotted boldly up the hill and back to the lorry park. Barnaby was tired, but I was so proud of him. This is the rosette they really earn. I have to say, to give him his due, Zak looked as if he could go round again. The difference between a cob and a thoroughbred I suppose. We washed the horses down. Barnaby was very warm but not really dripping with sweat. Zak said, "Look Father, I've perspired, just there look, on my shoulder." Amazing animals, both.
There is an official photographer, and we'll probably buy the pictures as it's the first time for both of us on our new horses. I dare say my face will look pretty grim in the picture as I was struggling to hold Barnaby at the time, and trying to look jolly, make sure my feet are turned in and smiling all at the same time was a bit of a challenge, so we'll see.
We drove home and turned them out for a well deserved roll and graze. They ran off to meet the others and discuss the day's events, as Pongo and Missis had also been, but they did the seven mile circuit.
None of us will be able to walk tomorrow, but this is where I start to appreciate that the horses are out all day and all night now, so I don't need to muck out. This is where my summer truly begins, and the real benefit of living here comes to the fore.
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