Mr O (who as you know is incapable of sleep at the weekend) woke up at 6.50 and realised it was just starting to rain. He got up, dressed and slipped out to get the horses in. I woke, and in my blurry state, realised what he was doing, so I got up as well and staggered out to help. I can't believe I was even physically capable.
By the time I got to the field, the rain had increased and the first rumble of thunder was heard in the distance. We were due to go to Osberton for a pleasure ride and were both determined to go. How can I describe Osberton? It is basically 70,000 acres of green fields, bridleways and tracks, and you can ride on most of it. It is one of my favourite places in England and we used to ride there every couple of weeks when we were at the old yard. If you can't get a two hour ride out of it, you're doing something wrong.
I gave Barnaby a perfunctory groom and booted him up. I had hogged him on Thursday, (shaved his neck hair off, he doesn't have a mane) so he looked quite smart. There was more thunder and flashes of lightening. Mr O doggedly got the lorry out.
I dashed indoors to get myself changed. I'd had a dither about what to wear, but all of that was now irrelevant as I'd just stuck a jacket on and hoped for the best.
As we trawled up the M1 we were the only vehicle on the road, I kid you not. That's because all the sensible people were still curled up under their duvets. The rain was lashing the windscreen and I had to resist a temptation to cling to Mr O's arm and beg him to turn back - but no, on we sped.
We drove up the A1, then turned off to Retford and pulled in up the long lane, and followed the signs to a nearby field. The marshall at the gate looked at us in astonishment - needless to say we were the first to arrive. I'm sure I could hear him muttering something about 'mad fools' but it was hard to hear clearly above the thunderclaps.
We went to sign in. The steward asked us if we really wanted to do the ride and were confident that our horses would be okay. We nodded (insanely) enthusiastically. Actually Mr O has ridden Barnaby in thunder and lightening a couple of years ago, and he knew he wasn't bothered, but we weren't sure about Zak.
We were about to find out, as we mounted and rode down to the first marshall. He was just giving us directions when there was a loud Crack! above us. Neither horse flinched. I was thrilled. The marshall grinned. He looked relieved that none of his rusty first-aid skills would be required.
We carried on to the next junction where we were met by a half-drowned woman purporting to be another marshall, poor thing, there wasn't even a car for her to sit in. We carried on past, round loads of tracks normally closed to the public leading to the old cross country course. Mr O kept pointing out fences he'd jumped out hunting. Of course, he'd been on Barnaby then.
Eventually we came back out and cantered all the way up to the top of the Green Mile and turned to ride down it. Mr O asked if he could go in front and open Zak up a bit, and I agreed, so he set off in a flat out gallop. We went streaking along, Zak like a gazelle and Barnaby like a lion on his tail, it was fantastic. After all, this is why we came. As I said in a previous post, Max knew he didn't stand a chance keeping up with Zak and used to give up, but Barnaby also has the heart of a lion and was determined to match the ex racehorse. It was utterly fantastic, like tailing Red Rum. Rain was slashing at us, and the trees were whipping past in a blur as we cruised along, then it was all over and we were coming down, down to trot and then walk. We looked at each other, both grinning like idiots. No words were necessary. There is no feeling like it on earth.
We strolled along happily, and turned off into a leafy avenue. The horses were steaming, and my glasses steamed up too, but we decided we'd better canter this one as well, this time with Barnaby in front. I can remember cantering down here on Max once, going full pelt, when he stopped dead, let a squirrel cross the track in front of him, then continued full throttle to the end. It was an experience, I can tell you.
We carried on, then ended up on the proper cross country course and came out by the airstrip. Mr O couldn't resist jumping the log and the Jacob's ladder, with Zak flying over as if they were nothing. We whizzed along on the wide open grass and pulled up and walked them off as we were nearly home. Altogether we'd done 14 miles, and it was nothing to the horses (bearing in mind the first ride in April was the same distance and had been quite hard work). I have no doubts about these horses' fitness whatsoever.
We went to sign-in and untacked the horses. Fortunately it had stopped raining so we went and got a burger and a well-earned cup of tea. Every single part of me was soaking wet. Rain had poured into my riding boots, and my left one was squelching as I walked, not the most pleasant experience. My hair was plastered to my head. I'd had to ride Barnaby in his double bridle so I was glad I'd worn gloves as otherwise my hands would have been raw. I was grateful for his plaited rein, as I had no grip on the smooth snaffle rein at all. My gloves were drenched.
All in all it was quite an adventure, and I bet everyone that turned up was glad they had done it. I would rather have had that sort of weather than the ridiculous heat we had on Saturday, I don't think 14 miles would have been fair then.
I have looked on the official photographer's website today, and there are no photographs of Barnaby as Mr O walked up to the photographer, blocking me off, asking him if he could take some head shots of Zak (we had agreed to do this, but I am a bit disappointed now). He said they wouldn't come out very well because of the poor light, but they are stunning. I can't wait for Mr O to come home so I can show him. The reason is that we have a large portrait of Max and Barnaby above our bed, so I've recently taken down the one of Max and moved the one of Barnaby over to my side of the bed, leaving a blank space above Mr O's side. I think one of these pics might be good enough to have blown up and put in a frame. I'll add one on here as soon as I can.
All in all, a fabulous day and I was thrilled with Barnaby's behaviour throughout. He never got strong or tried to race and came back to me the moment I asked. How can you not love a horse like that? Eat your heart out, Jean d'Arc.
First day in my uniform
2 days ago