Finally, we are back, after a three hour journey. Have you missed me? I've spent the last hour catching up on all your blogs.
We have had a wonderful time. I hardly know where to start.
We have been to Field Farm in Mumby, Lincolnshire (on the east coast to those of you who don't know Britain very well). Have a look at the website if you get time. We arrived Monday lunchtime, to be welcomed by Andrea, one of the owners. She showed us where to park the lorry and we unloaded the horses. They were given a nice paddock about ten yards from where the lorry was parked. They ran up and down in it, trying to figure out why they were there, and forming an immediate 'emergency action' bond i.e. 'I only know you and you only know me, so let's stick together!'
Andrea showed us round the (immaculate) yard, which two stables we would have, where to put our tack etc. She showed us the indoor and outdoor schools, the jumping paddock and the way to the cross country course. So strange to be on a livery yard again.
We went out for a hack that evening with a woman on her mare and her daughter leading a youngster in front. There was a girl behind me, too, on a beautiful pale grey cob. I saw the pink saddle cloth and asked, "What's her name?" The girl replied, "Hercules." A gelding then. Clever old me.
It was a very nice ride, and Barnaby and Zak were impeccably behaved. The youngster decided to trot every so often, and at first Barnaby thought it was his cue to join in, but he soon settled. Then when we got back Mr O decided he really must go and have a 'look' at the cross country course. Barnaby was fine until I put him in his stable and he realised Zak wasn't there, then went ballistic, kicking the door of his very smart American barn stable, which echoed around the yard. I was so embarrassed, and not very happy with Mr O when he got back. Of course he'd jumped most of the fences on the course, so he was quite happy.
We turned them out and clambered back into the lorry to cook dinner, which was lovely. We read until the light faded, then put on the DVD player, but we had no real television all week, and didn't miss it in the slightest.
Getting to bed is always fun, as the lorry has a luton, a bed above the cab. I hauled myself up and snuggled down for the night. In the quiet and dark Mr O asked, "Why have we left our one-bedroomed cottage where the horses are outside, to sleep in a lorry with our horses outside?" I said, "We're downsizing. Now go to sleep," and lay there giggling to myself.
On Tuesday morning I decided to school Barnaby (more of that on a separate post I think) and then went onto the cross country course. I expected him to be really on his toes, but he was very calm. He did swell up slightly in recognition, but there wasn't even a hint of tanking me round everywhere. I was very surprised. I couldn't go mad as I only had him in a snaffle, but we walked round and looked at the fences, and decided to go up over the bank, then got round to the water jump.
I don't know what it is about water jumps, but I can't resist them. This is the first one I've done on Barnaby, though. He went straight in and we walked along in the water. It is a very long water jump compared to most, and quite deep. We turned round and decided to go back the way we'd come, with Mr O behind me. I put Barnaby into trot and was soon wet up to my knees, but unbeknown to me, Mr O, who was behind me, was soaked from head to foot! Ah well.
That evening we decided to ride to the beach. We just had to go along a green track with serious ditches on either side (Lincolnshire countryside is obsessed with ditches) for about a mile and a half, then up a little quiet road, into a car park. There was a sandtrack ahead of us, climbing upwards, and then, suddenly, the panorama of sand, sky and sea, spread out before us. Barnaby took one look and said, "Seen it," and trolleyed along quite happily. Bit of an anticlimax, really. I at least expected some skipping about and snorting, but no.
Zak on the other hand, took one look and just said, "No!" in his best officer and a gentleman voice and turned away. He's a well travelled lad, but he's obviously never seen the sea before.
We walked along the sand for a while, but neither of them were keen on the big blue wobbly thing on their left. Barnaby must have looked stunning as his chin was on his chest, staring at the foamy waves. The tide was in, but there was still loads of room. We walked along, taking in the sights. Barnaby didn't spook at anything. We rode down to Chapel-St-Leonards, then turned back, having a little trot, but nothing outrageous.
When we got back, Andrea's daughter said the best time to go was at lunch time, as the tide would be out, so the next day we set off at twelve. The horses knew what was coming this time, and basically said, "Stop trying to get us into the sea!" It made me dizzy as Barnaby was backing up, not wanting to get his feet wet, but the water was milling about underneath him. He didn't like the crashing sound it made. Obviously he's not frightened of water per se, as proven by his ability on the cross country course.
And so we went from walk to trot, their hooves making a strange 'tick-tock' sound on the sand, and then we moved up a gear, into canter. Zak looked stunning, more than happy to bowl along, now he knew that water wasn't involved.
And then, the race horse and the war horse moved up into fourth gear and it was stunning. They whizzed across the sand, people, dogs and fisherman flitting past in the blink of an eye. Resisting the urge to shout out for sheer joy, we let them bowl on and on and on, Mr O and I exchanging glances of pure exhiliration. No wonder they take race horses onto the beach. It's the only place where you can really open up and still have room to gradually slow down and still have miles of sand in front of you.
Eventually we came back to walk and let the horses catch their breath. We'd easily reached Chapel St. Leonards and turned round to come home, changing between walk, trot and canter as we felt led. It was amazing being able to ride Barnaby like this, knowing he wasn't going to take off with me and would stop when asked. I am so proud of him and thrilled to share this experience with him.
Then I have to confess, Mr O said, "That woman's walking through that pool and it looks fine - let's trot through it." I expressed my doubts about safety, which he dismissed, so we set off trotting through the water. Zak must have gone a bit faster as Barnaby broke into a canter. I could hardly see in front of me as the water was everywhere. Barnaby was very bouncy, too, he must have looked stunning, but I shouted at Mr O to pull up. Then suddenly Barnaby stumbled on a sand ridge and his nose must have gone into the water he was so low, but I came off into the water next to him. It was quite funny actually, and Barnaby was fine. I got a soaking but was unhurt. Fortunately Mr O had the sense to grab Barnaby's bridle. I don't think he'd have left Zak to be honest, but I caught up the reins and got back on. I was glad it was a warm day and was dry by the time we got home. I had sand all up one leg, and all over my gloves. The only thing that annoyed me is (as usual) Mr O's lack of safety and the fact that I've never come off Barnaby and had hoped not to, really. It doesn't help me put my faith in Mr O's ideas.
Unfortunately there are no photos of these events as I couldn't think how to gallop and take pictures at the same time! And when I fell off I was really glad I didn't have a camera round my neck as it would have been quite dangerous (and ruined the camera!)
More tomorrow, I dare say, as I still have quite a few things to tell you.
Take care, everyone
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