If you ever want to know if Britain really is a nation of dog lovers, you only have to walk into your local veterinary clinic. We took 'Er Indoors yesterday morning to have her stitches out. A woman sat there with a King Charles Spaniel. A young woman walked in with a King Charles puppy. Obviously they couldn't resist talking to each other. A woman walked in with an Alaskan Malamute (what a stunning dog). It turned out she had three more sitting in a van outside. We joined the queue, yet another besotted owner, prepared to pay whatever was necessary to ensure our beloved dog's wellbeing. It's a funny thing, really, but they mean so much to us, don't they?
Anyway, the stitches came out with no trouble at all, and there was no charge. The wound is healing up nicely. She hasn't scratched it at all and hasn't had to wear 'the collar of shame', thank goodness.
We came home and got Barnaby and Zak in from the field, gave them a good groom and got them ready to travel. We were finally going to meet Heather and Anthony at their yard near Worksop, to go for a hack together. We whizzed up the motorway and pulled onto their field.
We tacked up and met the others we'd be hacking out with, as another mother and daughter came with us, so there were six of us altogether.
It's quite an awesome responsibility to lead a hack out with people you don't know. I asked if everyone was happy to have the occasional canter and they said yes. We set off from the back of their yard onto a section of fields at the back of Lindrick Golf Course. Barnaby is used to going along there at a flat out gallop so I was delighted that he was prepared to walk. We turned right and I asked everyone if they were willing to canter here - lots of smiling faces, so I set off at a very sedate pace, not even a hint of a gallop. After a few yards I looked behind me and nobody was there! They were all trolleying along trying to catch up. Mr O had waited at the back and set Zak off. Within 2 seconds they were up with us. Once a race horse, always a racehorse.
We carried on down the track, and over the road, with Mr O waiting at the back to make sure everyone got over safely. Down the field and into the woods, past the small fire burning by the rock (?) and up the leafy track, ducking under the branches (well Mr O and I anyway, nobody else was on a very big horse). We zig-zagged along the well worn path, with trees creaking eerily next to us. Barnaby marched ever onwards. He knew where we were the moment we left the yard.
We crossed the road then continued on until we were at the very spot where Barnaby had his accident. This is the first time he's been there since. He was very calm. I don't know if he remembered, but I gave him a reassuring pat, and we carried on our way. None of the others have ever ridden this far. Fancy having all of this beautiful hacking on your doorstep and not going out amongst it.
We continued up towards Gildingwells and then turned onto the next track. As we got nearer and nearer to our old yard, Barnaby started to speed up. He thought he would be home in time for tea and medals. I turned him to the right. He said, "You don't understand - tea's that way!" I said, "You don't live there any more darling." He trundled along, but he wasn't happy.
All the riders did seem happy though, especially as by now we'd been out for an hour and a half. I told them another canter was imminent and we set off whizzing up the track. I'd forgotten how glorious it was there, to be honest. Did we take it for granted when we were there? Maybe.
We carried on up the road and onto the golf course, and that's where the fun started really, as unbeknown to us, they'd started a shoot a little further up. The first gun went off with an almighty crack and Barnaby leaped forward, but wasn't too bad. Then on our left, on the other side of the hedge, a golfer teed off. A swinging golf club sounds exactly like someone cracking a lunge whip so Barnaby was a bit startled by that as well, but just kept going. I looked back and everyone was still fine.
And soon we were on our way home, but on a track where normally Mr O and I would streak along, but felt we ought to take it steady and bring the horses back cooled off. We'd been out for two hours.
It was a fabulous ride altogether. I'd forgotten how beautiful it was up there (and flat!) but more importantly how impeccably Barnaby had behaved. It's the first time I've ridden him in a group, and he wasn't wound up by it. I'd really debated whether to put him in a double bridle for more control, but didn't need it. Plus we went to several places where we would normally fly along, and he walked like an absolute gentleman. I got quite emotional about it, really. I think I bonded with him today.
We had quite a good time with the liveries, a very nice bunch of people, but it was getting cold so we thought we'd better load the horses up and take them home.
We gave them tea and turned them out for a well earned roll and a stretch. The sun began to sink. The horses sauntered over the horizon, and all was well with the world. This last few days, I have realised afresh, just how utterly blessed I am.
And I am loving this horse. I am so proud of him today, I couldn't have asked for more. Thankyou Bardy Lad.