We had a fabulous time on Wednesday evening. It had been raining on and off all day, so I couldn't really bath Barnaby. He didn't look too bad after a good groom, so we set off for Elvaston Castle. It only took about 45 minutes to get there, with no real traffic considering we left at 4.30pm.
Zak banged about in the lorry for a little while but seemed to settle down, fortunately. Mr O drove really slowly. But when we got there it turned out he'd pulled the fillet string off the back of his travel rug and had struck into himself again and cut himself. Grrr.
We found the secretary and signed in, got our high viz vests and went to tack up. The only thing I'd forgotten was fly spray, and there were flies everywhere. I suppose the combination of warmth and damp was perfect to bring them out.
We set off around the park, and it was lovely. The route was very well sign-posted. We'd been riding for about five minutes when we came to our first game. It was a hoopla thing. We were given some hoops each, had to ride up to the things that were like paper mache heads, and try to get the hoops over. Fortunately we both did it. I was flushed with success and grinning from ear to ear. We got given a sweet each, which were really sour, so that soon wiped the smile off my face!
We carried on round, the horses in good spirits and enjoying the scenery, when we came to the second stop. This time we came to a big paddling pool with various fish in it, and had to hook one out. Apparently no one had managed it so far. I took the stick and immediately hooked a duck out. I was so chuffed. We had to do it at the TREC last summer, so I knew Barnaby wouldn't mind, but Mr O did it too, to give him his due (Zak that is, I'm sure Mr O is capable of hook-a-duck under normal circumstances!)
We carried on around the lake and then back to where there appears to be a riding stables, then there was a game where you had to throw a beanbag into a bucket (while still on your horse, obviously). I am absolutely hopeless at that kind of thing, and missed completely. Mr O got one in, so we decided he was the winner overall (on this occasion!)
Eventually we made our way back to the start. Barnaby's internal compass was on top form and he speeded up the second he realised we were on the last stretch.
When we got back there were proper TREC obstacles laid out on the grass. There was 'control of paces' first, where you canter down as slowly as you can, without going back to trot or you lose the available points, and then you have to walk back up. The last time I tried this with Zak waiting was a total disaster as Barnaby went into a flat out gallop so as not to be separated from Zak any longer than he had to be. This time he did really well and I was mightily pleased with him. Zak did very well, too, but they weren't timing us, it was just a bit of fun, so I don't know how well we did.
Then there were weaving poles, which we did in trot which was fine. Then there was an obstacle consisting of two wooden uprights with string tied to one and looped over the other, to form a gate. The idea is to pick up the rope and keep hold of it, like a gate, go through, turn your horse round and re-fasten it, without letting go of the rope, which we completed successfully. I was really pleased as gates aren't our best thing.
Then we had an 's' bend, which wasn't too bad, then we had to go to an upturned dustbin that had a big fluffy toy dog sitting on it, pick up the dog, walk along with it and plop it into the washing basket on the floor. Barnaby has done something similar to this before, so I strolled up full of confidence, and he was having none of it! He ran backwards, which really surprised me, so I got him to go gradually nearer and nearer. Eventually he gave it a big sniff, and I managed to get him to stand alongside it. Then I picked it up and put it behind my back so he couldn't see it. I rode up to the basket and casually let go of the dog, in case it made Barnaby leap sideways, but he seemed fine with it by then.
Mr O had just as much of a struggle with Zak, but got him there in the end, which is very good, as Zak can be quite a spooky boy if he's not sure of something. Mr O is very good at giving horses confidence, though.
And then, of course, there was a rein-back obstacle, which Barnaby cannot or will not do, under any circumstances. You can actually feel him thinking, 'Oooh, she wants me to go straight backwards, what a great opportunity to stick my bum out to the right. There we are then!' (Insert appropriate expletive here!) Unfortunately for me, this is something that Zak excels at. Mr O just parks him between the two poles and Zak marches backwards, straight as a die, until Mr O tells him to halt. It's really quite sickening to watch.
He'd just finished doing it when the marshall came up and said, "Is this one of your shoes?" and held up a delicate horse shoe. Needless to say, it was Zak's. Marvellous. Goodness knows how he'd done it, as we hadn't heard it clanking while we'd been riding round, but at least we had it.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, the highlight of my evening. The last obstacle was a jump, and for some inexplicable reason, I decided to jump it. I asked Mr O to walk Zak beyond it, where Barnaby could see him, asked for trot, got two strides of canter and Barnaby went sailing over the fence. I was absolutely thrilled and whooped and gave him a big pat. The marshall probably thought I was a bit OTT but I did tell her I was scared to death of jumping (and I am!) and I think she could see how thrilled I was, and I'm so pleased I did it. Barnaby just acted as if it was nothing. I may have to have another go soon.
Mr O thought he'd better not chance it, with Zak having lost a shoe, and so with job done, we took the boys back to the lorry, so they could munch grass while we joined in with the barbeque.
Eventually it was time to load up and we set off for home. We'd been underway for about ten minutes when the heavens opened and it began to pour. Zak was very unhappy in the lorry again, and Mr O was driving as slowly as he possibly could, so I don't know what's happened to him there. When we got home, it looked as though he'd stood on Barnaby as there was blood just above Barnaby's coronet band. He wasn't very happy at travelling with Zak in that mood, and I am reluctant to put him through it again, as he travels very well and I've never had any problems with him.
We rugged both horses up and they went sailing off into the night, me still as high as a kite because of the jump. The simple pleasures.
Post Script: The farrier came out on Friday morning. He pointed out a big crack horizontally across Zak's hoof and said it's basically a stress fracture in the hoof. He said Zak's given something an almighty kick (presumably in the lorry) which had also dislodged the shoe. I think we are very fortunate that he's not lame. I have no idea what to do about this sudden downturn in his travelling behaviour, and am at my wit's end. Any ideas?
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