OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part three)

10 01 2013

This is my second attempt to write up this entry! I did it last night, but WordPress seemed to be having some technical difficulties and ate my entire post. How rude!

Anyway, back to where we left off: On our return from lunch, we put the horses’ bridles back on them and lead them out into the main school again for mounting. Tara was much calmer and quieter this time. I felt all at once proud of myself (for getting something right) and sorry for all the little ponies when the chap who came to tighten my girth for me told me that Damian and I were the only people who had actually done this prior to going on lunch!

We were split up into groups again, but this time our little group was to go out into the woods for a hack. Just a steady hack in walk and trot this time. Tara, it seemed, could hardly wait to get out into the woods, and although she wasn’t as impossible as Barron had been on that previous occasion when I’d had a fight on my hands to keep him in the school and stop him following the others going out on the trail, we still ended up second in line for the entire ride as a result of her keenness to get out there, with Damian on Saxon somewhere near the rear at first. Again, she surprised me with her contrariness; whereas the idea of getting her hooves wet in the school before lunch had seemed like it was unthinkable to her, now she was marching through the puddles like it wasn’t an issue. Unlike Barron, who our leader was riding on this occasion; she cursed him mildly as he mounted a steep (and not entirely safe-looking) camber to avoid getting his hooves wet!

Once we were in the woods, I was impressed once again to see Tara demonstrating her intelligence. A fairly short distance into the woods there is a steep decline. Usually, when negotiating this, I’ve given whichever horse I had a long rein and just relaxed in the saddle while trying to keep my back straight, and let the horse handle the manoeuvring. Every other horse I have been on than Tara has dealt with this by blindly following the horse in front of them, but Tara pauses at the top, looks down and picks out the route she thinks looks the shortest, purposefully taking the inside corners, all the while taking her time and looking where she’s going. When we got to the bottom, I couldn’t help but pat her on the shoulder and tell her what a clever girl she was.

We took a slightly different route through the woods this time, in areas of the country park that were all familiar to me but that I’ve only been through/past once or twice before. We had a nice, long trot along the road, which took some getting used to because of the decrease in palpable shock absorption, and I lost my stirrup at one point but Tara, being forwards and just loving to run, kept a fast, steady pace up while I recovered it and resumed rising with it. We went past the other riding school situated in the country park (which was a bit strange, but nice to see the other horses looking curiously at us as we went past) and the old winding engine house from the days in which the area was a centre for coal and iron mining.

Sadly, it was after we passed this rather attractive piece of history an upset occurred. I’m not entirely clear on what actually happened, but it seems that one of the younger girls’ ponies kicked out at one of the others with both back legs, throwing her off and into the undergrowth at the side of the path. Of course, we all stopped, and our leader dismounted so she could go and check she was all right. I glanced over, not wanting to stare for knowing that it can make you feel uncomfortable if everyone’s looking at you in a situation like that, but I did see that she was sat upright on the ground clutching one of her hips with both hands, and I imagined she’d landed similarly to how I did when I fell from Kit that time in Japan. She agreed that she would continue, but she swapped ponies with a young lady who, if she wasn’t one of the volunteers, at least carried herself with the sort of confidence you’d expect of a regular at the stables and a proficient rider. Damian praised her for being brave.

In this time, I had permitted Tara to graze on the long grass and bramble leaves (which she seems to have a particular taste for) at the side of the path, and dismounted to try and grab a hold of the pony who’d kicked off and was now standing riderless, at Damian’s suggestion, as I hadn’t realised s/he had been left unattended. I was beaten to it by the young lady I mentioned previously, but this led to amusement when I tried to mount Tara again from the ground and she – obviously eager to get moving again – took this as a cue to start walking on, leaving me laughing and hanging onto the saddle with both hands, bent double over her. Heh. We got there in the end. Our leader led Barron to a bench and mounted him from that, which seemed rather like cheating after all of the rest of us did it from the ground!

We continued at a walk for the remainder of the ride, understandably; Damian came to the front behind me and the younger riders on their smaller mounts were allowed to trail behind in a group together. Every time we stopped to let them catch up, Tara forcefully lowered her head to any bramble leaves that were visible, and Damian remarked that she was like a supermodel; slender and beautiful, but completely obsessed with food. We could tell when we came up to a path where the horses would normally trot or canter, because both Saxon and Tara tried to just go for it, irrespective of what Barron was doing in front of them. I found that just sinking my weight into her back gave her the right message. Towards the end, I found the small of my back really hurting; I did a few things to correct my posture, but there was nothing wrong with it. I guess I’m just not used to riding for two hours in one day.

We returned to the school, dismounted and lead the horses back in. Unfortunately for me, Tara was booked for an evening lesson, so while I was able to remove her bridle and give her face a gentle brush, I couldn’t participate in the final activities of the day: Feeding and grooming your given pony, dressing them in their rug and returning them to the paddock. Tara could see the other horses being fed, and was distraught. She kept looking towards the direction the feed buckets usually come from and then giving me accusing looks, as though she thought I was being mean or stupid and neglectful. I felt bad. When her evening rider came for her lesson and took her, I said goodbye, and went over instead to watch as Damian groomed Saxon. The depth of the affection I saw displayed on both sides made my heart melt.

Once Saxon had been given a deep groom and had his rug put on him, I accompanied him, Damian and one of the stable volunteers out to the paddock to return him. The young lady opened the gate for Damian, and as he led Saxon in, called after him to lead Saxon back around so he finished up facing the gate, explaining that this was to ‘teach him some manners.’ Damian did exactly as instructed, and Saxon went obligingly where he was directed. When Damian removed his head collar and gave him a last pat and hug to say goodbye, Saxon just looked at him enquiringly at first, as if to say, What are we doing now, friend? As we walked away, I have no idea whether he wandered off to regroup with his herd or watched after us, because I couldn’t bear to look back. After that, Damian cleaned out Saxon’s stall. I offered to help, more for something to do with myself than anything else, but he insisted he wanted to do it for himself. In retrospect I’m kicking myself for not hanging back until Tara returned from her lesson.

It was a cold, damp, very mucky and tiring day, but I had a really lovely time and thinking about it is still making me feel happy. I had to go and find one of the staff members to thank them personally before I left. They smiled awkwardly and said I was welcome; I guess they must not get that much from 30-year-olds. Heh.

Since we didn’t get any ‘action shots’, obviously, due to having our hands very full, below is just a selection of photos from the day I particularly liked and wanted to share with you 😀

Now I just have my first lesson back in Leeds, which took place on Monday, and some other (potentially) exciting news to update you about! However, since I’ve raked up such a hefty word-count, they can wait for another day…




2 responses

10 01 2013

Sounds like fun! You seem like such a genuine person when you write about the horses…I can really tell you love them! And Tara is lovely as usual!

The lady who helped Damian put Saxon away is right about facing them towards the gate, it shows respect and plays a part in safety…can help avoid being kicked by an excited horse as you leave.

Would you ever think about getting a part time horse lease? I would love to see you have all of that extra one on one time just being able to bond with a horse….and of course writing about it here!

11 01 2013

Thank you! It’s true that nothing makes me happier than horses do. One of my long-time friends recently remarked on the subject of my horsey pictures that I really look like I’m in my element around horses 😀

As for getting a part-time lease horse… it’s one of my plans for this year! I want to progress to ‘intermediate’ level (confident in walk, trot and canter, starting to jump) before I start making enquiries, though. I have been looking online for horses but it seems the most effective way of finding one is to ask around at your school (or even rent one of theirs), so I shall do this once they think I’ve progressed enough. 🙂

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