Hacking and Coughing

31 10 2013

I do have a real penchant for a terrible pun – I don’t know whether regular readers will have picked up on that or not. Anyway, today’s title is a prime example, and I’m not remotely sorry. What I am sorry for, however, is the tardiness of this update – I’ve been trying to post this since Tuesday, but WordPress has been being flaky until tonight!

The sore throat/cold I spoke of in my previous post persisted, and continued to get steadily worse over the last week. It undoubtedly peaked on Friday, when I was sent home from work by my line manager, who said I deserved the early finish for having a tough week and for sounding like a duck. I went home and straight to bed. I didn’t feel much better when I got up on Saturday morning, but it still wasn’t enough to keep me from an early start to go riding.

That’s correct – riding on a Saturday. I think I’ve mentioned before that the school at which I have my usual lessons is generally too busy on the weekend to be able to secure a booking (unless you’re lucky enough to call on a Friday afternoon after they’ve had a cancellation), but I’ve found another riding school that’s closer to where I currently live, and I wanted to try it out. Not so much for the lessons as they’re more expensive and I’m quite happy with what I’m getting at the moment, but because they have access to bridleways for hacking, which I’d like to do more of.

I’d called them in the week to ask if they had any availability that weekend, half expecting them to say no (given that in mine and my friends’ experience, riding schools are invariably either over-subscribed or shambolically disorganised). Instead, I got a ‘yes’ straight away, and was booked on a hack for the sociable hour of 11am that very Saturday.

After a lovely (but muddy) walk through the woods and along the river to get there, I arrived. The one thing about my experience that slightly concerned me was that as warm a reception as I was given and as promptly as they checked I had a hat, boots and gloves, they never asked me to complete a rider registration form or sign anything. Nevertheless, from what I saw the place looked tidy and well-organised, and the ponies I met seemed healthy and contented.

Unfortunately, due to heavy rain the night before, I was told early on that we wouldn’t be allowed to go fast, so there was no cantering, although along the way I could easily distinguish the paths that were ideal for it. The route didn’t just take us through the woods of the park, but along a lot of quiet, residential roads as well. Some of the trees with their low-lying branches were a bit hair-raising, to add a bit of excitement to the proceedings, and there were some steep declines on the way back to the stables that seemed quite perilous on the back of a horse who was palpably eager to get home.

Speaking of whom, I rode a gorgeous 14.2hh Haflinger gelding by the name of Boheme. He was very stockily-built with a very luxurious blond mane that I was actually quite jealous of. He was lovely to ride – just the right balance of responsive and cheeky, and very eager to transition upwards when we went into the trot – and I got the feeling he’d be lovely to canter, too. As soon as we hit the homeward stretch, he started trying to trot on when we were in walk, but while he grumbled, he listened when I brought him back to me. Like most horses, he tried it on when passing every tasty bush, at one point with what could have been disastrous consequences for me as my head got caught up in the branches before I had time to lean forwards to dodge them. Fortunately I didn’t get caught up in them, but this did invoke a lecture about the importance of ducking under the branches for personal safety from the hack leader. Hah.

What really won me over about Boheme, though, was his behaviour after I’d dismounted. We rode our ponies back into the courtyard in front of the stables, to a low wall with some head collars and lead ropes tied up along it, each lined up in front of one, dismounted, removed the horse’s bridle and replaced it with the head collar. While I was doing this, a member of staff came and finished untacking him for me. I fussed Boheme for a little while and took some pictures before repairing to the bench outside the office to change back into my walking boots, chatting to the young man who’d led the hack as I did so; as we were talking, he stopped mid-sentence and said, ‘Oh-oh, Boheme’s off.’ I looked over, and Boheme had slipped off his head collar and, far from making a mad dash for freedom, was casually sauntering into the stables in the direction of the feed. He was intercepted by staff before he got there, who said that this was something he often did, and that he never went very far, only off looking for food. I cheerfully declared that I liked him, and smiled.

I’m very happy to have found a place that looks good where I can make an appointment at short notice and go for a pleasant hack on a weekend. I can’t really financially justify going there every week (much as I might like to), but it’s going to be a nice thing to be able to do maybe once or twice a month, and I really hope that they’ll be going out throughout the winter.

And now for some photos!

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3 responses

1 11 2013
nokotahorse

Boheme seems to be a happy fellow 🙂

1 11 2013
theInelegantHorseRider

I love hacking! We haven’t been doing too much of it at my place lately (except the stubble fields) but hopefully we will get out a bit over the winter. Ha ha I like when you turn for home and the horses immediately decide to speed up 🙂

1 11 2013
The Dancing Rider

Boheme does look a bit Bohemian! He’s pretty. Sounds like a lovely hack. The last time I went on one the ground was frozen, and there were a few slips, slides and stumbles – and branches! And yes, my horse knew when he was heading back, and was all energy. Great that you found another school with riding possibilities. 🙂

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