Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Perfect day!

Harry and I went hunting at the weekend - the first time for weeks, and it was a fantastic day! First, Harry had to load into a new lorry - sideways, facing backwards. After about 10 minutes of, "no thanks, there's no room in there for a cob!" we got him half way up the ramp, eating the haynet - then I physically heaved him sideways into his space. Phew!

The meet was at Peper Harrow, a lovely old house whose residents gave us a great hunt breakfast - sausages, cake, chocolate...port! And the hunting was amazing: galloping over huge open fields, following winding woodland paths, jumping lovely fences on the Hamptons Estate and glorying in the sunlit countryside - winter, what winter?

Harry and his pony pal, Scarlett, were angels, keeping up with the big boys, jumping anything we pointed them at and generally having a ball. After about three and a half hours Louise and I took them back to the lorry and let them relax in the sun, while we drank coffee and ate crisps and guacamole - a traditional hunt tea!

After a few token objections from Harry, we loaded him and headed for home, all four of us tired but happy. What a great day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We're going on the Horses for Heroes Ride!

Harry and I are going to ride on the hallowed turf at Ascot Racecourse! How? Well, they haven't started cob racing classes. No surprise there, it would be like watching a load of fat old ladies running for the bus!

What's happened is that I have registered Harry and me for the Horses for Heroes ride on July 10. It's in aid of Help for Heroes, which supports our injured servicemen and women. It's a fantastic cause, and I think Harry would agree - I can just see him charging into battle!

And what makes it even better is the Horses for Heroes Ride ride takes a route around gorgeous Windsor Great Park and ends up passing the finishing post at Ascot Racecourse - how cool is that?!

Why not join us? It's only five miles, so eminently doable, and you can ride or drive. There's even overnight stabling if you need to travel far. You can register at www.horses4heroes.co.uk and pay a £150 by the end of March. Then you raise as much extra sponsorship as you can!

I'm starting to plan my fundraising efforts, starting with tapping up friends and family who have done the same to me in the past. Cakes have been suggested, too. I have only made three in my life, and all of them were flat, although they tasted OK.

Perhaps I should sell rides on Harry to raise money for Help for Heroes? Don't tell him, though!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First ride for two weeks!

At last, we could ride again on Sunday! I caught and brought Harry in with some trepidation, as the previous day he's been a bit of a dragon, snorting and staring at everyhting. But he was a little lamb, enjoying having his rug off and a good scratch with the rubber curry comb.

He strode enthusiastically down the lane to meet his friend, Red, and we set off on our hack, expecting at least some freshness and silliness. Not a bit! They were as good as gold, apart from staring hard at various shapeless heaps of snow. Funny - they'd been surrounded by the stuff for two weeks!

We did lots of brisk walking and vigorous trotting for this first ride - discretion is the better part of valour, and besides, it was still a bit slippery here and there. Our hack was less eventful than usual, thank goodness - I wouldn't have wanted to fall on such hard ground. I think we all felt much more happy, content and settled by the time we were home, and I turned Harry vback out to bask and doze in the welcome sunshine.

Let's hope that's the last we see of the white stuff for another year!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Next hunt...then no hunt!

Our second hunt of the season was even better. We hacked to the meet at Harry's local, the Three Horseshoes in Thursley, and started off on Thursley Common which was great as it's sandy - the ground was still very wet. We stayed out all day, until about 3.30 or 4pm, did lots of galloping and a bit of jumping, and quite a bit of wading through wet, muddy, marshy land. Amazingly I wasn't too stiff next day. Harry is so good you just need to sit and enjoy the ride.

But now there's no hunting! The snow has put paid to any sort of riding and Harry has had 10 days of loafing around his field, stuffing himself with hay. Now it's thawing and I'm hoping to ride at the weekend - need to get fit again, so we can hunt again!

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First hunt of the season!

Harry and I have our first hunt of the season - and absolutely love it! I always forget how thrilling the first sight of hounds is - Harry seems to agree! I also always forget about getting Harry in, scraping the mud off him, plaiting, boxing and actually getting to the meet - and that fact that, although I don't actually feel nervous, my bowels disagree!

But we make the meet on Ranmore Common with no problems. I gulp down a stirrup cup while Harry stands like a lamb, eyes wide and shining, taking it all in. Then we're off, trotting down the road like the clappers! It's been raining for what seems like weeks so the going is wet and slippery, and one rider has a fall on a steep turn in some woodland even before we jump into the first field!

We hare around the common, up and down hills, through bushes and woodland. It is really, really muddy. At one point we're galloping towards a right turn with extremely deep going, and coppiced trees on either side. Harry spots a very narrow gap between trees and alters course to avoid the mud. "No!" I shriek. I have a morbid fear of getting my knees caught. He swerves, and hits one of the saplings chest-on. It falls like, well, a falling tree, and we stop dead. Harry takes a few deep breaths, steps sideways, and gallops on!

After three and a half hours of this, we call it a day and head back to the car park with two other riders. My adventures are not over. By the time we reach the lorry, Harry has bonded with his two new mates and refuses to load. It doesn't help that I stand limply on the ramp, pulling at him weakly and saying "pleeeease get on, Harry." When I finally remember all the advice I have heard and read about loading ie look where you're going, say it like you mean it, don't get in front of the horse etc, he gets on and tucks into his haynet, no problem.

We head for home, knackered, but happy. Roll on the next one!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Harry the show cob!

It's our local riding club's Open Show, so I bathe Harry three times in two days, plait him the night before and put on a rug with a neck cover - he looks so cute, he must be in the running in the cob class!

Even better, he is still pretty clean on the day of the show. Then we see 'the opposition' - an immaculate piebald cob and rider, picture perfect and with the manners of an angel (the cob, I mean). However, Harry is really good in the ring, we're pulled in second, and I try to keep some distance between us and the perfect pair - we look so dirty and hairy in comparison (both of us). Harry gives the judge a good ride, so we stay second, and I'm very pleased, especially when I find out later that the winner is a HOYS qualifier.

Next up, working hunter. There's really nice jumping course, including rustics with live tree branches intertwined in the wings and a bank to jump off. This causes some problems, but I warm Harry up vigorously, then do the course in a very smart canter - hunting pace I think they call it - and we actually go clear. Hooee!

There are four other clears, so we enter the ring for the show judging phase, and Harry starts to get bored. Walk and trot, fine, canter – "do I have to keep doing this?" I get very red in the face, and we end up in 4th place, but I am delighted. It's the first time we've ever gone clear and got anywhere near the placings in a working hunter class.

Now if I could just improve my turnout by about 2,000 per cent!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Eventer's special

Harry and Red and Jane and I have an evening lesson with Fiona, our trainer, who is an eventer - and she builds us an Eventer's special course in the school!

First we try a corner, a bit like a parallel, but at one end the poles rest on a single barrel, forming a long V-shape to jump across. First we do it right in the middle...Harry is cool with this, as is Red. The we try it much closer to the narrower, pointy end of the corner. Harry charges into it with his usual enthusiasm, I lean forward - and he swerves a bit, half jumping the barrel. It's a good thing there wasn't a flag on it, or we'd have taken it with us! Once I have reminded myself to stay upright and riding forward until we get to the fence, we are fine.

We try a dog leg - two angled jumps with a loop between them. I have to wrench Harry between the two as he's not that quick on his feet - not pretty, but he jumps tham. Fiona points out we could have made the loop much bigger, and jumped much better - we try that, and she's right! We tackle a stile type skinny fence, and then a course - great, great, great. Finally we do a water tray under a jump – no worries, though Red has a good look right into it before jumping it.

We have to stop because it's going dark. Brilliant fun, and with just a few poles and wings!