Friday, July 17, 2009

Endurance excitement

For a bit of a change - an endurance training session. “This can’t be too difficult, like a hack in fast trot,” I tell Harry. How wrong can you be?

We arrive at the car park on top of the common and it’s windy, very windy. There have been two pupils before us, with very big horses. The trainer straps a heart rate monitor to each horse, and tells their riders to go off for a play.

Well, their heart rates must have gone sky high! One rider came back without her horse: he had spooked and she’d taken a tumble. The other horse and rider returned safely, but he kept backing rapidly around the car park. A bull terrier with a massive studded breastplate keep erupting from a camper van, making us all jump. And horror, the riderless horse had disappeared on goodness knows how many thousands of acres of common.

Harry and I, and Kelly and Alvito (Horse&Rider’s Website Editor and her horse) make a pathetic attempt at finding him, but he’s gone without trace. The trainer and owner finally track him down: he has crossed a really fast road and is halfway home when someone caught and stabled him. Phew, reprieve!

So Kelly and I have a go at endurance, both a bit spooked now, too. Harry stands like a rock while the monitor is strapped on, but his heart rate shoots up – interesting, perhaps he thinks it’s the vet! Alvito leaves the car park and Harry’s heart stays hammering away while we follow them at some distance at a brisk clip.

WHAM! Harry slams the brakes on as a red deer pops out in front of him. Thank goodness, he keeps his head up so I don’t fall of, and we proceed. EEK! Kelly appears at gallop behind us (she must have been on a parallel track) – she has seen a pervert in the bushes!

We proceed together, post haste, and meet up with the trainer, where she shows us how to use ‘slosh bottles’ to cool our horses – so that’s what fabric conditioner bottles are really for! Harry loves this, Alvito doesn’t.

We ride back together to the original car park, calming down quite a bit. We decide it’s not endurance riding that’s scary, just the circumstances that we encountered it in.

We’ll try a 12 endurance mile ride for starters: let’s hope the deer, bull terriers and perverts stay at home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Harry and the sabre-toothed tiger

Harry is fantastic in traffic. Battered pick-up with rattling trailer spilling all sorts of junk, no problem. Long line of whirring bicycles, no problem. Massive tractor with claw-like attachment, no problem. However, when said claw-like attachment is left on the common, it’s a sabre-toothed tiger!!

Harry spots it from afar… “what the *%@$*!” His head is so high he could be a baby giraffe (he’s the right colour). His ears are so stiff they could have been starched. “Let’s just approach slowly,” I suggest. “No way, missus!” I persuade him forward. He offers the slowest possible mince, head swinging to give it one evil eye after the other, snorting like a grampus. We have a few pretty impressive full passes away from it – bet we couldn’t do them in a dressage test!

I turn Harry to face ‘the claw’, and he stamps his forefoot at it! Gives a deep, coughing stallion snort!! Harry is challenging the sabre-toothed tiger to a duel!!!

I take the safe option and give it a very wide berth. Unusually, it takes Harry some time to calm down. I offer him a mint, and he forces it down hurriedly whilst still keeping his body on Red Alert and his eyes out on stalks.

To this day, Harry is wary at the same place on the common : ‘Here Be Tygers!’

Monday, July 6, 2009

A week away

I have a week away in France, absolutely fabulous, but have put on about a stone thanks to gorgeous food and drink! Harry is ridden by my trainer a couple of times while I'm away to keep his hoof in. Apparently he was really good - he hasn't much choice, she's a fantastic rider!

He whinnies when I go to catch him, which is really sweet. He's got a very loud voice, and makes people jump out of their skin if they're standing right next to him. As always after a break, I'm amazed at how solid, alive and well, beautiful, Harry is in his stocky, powerful way.

We go out for a hack. It's hot, windy and a bit rainy. He seems very alert, but behaves impeccably. I had my back 'crunched' by a chiropractor before I went on holiday, which did it the world of good and now I feel absolutely great, cantering along in the sunshine.

It's good to be back on board - and Harry seems to agree!