I lost the momentum to ride after we had to have a couple of our horses put down through a combination of ill health and age. There was nothing that could carry my weight. I am not overweight it is just that none of our horses are big enough to carry me so I resigned myself to having fun on the ground with our two remaining horses until……
Back in June we purchased a Welsh Section D called ‘Chunky’. Not a classy name for a classy looking horse so out of respect for his connections to Wales we renamed him ‘Bryn’.
To lay the best foundations for Bryn’s future with us we have been having interactive sessions with Sarah Weston based here in The New Forest who preaches and practises training horses without force or fear. The groundwork has consisted of walking Bryn around purposefully on a long lead rope and head collar teaching him to respect his handler and move in tune with their movements. Working with him in a field with other horses coming in and then leaving to teach him not to be distracted by these comings and goings. The exercises then progressed to long reining him in the riding school. I have never ever done this before and when I do get the hand, leg and eye co-ordination right and see Bryn react the way I want him to it is really satisfying. In advance of actually getting on him with his new saddle we have been leaning across his back and throughout all of this he has been a perfect gent or as they say in racing yards ‘a Christian’. We all know what the Christians were like in the Crusades.
All this groundwork is paying dividends as Bryn is becoming confident in himself as well as trusting of people who are positive when asking him to do what they want him to. It also led up to Sarah wanting to see how I rode in advance of getting on to Bryn when his new saddle comes back from the saddlers this weekend (23rd & 24th August).
Today was actually a double first. First time I had ridden out seriously for nearly two years and the first time I have ever ridden in a Western saddle. I have never been sure about them as even before I did some training at the British Racing School in Newmarket I tended to ride shorter than the average happy hacker. So, confronted with a Western saddle and very long stirrups I was not sure how I was going to get on. No pun intended.
My allocated mount was a mare called Petra. Dark bay with white hind socks and a very kind face. Sarah had Théoden; a chestnut gelding whose coat shone like polished copper when the sun glanced over it.
Our ride was over an hour long going across heather covered heathland, through shaded woodlands, up and down hills around the Fritham area of The New Forest. Both horses were relaxed and enjoyed the walk out. Sarah did not challenge me with loads of rising trot the thought of which I did not relish looking at the position of the pommel in front of my groin. One miss timed move and whoops, here come the tears. No cantering and no galloping. Just walking and talking about life, the universe, our different experiences with horses and how our relationships with them affect our lives.
All in all a perfect way to give my recently dormant riding muscles fair warning of what is about to happen to them and rekindle my enthusiasm for getting back on a horse.