After our success with roadworks and traffic lights I decided to try some more “urban” experience. Winchcombe is not a great metropolis but it has narrow streets with houses and shops right up close, lots of parked cars, sign boards, traffic and people. So we cut across the common and down a track to the B4632 which can have fast traffic but has very good sightlines and would not be too busy first thing. Half a mile on the road was fine and we walked and trotted into the town. Cars were thoughtful; the bus stayed so far back I didnt realise it was there till someone on the pavement in the square hailed it, and we went along both main streets then cut across and round to come back up to the square and home the way we came. Strider was very calm and only slightly wary of funny objects. Back on the common we had a bit of gentle canter to release any pent up energy. A great start to a dry and sunny Saturday.
This morning (a BH) felt a good moment for more town work. Sue in the yard told me of a track I didnt know from the back of the Rising Sun down the hill to near the bottom so we set off for it. GREAT route: It had some steps (easy ones), some very narrow bits, a fair amount of mud, two blind narrow rightangle bends, overhanging vegetation and lots of looking into gardens etc I had never seen before. Then it was along the B4632 through Prestbury and into Cheltenham. Went down to Pittville, round Pittville Circus and back out again. As we started up Cleeve Hill it began to drizzle but we were well sheltered on the little track only getting properly wet when we came out onto the common. Two hours and back into the yard. Could be quite a bit faster as I get confident enough to take more at a trot. Next time we will head further into Cheltenham.
I can’t say the weather has progressed, though its been drier today. The ground is so wet it feels irresponsible to go out and cut it up and it is often a slippery footing for Strider. We are lucky with the lanes and tracks we can use. Wednesday I took him down the hill into the village where there is a hundred yards of new roadworks with 4-way control traffic lights. We queued to go through; went through at a walk and turned round to go back; had a long wait for the lights (he was pretty patient) and trotted back through. He is good with traffic and was really great with the red barriers, machinery, signs and the rest. We will do it again, and again ......... and progress to more seriously urban areas over the coming months.
I have started to change his feed over to forage based feed from Simple System Ltd – www.simplesystem.co.uk - which we will complete over the next few weeks so he is on their GreenGold and LucieNuts, plus their complementary feed Total Eclipse as we tend to be short of selenium and copper in the soil here.
The weather has not been great and tomorrow is forecast for worse wind and more rain so the agility training day with Sheila Reed has been postponed – I do have plenty of other things to do, and I will look at conditions in the morning and work out which way will take us out of the wind for a hack of an hour or two. Unless it is downright dangerous whichever way you go and it is genuinely a day off.
It was only raining slightly at 7.00 this morning so I didn't put on my long waterproof cavalry cape.......... Our 90 minute hack went down the lane, through the village, stayed on the road to Southam and then took the bridleway up the hill through Queens Wood before turning back along the track below the common to get home. He was great: Steady on the road with no nerves about the commuter traffic, glad to have a bit of a trot on the first bit of bridleway and then steady walk up the hill on a slippery path under the trees,including a diversion for a fallen tree which took us into the “rough”, stepping over a couple of tree trunks scrambling some ups and downs and me flat along his neck under branches. Out on the top we discovered a brisk little north wind but by then it was the home run. Back into the yard, I was very wet, saddle (and everything) ditto. I will clean the saddle later today when it has dried.
Almost two weeks since our “spookbusting” training. It was nine miles to hack down to Upper Dowdeswell and we got there in an hour and a half without losing the slightly loose shoe and without any fuss at the wind turbine – he noticed it but was not really bothered. Its still wheelie bin types of things that he is not keen on. Sheila Reed ran a super three hours for six of us. In the end Strider and I managed all but one of the “obstacles”, though for a couple it was only by following another horse through. We failed to walk over the blue tarpaulin and Sheila offered to take over. She worked him at it for several minutes and in the end he did it. After that he was fine coming over with me. The others left in their lorries and trailers. We had some lunch: sandwiches for me; Alfa for him. Then we set off back home. A GOOD day. Longest hack I have done with him, so far!
I will come back to the Spookbusting later – it was a great day! For now:
The week started with a big box in the post. SADDLEBAGS, front and rear and all the bits to go with them. Lin Gregory in Cumbria makes them beautifully. Excellent, practical design, really tough material, very good stitching and all done with real quality. At first glance they look rather small and they are not tremendously capacious which is good because it reduces the temptation to carry more than you absolutely need and that cuts the risk of having more weight than essential: “Its not the kilometres that cause the horse the problems; its the kilograms”.
AND Sr Mary Joy Langdon who runs Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre has been selected for the Olympic Torch relay. She will be carrying it in Hounslow, West London on 24 July. Thats great!
On Strider’s training plan is work to become as bombproof as we possibly can. I’ve got 2 books on the shelf and some former mounted police training contacts to work with. But a friend just told me about a Spookbusting training session running for a morning on 15 April. Its within a hackable distance, maybe hour and a half each way mostly down the Common and then a quiet lane (till cross the A40 with good sight lines going south and not so good going home) through Andoversford and west to Upper Dowdeswell. It should give us a real start to work from. So, now its time to clean up my old leather saddle bags and sort out what we will need for the day. A real destination and a time to get there by is a much much buzzier prospect than simply a good hack. I will report on it in due course. Meanwhile if you are Gloucestershire based and dont know about the Cheltenham Horsemanship Club, take a look at http://chelthorseclub.co.uk/
Strider and SEIB – Thankyou!
You may not have heard of Strider before, but if you have a horse you have heard of SEIB – South Essex Insurance Brokers. See http://www.seib.co.uk/ What stars!! They insured Tommy so, before I paid for Strider I arranged for his insurance with them and asked if they would sponsor his premium. Answer “YES”. That is a really great bit of sponsorship. Thankyou.
More on the Saddle
After some longer hacks I realised the saddle was twisting my hips more than their 64 years and some bumpy landings could cope with. A call to Dean and Gini and they suggested a saddle with a more forward cut. Fitting in a visit on Sunday morning 4 March they arrived in a snowstorm. Sorted out the new saddle and left me amazed and delighted at their commitment to a customer – perhaps its lucky I am not far from the M5. They only had this one in brown so they promised that as soon as I confirmed it was “the one” they would get it made in black.
It is “the one”. I feel very safe in it and Strider has not shown any dislike. So I am looking after it very carefully ready to return it in good condition when the black one is ready.
A horse needs tack .............
14 February Strider passed his vetting so 15th I was out on retail therapy. I had got rid of almost everything I had for Tommy back in March 2006 when I sold him, so the list had plenty on it: Water buckets, feed bucket, haynet, head collar, lead rope, boots, stable rugs, turnout rugs, numnah (to go under borrowed saddle), first aid stuff etc. But the big question was: what saddle? For the hours and days he was going to have it on his back I felt sure a reactorpanel saddle would be the right type. It spreads the weight and gives freedom of movement underneath it. So by 7.00pm on 14th I had emailed Dean Woodward at Saddle Exchange Saddling Solutions in Devon, http://www.saddleexchange.com/ to explain I needed a saddle and what for. An email came whizzing back suggesting they fit in a visit the following week when going up the M5.
Dean and Gini arrived with their van at 11.0am on Friday 24th and we looked at saddles on Strider. I tried them round the school and the second one felt good. Dean explained they give a four week trial period which is excellent. I put Strider back in his box and we went off to the Plough at Ford, six miles away, for lunch. What a lunch! Good food, a torrent of ideas about people who might help with the ride and ways of promoting it, PLUS sponsorship for some of the cost. There are moments when this huge project suddenly gets a real push forward. Its such a buzz and carries me on for all the next things that need doing. Gini and Dean are simply exciting to have around.