Working with a new Partner
Strider and I have everything to learn about each other! One thing has come clear very quickly: he is a very nice horse to have around. And someone in the yard commented: some horses fit really well with their owners and thats true for Strider and William. I like that. Over the first two weeks he was progressively introduced to the other geldings and they seem pretty well settled. He is up near the gate when its time to come in which is good in a very big field that runs a long way down the hill and has lots of trees and bushy places to disappear behind. I can remember walking around that field for a long time when looking for Tommy.
Our hacking out is exploring more places and going further down bridleways, over the common and along the lanes. He has been absolutely steady with any traffic but taking a careful look at the unexpected with salt grit bins, wheelie bins, rubbish on the verge and flapping plastic bags all viewed suspiciously. We will learn to take no notice of them. We have improved a bit at opening the gates we come to regularly but gates are the most obvious area for improvement. Another one is just standing quietly still when that is asked for. Quite soon we will start having a lesson each week in the school which will be good for us both.
Finding the Horse
I was lucky, just when I started to look, a friend with much, much more horse experience than me (riding, owning and breeding) was recovering from an operation, off-work, unable to drive but able to be driven. Fantastic! My aim was to have a horse by end-March so mid-January I got on the web to look. Possibles were phoned and a page of questions asked. First one for a look was only a few miles from home. 16.2, 11 years, his breeding unknown (looked as if maybe a bit of Shire in there somewhere), his past looked good and he looked good. His saddle did not suit me at all but he seemed very possible. You cant buy the first one you see so I looked at some more. Up to Cheshire, back via Derbyshire, one a few miles east of here, down to Wiltshire, up to Warwickshire. Some “No”, one “Maybe”.
I borrowed a couple of saddles and went back for a second look at Strider. Tacked up with the saddle that fitted best I took him out for more of a try. Hacked along some lanes and up a bit of bridlepath. Fine with cars and vans; fine with a big tractor and trailer; sensibly doubtful about a building site and all its stuff. We made a mess of opening a gate but we did get through, and back through. He felt good. I made an offer subject to vetting and three hours later it had been accepted. On 14 February the vet gave him a full five stage vetting, told me his faults and said he thought he would be fine for a ride round England. On 17th I borrowed the saddle again, went and paid for Strider, and tacked him up to ride home. He was six miles from the yard by road but only three taking a bridlepath over the hill. Rather nervous but very happy ............ and an hour later we were in the yard, having done a messy job of getting through two gates but we will learn. Strider, welcome to the team. Little do you know what we will do together.
London was my birthplace, where I grew up and where I went to university. My support for Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre – riding for disabled, is for young people in
London who have struggles that I never had and don't have the smiles and laughter I enjoyed.
I need to do a lot of training, the horse will need training and we will need to train to work together.
Fitness first: I am not as fit as I need to be and at 63 this needs to be built up steadily so my fitness training will start in summer 2011 when I get swimming regularly (after 10 years out of the pool), cycling or jogging to the pool, doing the Canadian Airforce Exercises which have stood me in good stead in the past, walking more and maintaining my riding. The swimming and the airforce exercises will be good for my suppleness. From late 2011 I will increase my riding ready for buying the horse.
Since 2006 when I began to think about this Ride Round England I have spent many hours working through the amazing mass of knowledge and experience shared by the Long Riders Guild and its members. I acknowledge the help it has given me with humble respect to the men, women, children and horses, who have made rides far beyond anything I could dream of undertaking.
Please do go to their website and explore its fascinating and often inspiring content.
The Germ of an Idea.
- I love being with a horse.
- I love travelling.
- I long to make a serious journey on horseback, and
- I could raise a lot of money for two charities I support.
In 2006 I heard of three women who had ridden 450 miles from Yorkshire to the Brecon Beacons. One was almost 60 and two were over 70. They were raising money for charity and they commented “how strange it was to travel so far without going through towns”. I thought: If you wantto raise money you need to be visible. Go where people are.Less than 100 years ago towns were full of horses. Go there!
www.thelongridersguild.com. But anywhere a long ride is physically demanding and a logistics challenge. In Britain the commonest really long ride is John O’Groats to Lands End, between 950 and 1400 miles depending which way you go. Few people can take the months you need for this, but hundreds will ride for a week or two or three. Many will have support from someone with a lorry, others will use a lorry to get them and the horses to their starting point, leave it there and do a circular route or arrange for transport to get them home again at the end of their ride. Few start on horseback from home. I am grateful for having been given advice and shared experience by British longriders: Elizabeth Barrett, Vyv Wood-Gee, Grant Nicolle, Judy Sharrock and Lisa Hill, and for the books of Richard Barnes and John Labouchere.All over the world people make long rides. Journeys may be thousands of miles in conditions that are seriously hard and risky – for a look at this go to the Long Riders’ Guild website:
Four months since Strider joined me to make our team and progress is good. He is excellent in traffic, was cool as they come at the Ride Launch at Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, hacks out well in sun, rain and wind and gives me a safe feeling - even if he is not perfect, and even if I am not either! I have not yet tested his attitude to the trumpet.