I’ve been having a lot of really great rides lately, and am going to attempt to get them all down in a chronological order. So I’m going to go way back to over a week ago when I took Oscar for a conditioning hack along the bridlepath that runs by the river.
After my first lesson with C, I hacked out a few times to let Oscar’s muscles recover. C is amazing and really changes how we do things, so understandably both Oscar and I are a little muscle sore after lessons. A conditioning hack was long overdue, and since the ground at home was wet after some heavy rain, I convinced L to trailer us out to the bridlepath. Palmy bridlepath is stunning, you basically follow the river for miles, and there’s well maintained grass verges on either side. You come to optional bridges, and meet lots of people along the way – with dogs, pushchairs, and on bikes. So much mental stimulation for a horse like Oscar who benefits from being exposed to new things.
We went to the Ahhurst end this time which joins onto the section that runs through palmy. It’s a little shorter and perfect if you only want to be gone for a short time. L was walking the dogs and put a time limit on me, so the short track it was.
Oscar was super uptight at the float where we unloaded – there were no horses around, and a family were collecting rocks from the riverbed nearby which made quite a noise as they hit the trailer they were being thrown into. He stood well enough to be tacked up, so I think he’s getting a little more mature with all these outings. At one time he would have lost it.
However, it did set the tone for the rest of the ride with Oscar being uptight and watching for monsters.
We walked for a while with L who had the dogs. Quite the family outing!
Eventually we pushed into a trot, and then forward into what I call a ‘cross country’ canter. It’s just a good, solid canter that’s too forward to be called a working canter. I have tried to google the distance to no avail, but we got to where the path meets the palmy section after around fifteen minutes.
It was like a long cross country course without any jumps, we got to a puddle covering most of the path at one point – he balked at it and I lost my balance coming forward over his neck. I stuck on, but nothing tells you you need to work on your two point and keep your leg on like having your horse hesitate during a forward gait. We trotted through the puddle, and past a construction site by the path. Oscar looked hard at this as we cantered past, and I had to keep my leg on and rock back a bit to keep him going forward. He definitely didn’t have his brave pants on!
After we’d crossed the puddle obstacle and gotten past the pretty intimidating diggers parked by the path, Oscar was just about ready to explode! So as we cantered around a sweeping corner right up to a big German short-haired pointer exploring a bush, my horse lost it and not only stopped, but swung sharply to the left. I sailed clean over his right shoulder, keeping my grip on the reins. The last thing I needed was my horse bolting back 15 minutes to the float! By some miracle I didn’t hook my horse in the mouth too badly when I landed, and I also landed right on my feet. I did myself proud again when the adrenalin of the fall allowed me to swing back up onto Oscar’s back – despite never having been able to get on from the ground before. My jump stirrups are quite short but I still clambered back on almost smoothly, apologised to the family belonging to the dog (we gave their dog a bit of a fright with my air aerobics) and carried on on our way. Not long after this we got to our turning point, ready to walk back to ‘home’.
Despite falling off, and having a bit of a white knuckle ride, it was a good outing. It felt like a hairy cross country course, and I think a horse friendly version following this will seem a lot easier for Oscar! I’ve always got the goal of winning a pre novice in the back of my mind, so most of my rides are geared towards preparing for next season’s eventing. If I go for a hack it’s either to loosen up muscles or to condition for a cross country course. No more dawdling around – I forgot how motivating goal setting was. I have been utilising ‘my equicoach’ a lot lately, and it’s definitely helping me break down my big goal into small achievable steps.
Oscar was pretty hot when we met up again with L and the dogs, and he was much more settled. Somebody stopped us to say what a ‘well kept’ horse he was – I am a stickler for good grooming before an outing, and even if you’re going to a ‘non horsey’ environment, it doesn’t go unnoticed. So that was nice.