Getting out of school. Part 1, The Track.

DSCN4194About a fortnight ago I turned up to ride after work one day and found that evening had been taken over with an in-house jumping competition. I had known there were some going on but hadn’t paid them much attention. I hadn’t realised that meant there’d be no schools to ride in. Luckily I knew that on the previous weekend a couple of the teens had ridden on “the track” – which is basically a short path around the edge of some of the turnout fields. Officially this had not been opened for the year (it’s unavailable during the winter) but if they’d used it, surely I could. I was a bit hazy though on exactly where it went and when we were allowed to use it.

I made enquiries and it turned out that the owner was happy for me to use it at my own risk – before they officially open it for the year they check the rabbits haven’t dug any holes in the path that a horse could put a leg down. Also I was told we’re not allowed to go faster than a trot on the bit that goes alongside the outdoor schools. As I barely intended to go beyond a walk at all on our first solo foray outside the school this was not likely to inconvenience me!

I checked with one of the teens that had used it at the weekend and they’d not found any rabbit holes and assured me it was not possible to get lost, so I tacked up. I was nervous because I didn’t know how he’d be to ride outside the school. Apart from the one hack on the road with a staff member, quite some time ago, I haven’t ridden outside the school because there haven’t been any options other than the school or the roads. I was also nervous because although I’d been assured I couldn’t get lost, I didn’t know where the track went or how long it was. Now I’ve ridden it I see it’s very short and you’re barely out of sight of the schools/yard, so it’s really not that scary, but new things are always a challenge  for me.

So I opened the gates, mounted by climbing on the wall (it felt really odd to mount outside the school, but he was relatively well-behaved and I got on OK) and headed out down the track. Down the track – it was the first time I’d ridden him on any sort of slope which again made me a little less than relaxed and he was worried about a woodpile that might contain monsters (visible in the picture above on the left of the track), but although we were both a bit tense there were no real issues. I asked him to bend away from the woodpile as we passed it, with limited success. We got to the bottom corner after a few hundred meters. The path went to the right, but to the left the sun was glinting off a little brook. Apparently this was very concerning for the woolly-boy, who thought there were almost certainly crocodiles in it,

This is where crocodiles live

This is where crocodiles live

but after a brief discussion I convinced him we weren’t going that way anyway and it was safe to proceed along the path. After another few hundred meters we found a pheasant in the middle of the path in front of us. Knowing how pheasants will leave it to the last minute and then fly up in a horse’s face, I was probably more worried by the pheasant than he was – he was curious about it. I slowed our walk to give the pheasant maximum opportunity to leave before we were on top of it, and with a minimum of fuss the bird took itself off into the bushes, much to my relief. Another few hundred meters on we could see and hear two dogs running off the lead, but it turned out they could not reach us, being separated from us by a narrow strip of fenced-off field. After all of that I was feeling pretty confident that I didn’t have to worry too much about how he’d react to things – yes we’d come across things he didn’t feel confident with, but the strongest reaction he’d given to all of this was stopping near the crocodiles. I was in no danger of hitting the floor at any point, which in a way was the question I’d needed answering. I hadn’t known how he’d be when we were out and about and something a bit scary came along. Now I know that he’s fine, I can be more confident, which in turn will make him more confident.

We carried on following the path and in no time at all we were alongside the schools and the jump competition and then back to the beginning. A very short ride, so we did another lap. This time I got him to bend away from the woodpile and keep going near the crocodiles. We had a little trot up the hill and finished the lap with me feeling confident that I will be safe on him even when we meet the unexpected.

I did leave the ride with the idea he has strong feelings about water. He did not like the tiny “crocodile wallow”, he does not like it when the tap in his stable is turned on, he doesn’t like his sweat patches being rinsed off and he doesn’t like fly spray on him even if you spray it on your hand and then wipe it on him. This does not bode well for washing him. I’ll let you know how that goes…

DSCN4197

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12 thoughts on “Getting out of school. Part 1, The Track.

  1. Liz at Libro says:

    What a lovely piece to read! Well done both of you. I’ve read a book recently which covered stuff about getting horses to accept fly spray – it was called “A good horse is never a bad color” and had some really sensible stuff in it. I had the e-book so I can’t lend it to you unfortunately, but it might be worth picking up. I think there was some stuff about general water fears in it too, but i can’t quite remember. Look out for the new updated edition published this or last year.

  2. Sparrowgrass says:

    Thanks. 🙂 I’ll keep my eye out for the book too.

  3. onahorse says:

    Excellent, I;m glad you got to go for a hack! I know my school does offer it, but I’m not clear on how you go about arranging it since they’re so popular there’s a waiting list for lessons at the weekends and when I enquired they said this included hacking.

    I loved reading about Drifter’s concern over the brook. Horses can be so brave at times about things that are a big deal, and so irrational about other things. It reminded me of this:

  4. thecasualphilosopher says:

    What a great ride. I enjoyed reading about the trip you two took. Good for you for managing everything. Sounds like he did really well. It’s amazing to me the things that can spook horses – and things you think would, don’t. I know Starzz would have been googly-eyed at that wood pile, and probably the croc pond as well. Great entry.

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      Thanks. I couldn’t believe how many potential dramas we met in such a short distance, but it really helped reassure me to have been past them.

      • thecasualrider says:

        In reading your entry, I was recalling my only time out hacking early this year. I could not believe how much disturbed Starzz. Not to mention the deer who launched themselves out of a bush behind him….Scary!

      • Sparrowgrass says:

        Ooh. Deer would not be good! Very nice to see them if you’re on foot, but oh dear to big things popping out of bushes!

  5. It’s really interesting for me to read things like this, because I never realised how lucky we were, really, learning to ride in Scotland. We could go all over the place – fields, woods, lanes, single track roads – and even the main road wasn’t bad in the Borders (when I visited last summer, 20 years+ after I rode there, they said it was much busier on the main road these days and at certain times of day they tried to avoid it). We actually lived in the capital city and up until we started spending our weekends at the stables caravan, we’d just ridden in schools and on very limited outdoor hacks. So we did appreciate the wonderful freedom, even if I’m only fully realising now quite how wonderful it was!

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      That does sound lovely. Quite idyllic. And it’s nice for the horses to be able to get out and go somewhere rather than working round and round in a school.

  6. Yes, I think most horses love it, and it’s a great way of building a bond between horse and owner too.

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