No experience is bad if you learn something, right?
Midsummers day. Not that I was all that focused on it being the summer solstice to be honest. I had other things on my mind today. Such as pointedly NOT looking inside the field troughs while I scrubbed them because I knew there were all kinds of squirmy wormy wriggly things in there. Eurgh.
Honestly, I think it must be a worse job than anything poo related. Emptying out field troughs and scrubbing them clean. The green walls, squirmy inhabitants and oh dear god the smell. I’m not too sure I don’t still reek of it to be honest. That all came after the epic stopcock battle, obviously. More importantly, I think I splashed green wriggly water on my face. I may never recover.
Having completed that lovely task (I should note I was not solo during this endeavour, Emma and Dan were scrubbing alongside me), it was decided that we would go for a hack. I think perhaps it is something to do with my inexperience when it comes to riding out, but while I really want to go and do it, a part of me clenches when the staff say “fancy a hack?”
In the end, six of us went. I wasn’t too sure how well it would go to be honest, as that seemed rather a large group. Would the horses keep their heads or were they going to all go completely mental and wind each other up? I was willing to bet money on the latter. And I don’t have any money. After the rigmarole of working out which horses could be used for the hack, it was announced to me that I would be riding my favourite boy.
I love Star, he is the best horse. I have been fortunate, I think, to get to work with him so closely this past year. He was my assignment horse for all of my Animal Health work and for the module on feeding, which meant that I was constantly keeping tabs on him and had to interact with him on a regular basis to complete health checks and take his weight etc. I enjoyed handling him and spending time with him just in the stable or on the yard. He’s a genuinely lovely horse with the sweetest character. I feel I’ve got to know him quite well, and feel totally comfortable with him. I also love to ride him, as he’s willing to try albeit lazy as anything. A short whip usually helps.
The only problem though, is that he is an ex-racer. Which means hacking is always….eventful. I’ve hacked him once before, and while it was great fun in one sense because we really truly flew up the hill, it was also slightly nerve-wracking when I realised he was still cantering and we were headed towards a five-bar gate. I didn’t reckon it would stop him, so I had to do some pretty nifty work, turning on a sixpence and bringing him down to trot at the same time.
Despite the moments of “OH NOOOOOO”, I’d felt quite comfortable. Today, on the other hand, something didn’t feel right. I don’t know whether it was me, or him, or one of the other people/horses. But it just felt slightly off. So before I’d even got on, I wasn’t 100% sure how things were going to turn out. Which is certainly not an ideal way to be thinking. Everything started off fine. He was his normal self, walking along quite happily with the others and not batting an eyelid at anything on the road. Bombproof. “Brilliant” I thought. It was going to go well.
I thought too soon. I think it was fortunate really that the yard manager had chosen to ride her young mare (with a tendency to buck while cantering on hacks) as it meant that she was keen to keep things slow and steady. I did voice my desire to remain walking as much as possible, just so that someone was aware of my misgivings. And I think they were well-placed to be honest. Star was less than impressed by our decision to make them all walk for the whole hack. He wanted to gallop and race and be faster than everyone else. And he wasn’t allowed. So he let everyone know exactly how he felt. He was also being irritated significantly by the flies as it was a very close and humid day.
We stamped and kicked and pawed at the ground. Then we snorted a bit. And then we threw in a bunny hop type movement at which everyone else went “aaaw he looked cute then”. PAHAHAHA cute??!!?! Funnily enough, no-one was keen to swap horses! Walking up the hill (the hill they normally gallop up) Star decided to liven things up by spooking at a tree and bucking some more. Africa (the young mare) joined in and the two of them bucked about for a bit. We managed to avoid the low branches, and stay in walk, with the odd buck here and there. There were sheep EVERYWHERE which kept running out in front of us from nowhere and causing the horses to go “ohhhhhhhh my god where did that come from” and skitter sideways or…in my case…buck some more.
Finally, at long last, we seemed able to keep all four feet in the general direction of the ground, and walked our way back to college without any further drama. Apart from catching up to the RDA and meeting about a billion tractors. When we got back, Star and I then had the brilliant experience of trying to get into the school. I think there may have been a grudge of some sort going on as he point blank refused to go into the school with me. “Nope, I’m not going in there and you can’t make me”. In the end, Eileen had to help haul him forwards with me kicking like a Pony Club pro on top of him. Silly horse. The only reason we were going in the school was to give him a trot and a canter to let him work everything through properly so he didn’t go back to the stable all wound up. And at first it was all fine and we had some lovely canter. Then, for some reason, he decided I hadn’t been bucked about enough, so he threw in a couple more and tried to bolt off across the school. Naughty. I didn’t let him, and made him canter circles instead.
While I spent most of the time on the hack swearing loudly in my head and wondering what part of me had a death wish, I do think it was a good experience. I learned a bit more about how important acting is with horses. I think I might have to take lessons or something, because a lot of stuff seems to come from a false confidence. I also learned more effective ways of dealing with an excitable horse AND I managed to sit a series of super fun bucks and hops and mini-rears, without allowing the horse to unseat me or cart off with me. So, to be honest, while the hack itself was slightly stressful and we didn’t have the fun bit of cantering, it was actually a very effective lesson.
It does make me wonder whether Star would be easier to hack on his own or with one other person, as oppose to a group though. Just a thought. I know a lot of it is down to how chilled the rider is, but with some horses you can be the most relaxed person in the world and they’ll still want to take off, because that’s just what they want to do. Star is a bit like that, but then that’s what he was trained to do at one point, and as QI taught me tonight, horses have a very good memory.
Having stayed balanced and secure throughout all of that, however, reassures me that next time a horse goes off script with me, I will definitely be able to cope with it. My heels have never been so far down in my life. I got pins and needles in my toes I was pushing my weight down that hard!
I do still love him though. Of course I do. One less than perfect day isn’t going to change that. No-one would love horses if that was the case.
I wish he was mine.