I booked to do a two hour hack this morning. It’s been two months since my last one and I decided, looking at the forecast, which is often not so reliable, it looked like it would be dry this week so I took the chance.
After my recent antics on Bella, I was excited to ride her out on a longer hack. I brushed another horse, my hacking RI’s horse that she’d be riding today and learnt something very valuable. I knew she was sensitive on her tummy but when she tensed, our riding school owner called, did you feel her tense? I turned and said yes, and she told me that next time, stop what I’m doing immediately as I could be kicked. I felt a bit stupid, I knew this in my head. But I appreciated the lesson. We all need reminding. I’m not used to brushing mares at all. All the horses I generally brush are geldings and they don’t have sensitive boobies to deal with. I also thought it was good of her to think of other ways I’d know a horse wasn’t happy. And I did know, I just needed to stop brushing her tummy quicker. I shall not forget that in a hurry.
Anyway, I’d apparently done a good job despite my idiocy and we tacked up and left.
Not even all the way up the hill, my hacking RI said to Bella, I knew I’d have to bring this with me for you and promptly handed over a crop and told me it was more of a threat and I shouldn’t use it on her rear like with most horses but if I needed to use it, tap her, whilst holding both reins on the shoulder. I really hoped I wouldn’t have to use it and honestly, most of the time I didn’t today.
We took a similar, if not virtually identical route to the last long hack I did. This particular one only has two crossings of a main road and hardly any road work at all which makes it a safer ride for us.
We started off well. That sounds like I’m going to say it ended badly and so it was a poor choice of words on my part. Not sure why I’m setting this up as a negative ride as it was everything to the contrary.
Bella was forward and as we were going across the field before leaving the farm, my instructor asked for a canter but Bella, although taking it up a notch with her trot, did not spring forward. I did think that despite the previous weeks’ delights, I was seeing a revert behaviour to no cantering for us. Despite this thought in my head, I didn’t feel so bad and was delighted in the fact that she felt responsive and forward and it didn’t feel like such a task to ride her today. Quite the opposite, it was an absolute joy!
Once on the quiet road, we walked quickly and waited to cross the busy road. This is a busy one, in fact, I’d say it’s a busy main road. We trotted across it. I was absolutely delighted as she’d been a bit of a pain to get going on the previous long ride and I felt exposed last time on this particular road. Not today though. That presence of the crop and dare I say, a little improvement of my riding ability may have had an effect on Miss Bella.
We had to walk through a bit of a construction site and my hacking RI’s horse was being a bit spooky. Bella on the other hand was being a true pro and just stood waiting, calmly while my RI got her mare to walk on.
Trotting down the road to the traffic lights, I felt super happy flying along on Miss Bella. So little leg and only once had I used the crop and that was back on the farm and she was being such a good girl now!
We then walked up a lane that lead to a quieter road but one we still trotted across and had to walk a small length of. Turning up another lane that has a river running down one side which was one of my favourite parts on the previous hack and I loved it just as much today to. Bella was a little slower going up this lane until my hacking RI made us go first and then she trotting past us. After that, Bella’s trots were on the ball every time. In fact, I’ve never seen Bella trot as fast as she did today.
We walked across a bridge and at the end of it, there was a long path that we could canter along. I trotted most of the way, then she sprang into canter and I was so shocked I pulled on her reins. Back to trotting for me.
I felt on this ride like Bella and I were figuring each other out a little bit more. She was almost saying, “Well, Marie, today’s your chance to prove you can handle this.” And I was doing my best to prove to that clever mare that I can handle it. I thought I might have failed but bless her, she kept giving me chances to prove myself.
As I caught up with my RI, she asked what happened and I told her, she commented how unforgiving Bella was, the slightest pull on her rein and she’d transition right back down. I felt disappointed in myself a little as I knew she was giving to me, and I wasn’t responding as I should. In my defence, Bella and I have had little cantering time. Hell, until last Sunday I’d never had more than a few strides with her so her canter is so unfamiliar to me and it’s a damn shock that she can canter with me on her back still.
Anyway, pity party out of the way. Hacking RI said we still had the back hill but I highly doubted Bella would go again for me. She’s not a fan of the back hill. She only goes halfway up with most other experienced riders on their back so I shrugged it off then and there. Bella and I wouldn’t be getting a canter today. And strangely, even though I felt a slight disappointment, I was pleased with the day’s progress from the last long hack on her.
More fabulous, forward trots that just kept going and going until we reached the busy main road again and we trotted happily across. We made it to the gate and once on the field, my hacking RI said, lets try for a canter.
And canter we did! She flew! A really fast, lets go kind of canter. Bella did it again. Shocked me but I was so pleased. It wasn’t as long as the other horse’s but she’d gone for a fair while so I was super happy! If that had been it, I’d have been happy but we came to the back hill and We sprang off into another one. I flew forward into my 2 point position. Strangely, I didn’t feel as safe and sturdy as I’d done on Shadow up this hill in a slow gallop but I’m putting that down to a little shock. Bella did a good few strides, realised I was wobbly and transitioned to a fast trot. Bless that horse! I tried to get her back into canter but we’d reached the halfway point. No thanks, I’ll stick to trot rider.
I was pleased as punch and my hacking RI said she was pleased with my performance today. We got up to the top and I asked if I should put her on a long rein, she said yes and after a few moments, she told me to shorten up my reins again, we were trying for a last canter. Bella flew and this time I was ready for her. Not as long as I’d have liked but who would have thought my ultimate teacher would have been prepared to keep giving me chances to prove myself and I finally proved I could.
Bella cantered more for me, including distance, put together than the entire time I’ve known her, today, I cannot complain about that. Despite my novice inability to fly along with her, she kept giving me chance after chance and finally we got there together. Who knows what’ll happen next time I do a long let lose hack with the beauty of a bay.
Hoping to make a longer ride part of my monthly riding. It can only get better from here. Days like today make the frustration and battles with my own inabilities worth it! Today it worked and Bella and I finally worked as a team. Those school lessons are paying off. 🙂
Until next time,