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Monday, 3 April 2017

Hulne Park Pleasure Ride

Sunday just gone, Louie & I headed out on our first pleasure ride together. I quite enjoy the odd pleasure ride here & there - the countryside they ride through along with the manners of people also enjoying the ride are what make them for me.

The Percy Hunt held this one in the gorgeous ground of Hulne Park, just outside of Alnwick. The ride offers a 10 mile option and a 6 mile option - both follow the same trail and split off after the fields and jumps which is probably about the first 4 miles.

The start of the ride was through lots of big open fields with loads & loads of logs - more than I've seen on a pleasure ride before. They varied in height from 6 inches to 2'6", with one bigger one. They aren't placed around the fields which is good - no disorganised riders cantering in front of you!! It also means that if you go with someone who doesn't want to jump, you can still canter along together.

I've not taken Louie hunting - to be fair, I don't think either winter he has been strong enough & I've never felt I needed to do it right now. So his experience of cantering in open fields with lots of other horses was minimum - I wasn't sure how he would react. Would he explode, would he canter on the spot not knowing what to do, would he freeze & be totally freaked out by it?

Heading to the start

And....we're away!

Well, naturally, he took it in his stride, and until we had a group of very rude riders coming right up behind us screaming & totally out of control, he was keen, taking a pull, but with plenty of control. We tagged onto a pair of riders in one of the fields, and cantering along side them he was slightly keener, but all good, and under control to push on or pull back.

We decided to add the jumping in from the second field, with one field having 10-12 jumps in a row. Louie LOVED it, pulling forward and very keen to jump. I was still wearing my very soft, very bendy rubber mullen bit, so I was apprehensive about my breaks, but actually, it wasn't a probably, and it meant that when he was keen, I could take a pull without him taking major offence in his mouth...

I cannot wait to take this little horsey cross country!!

Just before the split, you could get a drink - red or white wine, or black current or orange juice. I was really thirsty, so opted for a plain orange juice. Unfortunately, Louie has the patience of a gnat...so I didn't get much opportunity to drink it. Instead, I kept Louie calm and walked him round for a few minutes before setting off.

The two lovely ladies I had tagged onto decided to go on the shorter ride, but Louie was enjoying himself and being well behaved so I opted for the longer 10 mile ride. They went left and we went straight on - Louie never looked back for them and just carried on solo!!

After a little trot, we came up behind two other ladies, who were also very nice and we got chatting for a mile or so. Unfortunately, the household cavalry came charging up behind up, almost pushing us out the way to get through which unsettled Louie a little, well, quite a lot. After they were out of sight, I left the two ladies and trotted off ahead, up and long incline and track - Louie is much fitter than I gave him credit and coped well, just tiring at the top.

The rest of the ride was mainly made up of tracks through woods, along the river and on the top of the Northumberland hillsides - it gave for some beautiful views along the way!

We did more trot work than we had really intended, as along the top, when Louie could see a horse out in front, he tended to jog, but I was happy to trot to catch up, have a chat and then trot off in front. We passed the group that had come up behind us on the canter stretch, and he happily trotted straight past them and along the way on his own.

Louie hasn't always been a confident and independent horse when we've been out hacking - we've spent a lot of time teaching him that it's a chill out time and to enjoy the walk along and take in the scenery. Well, it's definitely proven to work on this ride - he was forward, happy to be in the front of a group, or behind, or go off on his own ahead.

We came to the end of the ride and enjoyed a dip in the river (Louie not me!!) - a great way to cool off when we'd finished!!

Louie was settled coming back through the car park, despite a group of horses cantering towards us to get to the start. And no sooner did I take his saddle and bridle off, he was down on the floor having a good roll!!!

The car park was really busy, and Louie can get a bit excited in situations like that, and although he had a little dance around on the lead rope every so often, he stood eating his hay to be washed down and have a nibble of grass, before standing quietly on the wagon, chomping on his hay and watching everything that was going on from the window!!

Louie had an absolute BLAST - I could feel that he loved every minute of the ride! I had a great time too, enjoying how much he was enjoying himself. I'm not really a happy hacker, and after 10 miles I'm ready to get out of the saddle, but Louie would definitely have gone round again!!

I'm pleased I chose to take my time before taking him to such a busy pleasure ride, giving him chance to develop his own confidence and realising that things like this are really very exciting (he definitely realised that!!)

Enjoying a sandwich while Louie has a chomp on hay!

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