After last weekend’s TREC Orienteering event I have been doing a bit of thinking. What attracted me to TREC was the opportunity to ride in areas where you otherwise might never go and the chance to ride off road. Ireland has no bridleways and if you want to ride across country, you have to get the landowners permission. I really enjoyed the Orienteering events I did with Minnie last year. Fabulous routes and a lot of cross country cantering. My first outing with Cassie last Sunday made me reconsider. I didn’t like the display of competitiveness at what was supposed to be a training event and trying to make optimum time when the conditions for riding the route aren’t optimal is just not me. I don’t care about winning. I just want to be with my horse. Time spent together should be good for both of us. At the moment, it doesn’t make sense for me to enter for events.
I am very lucky in where I live. There is a lot of lovely countryside around here with very quiet roads, access to walking routes and forestry, but you do tend to ride the same routes all the time. Now that I know Cassie better and she’s becoming easier to ride because she trusts me, we can start exploring a bit further afield. So yesterday I decided to set a route, take Cassie there and ride it in our own time.
It was what they call ‘a soft day’ here. Quite warm and overcast, with precipitation somewhere between mist and drizzle. We started off in some forestry. That seemed very familiar to Cassie and she strode on full of confidence. I dismounted when the path had washed away and walked with her for a while, until I found a place where I could mount again. My treeless saddle is not great if I have to get on and off a couple a times. Cassie is a big mare and I am obviously not as agile as I should be. It’s a long haul up and the saddle tends to slip if I mount from the ground.
I wanted to ride to a small Lough, so we left the forestry and came out on an open hill side. The wind was strong there and it was dead against us. Cassie didn’t like it and the fact that the track was full of large pools of water didn’t help. The wind made her nervous and it was hard to keep her focus on going forward when her instinct was to turn back and head for home. She needed a lot of reassuring and encouragement to keep moving, so I stroked her neck and talked to her, trying to let her know that it was ok and she was not alone.
When we got to the Lough there was fog rising from the surface. I had never been there before myself and it must be beautiful on a sunny day when the surrounding hills are visible. On this day it looked like a place out of time. I could imagine how easy it would be to get lost there. We stopped for a break and I got off to let Cassie graze for a while. On our way home we had the wind in our back and it brought Cassie’s energy up. She wanted to canter. She jumped a pool of water and cantered on, waiting for me to let her go. It was not a great place for it. The ground beside the path was boggy, and the path itself was rough. I couldn’t let her go far, but even though she really wanted to go, when I asked her to come back to me, she did.
This was our longest ride so far and I feel we are becoming more of a team every time we go out. After we got home I gave Cassie her feed, cleaned the trailer and went inside to make some dinner. I was tired, but happy and the stresses of the past week had all been blown away.
When I came back out to give the horses the carrot tops, fog was rolling in. The surrounding hills were disappearing in the mist, giving the impression that we were on an island. I stayed with my horses for a while, watching them graze and I got that sense of timelessness again.