After a low-key "getting to know you" hack on Sunday, the we headed off for a long one on Monday, with Flurry and a little black mare called Pepite. We did the same route that Anne and I covered in "What a Hack" except this time we knew where we were going! We had a couple of short canters going up the serpentine trail towards the cliffs, but we were limited by the fact that the stretches of "good" going are pretty short.
Not to worry, I said to the YD, there's a lovely long stretch through the woods at the top.
So we made our way to the top, stopped to admire the view, and then carried on. Once we got to the woods, we had a couple of longer canters. We were a bit hampered by low branches - every time we ducked at canter, one or the other of the two horses threw up their heels a wee bit! I think the YD was suffering more than I was, as Pepite was getting quite strong at this stage - she doesn't like being behind. So, thinking we were nearing the end of the good ground anyway, we decided to walk again.
The trail rolled out in front of us, level, sandy and inviting... so I said, "It's too tempting, will we have another one? I'll keep Flurry more sedate this time..." HA! He was sedate for about ten strides, then his head went lower and lower and he just kept going - not galloping, but a strong canter! Hmm, not so good, Mr Flurry!
Remembering that the really bad downhill stretch was not too far away, I made valiant efforts to bring him back, but one disadvantage of forest trails is there's nowhere to circle! A bit of sustained yanking on his mouth (collective gasps of horror, I'm sure, sorry folks, survival is important!) eventually did the trick, and harmony was restored.
So. What I've learned from this. Right hand is still pretty weak - left hand ended up having to do all the work. Asking Flurry to canter "collected" was a mistake - when I kept a hold, he just leaned against me and went more and more on the forehand, so therefore more and more difficult to get the brakes to engage. I should canter on a fairly loose rein, for short stretches - this is like right back at the beginning, when he kept getting heavier and heavier in canter. If I was in an arena, I'd be doing loads of transitions to keep him balanced, I will need to take the same approach out on the trail.
I'm not annoyed or particularly scared by this incident - I know that he wasn't bolting, he just gets heavy on the forehand in canter (it's always been an issue) and difficult for a 1.5 handed person to bring back. And I knew that we were heading towards a really nasty downhill bit... he didn't!
Apart from that, the rest of the hack was pretty uneventful. We dismounted and walked down the rough bit, gave the horses a little break at the bottom, and then remounted and set off for home. The YD and Pepite led for a while, but Pepite was pretty convinced that she had to get home reallyreallyfast, so Flurry and I went back in front and she settled down again.
We rubbed the horses down and turned them out, went home, ate some lunch and then headed off for a hike. It had clouded over a bit, which was good, but that made the views a bit less spectacular, which was not so good. We saw lovely purple irises (I think)
and really cool pine cones which look like Christmas tree decorations
We made a small mistake with our route, which shortened it by about an hour - thank goodness for that, we were both wrecked after two hours of hill work!
The weather forecast is not great - there will be some rain for the next three days, we're just not sure how much. Tuesday is a non-riding day - the YD's bum needs to recover from the cavalry saddle she's been riding in - but we're hoping to go out again on Wednesday, maybe to Montjustin.
I'll keep you posted!