Otis’s halo has slipped. In fact, he’s hula hooping with it around his middle at the moment.
I stupidly missed the entries for Aston Le Walls and couldn’t find another event within a two hour drive to go to, so decided to go to a local cross country ride around Highclere Estate, home of Downton Abbey for those historical drama fans, run by a local hunt.
I went on one of the first fun rides to hit South Wales (actually I think it was in Herefordshire, but I lived in Wales) and I ended up escorting three young girls and their ponies around. Thankfully all behaved impeccably as I think I would be reticent to do it nowadays.
After that I think I went to a handful of fun rides, but the ladies at the yard, including my Mum, really got into their fun rides. They still go out and although they have the odd hairy moment in general it’s a good day out.
A couple of years ago I took Otis on his first fun ride and we had great fun, popping the jumps and riding through a ford. I think we got lost here as an arrow fell down …
It was around Kingsclere, childhood home of Claire Balding, so had beautiful scenery and proper narrow, rabbit paths weaving down the downs.
On this ride I found Otis strong in his snaffle, and keen to catch up with the people in front. However he had an excitable companion, which I think would wind him up.
This experience meant that earlier this year I declined to escort any fun ride virgins on a hack as I worried Otis would be strong and fast. So for yesterday’s ride I sought out a fellow eventer who I knew would be unfazed should I gallop off.
Yesterday was lovely and sunny, and we waited patiently to be allowed to set off, and both horses were very relaxed.
We had a little trot along a path to warm up and then followed a group of people into the field. We started walking around the edge and I could feel Otis getting excited so we asked to pass the group. We did and rapidly caught up with another set of dawdlers. At which point Otis took matters into his own hands. Or hooves if you like. He coiled up like a spring and then leapt in the air, hind legs getting level with my friends head, pulling me forwards from the saddle and then galloping off.
I let him canter the length of the field in the hope he’d get it out of his system. I was to be disappointed. Approximately every two minutes Otis would repeat this leap. He was soon white with foamy sweat you could sell to a barber, but not showing signs of tiredness! The jumps weren’t big enough for him to take much notice of them, but I did find him more manageable if we couldn’t see any horses in front or if we kept trotting.
About half way around we were walking down a steep stony track, where Otis contained himself until the last couple of meters, before launching us down the hill and around the corner. At this point, my friend offered me her gloves as the reins were slick with sweat and I’d forgotten mine.
As I was putting on the gloves Otis did his most spectacular dance, bringing a whole new meaning to “airs above the ground”. His hind legs tucked under, front legs lifted and then he leapt forwards before lifting his back, pushing with his hindquarters so that they became the highest part of the leap, and galloping off while I struggled with the gloves. The horse below has nothing on Otis.
He walked into the car park field with a long rein and butter-wouldn’t-melt look at our chauffeur.
If I’m honest, I didn’t really enjoy the ride as I couldn’t admire the scenery or relax. I’d like to go on one again, but unless Otis puts the fun back into fun rides I’m afraid he will be left at home!