I was reminiscing on one of my hacks this week about one of our favourite things to do when we were younger.
From the spring onwards, if we’d been very good in our lessons, or it was someone’s birthday, or any other reason, our reward would be to gallop to the top at the end of the lesson.
I should explain more. The arena was set at the bottom of the aptly named “school field”, which was a large, fairly gentle uphill field. Behind that field was situated the “little field”, the “bank field”, the “middle field” (which funnily enough was the centre field).
Galloping to the top, meant leaving the arena and turning left to the field gate. We all walked through it, attempting to walk anyway, around the corner so we were past the arena side, and then we went! Galloping flat out diagonally across the field, past the giant oak tree and eventually pulling up in the corner, at the bottom of the bank field.
Giggling, panting and full of adrenaline, we would then walk back down the field to the yard.
We loved it, and the ponies loved it! They definitely knew what was happening because there were some pogo stick style antics as we used to walk around the corner, and invariably someone would go on the countdown, causing everyone else to just kick and try to catch up!
When the horse’s were turned out in one of the top fields, and the school field was rested, we often used to ride up bare back. But it always ended up as a gallop up, even if we were riding solo. The ponies loved it so much! Of course, we didn’t exactly try to stop them!
I remember one time I was allowed to ride in “top group” with the older girls on Asker. A 13.2hh native bay mare of some description, who could definitely jump. She was also a witch to girth up and you had to watch out for her snaking neck. I can’t remember if she was just mareish, but she was always tied at the end of the yard, on the corner, and Billy was the only pony she tolerated being next to. I loved Billy too … Anyway, I’d ridden Asker for the whole of the lesson, and we’d asked to gallop to the top. The older girls had much faster ponies, so I was very excited! I remember just past the oak tree, in flat out gallop, the reins went light. When we pulled up, I leant to look at Asker, only to see that her bridle had fallen off!
One of the older girls helped me put it back on, and in doing so we discovered that one of the buckles hadn’t been fastened securely by Asker’s loaner when she’d cleaned the tack. No harm done, but I never worked out how I managed to keep the bridle together for the duration of our lesson!
We also used to gallop to the top in our cross country lessons, but this was shorter and not quite so much fun. Until one time all the gates were open, and we raced from the cross country field (which was adjacent to the school field) up to the middle field gate, jostled through that and straight over to the bank field gate, through that, and galloped as far up the very steep bank that our ponies would go! I’m pretty sure Matt ran out of steam halfway up there, but it was great fun!
This is the only photo I can find to illustrate the school field. The horses are in the arena before it was resurfaced, and the school field is behind them (see the oak tree?). The cross country field would be to the right of the bushes, and you can just about see the bank field behind the oak tree.