Sorry everyone I got a bit behind in my blogging. There’s never a dull moment here. On Friday morning after barn chores I was asked to hack Rhapsody with Francesca on Mac. Away we went down the driveway with me chatting casually until we turned left onto the road. Then Fra say “Ready to trot now.”

I don’t think any reply came out of my mouth, I must have just sort of nodded as my body involuntarily crouched lower and lower into the fetal position. I was going between looking down the sides of Raps neck at the winding uneven pavement and looking straight ahead at Fra on Mac in front of me happily trotting along. I’m also pretty sure I stopped breathing, as the colour must have drained from my face because when Fra turned around to ask how I was doing as we came to a walk (thankfully) at the top of a downhill winding bit, she did a double take and I had to admit to her I was absolutely terrified! First of all, I was on one of Mark’s Badminton horses. Second, we have shoulders to ride on in North America. Third, most of my horses are spooky as heck on a hack and would jump into traffic when a pheasant or fox rattled the bushes and/or slip and fall (without studs).

I mean I literally lowered my hands, told myself not to move or do anything to affect/distract the wonderful horse who knows what he’s doing. I was so scared I was sweating after the first two minutes of not breathing. There were cars whizzing around the bends (luckily they slow right down when they see horses), but still what an adrenaline rush. Then we turned right and picked up trot again through a small village. Luckily this time it was pretty much all uphill which made me feel SLIGHTLY better. Mac did one or two tiny spooks at signs etc., but Raps was perfect. I kept telling him there are LOTS of carrots at the end of this hack for him❤🐴

I know, I know. I need to put my big girl panties on, but seriously it was almost as intense for me as getting ready for cross country!

I had a good dressage school on Woody using the mirrors relentlessly for straightness whilst collecting the walk, halting and rein back. I also used them for walk pirouettes and lateral work. Sadly, I can’t really see his hooves in the mirrors so I can’t always tell how much he is over tracking in the extended walk, the perimeter fence boards get in the way.

Mark Todd's ring.

Mark Todd’s ring.

I also got to warm up Raps for Mark in the afternoon before he jumped him. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all the horses jump that day. Everything Mark rode jumped beautifully with tons of scope. I think Mac was the most fun to watch, as he is tiny but mighty. He always jumps incredibly right from the first cross rail. He went from novice to 3* last summer and finished by placing 7th at Bokelo. Truly an amazing little horse.

On Saturday Mark and Rafael went to a competition in the morning, so I helped Jess do the barn chores. Woody goes on the hot walker in the a.m. now with the others while we do stalls. It’s a great start to the day for them. I rode the jumper mare on the flat again. She was much softer right from the beginning and more even in the contact on both reins. I did some leg yields using the mirrors and shoulder fore. Worked on halt rein back not allowing her to get lower in front. When I was schooling the canter I realized she wants to do changes instead of counter canter, but her changes were late behind (they hadn’t been the last time I rode her) but I think she was just a little stiff from her jump school the day before. So I played with the canter until I could counter canter and change the flexions without her doing a change. Then at the end I did some flying changes and they were clean and her canter was much improved. I really enjoy working with her she improves over the course of the session quite a lot and comes out better for it next time.

When Mark returned I went out with him on Leo and I was riding Woody to do some fitness work. First we trotted around the fields then headed down to the start of the all weather gallop. Leo is a keener he knows what the gallop is for.😉

Mark was going up four times getting progressively stronger each time. I was only cantering and doing it three times. We hacked back down the fields together the first few times and saw a little deer family grazing in the plowed field.

Of course there is one tiny tree next to the gallop (along with many other tress bushes etc) about halfway up the hill. It has vines all over the top of it a bit like a bird’s nest. Woody noticed it going down hill the very first day I rode him and gave it a wide birth, taking me off the track into the bushes on the other side, in walk I might add.

So naturally on the way up in canter he did the same only this time I kept him on the track. On our last trip up the hill a fox was just poking his nose out onto the track when he heard Woody coming and scuttled back under the hedges. Woody shot to the left and I could practically hear him saying “I knew it, I knew there was something sketchy about this area of the track!” I feel this tree and area are going to be our nemesis for the rest of our stay here. Horses…sometimes I wonder what goes through their little heads?

Cute boots at Wadswick.

Cute boots at Wadswick.

Sunday all of Mark’s horses had the day off so instead of going on the walker they all go out. Some of them go out during the week as well it’s just that on Sundays everyone goes out and no hot walker. I didn’t know they started at 7:30 instead of 7:00 a.m. on Sundays (until it was too late) so I was there early and put Woody on the walker while I mucked his stall. Then I helped with all the barn chores before heading out with Jess G to a huge tack store called Wadswick. It was two levels with a country store and coffee shop on the bottom floor as well as tons of equestrian apparel etc., then tack, helmets, vests, bits etc. upstairs. I was in horsey heaven. I couldn’t resist and bought Bizzy a tweed coat❤🐶

After a lovely tour around the tack shop we stopped at a Marks &Spencer grocers on the way back to the barn. I brought a very muddy Woody in from the field and began the task of brushing him. I gave him a good lunge in the Pessoa to give his back a rest before a tough week of preparation for Belton next Fri/Sat.

Now let’s all pray to the weather gods for less rain then forecasted. We don’t want Belton to cancel!