Monday after Burnham Market I took Woody for a nice hack through the fields and up the hill alongside the gallop. Then I took him in the ring to walk, trot, canter around to see how he felt after his long journey. Everything felt and looked good so I left it at that.

Tuesday April 16th Mark arrived back in town. Hurray! In the morning I watched him ride a few, which is always a pleasure. Some of them I’ve never seen him ride before so that was neat. Woody had a check up from Dr Ober after his last run, which was good. In the afternoon Mark had team training sessions cross country with Cpt M Phillips on four horses. Yikes, after flying 24hrs!

Wednesday April 17th I came to the barn early so I could get chores done in time to watch Mark ride. First he rode Rhapsody on the flat. He said riding Kinky and Raps first after not having done dressage for six weeks was going to be hard work. Raps looks so solid in his flat work this year it’s amazing the difference. I have never seen Mark ride Kinky live, only at ERM’s on my computer. Kinky is the same breed as Woody and they look a little alike too. Kinky is 17 this year and still likes to spook at the poles piled in the corner of the ring, just like Woody. Was cool to see him warm up and over time the horse’s frame elevated almost without you noticing. Mark’s hands never move, but they’re not stiff. When he shortens his rein you hardly notice. Lots of half pass in canter to counter canter around the ring. Then forward and back before doing a flying change. He also did four time tempis on the wall.

A great day for a hack. Here are Ann on Sky, Ella on Magic and Wiggy, the dog.

A great day for a hack. Here are Ann on Sky, Ella on Magic and Wiggy, the dog.

Mark has nice Irish horse he bought to resale that’s doing novice (prelim) with his student Rafa while he’s away. Mark rode him next. His name is Romeo and he is smaller then the others. Mark jumped him a little at the end and boy can this horse use himself well over fences. Brea (student from NZ) has been working with a young horse of Mark’s called Jamie. So she came in next on Jamie and flatted him a little with some helpful pointers from Mark. He’s a lovely almost black 5 year old related to Tim Price’s horse Wesko and he’s a beautiful mover with a springy trot. At the end of her ride we got to see him jump a few. He’s still very green but he has scope to spare and his knees are so nice in front that his hooves touch his girth. Fozzy is much improved from last year as well. He’s gained a lot of muscle which has made his job easier for him. He’s rounder and more underneath himself as well. He’s just completed his first intermediate.

In the afternoon Ann rode Snow in a lesson with Mark. It was dressage and Mark really liked Snow. He said his canter was croup high like Kinky and it almost pops you out the saddle which makes life difficult. Couldn’t agree more! So they worked on walk pirouettes before the canter. Then in the canter practiced spiral in leg yield out for ages. I was exhausted just watching then canter round and around. Also lots of transitions to emphasize the half halt. Canter trot a few steps canter again making sure he collects. Then if he runs through the aids in trot making him come back to walk a few steps trot. They both looked great.

Thursday it was my turn for a lesson on Woody. Mark has team training on a few of his off property so we did my lesson in the later afternoon. Earlier in the day Ann jumped Snow a little over a course that Mark had set up for Jamie. Snow, having not been out on the hills for a hack in a while, was feeling fit and ready. He was a bit keen but really quite obedient considering. He did nice halts in between his work. Ann schooled him a little in the trot work before returning to the jumps again and he settled down nicely to finish.

Last year I really wanted to see Mark on Woody. I always thought they would fit each other perfectly and they did. I warmed Woody up a little. Mark reminded me to count down from three before my flying changes so that they looked easy and stayed balanced. Then he got on and did some canter work and a few changes. While he had a walk break Mark said “he’s a lot of fun.” ❤️🐴 Then he started working on trotting on the spot and then moving forward again. Some shoulder in and half pass as well. Mark agreed Woody can get a bit strong when he doesn’t want to give in his back and activate his hind feet so he schooled that for a while ending with some medium trots. It was nice to hear Mark say he agreed Woody can be quite strong when he wants to but his hands still never moved. 🤯 I could really see Mark using his body and core to help Woody with the half halts and it was a good visual. Then Mark gave him back to me and I had a bit more of a lesson on him. I was walking on air with a big grin on my face for the rest of the day.

Selena on Saffron.

Selena on Saffron.

Friday April 19th Ann and I decided to hack in the valley next to Mark’s property. I walk past it and admire the view all the time but hacking through it, up and down was awesome fun. Hacking along the top of the hill down on the side was a bit like walking along the Grand Canyon (or so Ann said I’ve never been). It’s a steep drop on your left as you head down the narrow grass path. Then you turn left and finish the decent into the bottom of the valley. Big hills on both sides and a winding grass path to the end of the valley before turning right and heading up the hill on our right. This path takes you up diagonally like a mountain goat trail al the way to the top. The grass is very short and had a light dew which made it a tad slippery sometimes. Once at the top we walked along the fence line the separated the valley and crop fields. I hoped that there was a reasonable way back down to the beginning of the valley and there was. The last hike uphill was going up the steep way back to the gate we went through next to the gallop. By the time the horses walked to the top of that one they were puffing a bit.

We were then going to drive to Bicton horse trials to watch Mark complete Fozzy and Kinky. We got on the road and when we saw the traffic at a standstill on the M4 we decided against it. Good Friday is apparently a very busy traffic holiday so instead we headed to my house for lunch. We walked to the local pub and I had delicious baked camembert cheese, French bread and balsamic. When we got back to the house Ella was hole and we headed off riding with her. The hack was amazing as was the weather. Jonny (Ella’s dad) came on foot with their biggest dog Wiggy. Ann rode Sky (Ella’s former eventer) I rode Saffron (the cob) and Ella rode her new young horse Magic. We hacked for ages through farm yards, fields of giant yellow flowers (rape seed), green fields, forest and back long the road to their barn. Was a fabulous day if hacking all round!