We went along to Beaumont du Périgourd for their Medieval day today as Isabelle where we do our TREC stuff wanted a couple of steady horses to lead the parade. Step forward Gandalf and Chester. Good excuse for me to mess around making a few new costumes.......
The sun shone, there were lots of people, ponies, falcons, even a couple of giant donkeys on wheels.....Gandalf wasn't too sure about them!!
There were lots of interesing market stalls, including a bloke with an enormous still, and musicians wandering about
The kids all dressed up too and had fun sword fighting, shooting and tilting.....
That included the big kids, of course
Gandalf and Ches were great, Ches didn't even eat anything he shouldn't have!
Monday morning dawned windy and wet, just what we needed for
the long ride home. So we saddled up, put on the waterproofs, well all apart
from Ali as Seraphina took exception to her long orange mac, and set off early,
with the saddlebags stuffed with the last of the birthday cake and some beer.
We went back down the hill to St Pierre de Bat but it was
miserable so we didn’t get in the lavoir this time. The horses seemed
reasonably OK and were happy to trot and canter a bit. We went past a load of
plum trees and stopped for a bit of breakfast, Gandalf liked the plums too and
hoovered them up from the floor.
A load of curious donkeys cam to investigate the strange
short eared ones, and this caused Mav and Organza some consternation....
We moved on, and got very wet in a serious downpour with
nowhere to hide. Then we tried a chemin we hadn’t checked out and ended up
having to get off the horses to open an electric fence that went across it and
fit though between electric tape and barbed wire, thankfully Mav chose not to
do any of his dancing sideways routines. We fought our way out of the soggy
woods at the other end but then ended up in vineyards and had a great canter to
the top of a hill. We stopped to give the horses a breather and had cake and
beer and started to dry out a bit and feel better.
More roads followed, then we spotted a watering hole and
went to investigate, which was fine until a load of donkeys came rushing up to
the fence next to it, one of them was obviously a boy and was rather excited to
see the horses. Organza tried to tank off and we had visions of Tess ending up
in the water but she managed to head her off before the edge of the pond.
Maverick was snorting like he’d seen dragons, the others were a bit curious but
didn’t feel the need to exit the scene at speed. So we stayed a while and ate
pitta bread with the last of the cheese that was all we had left in the
saddlebags, no point stopping and summoning a car full of lunch as there was
nowhere dry to sit and eat and anyway the OH backup team had gone back to
We trekked on, and eventually came to St Martin du Puy which
is a fantastic little place with a stream bubbling out below the church so we
stopped to water the horses again.
Not far up the road is the mediaeval village of Castelmoron,
we got to ride up cobbled streets and parked the horses round the corner from a
bar so we could have a beer. We got talking to some passersby and the horses
dozed off. As we felt they needed a bit of a rest we decided another beer was in
order (and ice creams for the kids).
After that it was a bit of an effort to get going again, but
we duly set off. More vineyards to cross, we had to jump ditches at one point
to get to where we wanted to go.
Then I made the fatal decision to try another
chemin marked on the map – bad move. It didn’t exist. We had to ride in a
complete circle to get back to the road, very annoying at such a late stage in
the day! You can clearly see it on the track of our trip here
More roads, then the end was in sight. The horses even
managed a last burst of canter up the hill into Massugas.
According to my handy iPhone app, we’d done 48kms, more than
enough for one day!
Sunday morning dawned wet and windy. Just like camping in
the UK really.....
We toyed with the idea of abandoning the rest of the weekend
but decided to soldier on regardless. Especially after breakfast involving
proper English bacon courtesy of Gary. So we saddled up again to tackle the
TREC course. Aude has built most of the things you’ll meet for the Parcours de
Terrain Varié bit of a TREC competition, that’s like an obstacle course for
So here’s “immobilité” (horse has to stay in the circle for
10 seconds without the rider)
“montoir” rider mounts without horse moving out of the
“maniabilité” which is a maze made with poles 90cms apart,
the horse musn’t touch them!
“branche basse”, we get to practise this on a daily basis in
“slalom”, complete with horse eating flags for Maverick
“contre bas” , Seraphina wasn't quite sure what to do with her feet at first!
And of course the “tronc” which we usually step over but as
we were last and he’d just seen his mates disappear up ahead, Gandalf actually
made an effort to jump!
There was an interesting moment when Mav got too close to
Organza and she decided after his attack on Friday she would get in first and
gave him both barrels, the people on the ground got out of the way very
After that we put the horses away and went to chat to Aude
about the possibility of doing a Pony Club camp type thing at her place next
year. She is going to do us some prices for a 4 day camp (I think we’ll box
everyone over rather than doing the 12 hour ride!) including a go round the
TREC course and a night ride, so pencil that in your diaries for Ascension
weekend next year.
After another barbecue lunch, the back up team pulled out
and went home, taking Ches with them as Anna had to go home so there was no one
to ride him back and I didn’t fancy ponying him. Gary pulled away down the
drive.....with the trailer handbrake still on, so Aude’s gravel drive got
The core group stayed on, in the wind and rain, we lit a
fire and cremated some potatoes in it then retired to our tents for a cold and
noisy night, constantly woken by the sound of the tent threatening to take off.
Saturday morning we woke up ridiculously early as you do
when camping. Didn’t even get woken by the SNO, she was still snoring. First
thing first, check the horses. They were mostly flat out after their
Lovely breakfast of barbecued bacon (well, the nearest you
can get from Lidl) and Tess’s chook eggs. She knows which bird laid which egg
so the SNO was able to choose which one to have. Levered the OH out of bed to go and buy bread.
He then announced he was off running for most of the day but as he had
presumably imagined that I’d have known telepathically to pack his running
gear, he’d need to take the car to go back home and fetch it. Suggestions that
he just run home were met with a frosty glare......
As soon as the kids woke up they immediately wanted to
saddle up the poor horses and go jumping. We delivered the obligatory lecture
about resting them and putting their welfare first etc. To alleviate the
sulking we went to check out the TREC course in the woods.
We sat around for the rest of the day occasionally creaking
to our feet to go and make tea. Tess bought me this brilliant book for my
birthday about 2 women who rode all the way from Canterbury to Santigo de
Compostela on their Appaloosas. I immediately want to do something similar, the
idea of leaving the OH and the kids behind for months is very appealing, but I
suspect we’ll have to wait a few years. To qualify for membership of the Long Riders
Guild you have to have done a minimum of 1000 miles in a single journey. Tess
and I started idly planning it anyway....
At around tea time, a birthday cake arrived, home baked by
Tess. It was too windy to light the candles (no, there weren’t 43 of them) so I
pretended to blow them out. We ate it with more cups of tea.
Then the outside caterers (or Gary as he’s known) showed up
with a barbecue and enough food to feed an army. This is just as well because
he and Tess’s OH had disgorged an army of small boys and bicycles from their
cars. We moved on to wine and beer (my OH having thoughtfully brought two
crates of Belgian beer along). Gary served up kebabs with all the trimmings and
the ravenous hordes made it disappear in short order. The OH finally staggered
in looking somewhat the worse for wear after 15 miles. Think the mid life
crisis obsession is getting a bit out of hand......
As the evening wore on, we caught up the somewhat surprised
horses and saddled them ready for the night ride.
They didn’t look impressed,
frankly. We set off into the dusk following our guide, Aude. We rode through
the vines, having a canter as night fell, then went on into the woods in the
dark. The kids made all sorts of spooky noises and we concentrated on not
getting impaled on low branches. We stopped by a house and thankfully the inhabitants
seemed to know Aude so presumably weren’t too surprised to see a bunch of
horses arrive at 10.30 at night.
The horses didn’t seem to mind the night ride, Maverick was
significantly better behaved in the dark than in the daylight, Gandalf wasn’t
too happy to be at the back though and kept scurrying along to plant his nose
in Seraphina’s tail.
Back to the campsite after a fun two hours, the only problem
being that the moon stayed firmly hidden behind the clouds the whole way. The
OHs seemed to have polished off most of the 2 crates of wine and were well into
“talking bollocks” mode, but there was plenty of wine left for us.
So we drank more wine and eventually went to bed........
When Tess said it’d be great to ride the horses from her
place to the gite étape at Naulet for a weekend camping and doing a night ride,
I thought it’d be great too. She reckoned it’d be about 25km from her
place.......wrong!! On Friday it took us 12 hours to get there and we covered
about 45km, due to some detours caused by marked chemins no longer existing or
having been fenced off. We had a laugh though, riding first through the mist at
7am when we set off and later in the sunshine.
I was on Gandalf of course, Tess on Organza, Aliénor rode
Seraphina and Caitlin rode Maverick who provided a lot of the entertainment
living up to his name. My friend Anna (who will be joining us here when she has
internet access via something bigger than a Blackberry, she assures me) rode
Chester and Hollie was on little Coquinette.
Coquinette, being an opinionated little pony, needed to be
on a lead rein. She didn’t think much of this and neither did Gandalf who
pinned his ears back if she tried to get in front of him, which she did approximately
every 10 seconds......Organza and Seraphina did the mare thing of objecting to
being anywhere near each other, Maverick spooked at everything from birds to
drain covers and Chester spent the entire trip trying to eat anything that came
vaguely within reach of his incredibly flexible neck.
By lunchtime, the mist had burned off and it was starting to
heat up. We stopped at a tiny hamlet north of Sauveterre where we found a
stream and field full of shady trees. As soon as we got off, a vieille Madame
came rushing over to ask us if we were intending to set up camp on her land!
When we assured her we would only be there for an hour or so if she didn’t
mind, she relented and even told us not to venture into the maize field next
door which was full of animal traps.......
Mike showed up with a car rammed full of camping kit with a
small SNO shaped hole in it and provided lunch whilst complaining bitterly
about how much mess the horses’ haynets had made. Predictably, the wretched
animals ignored them and stuffed their faces with grass instead, before dozing
By this time, Hollie had had enough of being jiggled about
on Coquinette, who had been renamed Trottinette, having had to jog most of the
way to keep up with the others, so Tanya was summoned to take her away from it
On we went, avoiding the cycle track which would have been a
very convenient route for the next chunk of the trip, as Mike had already reconnoitred
it and said it was like the Tour de France on there as everyone was having an
extra day off after Bastille Day. Attempting to avoid a main road, we ventured
into what must be the only fenced in vineyard in the whole of France and having
circumnavigated it, we ended up back where we started, so went down a stony
track, which turned into a grassy track where we went for a canter. We then
discovered that Tess’s saddlebag wasn’t shut properly as Anna was obliged to
duck to avoid flying sun cream and gloves. Coquinette decided to race Gandalf
and went flying off ahead (on the lead rein), he wasn’t having that though and accelerated
to get back in front of her!
A huge flag on top of the hill caused Mav to spook and
attempt to bog off and some of the others with him, but we managed to stay in
control. We pressed on, along main roads some of the time where certain drivers
felt it necessary to beep the horn at us and many made no attempt to slow down
so we gave them the appropriate hand signal.......
Another chemin marked on the track wasn’t there any more and
we found ourselves on the manicured lawn of a chateau, passing a swimming pool
and statues of cherubs. Luckily no one saw us to come and shout “get off my
land” but we lost a load of time getting back on a road in the right direction.
By the time we got to St Pierre de Bat, we were all hot and
tired, so we were delighted to see a lavoir complete with the bit they used to
use to clean carriages, so all the horses went in for a drink and a cool off,
After that it was a short climb up a hill to Naulet,a very welcome sight by this time,
particularly as I’d taken the precaution of putting a bottle of gin in the
fridge to await our arrival.
Mike and the SNO had set up camp, we put the tired horses in
their little paddock then sat down for apéros.
Five minutes later we had to get
back up as Mav had decided to have a go at Organza through the fence separating
their fields and had broken all the fences. So we had to put her and Coquinette
in another field on the opposite side of the driveway and Mav had to content
himself with glaring at her from afar.
But we’d made it, all 45 odd kilometres of it so we allowed ourselves
a celebratory gin or two. And some wine. And went to bed.