Sunday, 31 July 2011

Medieval Day....

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, 18 July 2011

A very long ride, day 4

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 Brussels.

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, 17 July 2011

A very long ride - day 3

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 horses.

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 circle

“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 the woods!

“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 quickly......

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 seriously rearranged!

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, 16 July 2011

A very long ride, day 2

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 exertions.......!

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........

Friday, 15 July 2011

A very long one

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 off.

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 all.

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, even Gandalf!

 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.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Seraphina and Maverick go out.....

Took Seraphina out again yesterday, Jane rode her and I rode Maverick. She was fine, didn't even mind a cyclist (unlike Mav ) which is good as some of our route to Naulet is along a cycle track.
 We found a muddy puddle and she liked that!!

And when we got back she gave Jane's friend's little girl a pony ride!