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.