I wake early in my comfy bed at Jo’s, grab some breakfast and we load Socianda to get to the stables nice and early as we want to get going in good time. Needless to say, the French are all faffing again. Our 3 horses are soon all tacked up and ready to go and we stand around waiting for the others.....
They finally get going at 9.15. We are apparently doing 42 km today, and will be back at Beaumont by 5.30. No way is this happening at this rate, I think. We set off along the road to Limeuil, where the two rivers, the Dordogne and the Vézère, meet. We troop along the bridge admiring the view.
We troop through the town and get photographed by the tourists. Then we head up into the hills.
Normally this would not be a problem, we have hills round us too. But the ground here is all really stony and Gandalf and Seraphina struggle with this and try to walk up the grassy sides of the track shoving Ali and I into trees and gorse bushes as they go. The arabs have all gone ahead tripping along like mountain goats but we lag behind as we don’t want to push our two.
We get to the top and go into some woods. Down another very stony track. Then the call comes from the front “Demi-tour!”, we’ve gone the wrong way, we all turn around and I find myself at the front of the column for once and Gandalf is not obliged to trot every two minutes to catch up. We like this.
Down another track in the woods, another wrong move and another demi tour. We start to get annoyed, I get my map out and for the first time consider striking out on our own.
Eventually they find the right path and we go down the hill. And straight back up another very stony track, this time in full sun which is starting to heat things up a bit. I start wondering why we haven’t had a water stop for the horses, I expect G & S are wondering the same thing! A difficult (and for us, slow) climb to the top reveals a stunning view across the Dordogne valley but also leaves Gandalf breathing heavily.
I go marching up to Luc and ask how much more of this there is as our two shod hooves out of eight can’t deal with the stones. He agrees that the terrain isn’t great and we veer away from the intended trail and take the road.
Eventually we arrive at Mauzac, a very pretty little place by the river. We’ve been on the trail for nearly 5 hours thanks to the wrong turns in the woods and the horses have had enough. We unsaddle and water them and even cadge some hard feed from Isabelle’s lot as they need the energy. I hear Luc telling Stewart he can get some footage of them cantering on the next stretch by the canal to Lalinde and take my map over and get him to mark the route back on it as no way will ours be up to doing that. We eat lunch, watch a couple of the other horses try to kick each other, they obviously haven’t run out of energy, then saddle up and head out on our own, just me & Ali. We ride down the right of the canal, where the trees are for shade.
A little while later, after presumably a load more faffing, the others come charging past on the other side of the canal in the sun. We wave, and amble on.
They all come to a sudden stop as Luc’s horse has a massive spook at some water sprinklers and he has to get off and lead it past! We continue to follow them as they walk down the other side of the canal, then they cross to our side and canter off and we lose them round a bend in the track.
We amble on towards Lalinde, the horses manage a little trot but we don’t do much as they are so tired. We arrive in Lalinde and see a lorry across the river which looks familiar. It’s Isabelle come to give us a lift back!
We cross the bridge, unsaddle the horses and Gandalf, who knows a lift home when he sees one, goes straight up the ramp (of the same lorry he didn’t want to go in at the Label Loisir) like he’d been doing it all his life.....
Seraphina, however, had other ideas.....
It’s quite a steep ramp and she didn’t want to go up it. Gandalf called her from inside, she refused to put a foot on the ramp. I tried all the usual tricks, backing up, putting pressure on with the headcollar, nothing. Isabelle found a lunge line to put round her back end, she pulled back against it. By this time, we’d attracted quite an audience of tourists to watch the pretty pony being uncooperative. The temperature was in the mid 30s and I am seriously considering tying her to a tree and leaving her there when I try one last trick of lifting her front feet up on to the ramp. She seems to realise that she won’t win this argument and stops pulling and simply steps up the ramp. We all wish she’d had this revelation half an hour ago........
We pile into the lorry, along with Isabelle’s lovely 3 legged Collie, and take the easy way back to the stables. I check out my iPhone app and we’ve still done 30 of the 42km planned for that day. Not a bad effort for a couple of unfit cobs......
But I prefer my own rides, which involve more water stops for the horses, beer stops for the riders and a whole lot less faffing......!