Tuesday, 30 June 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
All went very well for Doogs, Yeoman and the more novice Dougal, with lots of nice little challenges: some fairly steep ups and downs, ditches and soft bits to cross, as well as fighting our way along some overgrown tracks (requires some confidence from the ponies, as they can't really see where they're going.) We also had to barge past some huge rhododendrons on the estate, (due to ineffective navigation on my part.) Plenty of gates, too.
They coped excellently with everything, including coming back via the town for a little 'Alyth rush hour' traffic exposure. They were marginally less enthusiatic about passing a wild boar enclosure though...but went past it obediently enough in the end. They also settled well together overnight in the corral - so a good, confidence-giving outing all round. Fabulous panoramic views from the top of Alyth Hill yesterday...I meant to take some photos on the way back today but naturally by the time we got back there it was thick fog!
Fitness wise they all coped well and were barely warm at journey's end which was pleasing (although the weather was on the cool side).
It was also an opportunity to test out the TRAKKiT GPS system in Doogs' headcollar...the satellites lost us in the dense woodland of the Bamff policies, but otherwise Big Brother was certainly watching!
Sunday, 28 June 2009
Today is a dry run (hopefully it will be dry anyway!)- we are riding up to camp overnight on the beautiful Bamff Estate, courtesy of Paul and Louise Ramsay. This is an opportunity to test out all the gear and make sure that the packhorse load is working well - and see what we've forgotten probably.
We are to be accompanied on this mini-expedition by friend and instructor Shonagh Steven with her delightful Highland Dougal - they are to be joining us on the 'Cheviots' part of the trip so good practice for them too.
What they loved best, of course, was their pre-ride massage from Catriona Goulding. Catriona is a key member of our little study of what happens to a horse over a long distance. I am pleased to report that she was delighted with the condition of the boys - they have built up a lot of muscle bulk during our training, but very little sign of tightness - in fact, she was surprised at how supple they are. Although he may look as if he's about to bite her bum - in fact he's in ecstasy!
One of the things we discussed was how the ponies' performance has improved in the school - exercises which they may have found hard three months ago have become much easier for them. Surprising when you consider how little school work we have actually done over that period - but what we HAVE done by all our hill work is, of course, built up their strength, balance and agility. It gave me some pause for thought, actually, regarding schooling difficulties - how many problems & resistances do we see which are a direct result of the horse simply not being physically capable of what they're being asked to do?
One of the greatest improvements has been in Yeoman's canter - he has gone from a rushy, slightly tense and unbalanced canter - fairly typical of a young horse - to producing a rhythmical, balanced and supremely comfortable one - a direct result I'm sure of his increased strength behind.
More information about Catriona can be found on her website www.catrionagoulding.com
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
This is our route, more or less! I say 'more or less', because each day there is a minimum mileage to get us from A to B. There is scope in many places to add loops, go a slightly different way to look at something interesting, or just explore.
The minimum mileage is what I think we can manage even if the weather is awful, the ponies are tired or I am sore! The actual mileage may end up being quite a bit more, we'll see.
The reason I arranged it this way was because hopefully I won't slip too far behind schedule and have to make numerous phone calls to rearrange things or reassure people I haven't fallen in a bog... provided none of us are sick or very sore, we should be able to keep up with what is not too punishing a schedule. That's the theory anyway!
The horses are in fine fettle, and very fit: just awaiting farriers next week to get them freshly shod. I have booked farriers periodically on the ride, hoping that all works out just fine. I do carry Old Mac boots so we shouldn't be hampered if we lose a shoe (or two) between appointments. I am quite capable of removing a shoe in an emergency - nailing them back on, however, is best left to experts.
I am wondering if this hot weather will continue? Some long-range forecasters think so. I can foresee some very early morning starts (4 am or so) to get the bulk of the day's mileage done before the heat really kicks in. Still, a better class of problem than dealing with rain day in and day out, for sure!
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
To read the background to this trip and find out more about us, why not visit my website: www.afinehorse.co.uk ? There you can read all about our preparation, about the horses, and if you wish you can also sponsor us!
Thanks for visiting - please add us to your favourites and join us on our adventures round the wild parts of Scotland. We'd be delighted to have you along (as long as you bring some chocolate).