My CFS has been impeding my plans of late again. Having been advised to get more exercise, I took advantage of my day off… Finding that fresh air and the company of animals help me, I thought that a little hack would do me good. Nice gentle exercise, not only in terms of exertion (Especially if a sack of spuds posture is adopted!) but it also has less impact on my joints. I knew it would clear my over-busy head too.
Ragged robin and herb robert shone bright pink in the sunshine from the verges as I travelled. Bluebells peeped out from hedgerows, matching the glorious blue sky. Somehow the delicate white cow parsley florets dominated the roadside. I believe I caught a glimpse of wild orchids on a shadier bank as I whizzed by. Approaching the stables, a rabbit kitten darted for cover, scut bobbing as she ran for dense vegetation. Much more subtle than the cock pheasant who rushed off haphazardly! Dodging lazing ewes, yet remaining in the open; the light catching and enhancing his fetching plumage.
The yard was filled with the hustle and bustle of nesting sparrows and house martins. I think their clutches had hatched due to the inordinate amount of chatter coming from the nests. Parents trying to satisfy the demands of their ever hungry broods.
Activity wasn’t restricted to the birds. The farriers were there. I’d never seen a horse being shod before. The men quickly and skilfully manipulated the hot malleable metal, making sure that the shoes fitted the hooves perfectly. The hammers clanked and thudded, the smell was distinctive but hard to describe. As I tried to groom him, Harvey decided amused himself (and me) by grabbing the zip of my body warmer, opening and closing it fairly vigorously. I was then given Buddy to ride, standing at over sixteen hands, he’s the biggest horse I’ve ever mounted and an absolute joy.
We set off on our hack, Buddy and I full of enthusiasm. The lovely guide only had to mention the word “trot” and he was off, didn’t wait for me to ask him! With his long legs we kept overtaking everyone, I did try to slow him down…
Exploring Haldon Forest by horseback is the way to go, you see much more wildlife. Just as we started to canter (Buddy was in his element!) a roe deer doe came leaping across our path, graceful but not lean – I assumed she was pregnant. We saw buzzards riding the thermals, not much higher than the canopy. Suddenly the bird song halted as a sparrowhawk came into view. The next bird I heard, after a while, was an elusive greater spotted woodpecker, too shy to show himself. The forest and village were host to lots of butterflies and day moths. Feeding orange tips and basking peacock butterflies begged attention but the demure speckled wood butterflies held mine more.
We did encounter an articulated lorry which was having logs loaded on to it by way of a mechanical grabber. Poor Buddy, a little weary now but still twitching his ears to listen as I chatted away to him, didn’t take too kindly to this. It unnerved him a little but he coped well.
Almost home and still enjoying scenery. The newly leafed beech trees with their virtually florescent green leaves illuminated the patches of coniferous trees. Acidic yellow euphorbia bracts complemented them, punctuated by foxgloves preparing to steal centre stage. Heading downhill we startled another buzzard, swooping upwards from the branches. It was then we spotted them! In a glade carpeted with bluebells stood a herd of ten or fifteen roe deer. What a special sight.
I’ve visited this riding school a few times over the years and enjoyed every ride. Yesterday’s, however, is my favourite by far. I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be, I’m happy, refreshed and relaxed.