Flemington

 

When the weather is kind to us, Flemington is a joy.

And without the crowds (120 000+)that assemble for the ‘big races’ it has a charm that makes a day at the races a treat to be savoured.

 

Dressed in our finery, we drive through the gates like royalty, being waved through because we have all the ‘right’ stickers; a privilege bestowed upon members at this exclusive racing club.    That Kate has a horse racing today is an added bonus.

We walk along the path marked with every Melbourne Cup winner and year beginning with the first race run here in 1861!!!!!   This in itself was fascinating, and never possible on the big race days because there are so many people there.   Today, though, we had the walk to ourselves and could read at our leisure, Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005), Zulu (1881), Russia (1946).   I wonder at horses’ names; like “Neville left me” – does the horse care I ask myself.

img_5708img_5709 The roses are no longer out and still the grounds are beautiful, groomed and nurtured with such loving care, they could almost be horses.

Because these horses are treated like Royalty.

They are so loved and nurtured and cared for that I wonder if those who say this is a cruel sport have ever been to the stables, or been involved with horses in any way.   Have they ever seen how the strappers, and jockeys and trainers and owners Know their animals.    Every sign, quirk, like, dislike and know instantly if the horse is unwell or unhappy.

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And we move into the members rooms : food, drink, elegant (and not so elegant) people, banks of TVs with races being televised from all over the country, Flemington is not enough, there is Randwick and Adelaide and Brisbane and Bendigo and and….

Heads down pouring over form books, so many seem to know exactly what they are doing.

Me?

Do I know what I am doing; of course not.

Does that spoil the day for me; of course not.

I people watch, and eavesdrop and love every minute of it.

And after they have poured over the form, they place their bets (or not, depending on what the form ‘tells’ them.   And I watch them reap the rewards of this study.   Sometimes handsome, sometimes lean.    And then I discover that they chose their horses because today they were picking ‘French names’ or ‘colours’ or ‘countries’ and I suppose that too, is a ‘form’.   With equal chance of success 🙂 🙂

 

 

Race 3:   That’s ‘our race’ and now even I look at the form book and open my wallet. It is so exciting to go into the mounting yard, hear the trainer and jockey and owners talk strategy;

the track is a 2 (a 2? what’s that mean – good.  Good But hard.   There’s a But to Good?   Apparently so)

stick to the inside;

swing out; hold back; let go.

Everyone listens intently nodding; me I listen, but of course I cannot nod – what do I know 🙂 🙂

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Mounting yard

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Tavi Bay
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Michelle Payne – our jockey

It is so exciting to have a vested interest in the race – even if ‘by proxy’.   But while Tavi Bay won at The Oaks, today is not her day.

We gather in the owners lounge, eat our sandwiches and drink our champagne as the race is rerun on the banks of TV, not once, twice, no about twenty times.   And everyone  watches it – again and again.

Are they hoping the result may change if they watch often enough; studying the form; seeking how they could have run it differently, or dreaming of what could have been?   The post mortem continues; the track was too hard; it didn’t give everyone equal opportunity; why didn’t they water it; if we hand’t run last week….

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Post mortem

The views are amazing, the skyline stunning, the staff courteous, the food good, the horses beautiful and the results always unpredictable.

Thank you Kate for the such a special Day at the Races.

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Horses, stars and me

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It is a long time since I rode a horse, and even then it could be debated whether I rode the horse, or the horse carried me around.   I have done a few trails, in Lesotho, when the weather changed everything and the Mountain Club had to rescue us 🙂   a trail in a private game reserve in the Low veld where one rider fell and broke her arm; one short (very short) trail round this sphinx and pyramids in Cairo, on Arab stallions (so they so much smaller than I anticipated – thankfully) which was thrilling, frightening and left me black and blue for several long painful days 😦

These were some forty years ago –

which as I said, makes it a long time since I rode a horse 🙂

It is also a long time since I wanted to ride a horse!!!

One of the benefits of getting to the age of maturity (others use the word old) is that the short term memory fails one; so I cannot remember whether I decided faint hearted (see blog: ‘me, faint hearted?Me – Faint Hearted?) was a term I applied to myself, or in fact one I did not use to describe myself.

Which is probably just as well, because I had a glorious day today; even if I find myself ready for bed before the sun is!!!!

You see I received a very generous birthday present a year or so ago – a gift voucher for a horse trail ride with Hepburn Lagoon Trails.   This sat in a drawer waiting for me until, it would appear the stars aligned, and I received through the ether – sometimes I have no idea how things ‘find me’ – an email about a horse trail in Mongolia.    Now wouldn’t you, too, be tempted?   Well, one thing led to another and I found myself driving across Melbourne, roadworks notwithstanding, to finally arrive at a little bit of paradise.img_6356-copy

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Keiran is just the kindest, may I say sweetest person – patient, encouraging, friendly, confident and clearly competent with great horses.   With, minimal formality (ready paperwork) we were helmeted, booted and allocated ponies.   Some instructions and we were off.

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I will not pretend, I was apprehensive,  and wondered again why I hadn’t put ‘novice’ down on the form instead of beginner – the alternatives; intermediate or advanced were easy to decide on.    Keiran had us all trotting after a few minutes; reminding me that I should not double bounce on the saddle (did he really believe that banging my nether regions around like that was by choice 😂😜)  and it didn’t take long for me to find a more comfortable rhythm.

It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of riding through bush, the breeze through the grass, the light playing patterns with the trees, the sound of the horses, the views offered by the extra height of being on horseback.   I love walking, but this is different; this huge animal and me; for those few hours joined, trotting, cantering, walking, just ‘being’ – there is conversation between ourselves, and there is silence as we absorb a silence – that of the bush.   The bell birds, kookaburra, wedge tailed eagles being swooped by magpies, rosellas.   Fields of oats, cattle looking at us, horses calling from far off paddocks.

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And then it was over; and we had to ‘get down’ and feel our legs again. !

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Always a post mortem; sharing, eating, drinking – ‘all’s well with the world’ kinda feeling

I shall let you know in the  morning how these old bones feel, but for tonight, I shall sleep well with memories of a glorious day –  Mongolia still calls, but reality may leave a stronger calling card tomorrow.

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You what? 😂

You what?,

I’m going  on a horse trail.

Why?

Good question, and one I ask myself not infrequently.     And my answer always seems to be vaguely unsatisfactory.

Certainly, not because they are there, as with Everest.

Rather, I  want to. No idea why 😂.

OExcept perhaps because Kate Pilcher has inspired me (www.globetrotting.com.au) 😃

“Do you have any idea of how sore you are going to be?”

Yes.

“For 5 days?”

Yes.

“Who are you going with?”

No one.

And so the conversations peter out, always with the same look of incredulity and pity!!!!

Which begs the question, why am I in Cape Town, getting ready to go on a horse trail tomorrow and what am I in for.

To both, I have no idea except perhaps there is something about ‘the stars conspiring’ (https://leepowrie.com/2017/01/10/horses-stars-and-me/#)

and life is too short not to take up opportunities.

And so, the opportunity to visit Dee’s Saddlery was too good to miss.

Lovely Dee

An enchanting store filled with stirrups, saddles, caps, jackets, jodphurs, boots – an alladins cave for riders.

People popped on, to buy, to chat

think I should get my horse a toy,

why?

Not sure😃, maybe she would like one,   Perhaps she is bored

I gave my horse a ball and she looked at me and never touched it.    Have a glass of wine, forget the toy 🍷⚽️⚽️

We had such fun, jodhpurs, chaps (so very kindly lent), advice, warnings, and encouragement: topped of with wine to celebrate – madness, adventure, joy, horses, life.🍾🐴

Clearly our attitude was good 😜
Practising 😂😂😂



Am I organised, do I have the correct gear – make sure you wear the pants you always ride in, the instructions say, don’t try to ride in new clothes.   Ha ha – I don’t normally ride, so that is one I have already messed up on!!!!!   But committed now.  With brand new pants I have never worn before 😩


Flying in to Cape Town is always special, such a blessed city.  Is it a good omen that the tv cameras at the airport have a series on horses I wonder?


Being met by family is also special and a dinner to celebrate, family, babies soon to be born, and the same questions – why, why, and why.

Although, there was some support this time, – thank you cousins 😜and a quick Google of where I am riding to raised the anticipation considerably.

She likes crazy
They think I’m mad 😂
He gets it 😜

If my body holds up, if the horse holds me up, if my spirit holds, this will be a special special time.

Time will tell……

 

Day zero – Farm 215

We had a comfortable 5 hour day today, stopping in beautiful Hermanus for a delicious lunch. The weather was a glorious mid 20’s with blue skies and the views along the bay spectacular. It was a little difficult to capture the beauty as we travelled along, so use your imagination as you gaze at the photographs.
We arrived here safe and sound and in fact I felt so strong I went for a two and a half hour walk in this stunning reserve! No sign of stiffness or discomfort at all.

Did I mention that my very kind cousins drove me here?🚗

I have not yet seen a horse, let alone mounted one 😂🐎


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Lunch ❤️

I walked for almost 3 hours, silently absorbing the world, there were no birds, no people, no insects; no sounds except the breeze, my breathing and my feet on the path.

Life suspended between being present in the now and in another place – heaven? Not sure what the other place is/was except that it was marked by a sense of total isolation. Lovely in it’s silent vistas.

As the light began to change I knew I had to turn back.

A solitary sunbird flashed by and there was life again

The call of baboons across the valley, invisible but very present got my adrenalin going and my feet moving briskly towards the luxury of my temporary home, Farm 215.

Deck with a view
‘My’ pool
‘My home’ : Farm 215
Dinner is served 😃


Such a perfect day, I could turn back now; avoid the pain in the you know what, that is inevitable if I ride tomorrow; and still feel like I had seen heaven for a moment

27 March 2017

No Clothes

There is something very liberating about having no clothes.

Every morning we put on the same things.

And when we return from our rides, shower and change, it is into the same tracksuit pants and top every evening .

I intend to get into my pyjamas each night and instead crawl into bed just as I am, tracksuit and all.

My breeches, chaps, socks, (there was a clean pair; still drying in a truck somewhere I’m thinking) helmet and jacket now stand in the corner, almost by themselves, so coated are they in sweat, salt, sand, and above all memories.
Waiting for me to put them on again : safe, smelly, secure and with no choice.
It is very liberating to have no clothes 😄

Day 5 : Leaving something on the table 


All good things…..
Following the old adage my mother taught me; always leave the table wanting more.

I did a short ride today, almost too short. But then again not.

Just perfect

It is a grey day today

The clouds blanket the sky so the mountains look somber, the grass ‘quiet’, sounds muted, birds more still, butterflies absent.

Our ride is appropriate.

Inland, along farm roads, between fields where sheep have their heads down, barely visible above the grass, where cattle lie or graze dulled by the absence of sun on their flanks.


We have new horses. Me on Willow (why are mine so large and my legs so short 😩), Julia on Princess and Randal on Whiplash. Different saddle too.


A time to test my body, just how well has it stood up, can I trot, canter? We shall see.

We warm up walking easily, Willow with a little more pace than Luke that makes for a more comfortable walk.   Past springbok, dark and light, young ones too, mixing with hundreds of Guinea fowl.

We trot and all is well. We canter and I debate whether the desire to canter outweighs the pain in the back ( strange that, not the but 😂).

I hear my mother; leave something on the table. Quit while you ahead!

So we trot and walk for a few hours leaving cantering as a memory and a hope for future times.

We pass through groves of gum trees (go figure 😜) which on this gray day make sounds that mimic the sea when it’s grumpy as the wind moves through them.


Through a forest path so dark no photos came out and where we startle a duiker (makes a change from them startling us👏)

I watch a Bataleur roll above us, powerful in his world.   Keeping pace with our trotting, rolling , dipping, disappearing.

A car stops to let us pass and I see a little girl, dummy in her mouth, on her fathers lap, to get a better view of us through the open window – eyes like saucers. Fascinated? Scared? Who knows, perhaps  a seed is sown to follow in our footsteps one day

A special way to end 5 days of riding through some of the most exquisite scenery surely God ever created.


But wait, there’s more, lunch at Stanford Hills

You mean I need to use a knife and fork?
Surely you’re joking?
Who’s he? (Howard – African Horse Co)
And so ‘the end’ 🐴🐎🚗😄

No Regrets

As if on cue.

As if to remind me how special.

As if to highlight what was.

The clouds have settled, the rain is streaming down, the shutters rattling and I can see absolutely nothing from my windows.

The lights are on, the chimney whistling, my hair washed (and smelling of roses and geraniums the bottle tells me), a hot coffee getting cold alongside me as I sit on my bed contemplating the amazing five days I have just had.

It all began with Kate Pilcher and her http://www.globetrotting.com.au. Or perhaps with something even older, a primeval horse-man thing stirring within and disturbed again by her.

Either way, at 63, with no more than ten horse rides on my life, I bite the bait 😂😂😂

And swallowed hook, line and sinker.

I did some sit ups (clearly not enough) some squats (clearly enough), borrowed riding gear, found some Dutch courage, a sense of humour, and have lived to tell the tale.

Every day we breathe has the potential to be an adventure, at home with the dog or across a continent with a horse and new friends.

So crazy as the idea was, and against sound advice and my own ‘adult voice’ I took the plunge

No regrets :

I have seen the sky filled with light from a million stars;

I have seen the moon appear like a silver sliver over the mountains;

I have felt the thrill of half a tonne of animal galloping beneath me on a beach, alone, with only the gulls, waves, sand, sun and a solitary seal as witness;

I have felt the pain of a body used;

I have marvelled at the skill and strength of those gone before whose only means of transport was horse;

I have witnessed beauty that no iPhone can do justice to.

As I savour the solitude of Farm 215 and Bruce’s amazing food for the last time, I give thanks, I know I have been fortunate





It’s all about ….

It’s all about the right horse, I was told by those who know best. And those who know best are, of course, those who ride all the time.
So why would I doubt them?
After all, they are regular riders who know horses well and are, I was told, the people one should ask for advice when embarking on a riding adventure.
Except, precisely Because they are riding fit and do so all the time, perhaps they are Not the people to ask?
What do I know? I set off to the gym confidently believing if I did the exercises (squats, sit ups etc) as prescribed, for a few months, I would be fine, as it all depended on having the right horse 😳
So there I was, with dire warnings from many friends about the madness of this adventure; the pain I was going to feel in unmentionable parts of my body, the risk I was taking, still ringing in my ears. My stomach slightly knotted as my brain tried to convince my body that those that Know, say I’ll be fine, it’s all about the right horse.
So I waited for Howard from African Horse Co to arrive at our meeting place, Farm 215. at the designated time of 10am having overlooked of course that the riding world runs to its own clock – dictated by where the horses wandered off to graze; how the old car felt that morning (riding in my limited – very limited experience seems synonymous with old cars – the cost of the one mode of transport dictating the cost of the other 😜), which saddle was where etc.
And then suddenly, after hanging around for an hour or so, there I was being handed ‘my horse’ – Luke
Far from sitting down and gently talking me through the week’s plan with words of encouragement ( the picture I had created in my head 😂) with a question/answer type session. Breyten advised; “Howard said hi”, and “up you get!” Which of course I couldn’t do without a step ladder 😂😂
Luke was a large animal – the largest of the three horses – and I was the smallest, or perhaps shortest is more accurate, rider. Somehow that didn’t seem quite fair 😩.
Since there was no ladder, I needed a leg up; and that was the case every time I wanted to mount him, for the entire week! Alas? I never did get to master the art of lifting one leg as high as my shoulder, putting it into the stirrup while balancing on the other and then swinging myself into the saddle, all on one elegant motion 😂
Nonetheless before I knew it I was on the back of a large horse and off down the road to, well I wasn’t quite sure where.
Reminding myself I needn’t worry – it’s all about the right horse.
And of course it is. All about the right horse.
And the legs, and the thighs, and the back and even the feet (6 hours in stirrups and you find parts of your foot you didn’t know existed 😳)
But it is about the horse. And Luke was the kindest, most gentle soul and within half an hour I knew he would not surprise me, well not much anyway. After all he did bolt when the bus greeted him, and we shot into the bushes when the bushbuck shot out of the bushes, but as bolts go, they were gentle ones, even for me, a beginner.
His back was broad and comfortable. His walk was steady if a bit slow. I asked him to trot and he did, not reluctantly nor in mad haste. It felt like he was indulging me: you want to trot, okay we can trot. Oh, you prefer a canter, no problem, I don’t mind cantering.

When we were galloping and I could hear Sparky galloping up behind me, I prepared for Luke to increase his pace. He didn’t, he stayed reliably steady. A ‘man’ beating to his own drum.
He never embarrassed me by moving when I was trying to mount or dismount him, something I was most grateful for 😃 He waited kindly, nuzzled me when I stood close, shared my sandwiches and even, dare I say it looked pleased to see me each morning.
And at the end of 5 glorious days of riding I agreed that it’s all about the right horse.
Perhaps Howard was right when he said. “If you had to chose a husband, you would want one like Luke.   Reliable, stable, predictable, trustworthy, safe”
Did hear a small voice somewhere whisper “and boring”.

I could not be sure.

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Again?


Even the most liveable city in the world sometimes is not enough. When the urge to smell the bush, feel the breeze, see the vistas, hear the creak of leather becomes too strong to ignore and a dear friend sends you a link to Watson trail rides

http://watsonstrailrides.com.au/
How could I resist?

So here I am – 3 hours out of Melbourne in Mansfield – with an adventure about to begin

Well the truth is it began sometime time ago when I booked ‘on the web’ my accommodation for tonight in Mansfield – at the Mansfield Travellers Lodge – pleased as punch I was with myself until too many emails from the USA made me suspicious. On checking my booking – I was scheduled to arrive at Mansfield Travellers Lodge -Ohio 😂😩🇺🇸

Rewind – I won’t bore you with the rest of the fiasco – think dumb blonde!!!! However I did feel better when I discovered I was not the first person to make this mistake!

However all’s well that ends well they say; though in this case I should say, starts well as here I am in Mansfield Victoria Australia at the start of my riding adventure
Backpackers lodge – why wouldn’t I at $40 a night, (bring your sleeping bag) and being Monday I have the dormitory to myself!! And the kindest manager, who clearly felt I couldn’t be trusted, after my failed booking, (- not the first person he assured me ) to find the stables unaided; has given me a detailed map for tomorrow – so appreciated

A stroll round the town prior to my dinner has me wondering about this ride – I see only people in snow gear here, coming off the mountain – you hear that peculiar sound their pants make as they walk, before you even see them. And the sight of the sun on the still snow capped mountain takes my breathe away – no photo could do it justice.

So as I sit in the local pub with my local wine (Snobs Creek Pinot Noir😂) and lasagne I reassure myself : regardless of snow, rain or shine it’s all about the horse.

But will I be warm enough, will my body hold up, will I dismount or be dismounted?

Tomorrow will tell

Mansfield
Warm welcome
Filled the gaps