Contentment

It is difficult to put into words the sense of well being that is possible after a long day of physical adventure, a hot bath, a seat on the verandah – as opposed to a seat on a horse πŸ™‚

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We are in the Howqua Valley, the river in front of me; the sound of its strong flow mingling with so many birds roosting for the night.   The sun is setting and the trees appear luminous as the last rays filter through them.   And the daffodils watch on as they clearly have done season after season.

Strange name Howqua, with equally strange possible origins, after a Chinese tea very popular during the 19th Century, after a Chinese surveyor of the area, (Ah Kin Wowqua);  a derivative of   Mount Howitt, where the river rises, and aqua; or if you prefer, after John “Howka” Hunter (1820–68), a pastoralist.  I am guessing any will do, but it is probably better known as the countryside where they filmed The Man From Snowy River.

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Which brings me back to the ride….  well almost back to the ride.   Firstly though, I must remind you that riding and taking photographs are almost mutually exclusive, and even more so when you are not riding alone and cannot just stop at will.    So most of the photographs we tried to take ended up in the ‘trash’ bin – you will need to engage your imagination if you mean to capture even a fraction of this adventure.

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 πŸ˜‚πŸ˜©πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

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 NoirπŸ˜‚) 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

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 πŸ˜‚) 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 πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
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 πŸ˜‚
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 πŸ˜ƒ 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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