The most amazing porridge and coffee (Mansfield Coffee Merchants)
set me up for the drive to the stables – about 30 minutes out of Mansfield.
There is, at least for me, always a few nerves involved in arriving somewhere alone on another adventure. Will I be riding alone, and if not, who will I be riding with.
And so the ‘settling in period’ as I jostle around the ‘edges’ to determine where in the pecking order I fit – a little, as I discovered like the horses themselves as they get chosen for the trail.
I arrived at the stables to find I was not riding alone. Sitting comfortably and beautifully attired were a ‘couple’ – mother and daughter to be precise. Or even more precise, Wendy and Danny. My antennae and nerves on high alert I realised these were riders with a capital R, every fibre of their brand name gear confirmed that to me. Almost certainly their antennae were out as they realised this was a rider with a capital B (for beginner), as every fibre of my gear (aka Aldi & Kmart) confirmed. I have no doubt their hearts sank at the thought of a novice holding them back.
But they were so gracious and at no point did they allow me to feel incompetent. So grateful.
That out of the way, the next thing is to ‘navigate’ around the horses. Which one leads, who snaps, who lingers, and let me tell you, they most certainly do have a pecking order as Danny and I discovered throughout the 2 days as our two jostled with each other.
And then there’s the saddles, apparently I was riding on a stock saddle, long stirrups, legs down, stand up when cantering, hang on the mane, lean forward so if she swings in the bush (as she did a few times) you ready to swing with her and not off her 🙂 🙂 and so it went on. Finding bones and muscles in strange parts of my body, I settled onto the new horse, in a new saddle surrounded by Victorian Alpine countryside.
My stock horse, Rhumba made me think on many occasions that she should be called Rumble (as in the jungle – think Mohammad Ali); nipping whenever she felt like it, putting her ears well back and warning me and Danny that any closer was a no go, deciding to trot at the most random moments, for the most random reasons and for all that, lovely to canter. Danny had a busy time keeping her little one in line – and her years of riding experience came to the fore.
The ride was interesting with very steep climbs and even steeper declines – although I know that cannot Really be possible :). The ground was often very muddy and the inclines such that much of the day our eyes were down keeping a watch on our horses feet. They slipped and slid but thankfully everyone kept their balance. Well most of the time that is.
The countryside was breathtaking and we stopped for a photoshoot.
We also stopped for lunch alongside the river at an old miners hut. Which was fortunate and lovely because as we started our fire and made some hot tea, it began to rain and we were warm and snug. By the time we were ready to ride again, the rain had moved on.
We needed to cross the river a few times and it was surprisingly full and fast flowing. Four of us were across when Michael’s horse (Michael being our host) lost its footing and it and he went for a swim in very cold water. Thankfully neither was seriously hurt and we could all laugh about it once we were sure there were no major injuries. One learns early on that there are no egos in riding – mishaps can and do happen to any and everyone if you spend long enough on or around horses.
Truth be told, even in those tranquil riding moments when you can be lulled into a semi comatose state, your horse remains its own being with a will and strength quite independent of yourself! So I’m realising it pays always to be vigilant.
Rhumba jumped a creek and chose to land on my foot as opposed to the ground, (I wasn’t on her back at the time – just in case you wondering) Wendy’s horse lifted her head suddenly and cracked Wendy very hard on hers (She wasn’t on her back at the time either!), ever so grateful she was wearing her helmet; Michael’s horse had a swim and so did Michael (he Was on her back at the time!)
As you can ‘see’ a lovely day one, with many hours in the saddle. A good meal and time now for bed.