Wednesday, 18 July 2012
ONCE UPON A DREAM; Lazy Summer Rides
Longer days means more time spent messing around at the stables, though it must be said that the British summer this year has made for some very soggy rides! Summer riding is a completely different experience to winter riding, which is why people who begin taking riding lessons in summer often drop out by mid-winter. In winter the ground is hard so there is little jumping and not much fast pacing if its frosty. This all changes in spring and summer when long rides of cross country jumps and fast gallops can be enjoyed to the full. I love riding at any time of year, in any weather. Each season presents its own challenges to horse and rider and fair-weather riders never get to enjoy the beauty of hacking out through a snowy Narnian forest.
Although it has been very wet and grey this summer, this essentially means that the ground hasn't been hard baked by sunlight and the going is reasonably good. As the trees are in full leaf and the canopy is closed the local woods are a shady space, full of magical summer shadows. There is a dark greenish light filtering through the trees, almost like an underwater atmosphere. Even the rain is refreshing as it energizes the horses and puts a spring in their step. When the sun does break through one cannot help but smile at the reminder that yes, this is summertime and there are still hours of daylight and horse time to enjoy.
I really enjoy hacking out in the woods and fields and it was during such a ride that I came up with the song Call to Epona for my Moonchants album. I don't always ride out with others as sometimes I want to enjoy the experience of being the only one out in the woods, hearing the sounds of my horses hooves and the gentle snorting of a happy mount. Summer woodlands can be just as spooky as winter landscapes as there are more shadows at play. I like a meditative ride through the still summer forest, watching the wildlife as I go, before a hair-raising gallop across open fields; that is the best feeling! The air is fresh with the scent of summer rain and meadow flowers, mingled with the aroma of newly turned earth as hooves dig into the muddy bridleways. Further more, the rain often keeps other people indoors - there are no children climbing trees, no young families out walking, no mountain bikers or worse trail bikers around; even dog walkers tend to stay closer to home in a downpour, so I often feel as if I have the whole forest to myself. It makes me think of days gone by when people would travel by horseback, through deep forest, in all weathers. It is like stepping back in time, just for a short while...a complete escape which I am glad that I have the skill to enjoy.
If horse riding is something you have always wanted to try I can heartily recommend it for its uplifting, energizing benefits. Book a few lessons and see how you go. Some stables offer special rates during the school holidays, or family lessons. You won't be hacking out and jumping right away as that it too dangerous for a beginner, but you can still enjoy the experience of being out on horseback in the fresh air of a very British summertime!