Happy Memories

Whilst perusing back issues of my magazine I scanned the competition pages. I like to see what they’re giving away, but rarely enter as I have such an awful track record of winning. My cousins and I used to go to our grandparents for Weymouth Carnival week and year after year we used to spend our silver coins on the stands and my cousins would trudge home wearily, laden down with their teddy bears, sweets, gold fish, and numerous other prizes, whilst I returned with only memorabilia we’d bought, such as the coloured sand in funky glass jars, and the teddy bear that Granny had won and donated to my worthy cause. Despite this, the carnival holds happy memories for me.

Back to my story anyway. One particular competition offered a tie breaker: in no more than 50 words describe your favourite horsey memory.

Flipping heck, that’s hard. Fifty words is not many to describe the emotions, environment and senses in your favourite memory. To be honest, I don’t think I can describe Otis alone in fifty words…

Over the next couple of days I painted the spare bedroom and contemplated my favourite horsey memory. There are too many, and each one is important for numerous reasons and the best times I’ve had with Otis haven’t necessarily been particularly significant, but more closely related to my emotions at the time.

This week, for example, I did one of my favourite things with him. I brought him in on his own, groomed him and made a general fuss of him. I even managed to remove all the mud from his furry ears. It was the first day that it felt like spring was coming; a sharp contrast to the torrential downpour we endured the day before. I tacked him up and hitched my stirrups up to jumping length before mounting and heading off for a hack on our own.

I’ve been having a rough time recently and wanted a good blast to let go of my worries, but with the ground decidedly boggy, I only knew of one option.

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We headed down the road, along the Avenue, and then along an undulating country road. I love hacking Otis because I can drop the reins if needed and he continues marching along, and we both enjoy rubbernecking into driveways and over hedges. I don’t feel the need to talk to him constantly, but his presence is reassuring and calming. I have no qualms with heavy traffic as I trust him unequivocally. His calm demeanour gives me chance to reflect on life and think things through, even when I’m just in the stable with him.

As I said, the road was undulating, so we trotted up all the hills and then walked downhill and along the flat, so Otis got his workout and I didn’t get cold toes.

We passed the beautiful Douai Abbey and then turned down the bridle way behind.

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This bridle way passes through an estate before opening up at this large field, with a fantastic slightly uphill grass track that stays dry almost all year. I felt Otis pick up slightly as we neared the field, but he waited until I gave the word. That’s what I love about him; he’ll walk along a racetrack if I wanted to, yet will gallop his heart out if I wanted that too. I squeezed for canter and then crouched over his withers, feeling the sun on my back, casting our shadow to the left. He cantered comfortably along, at the perfect speed. A walker and dog neared, so I lifted myself up slightly, and he rebalanced to his working canter, waiting for me to stop if necessarily. It wasn’t, the dog walker was about six foot off my track, but I don’t like going full pelt past pedestrians. As we passed I crouched lower than before, and Otis accelerated so we were galloping up the fence line. A slight adjustment of my body and we turned right to canter the next track before coming back to walk at the corner.

I let Otis walk the narrow track on a long rein, stretching and catching his breath, before we reached the road and headed for home.

I find it incredibly difficult to explain the feeling I have when galloping with Otis. We’re so in tune, acting as one body, I always feel completely in control, and this means that we both enjoy the experience. There’s no fight for power, and no tension – it’s as if we communicate telepathically. In fact, when I was watching our shadows you could see my reins were flapping around, and I know I needed very little leg to encourage him forwards! I take this feeling out to the cross country course, and I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much if I didn’t have this complete faith in my honest horse.

So whilst I couldn’t think of a particular favourite horsey memory I think I’m just incredibly lucky to be able to have moments like this every week with my best friend.

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