Recently I’ve been on a couple of hacks recently with friends which have involved a number of gates. Now, gates don’t bother me in the slightest as we always had ample practice when we were kids, but when you stop and think about things now we are very spoilt about gates.
I mean, how often do we mount on the yard and walk up to the school, or do we just lead our horses into the school and mount there, ensuring the gate is closed beforehand? Some yards even have policies that you don’t mount in the yard. I can see their point of view – it hurts should your cold backed horse buck you off onto concrete.
Around us most bridle ways have horse friendly gates that swing easily, or are even lacking gates. But I can remember wrestling with unfriendly gates at home, with low latches which test your balance and flexibility; gates that swing open down the hill so you have to pull it closed whilst reining back up hill; or those gates with a loop of rope hooked over the fence post. Trust me, you learn to do anything to avoid getting off to do a gate.
A particularly memorable hack we used to have, aptly called “the Wildings”. You never went unless there was a good gate opener amongst you. After a gallop along the green lane you spooked past the tiny ponies in the field before opening a narrow gate on the right and descending into a steep gulley. Then one of you had to clamber up the side to close the gate that always wedged open against a tree root. It was then single file, under a low lying branch, and around an upturned tree before you reached the stream. It was fairly deep and narrow so often caused problems. Now there’s a bridge to one side which riders have to either cross the bridge or paddle through the narrowed space.
Anyway, through the stream and up the usually boggy track to another narrow gate. This one was self closing. When there were a few of us the one on the smallest pony had to hop off to hold the gate for everyone. I can remember doing this ride with three friends and the lead file went through the gate, and shouted “ouch! Banged my knee! Watch out!”
Along went the second rider. “Ouch! My knee!”
Then the third approached the gate. As she went through there was a thud and cry “ouch! Watch out for your knee!”
I was last through the gate, and I remember being very careful about my knee!
After this gate was a straight uphill where we often cantered, before pulling up to negotiate another narrow, self closing gate!
It was a straightforward ride home then, along Firs Lane and down the canter path to home.
So as you can imagine, gates were part of growing up, and every horse I ride is expected to open gates – I’m not a happy bunny if I have to hop off!
I think it was one of the first things we did with young horses, trying the easier gates before progressing to the awkward ones. I like to encourage anyone I’m with to try their hand at doing the gates – it’s so good for the horse’s manners too. There was also a certain status when you volunteered to open the trickiest of gates.
Letting others close the gate got us into difficulty not so long ago as she went to shut it her horse walked through, and the gate closed, leaving her on the other side! She managed to open it again, but whilst doing so she hooked the strap of her whip over the tall lever of the latch, designed to help horse riders open the gate. By this point there was no way her horse was going near that gate! So Llani and I came to the rescue.
Anyway, I just wondered how easy everyone found negotiating gates and if they did it on a daily basis, or preferred to do them from the ground. The