Another ride, another windy day. This time Ben walked out feeling fresh, with his back up, but settling and we walked on and I realised that I felt bored. And if I felt bored, Ben must be even more so.
Mali was different. She used to be quite spooky and reluctant for the first fifteen minutes or so, but she would then relax and her walk would lengthen, her head would lower, her back would round and she would stride out, it would seem, forever. She was in a rhythm, in a zone even, and endorphins from her would awaken endorphins in me and I used to feel quite close to heaven on earth. No matter how far we have gone, in company or alone, Ben has never found that place.
Our hacking around here is only on the roads. I have memories from the time I lived in England of riding across acres of national trust common land and driving through countryside dotted with discreet signs pointing to bridleways, which would head off across fields in a way that is unheard of here. White Horse Pilgrim has described many such rides on his blog. There is no tradition here of public rights of way across land. Historically land was owned by unpopular, foreign, absentee landlords and farmed by local tenants. When the big estates were broken up, around the time of the founding of the state, farmers had a chance to buy the land they farmed, and farms around here can consist of fields that are not necessarily adjacent leading to a familiar scene of cows being herded down a road at milking time. Land ownership is very important and public access to land is not welcome.
So what could I do for Ben and for me?
This lane is behind our paddock and I never meet cars here. So I asked Ben to canter on the green grass in the centre. From the way he sprang forward at the lightest touch from my leg he clearly thought this was a good idea. We were barely getting into our stride when – a car came around the bend. Just our luck, but we will try this again and I will look for other opportunities where we can do this.
I must add that I felt very balanced in my Stubben saddle when I had to slow Ben down suddenly.