A hack inside Sherwood Forest

Major Oak_Sherwood

The legendary Major Oak still stands today, supported with a number of metal posts, which have been erased from this photo. Image attributes to John W. Schulze. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com

Hi, horsey people! Sorry for the absence, things have happened at Uni. You guessed it right, its full name is Too Much Work! I had to work out how to do my last essay, plus figure out how to complete -and submit in time– the ethical review form for my MA dissertation.

Today I’ll write about the nice experience I had with the uni’s equestrian society in Sherwood Forest last weekend.

The day did not start well, due to a minor setback due to which I was supposed to miss the ride. In the end, I was allowed to participate, for which I’m extremely grateful, but I wasn’t in the best of moods. So, we popped into the cars and set off for Sherwood Forest. But because that day I had the worst of luck, we saw a red sign on our way reading “FLOOD”, while we were turning into the country road that would lead us to the gate of the equestrian centre. Indeed, you could see everywhere that the place had been flooded, as we could see puddles and traces of retreating water everywhere.

After a 40-minute drive, we were at Kirkfield Equestrian Centre, which is situated right next to the forest. We sorted out ourselves and were assigned a horse each. I would ride Storm, a tall white horse that was not quite in the mood for work in the mud, but what could he do! In overall, the horses were in good condition; very well-groomed, with well-preserved tack. The horses also seemed that they were exercised quite regularly. So, no matter how happy -or not- they were to work in the mud, they were definitely able to do so!

The instructors led us to a wet paddock and put us in a row, with me right behind the instructor who would guide us, at the front of a 15-people group. After a test circle, the hack began. Thankfully I was one of those who didn’t have a leader. I don’t like being led, to be honest; I feel that I’m just dragged around, hence the challenge goes away and, in the end, I let go too. And when I say I let go, I mean I give up reins, kicks, and anything else associated with riding, except for the stirrups, so that it’s not too obvious that I have given up!

As soon as we entered the forest, I knew that I would definitely get lost in there alone. Sherwood forest is a beautiful place that I had visited before, so I knew that the hack would not be easy in general, from the aspect that I wasn’t used to that kind of terrain. There was a complex web of narrow paths, which could guarantee complete disorientation to a non-local who has not been proactive enough to get a guide. But apart from that, the forest was a particularly charming place, that it will definitely more beautiful in the summer. In general, Sherwood forest is a well-preserved place, with clear paths. So, even if you get lost, you know that you’ll get somewhere out of the woods if you stick to one direction.

It was a quite relaxed hack, as it was for beginners and the wet soil was not very promising for much except for the walk. We trotted once, but personally, I found it difficult. Storm was not sure about it and I could not catch the rhythm. But it was OK; walk gave us the opportunity to admire the place. Along the ride, I was trying to imagine a lady in my age from the Middle Ages crossing our path sidesaddle. I was trying to shape in my mind her figure, outfit and thoroughbred. I wondered how it felt to do all your movements on horseback. And how safe it would be for a lady of my age to ride across the woods to do her chores back then.

I was chatting joyfully with the instructor, who was riding just in front of me. She was greeting locals that we met along the ride. We were mostly speaking about the place. The pony she was riding belonged to her daughter, who was leading the lady riding just behind me. The pony was quite naughty and spooked many times. Concerned that Storm might spook too and, after him, all the other horses, I kept a safe distance from the instructor and halted him every time the pony spooked. Although it wasn’t something fun to do, I preferred to keep myself and the others safe; we were just one week away from the Easter break. Who would like to spend it with their arms hanging from their neck and their legs resting up high inside a loop??

On the other hand, Storm was proven a quite sensitive horse. He was halting and turning just where I wanted, without any pulling at all. A squeeze and a click sound were enough to keep him going. If I hadn’t given him a command for let’s say, two minutes, he would slow down and stop -which is supposed to be normal for a well-trained equine- but then all it took was a slight squeeze and a click sound to keep him going. That said, he’s not a horse that would resist a fresh snack, and he was strong enough to drag down my whole body while he was reaching for the low leaves. Even if he wasn’t doing it, you could feel that he was looking for a chance!

After an hour approximately, we began our return to the stables, where the most experienced riders were waiting. I enjoyed the hack a lot and I’m definitely returning in the summer for one more.

A special thanks to Jasmine who organized it for us. And an even bigger thanks, for she knows what!

If you would like to ride in Sherwood Forest too, you can find more information on the web page of the equestrian centre. For the adventurous of you, Kirkfield has also camping facilities and can accommodate your horses as well!

 

 

 

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