Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Horsing around!

I’ve finally managed to get me some horsey time! Thanks to a friend of a friend, I’ve made contact with a horse owner in Terrey Hills, about a half hour north of Sydney. Jill has mostly paddocked land with a couple of ‘open’ stables. There are 9 horses and two six month old foals. I help out one day a week, filling up water buckets, preparing feeds and distributing them, cleaning tack, moving horses around depending on the day’s activities, brushing and tacking up – generally whatever’s needed on the day.

This is Jill with Ruby, a very lanky teenager who doesn't quite realise how big and powerful she is - absolutely gorgeous!
More often than not, I get a ride while I’m there too. I’ve been riding Merlin, a black Clydesdale and very much a gentle giant! Here he is:
Here is Tyson, another youngster, who's learning how to interact with other horses (and humans)! Isn't he handsome?!

On Anzac Day, I went on the start of a two day trail ride with Jill and some of her horsey friends. Twelve girls altogether – you can imagine the chatter yet we still surprisingly managed to see some wildlife (a wombat and a kangaroo)! We went up to Yarramalong, about an hour and a half north of Sydney. Jill provided some of the horses we were riding, but we didn’t have enough, so we stopped at a riding place close to where we were staying that night to pick up some more.
Then we got them ready and set off for the hills, while Jill’s husband Tony took all our gear in the car!

I’m the one in the red top!

Tony was also providing lunch for us – he met us somewhere in the middle of the bush with the 4WD stacked with goodies and champagne! Ahhh, that’s the life!!

Then we continued riding to the house. The afternoon ride was a little longer than expected, after Jill treated us to several Groundhog Day experiences (there were 3 separate routes that we managed to ride twice). We had a little difficulty finding the house (!!!) and as the sun started to descend to the western horizon, I could see us spending a very cold night under the stars and I seriously thought I was going to have to ration my party-sized milky way that I’d saved from lunch, between the 12 of us!!
Anyway, we eventually made it, and with just enough sun left to untack and feed the exhausted horses. The house that we stayed in was just lovely and had a really magical quality. The old lady that owns it, Judy, is in her 80s and she has 90 acres of land – the house sits in the middle of it right in the valley. We had lovely food and took plenty of booze to numb our aches and pains! The next day’s ride was almost the same, but in reverse, although we didn’t have any scrumptious lunch, as Tony had gone back to work. We had to make do with a mandarine, a plum and a muesli bar each!!
There were no falls or injuries, and we all made it back safe and sound! However, there was a pretty hair-raising experience on the first day for me when Merlin, who normally has a very slow and steady approach to moving, took me by surprise! We were cantering up a dirt track and we were pretty much at the back of the group, but Merlin had caught sight of his two girls (two of Jill’s/Merlin’s mares) at the front and he just had to be near them to make sure none of the other ‘guys’ made a move on them. He spotted ‘a gap’ down the side and turbo charged past everyone to the mares, never minding that I was perfectly happy where I was, or that the ‘gap’ was only horse shaped and didn’t take into account the low hanging branches!! How I stayed on his back is a complete wonder to me. Maybe it was the instruction screamed at me by Jill “sit back, sit back, heels down”!!
I had an amazingly fantastic time!!
Here's a photo of one of the magnificent sunsets I've seen from the paddocks.