Sadly at the beginning of this week we had to say good bye to a much loved four legged member of the family. Rex was my first ever horse and together we made our British Eventing debut. When it came time to retire him from a competitive career ‘Mummy Groom’ took him back and enjoyed many years riding him until he finally retired. At the grand old age of 26 the years finally got the better of him and we had to make that sad decision that every horse owner dreads.
‘Mummy Groom’ and I have often talked about how nice it would be to go on a ‘cowboy holiday’ in America, round up cattle, canter about on the open plains, and experience ranch life. Well my budget wouldn’t quite stretch to that so instead I booked her a 90 minute Western style trail ride in the New Forest as a Mothers’ Day gift, and as a little bit of a pick me up after a rough week.
The equestrian themed day began with a lovely lunch in The Filly Inn, Brockenhurst. I can heartily recommend the sea bream, yummo!
Then we set off to arrive at Burley Villa Riding Stables for our 3pm ride. The yard is BHS approved and offers lessons, hacks, and cowboy experience days – yeeee haaaa! When we walked on the yard we were greeted at reception by a rather snazzy skewbald on casters! Maybe this is the future? There were a couple of cowboys sweeping the yard, complete with cowboy boots and clinking spurs. There is a ranch style clubhouse offering refreshments and a life size cardboard cut out of John Wayne, well we couldn’t resist getting a selfie with him! The yard is immaculate and all the horses were in really good condition. Very well cared for getting rest periods between rides, offered water, and ridden sympathetically before being tucked away for the night in their stables.
Being 5’9” mother bird lucked out and got to ride ‘Blue’ a full bred Appaloosa, but being just 5’7” I was given ‘Puzzle’ who had a hi-viz quarter sheet on, something was telling me that I might be bringing up the rear of the ride! Two other ladies who had not ridden at all were also on the ride and they went behind the ride leader. After a quick session in the arena to check that everyone could stop and go we set out onto the road and the horses were all totally unflappable in the heavy traffic, full marks for bombproof-ness!
We got onto the heath land and hacked across between the heather, where Puzzle and I had fun navigating the gorse bushes and assorted natural obstacles, through a wooded area, back onto the open common land, dodging the local horses and cattle and finally back to the yard. Riding in Western tack is very comfortable, and I can see how you could spend many hours in the saddle just loping along. Unfortunately because the other two ladies on the ride were total novices we only had a little trot, but Puzzle was SO comfortable, it was like riding on a hairy black and white cloud.
I don’t think I’ll be swapping my tack for Western gear or buying myself a Quarter horse (I like my tbs too much!) but it was a fun day out, and the New Forest is a really lovely place to ride.