By kind permission of Lin Thomson at Rooting Street Farm Equestrian, a BHS approved yard, the West Kent Branch of the BHS was able to join with TROT, the off-road trust, for the very first of these courses.
We met with TROT to explore this idea some months ago and when we spoke to Lin she was very keen to get something up and running as soon as possible.
Lin did the advertising and places were very soon filled. We started off with a round table session in the fantastic lecture room, to hear some of the fears and not so good experiences of those on the course. We were able to think about the natural behaviour of horses and how lots of things they do are driven by instinct and not naughtiness!
We discussed how a paper bag always remains static until you get up to it, how the horse walks by a noisy tractor and then reacts to the squeak of a gate. We talked about dealing with other road users and that, mostly, the reaction we get from them depends on how we behave towards them. We spoke about the importance of saying thank you in a big, clear voice and smiling, which are clear signals of our intentions, and about how to deal with traffic lights.
We looked at what we and our horses should wear and what we should take with us, and reminded ourselves that good hi-viz gear buys us an extra and very important three seconds.
Then it was off to find our horses and tack up, taking them first to the outdoor school where we looked at paces and stepping over raised poles (as in fallen branches), and then to the fields.
Next we were joined by the local TROT rep, Penny, and set off on our two hour hack round the most wonderful countryside, first along the edge of the river (!) and then through woods and open fields. As we went we were able to talk and learn more about the situations to be met and enjoyed when hacking. We dealt with some of these too; ducking under some very low trees, dealing with cars on the short stretches of road work and opening and closing the gates en route.
We were counted out and the same number came back! The rain had held off but the wind was up. We then thought about how to deal with the horses upon their return, giving our first thoughts to them before we looked after ourselves. Back then to the lecture room for food, chocolate biscuits and a debrief. Lots of confidence established and good memories put in place. The main problem was how we are going to fit in the demands to take it all one step further! From Spring next year we are very keen to run similar courses, from yards that have access to bridleways or Toll Rides or both. Get in touch with us by email; contact details are on the right hand side.