Writing about horses: social horseworking

“Walk on, Q,” I smiled through gritted teeth, putting my leg on hard as the horse tried to stop by an  elderly rustic gentleman and his terrier, both of whom grinned up at me knowingly. “Walk on!”

Strangest thing, I thought. An old friend here in rural England had asked me to hack out this horse, a strapping young 4-year-old who ordinarily put whole new meaning into the term “forward going.”

medium_503570292Pushing 17 hands of solid Irish Draft / TB crossed muscle, Q was not what you would call a slouch.

“He needs hacking out during the week,” my friend had told me.  “If he doesn’t get ridden a couple of times on weekdays he’s a bit of a handful when I ride him on the weekend.”

Well, Q was never too much of a handful with me, provided I agreed with him that we’d do nothing slower than a brisk canter. Trot, walk and halt were skills he had yet to put into his portfolio.

More often than not once Q caught sight of some open country everything in front of the saddle disappeared and we were off, even if I hadn’t pressed the start button.

I put it down to the fact he was a youngster and needed a lot more work which, as the mere hacker-outer, I wasn’t expected to put him through. So we just lolloped along with variable stopping power.

Until he saw a pedestrian.

Out in open country, Q was the galloping nutcase you’d expect of an exuberant young horse. But when we came back, sweaty and puffing a bit, into the village where Q lived, everything changed.

Well, it was just as well we didn’t hack through busy shopping streets, I thought, as we’d take several hours to travel half a mile. Along the quiet lanes and tracks around Q’s home village, we would only meet the odd few people out walking their dogs.

small__4684615228Not being a local resident, I didn’t know any of them. But every time we happened upon one, Q would pull up to a halt, lower his head and exhale loudly, resigning himself to immobility.

As I was straining to get him moving again, some people would snigger, some would laugh out loud, while others would mutter “morning, ah, yes this must be that Mrs X’s horse.”

Equestrian narcolepsy, perhaps?

“So what’s wrong with Mrs X’s horse?” I angrily demanded of my friend after a few weeks of this. “He goes catatonic. Are you training him to pull a milk cart so you can do some deliveries as a sideline?”

It was several minutes before my friend could control her laughter. “No, it’s my fault,” she spluttered.  “I like to network a bit when I’m out on a hack. “

“Once we’ve been around the fields and had a good work-out we come back into the village and stop and chat to everyone. I expect he’s just got into the habit.”

A few months later, Q was sent out on loan and began eventing. Pity his poor young rider, I thought.

She would probably be the first in her team to get penalty points for stopping to chat with spectators beside the cross-country course.

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photo credit: Thowra_uk via photopin cc
photo credit: mikebaird via photopin cc