Telling your storiesfrom the stables to the fields

08 October,2017

Hunting Ambitions With Scarlet Back On Form (Fuelled By Brandy) by Laura Paine

I’ve wrestled the blogging hat away from Mum this month, to yak on a bit more about my beloved, my one and only, my angel: Scarlet. She’s been out of the news for most of the past year, what with breaking jaws, running off to Africa for a few months and getting a new job and a new house in a new city. (I should clarify – only the first one of that list is something Scarlet did.)


I arrived back in England in February, cold, miserable and skint, but the one face that never fails to cheer me up is that big old cow face of Scarlet’s (sorry family and friends but you know the score). She hadn’t been exercised for a full 12 months, as the vet recommended giving her that much time to recover from breaking her jaw – ICYMI she was being ridden in the school by someone while I was away working in London, and Scarlet ended up with a fracture to her jaw after rearing up and falling, cracking her jaw on her bit.


So, after a year of doing nothing on Scarlet’s part and a year spent running around nursing her with pureed food and endless dressing changes on my mum’s part, I arrived home and announced that I wanted to ride. So, with great trepidation, we dragged her in from her happy place in her muddy field with her muddy Shetland friend and tacked her up. She was very quiet and well behaved, and even – incredibly – stood still for me to get on, which she hates doing, being such a busy bee with places to go and people to see. Mum had her trainers on and the leading rein in hand, as we always expect the worst with Scarlet, but she was positively angelic. Last time she had a chunk of time off work she was recovering from a broken hock (she’s kind of accident prone I guess) and she was a monster to bring back. She frightened me a fair bit, to the point that I dreaded riding her, and a couple of times had to dismount and walk her home before she ditched me. Bless her.


Anyway, she’s been good as gold since February, quiet as a mouse (mostly) to hack out, and enjoying her new life plodding around the lanes in Devon. Mum has a horse, Limi, on loan from a very good friend, so it’s been absolutely lovely to escape down there at weekends and ride out together. I’m considering hunting Scarlet this winter, to see if that’s something she enjoys, but if she goes bananas or I wuss out, I’m going to see if I can find her a nice loan home. I think if a Pony Club mum wanted a horse to hack about on with the kid’s ponies, do a bit of dressage, go to some clinics, then Scarlet would be perfect for that. I just know that I’m not brave enough to jump her again but still want to find something to event and have some fun with, but can’t afford to keep two horses. If I do take her hunting I’ll have to take advantage of the brandy beforehand in a big way…


In June we took her on her first outing since October 2014 – which was when I declared, in a fury, that I was never taking her to any more parties ever again, that she was GROUNDED. I was perfectly justified – she’d just dumped me on the cross country TWICE. The frustrating thing was that she had the time of her life out on the course, I don’t know why she has to ruin it for herself. Anyway, off we went in the lorry, and she was very pleased when we let the ramp down and she saw that she was at a social gathering instead of the vets. We had entered her for a couple of in-hand classes: best solid colour(who knew that was a thing?) and best ex-racehorse. Off we went into the indoor school and walked around with the rest of the entries, with my support team watching from the gallery. I could see them crying with laughter at the sight of Scarlet bouncing off the walls, looking very pleased with herself indeed and dragging me along in her wake. We had to keep cutting across the school because she was taking giant strides, keen to catch up with whichever horse was in front of her. My heart sank a little when the steward asked us to trot on because frankly, I’m no sprinter. Scarlet set off at a pretty smart trot, and I tanked along in her wake, trying not to hang on to her so the judge could see how nicely she moves but also desperately hanging on to her so I could keep up. We were then all pulled in to stand in a line to do our individual shows. Standing still has never been Scarlet’s strong suit, as I mentioned. She stood stock still for about three seconds and then got bored of watching the first horse doing his thing, and we did lots of tiny walk circles, hoping the judge wouldn’t notice that my horse had ants in her pants. She was ever so keen to talk to the rest of the horses in the line, especially the very small but very feisty pony on our left. Finally, our moment arrived, and we walked forward and halted for the judge’s inspection. This time Scarlet was suitably interested in the steward’s clipboard to stand still for a good 5 seconds, which wasn’t quite long enough for the judge but he waved us on, and we did our bit. Scarlet was actually very well behaved, and very much enjoyed doing her individual show.


We ended up being pulled in 5th. There were 7 in the class, and, no word of a lie, the horses that came in 6th and 7th both tried to kick the judge.


We headed back to the lorry and recovered with some classic horse show fare: tea in a polystyrene cup and a fried egg sandwich. Scarlet spent the whole time hanging over the partition, gawping at the other horses. Her enthusiasm breaks my heart, sometimes.


Our next class was best ex-racehorse. In we strutted, walking round and round, trotting round and round, before being pulled in by the judge. He asked some questions, dodging Scarlet as she fidgeted and bounced up and down and nutted me on the head. We did some more walking and trotting, until, finally, our moment had come: we were pulled in FIRST. I was very proud. It was entirely deserved, Scarlet is very lovely.

(Oh, we were the only ones in the class, but I don’t think that’s an important takeaway from this happy ending.)


Our win meant that we qualified for the Championship, which we duly entered. We weren’t placed. Still, a 5th and a 1st are not to be sniffed at.


We took advantage of the empty outdoor school to have a little schooling session, so we chucked her saddle on and I spent 20 minutes or so riding her round, bending and flexing, practising some transitions, and working her into an outline. She was actually really well behaved and kept a lid on her excitement. I was very proud of her and glad that the early start, cold bath (Scarlet’s, not mine), and expense of entry fees and fried egg sandwiches had been worth it.


Hopefully next month I’ll be blogging about what an incredible time we had out with the Mid Devon Hunt, but honestly, with Scarlet, anything could happen. Either way, I’m drinking brandy.


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