WARREN FARM COTTAGE -  Farmhouse B & B, Riding holidays with your horse
A wet weekend always has its benefits; when followed by a sunny day your spirits lift, the horses’ heads go up and the birds sing louder. That was certainly the case as we left the yard at 11.30 heading for Barbury Castle.  As well as Mick and me, we had five members of Chilton Riding Club who had brought their own horses for an escorted hack over territory they hadn't ridden on before.  There’s a bit of roadwork needed to get onto the Downs, but the roads are very quiet and as we clattered through the Ogbournes villagers looked up from their gardening to nod and smile. Then we were on the Ridgeway; well spaced, Boo in front with the clattering now a thud, thud, thud as we cantered along, all vigilant for an unexpected rut, a walker or biker, ready to pull up at a moments notice, but hoping we wouldn’t have to! Three hunting gates to go through – quite a feat managing the gates if we all stay mounted – but we manage it and then we’re off at a gallop, heels down, heads down with the horses just as competitive as the riders. It takes us 45 minutes to get to the old iron age fort and however many times we visit, it’s impossible not to draw breath at the fantastic views.  It’s good to see walkers, bikers, cyclists and kite flyers all enjoying the sunshine and then it’s off down the ridge and across Fyfield Down. Molly pulls with excitement, hoping for another run and there are muttered exclamations of "Walk now!" from behind as we settle down for Leg of Mutton woods and the home straight. We get back just before three and once the horses have been seen to we walk down to the cottage for tea and toast. It’s been a brilliant ride and everyone wants to talk about their favourite bit, the scariest bit, the most exciting bit – and where else we might ride. How lucky we are!
Five of us rode through Savernake with the light dappling the gorgeous colours of the leaves. There were lots of families out walking and it was nice to stop and let the children stroke the horses. It’s been a brilliant year for fungus and earlier in the week we made wild mushroom soup and some tartlets with smoked ham. We noticed a tree laden with sweet chestnuts and put a marker to come back during the week for a lunch-time pick.  The forest is owned by The Earl of Cardigan and sadly he considerably restricts access.  Back in the 16th century it was Henry VIII's favourite hunting forest and it's not hard to see why.  Mick's uncle had the contract for timber felling back in the '60s and Mick worked with him cutting, hauling and clearing timber.  He has some great stories to tell about exploits before the days of Health & Safety!   Nonetheless there are still routes to explore and it is a beautiful area to explore on horseback.
Autumn has brought a feast of sunny bright days and we have enjoyed some brilliant rides, taking advantage of the kind local farmers who allow us to run in their fields for the few brief days between the harvest and ploughing ready for winter planting.
Helen fell in love with Libby and has now bought her and keeps her with us on livery. She has kindly written a bit about her take on our rides (written before she bought Libby) and we hope you enjoy sharing her description of an Autumn ride.....
Helen and Libby
We set off on a sunny September morning after catching, tacking and grooming the horses -me lagging behind as usual half asleep 'Hurry up with Libby' shouts Mick… then we are off, trotting up the lane this time - Mick and Heather have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the paths and tracks and there are many wonderful views across the hills & the Ridgeway; we marvel at birds of prey circling and admire the change in the seasons, eyeing up the blackberries and sloes! We are out for a good 3 hours, always moving forward as a group. You choose your slot where you and your horse feel comfortable, have chat at the walk, keeping an eye out for those around you - it is your responsibility to sort yourself out and be considerate.  Mick and Heather  take it in turns to lead the ride and make them fun and exciting, they are always there for advice, encouragement and admonishment but only the latter if you are being unsafe/stopping the fun.
Libby likes to be up with the forward group even if she gets overtaken on the hills sometimes; the call for canter comes and we all skip off with gusto - fantastic to be on forward going horses who obviously love going out, have a mind of their own - haven't gone dead in the head like at some trekking places and want to go without being skittish or crazy. Lost count of the canters and the heavenly gallops where we spread out over stubble fields and have sped up near the race track wishing we could go on and on; trotting back through the lanes and hearing the clatter of hooves is great too, brings people out with their kids to wave & v. good for my thighs!
Back to house for tea, toast made on the Aga and a selection of delicious home made jams - Heather is a cracking cook as well as a good laugh & full of life. I have gained in confidence with this 'loose rein' riding approach, Mick has tons of experience and knows how to have an exhilarating time safely, have met some great people, had some wonderful days out & seen some beautiful countryside - all the stress and strain of the week and being 'the management' slips away and am happy & relaxed - just wish I could do it every day … hey ho … I think they should be available on the NHS, best tonic I can think of '
Take care, best wishes
Helen Barbrook
What a wet week... Mid November and it hasn't stopped raining for days. We moved the horses back to the winter yard and their snug barn a couple of weeks ago and although they love grazing in the fields, they all appreciate being able to step in out of the wind and rain.
No fairweather riders are we! One wet Wednesday three stalwart riders turned up in the pouring rain to tack up and ride out. We tacked up in the big barn and then sat on our horses saying "Are we mad or what!?" We all decided that yes, we were all mad and trotted off up the lane. And yes, it was wet, and yes, we got wet, but YES we had a great ride and every one of us agreed that we were glad we had ridden out. Billy Connolly reckons there is no such thing as bad weather - it's just a matter of wearing the right clothes!
We decided an hour was long enough to be out and the horses were glad when they knew we had turned for home. Once back we gave them all a bucket of food and thatched them off by rubbing them briskly all over with a handful of clean straw. That done the girls went in individual stables and the boys went into their big open barn to dig into their hay. Then it was back to the cottage for tea and toast with Mick regaling us with jokes and stories. Life is good.
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