A special holiday for some of our riders

22 September 2016

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A Flavour of Clwyd 2016 written by Jo White

It was a very excited group of volunteers and riders who arrived at the Clwyd Special Riding Centre     (CSRC) on Thursday September 8th. We were particularly excited this year as we knew that new facilities had been built at the centre one of which was an education centre housing a mechanical horse. At the health and safety briefing we learnt that as a new barn had also been build the former stable block was now a holiday barn and was “ours” for the duration of the holiday. This allowed us to groom, tack up, and store our tack and hats all in one place which made things much simpler for all of us, although Jo W still managed to mislay her riding gloves at least once a day!

As always the CSRC provided us with beautiful horses and ponies; Jo P rode a cheerful pony by the name of Apollo, Anna joined forces with an old favourite of ours Hamilton, Jules rode a very laid back Kiera lookalike called Kestrel, and Jo W and Neil were both reunited with horses they had ridden in 2015, Jo with Charlie the gentle giant, and Neil with his great friend, Mr Harvey.

The program for the holiday was a very varied and exciting one. We started off by riding the tracks around the centre. We quickly found that although there had been many changes at the centre, the one thing that hadn’t changed was the hills. They were as steep ever.  The ponies were used to it but they proved a good work out for riders and volunteers alike.

Anna and Jo P were soon leaning forward/ backwards as required and like the rest of us enjoyed the views when we eventually reached the top. In addition to riding the tracks at the centre on one day, we had a long hack out along the shady disused railway line led by a CSRC member of staff.

In addition to riding real ponies we were also able to ride the mechanical horse. The biggest decision the riders had to make was where they rode to; the farmyard, the beach, the lake, the zoo, the forest, or the savanna? Jo P decided to try the farm yard. Watch out for that pig Jo!  Jules chose the beach. Her mum’s comment that “you could see her smile from the back” describes Jules’s reaction perfectly. There was much hilarity when riders failed to miss low branches on trees or rode into the lake/ sea whilst cantering, but as well as  being a lot of fun there was a more serious aspect to the activity as we had the opportunity  to concentrate on developing better riding positions.   Some of the volunteers also had the chance to ride the, as yet un-named mechanical horse, and it was Carolyn’s reaction that caused the most amusement.  After not riding for more years than she would like me to reveal she decided she was going to make the most of this opportunity and was not keen to get off. (We discovered she thought it was like a fairground ride and you stopped when you came to the end of your ride!)

I have left one of the most unexpected and exciting experiences we had until last. The Wrexham carriage driving group very kindly gave up one of their afternoons to let us try carriage driving, something none of the riders (and most of the volunteers) had ever experienced before. Ringo, a grey was harnessed to one carriage and Mouse, a native fell pony to the other. Cones were put around the indoor school to form a track and then with the assistance of the whips we were able to try carriage driving. This was something that Neil had been particularly looking forward to and he drove with an even bigger smile than he normally has (if that is possible). One carriage was adapted so that Anna could drive whilst being seated in her own wheelchair which she thought was very cool. It was quite a noisy session as there was cheering and clapping when the ponies started trotting. I never realised they could go that fast or that you could drive dressage test! After drawing straws some volunteers were also able to have a turn, and like the riders they too thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It wasn’t all riding. We had a fair amount of eating to do as well. Sandra and her team kept us all well fed with her excellent home cooking, and as you can imagine it was a real struggle for us to manage all the cake that was offered.

So what was the best bit? Well there really wasn’t just one. The whole holiday was just a great experience for all of us. It was so much fun to be part of such an amazing team in such a great riding centre.


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