Clwyd 2022 – Our 7th visit

20 September 2022

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After 2 years of not being able to visit the Clwyd Special Riding Centre it was a joy to finally be able to stay there again. Five riders and fourteen volunteers and carers arrived on Thursday September 8th. After everyone had found their rooms in the bungalow, we were greeted by the site’s head coach Pam who provided the H&S induction and gave us news of the horses we were to ride. Then we were let loose on the mechanical horse in the CELT building. All the riders, except for Jo W, chose to ride through virtual landscapes with Jo P riding at the seaside and encountering a light house and big waves in the sea. Heather had to duck beneath tree arches and thoroughly enjoyed herself, whilst looking very elegant in the saddle. Jo W chose to ride virtual dressage and was disconcerted to be told that the screen would be switched off and the horse would be programmed to cycle through walk trot and canter, with the rider’s pressure on the saddle and reins being recorded. However, the program malfunctioned with Jo being left at canter rather than the halt which she expected. The printout of the rider’s stability and pressure on the reins made for interesting reading!

It was during this session that we learned of the sad news of the death of Queen Elizbeth ll. However, as Jill later pointed out, the Queen’s love of horses was well known, so we were doing something that she would have approved of.

We met our ponies on Friday morning. Jo P rode Little Jack, a dark bay cob used for riding and equine learning, Kathryn rode big Jack a dark bay Welsh cob that was used for riding and driving. Anna rode a lovely piebald with a beautify tail, rather unkindly called Moo on account of his colour similarity to Friesian cows. Heather rode Mack, a very pretty strawberry roan cob with a beautiful blond mane and tail, which like big Jack was used for riding and driving. Jo rode Brian a Clydesdale cross cob cross, use for riding and equine learning. They all seemed to suit us well and later in the day we were able enjoy a ride round the all-weather tracks on the site.  This was a first for one for our volunteers who had been warned about the steepness of the hills, but agreed it was worth the climb for the great views.

Saturday morning saw us all riding out and about again after completing stable duties and grooming ponies. Some of the grooming entailed complicated plaiting of manes and tales. Brian decided he was exempt from this on the grounds that he was a heavy horse and would feel silly. Big Jack, with Kathryn aboard, was judged by our two chefs (Donna and Hilary) to be the overall prettiest pony on account of his magnificent tail plait and the kiss curl in his forelock. This was achieved with the use of hair rollers!

In the afternoon those who wished could watch the accession ceremony of King Charles III on the big screen in the CELT building. Some of the riders spent the time doing horse related activities which turned out to be picking up horse poo in the field. I gather a volunteer used her rake to practice her golf swing! Heather turned out to be our champion poo picker.

We were being extremely well fed by Donna and Hilary, so a trip to the local pub was a welcome change for them and a chance for us all to raise a toast to the new King. It also meant that Karen seemed to forget about tack cleaning for once, something that was definitely worth celebrating.

Sunday was not a day of rest as we were up and about catching and grooming ponies, before going out for a ride. We had to be back in time for carriage driving with the Wrexham carriage driving group. This is always a highlight of the holiday and this year it was no exception as Anna and Heather in particular will confirm.

In the afternoon some of the riders took on the countryside challenge that was set out in a nearby paddock. From the feed back I had from those that were brave enough to attempt this, I gather the word challenge was most appropriate as riding across steep slopes whilst trying to undertake the required tasks was not easy. Other riders had no less a challenge in the indoor school as they had to ride Verena’s notoriously difficult circles which could, at the last minute, turn into figures of eight!

Monday morning came and with it some soft Welsh drizzle. Having come prepared for heavy rain we all donned our raincoats. These were not really needed for our last ride round the all-weather tracks, as the heavy rain never came. We said goodbye to our ponies before having brunch (I did not need to eat for the rest of the day) and packing up to leave.

We had an amazing time at CSRC. The staff there made us feel immediately welcome, the weather was warm and dry, the ponies were lovely, the food was excellent as was the company of the Stratford volunteers and carers. I think riders, volunteers and carers all gained from the CSRC experience and I know that if you asked any of the riders if they would like to return another year then, as of one voice, they would say a resounding “Yes Please.” written by Jo White

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