Riders have a lovely time on holiday in North Wales

22 September 2019

in Summer Camp, The Latest News, The Riders, Volunteers

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If my memory and maths are correct them this is the eighth time that Stratford RDA group has been to the Clwyd Special Riding Centre (CSRC). For some of us it has become almost a second home, but I am conscious that some of the readers of this article may never have heard of CSRC. Before I tell you about what we did in 2019     I thought that some background information might be helpful in setting the scene.

CSRC is a charity offering a wide range of equine experiences for people with additional needs. The centre offers riding, carriage driving, equestrian vaulting, hippotherapy, and equine learning and therapy. Four local RDA member groups regularly ride, drive and vault at CSRC, and of course the site offers holidays for groups from further afield.

The site is located approximately 7km to the north west of Wrexham in North Wales, towards the end of the small village of Llynfyndd which lies in a fold in the Clwydian Hills. It is a large site of some 30acres set on what in that part of Wales is regarded as just rising land and in Warwickshire would be considered as steep. (Ask the volunteers as they are the ones walking up and down the slopes). The setting is extremely rural and peaceful and riding the 2km of onsite tracks and the offsite bridleway is just magic. I could go on but I think that the photo above might set the scene better than I can describe.

So what did Stratford RDA group get up to in 2019? On arrival there was the usual meet and greet by the CSRC staff and the introduction to our ponies. Two of our riders were able to be reunited with ponies they had ridden in 2018. Jo P was thrilled to be back on Apollo and Jules was reunited with Eddie (known last year as steady Eddie who stopped by all the field gates in hope of a snack). This year he was still a lovely reliable pony but Jules knew his little foibles and rode him really well. Anna rode Mouse a lovely fell pony which was also used for driving. Kathryn rode Mr Harvey, a firm favourite from previous years and immediately recognisable by his one white ear and one brown ear, and different coloured eyes. He is another multipurpose horse which can be ridden or driven. Jo W rode a big Irish Cob by the name of Martie. Martie is quite a big lad at 16.1 hands but very well-mannered and responsive (Diesel please take note). He too is a dual purpose horse used for both riding and vaulting.

Friday morning was largely spent on the mechanical horse. An activity that is extremely helpful for improving a rider’s position. Jo W though she might have to spend the rest of the day there but eventually found a method of getting off (the term dismounting makes it sound elegant and it wasn’t!) After lunch we returned to the holiday barn to tack up ponies and then ride in the indoor school to familiarise ourselves with our ponies and their ways of going before heading outdoors.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we really made the most of the beautiful weather by going on an early morning hack. The volunteers thought the hills had become steeper. However Jas and Karen went for a run most evenings, I think they wanted to prove how fit they were after their Everest expedition, but it was noted that their running route was along a relatively flat disused railway line.

When we returned from hacking out the Wrexham carriage driving group had arrived to let us have carriage driving experience. Some of us had tried this before, but always indoors. This year we were able to drive along the outdoor tracks. This was a really great experience and everyone came back smiling. Turning a pony and carriage round 180° is an interesting experience. The ponies (Jack and Mack) were very experienced and made it look so easy. You only had to ask them to make the turn then give them the rein to allow them to do it on their own, and they did. Jules took to driving so well that in addition to walking and trotting Jack also cantered for her. Hilary went out for her first experience of carriage driving and she too returned with a broad smile on her face.

Saturday afternoon we rode out along the disused railway line lead by one of the staff from CSRC riding Brian. It is a really lovely ride and through what is mostly now a very peaceful tree line corridor.

Saturday was a busy day but all of the riders said how much they had enjoyed it. We finished off with an evening meal in the pub followed by coffee back at the centre. A really memorable day.

When we pulled back the curtains on Sunday morning we were in mist with a very light drizzle. After riding in doors for a short while we ventured out for a hack. Raincoats were not needed as the drizzle had largely stopped. In the afternoon the riders were given the choice of going out or staying in or a bit of both. Most riders chose the latter option, but Jules was determined to make the most of the Welsh countryside so road twice round the track. Now this is the point at which I should tell you about the delicious Sunday roast cooked for us by Donna and Hilary but that would not do justice to the fact that all the meals were equally delicious. Despite frequent tea/coffee and cake breaks it was noticeable that everyone was on time for meals and plates were always returned empty. So you can see how spoiled we all were.

On Monday, after bringing the ponies in, grooming and tacking up we went for one last ride round the onsite tracks, then it was time to say goodbye to our ponies before turning them out into the field for a well-earned rest.

Donna always say we are Team Stratford, and that everyone plays a part in all group activities and she is, of course right, but I know that those of us who were fortunate enough to go to Clwyd had  so much fun which was  only made possible by having an absolutely amazing team supporting us. I for one was relieved that I was not asked what I enjoyed the most about the holiday as I would have had to answer “everything” and that would have been the truth.  Jo White

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