Today I took Brena an hour by trailer to visit a broad sweep of chalk hills dominated by Cherhill. This ridge, rough grazing topped by a monument to Cromwell's ambitious surveyor Sir William Petty, I shall come onto shortly.
Here's Brena's latest equipment. For now I'm riding her in a regular Dually halter, for a couple of reasons. (Other than that she understand and respects this gadget.) First, it functions as a headcollar for tying up and travelling. Secondly, I haven't had the opportunity to buy anything else.
Continuing my assessment of Brena's performance without a bit, I rode her down a steep slope. That's the situation where, generally, I am leasy comfortable on a horse. I felt that I was in a position to ask Brena to slow or stop where necessary, and that was enough for me to feel comfortable.
I prefer to ride with a headcollar under the bridle in case I have to tie up my horse. It's useful to have a stout multi-purpose halter that will perform both functions, much as an old cavalry combination headcollar-bridle would have done. In this case there is a ring at the bottom of the noseband for use tying a horse. This works as pressure for control is applied above the nose. As you can see, I have a rope tied around Brena's neck in case I need to tie her.
Anyway, back to the ride. We began taking a trail that follows the course of a Roman road. It was exciting to follow a route along which Roman legions had marched almost two thousand years ago. Like most Roman roads, this was almost straight, just winding a little where the contours of a hill made this necessary. Here's a straighter, flatter section. I learned in school that Roman roads were surfaced with stone, but I do wonder whether this one was simply finished in the local chalk which makes a smooth and fairly durable surface.
Here we are climbing up to the monument obelisk. It was a steeper climb than it looks in the photo. The test ride downhill was made on the return journey. The bottom of the obelisk is surrounded by unsightly scaffolding to protect visitors from falling stone - it's in poor shape and repairs are due - so I didn't photograph it close up.
The scrubby grass up here is grazed by cattle. A little later we came across the herd. Some black and white Friesian cows wandered up to Brena, initially curious, then scampered away in fright. These are dairy cattle, not the robust beasts that readers in the US might be familiar with. To round up these cows, there is no need to chase and rope them. Shaking a feed bucket will bring them all into a corral.
Brena seems to appreciate the ability to eat without a piece of metal in her mouth. Not that a bit ever impeded her much. The thick grass seemed welcome. She will eat most things along the trail. Beech leaves are a great favourite, and blackberry leaves in season. Cow parsley in season too, and hawthorn from time to time. Of course we are not short of grass in this rainy isle.
I sat on a grassy mound to give us both a mid-afternoon rest, hence the slightly odd perspective of the photo. I like to stop, both for my legs and for her back. Too many rides are rushed because of evening deadlines or simply wanting to avoid those 'I was expecting you back sooner' comments. I'm pretty well used to remarks in that vein, anyway. All I needed was a picnic. But I did take an apple.
It was a grey day, all too typical of English summers. I led Brena for a short distance and was surprise by how warm I felt. Perhaps the humidity did that? It was the kind of day when a walker might be comfortable in tee-shirt and shorts, but would appreciate a coat when pausing on the breezy ridge. I was decidedly cool wearing a fleece, then uncomfortably hot walking. It's a good thing to have a Western saddle with plenty of ties with which to attach discarded clothing. (Or, this being Britain, a coat ready for the next shower.)
Anyway, next weekend will be the solstice. I had better get on and plan a nice evening ride in case the weather is sunny. I might even ride down to Avebury and see whether any druids are circulating. (They might be dozing after being up for the dawn at nearby Stonehenge! I would be, if I ever manage to rise that early.) This is, after all, a mystical landscape.