In The Saddle: Why I’m definitely up for another countryside ride

Anita Marsh

Anita Marsh

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It’s been a few years since I last competed in a hunter trial with April, but with her now back to normal and a local competition taking place at Simms Hill in Belton (organised by the Epworth and District Riding Club) it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Hunter trials tend to take place twice a year, in the spring and autumn, and are a great way to see the countryside combined with a chance to jump your horse through wooded areas, taking in the natural terrain.

Hunter trials are sometimes also referred to as cross country, although I think officially the hunter trial is the correct term for competing.

Across the Isle we are really lucky that we have access to so many cross country courses for practice and also for local competitions. I’ve never tried the Simms Hill course in Belton. There’s also meant to be a great one at Epworth Equestrian too.

Fences used on the course are usually made of natural materials such as logs, trees, water, banks and ditches, and aim to reproduce obstacles which may be found during a ride across the countryside.

Unlike show jumping, where the jumps are designed to fall if they are touched, the fences are solid. Although nowadays, a lot of course designers are making their fences frangible, which means they will come apart if put under reasonable pressure. Not something I really want to put to the test though.

There are many different levels of the competition, designed to test all sorts of horse and rider combinations.

Usually a timed section forms part of the course, but you get to walk it the day before and give yourself a few nightmares that evening (and if you’re like me a bit of a restless night too).

The course is marked with flags (which indicate which way the fence must be taken), discs (which tell you which class takes which jump) as well as everything being numbered.

Pairs are a great way to have fun with a friend, or to get a nervous or novice horse and rider following a good lead horse which gives the other horse confidence. We chose to compete in pairs with a good friend leading the way.

Once I’d stopped feeling sick in the warm-up ring (my horse sensed this and did some lovely refusals in front of people – just what you want . . . not) we had a fabulous time. The jumps I’d worried about and the ledge I thought she wouldn’t take, she did no problem. And the ones I didn’t think were that tricky (so I relaxed into them) she needed driving into still. Funny little mare!

After completing the course without a fall (always a bonus in a rider’s mind) I instantly felt this huge sense of achievement and a massive rush of adrenalin. And since I’m still alive, I’ll definitely try another one again.

Thanks to family and friends for listening to me freak out the night before and well done to everyone who took part on the day.

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