Since I bought back Jackson, the style of riding that I’m interested in has changed significantly.
Being of a more senior age than some of the other girls who use the stables, I’ve often felt a pang of guilt (or is it jealousy?) whenever I’ve seen them take their horses over the jumps.
Back when we were both starting out on our riding journeys, when he was a three year old gelding that I had part-ownership of and I was an eager seventeen year old, hungry for a challenge, we would have had no problem with clearing heights of 1.2 metres, sometimes even more. So what’s changed?
I’ve already discussed how proud I am of my old Arab. Although many stable owners would be considering putting him out to pasture at his age, after riding him for a couple of weeks now I know for certain that not only does he want to keep working, but he also wants to perform.
Anyone who has owned multiple horses, or has trained at an Equestrian centre, will know that all horses are different. Although we’re often warned against anthropomorphising our creatures – it’s an inevitability when you spend so much time with them.
I’d initially planned on taking on Jackson as a secondary ride for purely nostalgic reasons. I’d kept in touch with Lizzy, my friend from home, and had called her regularly to check up on them both. She’d always be as surprised as I was to report that he was remaining so spritely, despite his advancing years. Still, I knew that by the time I took full ownership of him, both of us would be getting a bit too long in the tooth to be attempting anything near the kind of jumping that we used to do.
Up until his move from Lizzy’s farm to my stables, I knew that he was mainly being used as a training horse. It might be a general rule to keep inexperienced riders off of older horses, due to their tendency to grow somewhat particular in their later years, but she had clearly trusted him enough to disregard this. Lizzy had used him for jumping shows whilst they were both a lot younger, but since she’d moved into the working world and had put her competition days firmly behind her, Jackson had been relegated to the position of a starter horse – a role that he had performed admirably – but, perhaps he was put into this role a little too early.
Each time I take him out hacking, I can tell that he wants to be pushed that bit faster. When we ride past a jump in the arena, I can sense him pulling towards them. My instincts tell me to calm him down and hold him back, but that’s where the guilt kicks in. If I continue restricting him to the safe types of activity that he can easily do, then soon he will lose the impetus to attempt anything else. Soon, he’ll simply be content with mild trots around the yard and he’ll no longer be the Jackson that I knew; the Jackson who loved nothing more than to gallop through the trails of the New Forest, tearing up the tracks and spraying mud on the hedges.
I’ve decided to stop protecting him from himself. He may be a little older in years (comparatively) to me, but that doesn’t mean that I have the right to condescend to him. So now, from time to time, when I feel him pull towards a jump (as long as I know that the landing won’t damage him) we’re both going to take it and maybe we’ll take a trip back down to the New Forest on a quiet weekday afternoon.