Well folks we did it. Three brave men attendedthe famed "mens only" group of our Fox Hunter Safety Clinics. Now mind you, these are all very established gentlemen, fully ensconsed in their own time-consuming professions who gave up their Labour Day Monday for an early morning workout in the Hitchcock Woods.And what a workout it was......
A small aside. The initial session of these clinics is held in a lovely spot in the woods called Gaylord's Manage. Captain Gaylord was a tough taskmaster who taught all the children from the Aiken Prep School how to ride. What an honor to follow in his footsteps on such hallowed ground. Another reason to preserve tradition in our beautiful woods!
The men's clinic started with lots of talking as usual by me. My words were met with polite appreciation and nods in the beginning, which then lead to a few yawns and a few more nods and smiles. Then I got to the "Now let's try it" stage. This directive was met with a few grunts and kicks. Steering quickly became an issue as was size of stride and straightness of the horse. And there were a few balance issues that popped up. The men went around their small course at the walk, passing the test and were ready for Phase 2.
Up and down the hill they went and over and through our famous "starter ditch." I use this rather rough terrain as a training tool to check for balance and control issues and to make sure we can progress to Phase 3.
"OK men, now lets do all this at the posting trot!, I merrily suggested. One response was,"Whats that?" We were nearly an hour into the lesson and when I heard that I thought, Oh boy here we go. So we practiced the trot for a moment and everyone got it. They were ready to be released from the cage and practice their undulating course at the trot. Now, please keep in mind, we try hard not to leave any stones unturned. These men do not ride a lot (though I have to say one was quite experienced) so he had to be REALLY good or else!
The men were seriously working at their tasks and doing a very god job. However, it had become very clear to them that we were well past the time for polite nods and yawns. They were now in deep. Everything they had been forewarned about was rapidly becoming a reality. And don't forget - it was at least 99 degrees at this point. Purple was rapidly becoming the color of the day.....
We progressed onto another ditch and terrain question and culminated the day with a very long course combining both excercises making the men go all the way round the Show Grounds at a trot in a group!.This course took easily 5-6 minutes of serious concentration, steering, balancing, and control. And then.........they were asked if they were lucky or they were good. Of course the answer was the latter so my answer was "right then do it again!"And off they went a second time proving their skills and improving their confidence.
By this time, a sizeable audience had materialized. There were huge cheers for our men. They were amazing and I was very proud of them all. What an honor it is to have this opportunty to teach these people. Our safety clinics really are great fun.
These men have two more sessions to go...can't wait to get to cantering!