Posted by: rstor | February 23, 2012

Susi Rogers Hartley takes to the hunting field as she tells us in her latest blog

It has been so cold, wet and windy, I haven’t been out competing since Cobham Manor in Kent, in Mid December. Hitching and towing, then driving long distances to Para dressage competitions, really takes it out of me so I’ve decided to stay local in Oxfordshire for a bit, until the weather picks up.

Seamus as usual has been rather full of himself. He is like a bomb ready to explode and is horrible to sit on when he’s in that sort of mood! Last week, my friends convinced me to take him hunting…. I was in two minds about this. It would either do him good, get rid of that pent up energy, or it would blow his head. I’d never hunted him, and I didn’t know if he’d hunted before, so I was terrified yet strangely excited at the thought. Kill or cure, as they say!

I plaited him up and washed his tail the night before. Due to a peculiar superstition, I never clean the tack immediately before an event. Maybe it’s a self-concious thought of looking immaculate – I always feel more confident if I’m a little scruffy. Hence any brand new tack, clothes, boots etc have to be well worn in before appearing at any competition!

The morning of the Meet, the nerves had set in and I was gagging every five minutes! My friends’ offer of sips from the hip flask helped immensely, plus plenty of Rescue Remedy! I rode Seamus for half an hour in the school before trotting to the Meet to settle him down. (Well, try to anyway!)

All was well, until the hounds arrived! Seamus lit up like a Christmas tree, and started to piaffe on the spot, progressively becoming ever more bouncy, then he ran backwards! As much as I so wanted to, I couldn’t get off him, because my wheelchair was left at the stables where I got on, and there was no one available to drive my chair over to the Meet! So I was stuck on board, and I kept telling myself, it’ll be ok once we get going…. My thanks to my friend Kayleigh, who circled along side us at the Meet, to help calm him (and me!).

Then we were off! Mostly side-ways to begin with – oh my word, he was so strong! The stop-start business was tricky as I had absolutely no breaks. Luckily we were in a wide open field, so when the horses stopped, I could then veer off, circling half a dozen times before we were off again.

Seamus did start to settle on the uphill track. He stood when the other horses stood, eyes on the hounds at all times. A hunt lady, seeing the red ribbon in his tail (I wasn’t sure if he kicked, having not hunted before) asked me, “Are you dangerous, or don’t you know?” “No” I replied, “Just disabled!”

I was explaining to her – inbetween having my arms pulled out of their sockets and skidding to a halt – about my disability, how I was injured in the navy, and that I only have half a body to work with, and apologised if I overtook someone I shouldn’t have! She was amazed and very supportive and stayed with me the entire day. I loved watching the hounds work. I loved galloping across private grounds one wouldn’t normally be able to ride across and just the thrill – especially the jumps!

So despite the nerves, I had a fantastic time. Seamus thoroughly enjoyed himself. We have got to know each other a little better now; it doesn’t freak me out when he explodes. We have a lot more confidence and since last week, Seamus is a lot less spooky! My thanks to Mr Bucknell for hosting a fabulous Meet. Even though I am tee-total, the ginger wine went down rather nicely! My thanks also to The Old Berkshire Hunt for a grand day out. And a huge thank you to Sarah and Edward for staying close to me and looking after me so well. It was very much appreciated.

So when’s the next Meet…….?!

As featured in the March issue of Central Horse News. For more news about Susi Rogers Hartley ‘like’ RS-tor on Facebook. www.facebook.com/rstorsafety


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