There’s something about a Drizabone that can make almost anyone look like a professional horse-rider – as long as they’re on a horse.
We decided that we needed to up the ante a bit on our horse-riding and actually get a better idea of how it all worked. With that in mind we set off through a grim, foggy, cold morning for Centennial Glen Stables nestled in the valleys behind Blackheath in the Blue Mountains.
We had signed up for the one-day horsemanship experience which promised to teach us a lot more than just how to sit on a horse. Within minutes of arriving we had been split up amongst the staff and were helping out with bringing in the horses in to get fed and saddled. Learning experiences from this part of the day included that horse slobber is amazingly gloopy when spread about the rim and handles of a feed bucket; saddles are easier to put on than we expected; and pitchforking up horse dung is actually quite entertaining in the short-term.
Soon we were mounted and set off into the rain. That was another new experience for us. Riding in the rain. We were wearing our usual rain gear at this stage and so our tops were pretty dry, our legs, however quickly became soaked. Poor Callum didn’t have his gloves on either and after about 20 minutes his hands were pure white claws. But in spite of the rain we had a great time. We learned to trot with more style than we’d previously managed, and saw some lovely bush from horseback. One of the many great things about Centennial Glan Stables is the variety of trails available to ride. After a couple of hours we returned to the stables to wrap our hands around a cup of tea, stand huddled around the 24-gallon-drum fire and watch steam rise from the horses backs.
It was clear that the rain was settling in to stay and so Jim, our host, broke out the Drizabones. We soon set out for a second time, this time with water running off the enveloping jackets and us, well, as dry as a bone inside them. This second ride was less through the bush, instead going over some larger paddocks and past mobs of grey kangaroos. There was lots more trotting which, while I can now do, hasn’t become my most favoured pastime. After 90 minutes or so the rain really came down and, even with the rainwear on, we were fairly relieved to get back to the stables for a BBQ lunch.
Our final ride for the day took a different turn with Jennifer and the boys opting to take a sulky out. Watching them bump through potholes and over rocks made me pleased I’d stayed with my horse, but they had a really good time learning how to harness a horse to the lightweight cart and then drive it. And I’m sure that third ride is where the aches in my legs are from, so maybe they were really on to a good thing with a flat seat to stay on.
Back at the stables, after unsaddling our mounts, we had one final treat in store, learning to crack a stock whip. I failed utterly to do it in the prescribed way, but that was no great loss as I can reliably crack a whip in the way I taught myself as a child from watching Westerns. Callum and Declan alternated between approaches with some success until Callum managed to whip himself in the mouth.
Overall, in spite of the weather, we had a wonderful time and all came away feeling significantly more competent with horses. So it was with smiles, we finally retreated back to the warmth of our rented cottage in Leura to play board games. Which game? Ticket to Ride, of course.