15 September 2014
Holidays on Horseback
Carola & Judith spent some fun days at Mar Lodge
My new year's resolution, amongst many other more boring ones, was to have as much fun with my new horse,
Stazi, as possible. So I decided to take him on holiday with me. The initial idea came from the BHS Scotland
newsletter which advertised that Mar Lodge Estate, which is run by the National Trust, has 4 semi-permanent
paddocks (10m x 10m) to rent for guests who want to bring their horses. The plan really took off when I mentioned it at our Club Dinner in April. Judith was keen to come along with her Highland gelding Bruce and we picked Roger Searle’s brains for information on routes. A couple of weeks later we and our mounts were booked in for a 4 night stay at the end of July. Joan and her Exmoor pony gelding 'Furze' were going to join us for 2 days as well. Then the planning really started, maps were consulted, gear was discussed, borrowed and lists written and re-written. The planning, so they say, is half the fun.
Finally the big day arrived and the weather forecast for the weekend ahead was awful but we set off with great excitement Roger marked a selection of routes for us - from easy half day hacks to day rides with some challenging terrain.
In the morning our fears were confirmed it was blowing a gale and the rain was lashing down. Definitely not a day to go riding in the hills. We had a lucky break - Mar Lodge had one of their Open Days so we had the rare chance to see the amazing Ballroom with its ceiling covered in antlers the deer larder and we met one of their beautiful Deer Ponies. In the evening we had a brief respite from the rain and quickly tacked up the horses for a wee round trip to Linn of Dee via Inverey. After all that rain Linn of Dee was a spectacular sight (though all four of us were slightly spooked at having to cross the bridge!).
Joan and Furze arrived and the following day brought a mix of sunshine and heavy showers. We found that very workable as the wind kept the horseflys at bay and managed to dry us out in between the showers. We decided to go down Glen Ey which Roger had recommended as an easy ride amongst beautiful scenery. The changeable weather added to the appeal of the rugged mountain scenery. The horses were striding out happily and we had a fabulous time. We rode along Ey Burn to Altanour Lodge, now a ruin, where we had lunch. We had had such a good time that we decided to ignore Roger's warnings and tried to continue on after the Landrover track finished.
Bad mistake ! Within 50 yards it was clear that the ground was not sound. Furze and Bruce being savvy natives
skidded across the boggy ground but my desert pony just sank. People who ride in the wilds of Scotland regularly had warned me how scary such a situation can be and they were absolutely right. Stazi utterly panicked, I jumped off but tried to hold onto him but he struggled so fiercely that I had to let go. He freed himself, galloped off but luckily stopped at the last bit of hardcore track. Clever pony! We were all shaken and I promised myself never to go off the beaten track again. Lesson learned, luckily with no injuries to my horse apart from a few scratches.
The next day the weather was still blustery but a bit drier and we decided to ride the loop round Glen Quoich which involved crossing a ford. Furze and Bruce took my watershy wuss of a horse, who normally even avoids puddles, tightly between themselves and just walked on through the water. Surprisingly Stazi just went along with them without any question. Clearly the desire to be with the herd is stronger than the dislike of cold water. We were proud ! It might seem like a small thing but for me and my land rat it was a great achievement!
Our five days at Mar Lodge were fantastic. The facilities for the horses were perfect, our accommodation very suitable for what we needed, the Lodge and Estate are beautiful and the staff were bending over backwards to help us. I can highly recommend it to anyone who would like to take their horse on a wee holiday. We are already planning to go back next year. Places that are so welcoming to horse riders are rare and it would be great if we could support them and thus keep the facilities open. If you want to find out more about our trip please feel free to contact me and here is the Mar Lodge homepage www.marlodgeestate.org.uk if you want to get in touch with them directly. The Club is also planning an evening with talks from our members about their adventures on horseback and we are planning on showing the pictures from our trip. So, if you are interested come along, the date and times of our winter programme are on the website.