Bramble snacking and trail running – Lucy Procter is using the stud’s quieter summer season to find some balance out of the saddle
In a welcome change from my usual monthly stud life, trail running, strength and conditioning sessions in the gym and blackberry picking have been my summer highlights.
All three Procter offspring have now left home – our youngest has gone to Australia to work on a large stud in the Hunter Valley – so I am trying to re-balance my life and spend time each day away from horses!
This is relatively easy in July and August as these months consist largely of maintenance on the stud, so time is more flexible. Summer is about keeping the mares, foals and youngstock healthy and growing well. Our main tasks are on the maintenace side – cutting hedges and mowing tracks, and carefully managing the grazing through poo-picking, harrowing, topping and regularly moving horses onto fresh pasture.
Alongside the routine work, we have brought two young racehorses – Inspector Maigret and Rinjani Bay – back into ridden work after their early summer break. They have completed three months of pre-training in preparation to move to their licensed trainers. Much of their exercise has been up on the downs just south of the stud, utilising the steep hills to help build muscle.
For the past couple of weeks, both horses and riders have been enjoying munching blackberries from the hedgerows each day before loading back onto the lorry and heading home!
We have also been prepping two 2-year-olds for a sale in early September. This involves six weeks of regular exercise on the horse walker and lunging to help build up their fitness and improve their muscle tone as well as daily grooming. We shod them in front to help stop them getting foot sore, which might result in their not showing themselves to their best advantage on the sales ground.
As they are unbroken young horses, the main feature that the buyers are looking for is a big, striding, athletic walk. A horse’s walk is four-time – meaning all four feet land on the ground individually. The gallop is also a four-time pace, so it is considered that if a horse walks impressively, it should also have a good gallop and therefore be more likely to make a successful racehorse than would a horse with a poor walk.
One of the youngsters I started under saddle in June was a 3-year-old Thoroughbred filly who had been a nutter as a 2-year-old when we first tried to work with her. Eventually we had just turned her out again to mature!
A year later, and the same filly happily co-operated with her initial lunging and long-reining and after a few weeks, she accepted me on her back. We progressed to hacking up the road in company and lightly cantering, but she was becoming increasingly difficult about the initial mounting. Suspecting stomach ulcers, we are treating her with equine omeprazole and giving her a few weeks break before starting again. Working with horses rarely follows a defined plan and you just have to treat each one individually.
On the run
Earlier in the year I joined SPFit, a running club based in Sherborne. In May I was inspired to run The Camelot Challenge, a local half marathon. To help improve my fitness, SPFit’s owner and personal trainer, Simon Partridge, created a specially tailored strength and conditioning gym programme for me to complement my training runs – I get away from the stud, and still I’m all about the conditioning programmes! Contrary to my many previous attempts to train – which have always resulted in my giving up after just a few weeks – with the support of Simon in the gym, and Kate, the club’s running coach, I am still running and training! On top of which I have made some lovely new friends within the gym and the club.
Recently, we organised a day out – four of us met Simon and Kate on Dartmoor and spent a hugely fun day practicing running on moorland terrain.
We plan to return in October to run the 12 miles from Belstone to Postbridge.
Although we’re a mixed bag of fitness levels, we all start and finish together (those who are fitter are happy to just run a little further).
Getting involved in activities outside of the stud has helped reinvigorate me this summer and reminded me that there is a bigger world beyond our modest stud acreage and racing itself.
I highly recommend getting out there and trying something new – it’s so good to get away from your usual day-to-day routine.
If you’re interested in joining us, get in touch and join us in the running club or on Dartmoor. Everyone is welcome!