Our ride to Sugarloaf from Raglan (where Flicker and Phoenix were living with sponsored rider, Scarlett, and can be seen pictured above at the beginning of our journey with Sugarloaf in the background) was a preparation ride for The Great Adventure. This was to see how the ponies dealt with lots of on road riding, busy roads, overgrown tracks and changeable terrain. All this before we've even gone into how much ascending and descending we had to do!
We're talking some SERIOUS hills, the total ascent was 866 metres over the ride and the entire ride was around 25km which took us up Sugarloaf and back down to the carpark. We set out at around 9pm on Phoenix and Flicker with sponsored team: Scarlett and Sol in tow, having dawdled in the yard and sat around drinking cups of tea... Note to self: We really can't do that when we ride from John O'Groats to Land's End or it may take a few months longer than our estimated time frame! Our first small challenge was a small canter which turned into a longer trek back to find Phoenix' hoof boots! (Don't worry, she now has super swanky ones by Cavallo!) Lauren then popped the hoof boots back on and we continued at a more sedate pace! We came across an overgrown path a little way later... Nothing really bad for those sensible people who brought jackets but Scarl had failed to wear sleeves so her arms got mildly shredded! Our next challenge was a path that was actually impassable. Not just a few brambles or even a fallen tree (otherwise known as a jump), we actually mistook it for a hedge and thought we were lost! We managed to reroute but the only way around was on quite a busy road which we generally avoid as much as possible, just as much for the sake of other road users as ourselves. The road was even busier than expected with lorries and tractors passing us just as regularly as cars. The trio didn't bat an eyelid and went along at a steady pace while we waved people past where it was safe and pulled in where we could. Thankfully, all of the road users were fantastic and none got annoyed or impatient (probably because Flix is so cute)! We were soon back onto the intended path and on nice small lanes again and we went to find our bridlepath which was marked across fields, making us look forward to some canters, softer ground and easier hacking... We were greeted with a Footpath sign and a stile... We turned around once more but Phoenix was coming up slightly unsound in walk and was clearly uncomfortable! At this point, we called dad and asked him to bring us a horse to swap onto. When we hung up, we took Phoenix' hoof boots off to have a look at what could be causing her to be lame and, when we walked and trotted her, she was perfectly sound and comfortable! We decided they must have been rubbing and carried on after cancelling the spare horse (now I feel like the worst horsey mum, I promise none of you are spares guys)! After stopping for a snack (the horses, not us, we continued to starve), we entered into the fun bit of our journey! After passing through a beautiful wood, we came out onto a hill covered in bracken and gorse with grassy tracks through and a view to Monmouth and beyond! We headed up to the rise of the hill and there was Sugarloaf! The next, very beautiful, part was through a glade and back out onto fields and hills where we met a gorgeous herd of not-so-wild ponies who were so friendly that not even Sol made faces at them!
After that, we just had Sugarloaf and a rather rocky clamber to the summit to contend with. Dad had reached Sugarloaf before us so began walking up. We met him halfway up and he helped us get the ponies to the top.
They were so awesome! It was a challenging ride as, although they were hacking and being ridden regularly, they were mostly ridden on fairly flat roads which were no preparation for the hills and terrain. The ponies were really brave and trusting of us on the roads and to get up the last bit of the mountain as they had to be careful and place their feet where we directed them to.
At the end of the day, the lorry was certainly a sight for sore eyes, especially because the heavens opened just as we reached it! Dad had hot tea and coffee as well as a bag of doughnuts and some other snacks which we scoffed in silence with the heating on full blast before we all felt energised again and began talking a mile a minute, feeling happy and content.