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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Lola jumps

Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood whatever the weather. This post is from Nicola

About six weeks ago my friend Fleur, who has already taught her four sons to ride plus numerous of their friends, took Lola out for a ride on the trusty Silver. Lola started on the lead rein – by the end she was cantering off it! Fleur said she had a grin like the Cheshire Cat’s. Now we are back in Yorkshire house-sitting for Fleur’s family and I’m able to take Lola out for a hack.

Truly it is weird riding out knowing that I am the mother and my companion is my daughter (see pic). One of George Monbiot's recent polemics in his column - about the rise of people playing farmers and horsiculture - made me wince http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2133120,00.html.

There is no way you can make riding horses cheap. Getting into riding is a good way of developing a habit that is going to make you poor, or develop a serious need for cash. And the better you get the more gear you need; then land and apparently a 6-bed former farmhouse with stabling etc. But not all of us: indeed I would argue that the more people know about horses the more:
(a) independent they become as thinkers and
(b) knowledgeable about the countryside - they aren't just driving through it, they are riding in it, noticing the road kill; anticipating the speeding white van and the flapping planning proposal application; stressing about the weather and how all this dampness is going to lower the quality of hay and straw as well as increase its price.

Admittedly these are hardly world changing bits of knowledge but if I hadn't ridden as a child I would never have become a green... or made a very determined decision to live in a city with the lowest carbon footprint I can manage... or become a born again riding instructor.

But for this week Lola is really enjoying the rides on her borrowed pony, and when we come back to the home paddock she begs me to let her try to jump. Fleur’s tip is to just get the learner on a schoolmaster, like Silver, to follow the pony in front. This is definitely not the Pony Club method but it made sense – no problems steering or acceleration for the learner. So I took my mount, Charlie, over three different sets of poles, including some low barrels, with Lola following safely and happily (thank goodness). So now she has got a taste for speeding along and a sense of how jumping feels.

This is very much the way I learnt to ride – some core lessons and then lots of practice hacking around looking for verges to canter along and fallen logs to pop over. I’ve always been amazed that at eight years I was thought capable enough to go out for rides on my own on Telstar. Obviously it’s more fun and safer to hack with a friend – but on the right pony, along quiet lanes with enough space to get out of the way of speeding cars I reckon Lola, who is now nine, could manage too.

In Yorkshire people often seem to drive fast but they invariably slow down, sometimes even stop, when they see horses on the road. Thank you to all those considerate drivers.

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