Angel had a big day today, his first proper day out hunting - although it was only ever going to be a short day of a couple of hours, as thats more than enough for a first-timer :-)
Edward and Charlie kindly agreed to come along and be our nanny, so at 6.30 this morning in the dark we loaded up and trundled out onto Exmoor.
First success of the day - despite barely being able to see where he was going, he loaded beautifully and eagerly, so we even left bang on time!
At the meet, we pootled off out of everyone's way, but it was a perfect morning - only half a dozen other horses out, all of whom were old pros and 100% reliable, and a nice quiet start, just walking and trotting over the moor.
Edward and Charlie stuck themselves in front, and all Angel and I had to do was follow in their footsteps and not trip over any tussocks, ditches or pointy rocks :-)
Of course its early days for Angel, but he behaved absolutely beautifully, watching where his feet were going, and concentrating on the ground, but also watching Tony and the hounds and taking it all in.
A couple of times the field went on and we stayed behind with Charlie to do gates, and although he fidgeted a bit when he saw everyone else cantering off, he didn't lose his manners. The ground wasn't bad at all, by Exmoor standards, but there was enough for a horse born and bred in the Netherlands to think about - a couple of river crossings, the odd wet bit and some steep, stony tracks to contend with.
By 9 o'clock we were heading home, satisfied with a job well done, and with Angel having lots to reflect on. He loaded even more perfectly on the way home, and tucked into his haylage in a very contemplative mood. Lets hope he has started as he means to go on :-)
PS: Just had to add - there is apparently something on the Horse and Hound forum at the moment about navicular, and after suggesting they take the horse barefoot, the reply was the classic quote:
My horse would never cope because he has paper thin soles and low lying pedal bones. Truth be told, in the wild he'd have not lasted two minutes, but he's a TB and they don't run wild, they're breed for domestic use. If you take his shoes off he's crippled and it's not something diet or environment would fix. Yes maybe if I left him for six months they would harden up but my vet and I believe it's not humane.
Isn't it ironic? This person has even been given the link for our research project, but obviously wants an easy option or a magic pill.
Thank goodness Angel's owner didn't have that attitude - and you can imagine where Dexter would be now, if his owner had decided that there was no way of changing HIS thin soles and poor hooves...