An old friend of mine grew up in America in the sixties. Her parents had an evening ritual of having a drink together when her dad got home from work. Each year, around April, she would notice them switch from a warming Martini to a long, refreshing gin and tonic. This, to her, was the clear indication that winter was over and spring had officially begun.

As harbingers of spring go, this is quite a quirky one.

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Round where I live, there are plenty of more traditional indications. Daffodils, early rhododendrons, lambs, bunny rabbits, blossom. Slightly less welcome, the drifts of horse hair over the stable floor whenever you pick up a brush to groom, and the constant taking on and off of rugs as you try to second guess the weather.

We also have some more interesting additions to the local wildlife. Mountain bikers in their glorious lycra plumage have been quietly breeding all through the winter and are now out in droves, cutting across the bridle paths at full speed with gay abandon, and making hacking out a lot more of a lottery than it was in the winter.

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Then there are the herds of slightly listless teenagers on their Duke of Edinburgh trial runs, bent double under massive rucksacks, trailing up and down the hills or huddling together, peering anxiously at an upside down map. You are not supposed to approach them, not because they are dangerous, but because apparently they are not allowed outside assistance however hopelessly lost they appear.

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Then of course the horseboxes are out of hibernation as we all pile off to early competitions. I know lots of places run through the winter too, but I think it’s a very springlike feeling to pull up on grass instead of hard core, and compete on a natural rather than a man made surface. I take my hat off to the brave organisers of these early events who know they are taking a gamble on having to cancel if the rain doesn’t hold off.

Finally horses are out without rugs on

Finally horses are out without rugs on

Having said that, I have noticed a shortage of hunter trials this spring — I don’t know if it’s the same elsewhere in the country. It’s understandable, when such a lot of work goes into running one and it must be heartbreaking to watch the weather scupper your plans, but I really pray we don’t lose them altogether.

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Anyway, it’s a glorious spring so whatever you are planning with your horses and ponies, I hope it’s not cancelled and I hope you enjoy it.

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My favourite Spring moment so far has to be while I was out riding this morning, I saw a tiny newborn foal with its wild pony mother. I know it’s not that unusual a sight but when glimpsed through the trees it felt like a special kind of secret and a privilege, and it made my day.

JG