Denman’s diary: exercising with hounds for the first time

  • Last weekend I bit the bullet and took Denman exercising… via hounds. The Duke of Beaufort’s were meeting very close to my friend Peg Livingston-Learmonth, where Denman visited to start his fitness work on her horsewalker.

    I told no one (except the Barbers and Paul Nicholls) that I would be taking him out, and we parked well away from second horses and hacked to meet them. There were only about 10 people out, which was perfect.

    Considering he hasn’t been out with hounds, he was really very good. There were a few fly leaps here and there, but that’s to be expected as this is so far removed from anything he’s been used to.

    He’s a typical hot red head and was slightly feisty, but far better than I had dared to hope. At times, he stood very well and at other times he would have a fidget and dig. But the good thing is he kept his head.

    There was nothing on offer to jump, so we didn’t leave the ground. If there’d been anything small that needed jumping we’d have done that, but this season is not going to be about flying over big hedges. We know he can gallop and jump, so my job is to take it very slowly and educate him about standing and settling. I want him to realise that hunting is not too exciting and not just about galloping.

    I rode him in a Cheltenham gag, which worked well. I had two reins on it, so I could ride him off the snaffle rein, but had brakes if needed. I very much kept the anchors on and took it steady.

    I hacked him all the way home and by the time we got back he was totally chilled. I really like that. I was able to wash him off on my own with no trouble at all. I exercised him this morning and he was pretty laid back — his little expedition hasn’t hotted him up at all.

    I don’t want to get him too much fitter now, so am backing off the work a bit. He’s living out by day and in at night, which means he can stretch his legs all day. I’m just doing roadwork during the week now to keep strengthening his legs.

    I don’t know how long it will take to make him and it’s still very early days, but he showed good signs. I’m glad to have his first day out under my belt — it was nerve-wracking as there was enormous pressure, but he didn’t let himself down.


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