I need to do a lot of training, the horse will need training and we will need to train to work together.
Fitness first: I am not as fit as I need to be and at 63 this needs to be built up steadily so my fitness training will start in summer 2011 when I get swimming regularly (after 10 years out of the pool), cycling or jogging to the pool, doing the Canadian Airforce Exercises which have stood me in good stead in the past, walking more and maintaining my riding. The swimming and the airforce exercises will be good for my suppleness. From late 2011 I will increase my riding ready for buying the horse.
Map reading and navigation: My map reading is fairly good but I will work on use of a compass and the skills for finding myself if I am lost. I will also learn to work with GPS and to plan route setting waypoints for use if we have to travel in fog or hit other problems.
Horse Care: I will work on the stable management knowledge and skills specifically relevant to the Ride.
Packing and loading: The best pattern of packing saddlebags, front and rear, and of attaching other items will need experiment with new bags and more to carry than in the past.
First Aid: I will do first aid training for myself and the horse for the most likely injuries and problems.
IT and Website Skills: Will need improving, probably mostly on the job but I may get some formal training for this.
Social Network knowledge and skills: I need to learn much more about Facebook and Twitter etc and to be using them from late 2011.
The Horse’s Training:
Fitness first: I wont know what he can do and what he needs till I have him but we will build stamina and as good a forward walk and trot as we can. As fitness improves we will do hacks of several days, building up to at least two weeks at a time with all the kit – 250+ miles – on and off road. This will also harden him where saddle bags etc might rub.
Supple and Responsive: I expect us to need lessons in the school and he is likely to get some extra schooling. We also need to jump a bit in case we come to places where the only way through is over. The aids should include verbal ones for manoeuvring. We will work on gates, gates and gates and routinely mount and dismount from either side.
Tack and kit: He is unlikely to be used to saddlebags and items attached to the saddle etc. He will be accustomed to these progressively for carrying them, having increasing loads and going hours, then days and weeks with them.
Unusual, Stressful and Alarming Situations: We will go out in all weather conditions short of high wind with flying debris, fog so thick we cant be seen, or dangerously hard frozen ground. We will work up levels of traffic, in town and out; poor ground conditions, steep tracks, narrow tracks, blocked tracks, motorway bridges, railways, rivers, noise (my trumpet playing), bustle, crowds, umbrellas, bright lights, road works, building sites, cones, funfairs, tunnels, big machinery, pheasants, pigs, lamas, fords, balloons, flapping plastic, unfolding maps, helicopters, aircraft, sirens, shooting, bicycles, motorbikes, kites etc! If possible we will get some police horse training.
Tieing Up and Leading: We will tie up in all sorts of places, and practice leading from both sides, from in front and behind, where there is space and where its narrow and hemmed in.
Much of the training listed above is actually “joint training”. One of the training rides will be along the route we will start out on so possible surprises are minimised for the first week or so. A longer training ride will be over the route for the last weeks of the ride (Bristol, Oxford, Gloucester), which are likely to be covered in November, so we are confident of the route at a time when days are getting shorter and the weather and ground conditions may be poor.