Given a spare hour over lunch it is a great treat to go out for a ride. We keep some riding horses who give us much pleasure, among them an Andalusian mare and an Andalusian/Arab cross gelding.  My main aim is to teach them to stop and rely on our aids rather than instantly resort to their flight instinct and for me to have some relaxation time outside of the Castle. It is a wonderful way to clear my head and see what is going on in the fields and woods around Highclere.

I can cover a lot of ground.

Too relaxed, I was riding through an old woody track when a bird, a pheasant, shot out and under Lara, whom I was riding.



She dived sideways, which I sort of did too, and then jumped and spun round, which I very much did not do too. I therefore exited stage right at some speed straight into a bramble bush as the force of her gyrations threw me round.



Winded and down,Maggie called out to see if I was alright, which I was although I was practising my yoga breathing and checking round my body to see if it all seemed ok. Maggie then rode carefully in pursuit of Lara whilst I slowly stood up, which also worked out ok, and walked back through the woods, which took the stiffness out. I hopped or perhaps hauled myself back on Lara again and we returned to our ride.


I was fine: a bit stiff in my neck, side and back but fine.



This however brings me to an event we are holding here at Highclere this summer for Spinal Injuries on July 5th. The main centre of research and support in southern England is at Salisbury Hospital and last year, needing little persuasion from an amazing woman, Annie Maw, I thought it would be good to raise some money for them.

Annie Maw was not as lucky as I was. She is however indefatigable, ever elegant and achieves a huge amount from her wheelchair. The charity and its team provide such support to those with utterly life changing accidents. What is rather wonderful is that Julian and Emma Fellowes are also going to come along that evening. I think Lady Mary fell off once in Downton Abbey but into water, which I would rather not achieve.

After some research, I have now bought myself an air-jacket which inflates when the lanyard is detached from the saddle. It looks quite neat and it is an extra layer to wear as well which is good news as, unbelievably, we have just had snow – at the end of April!