Joyful Jumping

Today we got to compete in the showjumping qulaifier which should have happened two weeks ago – Storm Ciara had other ideas then!  As ever, I was looking forward to it and rather nervous at the same time.  The early morning did not help either – I never like getting up but half past four is just too early!

It was still blowing quite strongly even today but we made it to the show safely and in plenty of time to walk the course and get ready.  My horse was feeling rather bouncy and full of beans but I was hopeful that when we could keep going around the course – instead of doing single practice fences – he would settle down nicely.

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Photo Credit – BLM Photography

That did prove to be the case and in fact we achieved a clear inside the time which I think was a first for us in competition – we are not generally very fast but have been working on it!

The second round also included the jump off phase so there were several more jumps to navigate (and remember!).  I was a little worried about losing my way but managed to pilot us round without error.  The horse was amazing and jumped everything I asked – we rattled the last pole but thankfully it stayed up and we were again within the time.

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Photo Credit – BLM Photography

We were still nothing like the fastest combination but we were one of only two double clears which meant we were placed second individully.  Even better, we came first as a team which means we will be going to the winter National Championships next month.  I could not be more excited – and, naturally, terrified!

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Fashion Pony

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cookster has had to start wearing a rug to stop him freezing himself in the rain.  Obviously, we have had rather a lot of rain over the last week so the rug is very much needed at the moment.

However, although he measures for the same rug size as Galahad, the old rug he was using had rubbed his chest a bit.  Nothing too bad – his skin wasn’t raw, he just had a bit less hair than before – but he clearly needed something a bit better.

My sister therefore went shopping and decided on a much more exciting rug than Galahad has ever had.

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Sadly, it didn’t stay looking like this for long – most days he is just a muddy shade of brown.  Occasionally though, the rain manages to wash off some of the mud and the stags shine through once more.

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Riders of the Storm

Today I was meant to be show jumping with the riding club but Storm Ciara meant that it was understandably postponed and I had an unexpected day at home.

I have spent much of the day cosied up indoors – there’s nothing quite like a log fire and a book when the storm is raging.  However, I did manage to venture outside for a hack.

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I rode out in the morning when the weather wasn’t too bad.  There was of course constant rain – at times we couldn’t even see to the other side of the valley – and it was blowing a gale but actually it was quite exhilarating.

The ponies didn’t think so.  I thought they would be completely wound up but in fact they were pretty sluggish today and moped along with their heads lowered.  Not that I could really blame them – I’m sure they would have much preferred to be tucked up in the stables!

A Rant

I love living in the countryside.  I am very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and the scenery just adds to my enjoyment when we go out for a hack.

Some days though, it seems that somebody is trying to spoil that.  We go out for a ride and see so much rubbish littering the lanes.  These are tiny little lanes too with very little traffic – I know bigger roads are far worse.

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Apart from the aesthetic and environmental implications, the rubbish is actually dangerous for us personally.  We have to keep a very close eye on our field which runs along the side of the road as there is almost always some rubbish which ends up in there.  If the ponies ate it there could be terrible consequences.

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I just cannot understand how anyone can think it is okay to throw litter out of a car window.  I used to assume that it was people used to road sweepers coming along every so often.  Realistically though, these lanes are only used by locals.  I don’t know if they think someone will pick up after them or if they just don’t care but it makes me sad to see so much rubbish filling up the lane.  Please, always take you litter home to a bin or to be recycled!

Playing With Ponies

I had to go out pretty early this morning so was lazy and left the mucking out until I got home again.  I did have a nice free afternoon though, so – barring the mucking out – I could spend time just playing with the ponies.

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First of all, of course, I had to bring the ponies in.  I rode Cookster while Galahad plodded in beside us.  It is so wonderful to be able to wander along riding bareback.

I had two lovely, gentle hacks with the ponies, just pootling along the lanes.  It was a  very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

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Now of course, I am tucked up by the fire with a blanket, a cup of tea and a book just waiting to be read.  Perfect.

Mounted Shepherds

Over Christmas Cookster and I had a Very Exciting Adventure.  We were riding up the hill and met a flock of sheep – not actually all that unusual but these sheep were neither in their field nor accompanied by a human.  We drove them back up the hill away from the main road and hoped that they would be obliging and slip back into their field.  Of course, they didn’t.

Luckily my parents were also out with the dog so my Dad could skirt round them and drive them back towards me and the gate.  Cookster had been boggling at the sheep the whole time so it was a lot easier for us to stand still and block the way back to the main road.

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This time the sheep were very obliging.  I swung the gate open, they trotted in and I shut it behind them.  All very simple really in the end!

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Learning to Stop

Several times recently I have been at demos which have told me that when I’m working on something with a horse and they get it right I should stop.  This is something I know very well in theory but for some reason I find it very hard to put into practice.

It is just so tempting to think, ‘Hurrah he’s got it – we’ll just do it once more and then we can stop.’  Of course, then we make a complete mess of it and end up doing whatever it was five times more until we get it right again.  Every time it happens I remind myself that next time I must reward Galahad by stopping as soon as we get it right.

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Yes Galahad is still wearing tinsel here. I took the picture last weekend – before Twelfth Night. All tinsel has since been removed!

It’s not necessarily that easy though.  We have recently been working on a pole work exercise which doesn’t always go to plan.  Today we got it right first time and it’s very difficult to stop after only one attempt – it doesn’t feel like a proper schooling session at all!  It’s yet another thing which will take time to learn.

Standing and Staring

When I bring the ponies in for the night I quite often stand and watch them eat for a few minutes – just enjoying the peace and the sound of the munching.  It turns out that it’s actually a very valuable stable management tool.

I was watching them on the evening of Boxing Day and realised Cookster didn’t look quite right – a little tucked up and shivery.  It had been cold and drizzly for most of the afternoon and Cookster is not always sensible about seeking shelter.  He was eating okay though and seemed fine in himself so I dried him off as well as I could and tucked him up in bed in pyjamas.

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PJ pony!

He was very quickly himself again but the next morning I sent him out with a thin waterproof rug on – he’s barely clipped so I didn’t want him too warm, just kept dry because apparently he can’t look after himself.

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Now of course I have the extra dilemma every day of wondering whether he should still be wearing it or not.  If it’s just cold and not wet then he doesn’t really need it but can I guarantee no rain?  Thankfully, as it is just a thin rug the risk of over rugging is pretty slim at the moment and he has certainly shown no signs of being too hot.  It’s a bit of a different experience for him though – he didn’t roll in the field for two days, although he was quite happy to lie down in the stable!

Christmas Revelries

On Boxing Day my sister came round to ride and we set off for our very tinselly Christmas hack.

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I always love riding out but it is especially great at the moment – it is such fun to dress the ponies up and carol our way along the lanes.  Good King Wenseslas was obviously the first choice for Boxing Day singing!

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Added to that, our parents usually come out on Boxing Day as well – their company is lovely but it also means we may get some tasty treats which are very welcome!

Christmas Deliveries

One of the exciting parts of Christmas for me is delivering our local Christmas cards by pony post.  We always dress up the ponies with tinsel and set off around the lanes carolling – although usually only when we think we can’t be heard!

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This year for the first time we were spotted by one of the recipients who very much admired us.  It is always nece to feel appreciated!

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Of course, such a ride has to be rounded off with hot chocolate and Christmas goodies.  The ponies got some carrots too.

If you celebrate I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.