Beautiful Burghley

Last week I went up to Burghley Horse Trials.  I have only been once before but I absolutely loved it and I was so excited to go again.  It just has such a great atmosphere and of course the competition is exciting too.

We made sure to get there in time for the first trot-up on Wednesday and were back bright and early for the dressage next day.  We even had time to stop off at our favourite place for breakfast – the Country Living vintage tea room.  It was just a shame that they have had to stop using teapots as so many of them got stolen.

DSCN7014

The two days of dressage were excellent – it was great to see first timer Eliza Stoddart take the early lead, although all the changes on Friday afternoon made it very exciting.  I loved the cross country course which was a proper five star test and I had a great day walking round the course on Saturday.  We finished at the leaf pit and once the final few riders had been past us we listened with bated breath to the loudspeakers as they made their way round the rest of the course.

DSCN7024

Of course, the Sunday show jumping could not have been closer – at least for the final three riders.  I was actually trembling as I watched Oliver Townend, Piggy French and Pippa Funnell go round.  It did not help me at all that they each had a pole down!  I would have been happy if any of them had won but I was so, so pleased to see Pippa come out on top.  She has long been a hero of mine.

DSCN7028.JPG

I am also clearly a lucky charm for British riders.  When I went two years ago there was a British 1-2-3-4 and it was the same again this year.

DSCN7059 2.jpg

Naturally I did a little shopping while I was there too.  Burghley seems to be a place for me to buy slogans – last time I got my ‘Living the dream’ gilet.  This time, I found this excellent polo shirt on the BHS stand.

DSCF1540.JPG

I also treated myself to these riding tights.  I have never had any before but I have enjoyed wearing them this week.  Plus, my phone actually fits in the pocket properly!  I also loved looking at all of the horse feed stands.  When I was little I used to wish I had a pony and could get samples to take home for it.  Now I can and it felt so good.

Once again I had the best time at Burghley.  I will definitely be back in the future.

British Riding Clubs National Championships

Last weekend was absolutely wonderful.  I was of course very nervous but definitely excited too.  I love being part of a team, although I do worry about getting everything right!

It was fun to pack everything into the lorry and we had a surprisingly easy run up to Lincoln – six hours in total with only about an hour stuck in traffic.  We arrived at lunch time, got the horses checked in and settled whilst our camp was set up, then sat down for lunch.  It was very civilised!

20190830_134946

My favourite part of the day was hacking the horses to stretch their legs and help us get our bearings.  The competition has grown a bit since I was last there!  I also walked the style jumping course which actually helped to settle my nerves – fear of the unknown is far worse than fear of the known.  Plus, once I knew what I was facing I could visualise myself riding round the course – and getting it right!

The next morning it was all hands on deck to get the senior horses ready.  Dressage was first for us so I went up to support my team and also managed to watch the first few style jumping rounds.  These did not fill me with confidence as the first four riders all had refusals at the first fence and the first two were both eliminated by fence three.  In reality though, it was really useful – it made me very determined to get over the first fence if I did nothing else.

Before long I was up on my horse and ready to go.  Murphy can get worried and tense at shows but – apart from calling desperately for his friends – he felt remarkably relaxed.  We were soon into the ring and saluting the judge – 0Murphy had to call out a greeting too!

Our round didn’t feel all that tidy – which matters in style jumping – and we got a couple of incorrect canter leads but we were at least jumping clear.  Murphy had a good look at fence one but there was no way I was going to stop at it!  After that he didn’t look at anything and was jumping beautifully

Then we came to the penultimate fence.  We were only a couple of strides out when it blew over and we had to circle away whilst it was rebuilt.  We jumped it on our second attempt but sadly knocked the last pole down.  Its impossible to tell how much we were affected by the break in rhythm but I was nevertheless thrilled to have got round respectably.

20190830_180627

I have no pictures of me riding yet but I will share them when they arrive.

Having waited for the class to finish I found that we had come 16th out of 50 in our arena and 30th out of 108 overall.  I was delighted – at a national championship and my first attempt that wasn’t bad at all.

Sunday was another busy day helping our junior riders in their classes.  It is great to be part of a team, where everyone supports each other and the delights of success are shared.  The success wasn’t missing either – the lorry had a good decoration of rosettes and sashes for our long journey home.  It was a wonderful weekend and I will be trying very hard to make it happen again.

Nationals Bound

In July I went to our regional showjumping and style jumping qualifier for the British Riding Clubs National Championships.  The showjumping did not go quite to plan as we had one refusal and  twenty three time faults in the first round which clearly put us well out of the running.

We had to go into our second round almost immediately so I gave myself a stern talking to and tried to push my horse forward more.  We had a pole down but were at least inside the time and it felt like a much better round.  Obviously I came nowhere individually but we did come fourth as a team which was some comfort.

_C2_5934

Picture credit: Indy Equine Photography

We moved on to style jumping which I had never done before so I was quite nervous about it.  Especially as the horse I was riding is inclined to pick up the wrong canter lead on the left rein.  However, this time we got all the right leads, the course felt nice and flowing and we jumped clear.  All I could do then was cheer on the rest of my team and wait.

I ended up coming second which was very exciting and totally unexpected.  The person who beat me was on the winning team so I knew there was a chance I could be invited to the Nationals as an individual but I tried very hard not to get my hopes up.  However, two weeks ago I received an invitation and so we are going to Nationals after all.  When I heard I was so thrilled I actually squealed and dropped my phone.

I have been up once before – fifteen years ago when I was a junior and got eliminated in the second round of the show jumping.  Hopefully I will at least manage to finish the competition this time!

The Championships are next weekend (I am both very excited and very nervous at the moment!) so I will have no blog post next Sunday.  I will update you on the whole experience the following week.  Fingers crossed it’s a good one!

Relaxing Rambling

My sister and I recently took advantage of the weather to go for a little mini picnic ride.  She was in charge so all I had to do was get my pony ready.  She even carried the food!

20190805_134454

We rode up the hill to a little patch of woodland.  It is rather overgrown but that makes it all the more perfect for picnics – it is secret and seems suited to a fairy tale.

IMG_0834

The ponies were very interested in the food and Cookster actually managed to find – and attempt to eat – an apple which should have been safe inside the bag.  He made proper teethmarks in it!  They were pretty cross not to be allowed the chocolate biscuits but were pleased with the apple cores!

IMG_0844

Having eaten I could have quite happily settled down for a nap but of course Galahad couldn’t allow that!  The view from the log was simply stunning though and I could have stayed there gazing at it for hours.

20190805_142755

Dressage Downpour

Yesterday the ponies and I went to another home riding club dressage event.  This time – for the first time – they were doing three tests as each had an individual test and we were also having a go at both the walk/trot and the canter pairs tests.  I don’t often get to compete both ponies so it was an exciting day before we even got started.

DSCF1440

Luckily, my ever supportive ground crew was ready to lend a hand!

First up was Cookster in the Intro B class.  He is starting to feel very nice in his walk and trot work and although his canter still needs work that obviously isn’t an issue in an intro level test.  I came out of the arena feeling very positive about our test but even so I was surprised to find that not only had we come second, we had managed to score 69.56%.

DSCF1431

I was then straight on to Galahad to warm him up whilst my partner for our pairs tests was riding the test with someone else.  A quick turnaround and we were into the arena for the walk/trot test.  We started this with a pretty major spook at the people watching by the gate but after that they settled quite nicely and even had moments when their legs were working beautifully in unison.

DSCF1443

We didn’t have long before the next class but did find out just before we went in that we had managed to win the walk/trot class with 72.87% – a good score for both of us which left us feeling very positive as we began the canter test.

DSCF1459

Unfortunately, there was an absolute downpour part way through.  I for one had a terrible time trying to stop Cookster from swinging his quarters round into the rain and our first canter circle was somewhat messy.  However, it still felt pretty good overall and I would have been pleased with it as our first attempt at a canter test even if it hadn’t been raining.  The judge was very nice about the way the ponies kept going and we managed to score 77.5% to win that class as well.  We were thrilled and just a bit surprised.  Also absolutely soaked!

DSCF1465

Before long I was up again and ready to do the Prelim 13 test with Galahad.  By then he was starting to feel a bit tired and although he did a pretty obedient test I was struggling to get him bending the correct way.  I finished it thinking that it had been okay but not spectacular – and not as good as Cookster’s test which is a first.  Still,  I was so proud of both ponies and how well they had behaved.  It had been a great day.

DSCF1477

As it turned out, Galahad and I came fourth with a score of 65.96%.  This was a bigger class than Cookster’s and we had scored almost as high as our last outing when he did only two tests.  It was a pretty successful day altogether and I can’t wait to take them out again.

Pony Photo Shoot

Our local village show has a photography competition every year which we love to enter.  One of the themes for this year was ‘Lost’ and we had no photographs we could think of that would fit the bill.  We were trying to think of what to enter when I came up with the idea of using the ponies and a large map.  A photo shoot was obviously called for.

Galahad was incredibly well behaved given his general nervousness around things which flap.  He was not very keen on my being handed the map and started to walk off when I had it.  I kept hold of it for quite some time but eventually had to drop it as I was just not managing to turn him back to where we wanted to take the picture.

DSCF1404

I retrieved the map and returned to our designated spot.  This time I already had it in my hand when I mounted which was much more successful – he doesn’t mind me holding things so much, it is being passed them which is the main problem.  I assume that’s because whoever is doing the passing has to lift up their hand and whatever it is they want to give me.

DSCF1411

My holding the map to start with really did make a difference – Galahad stood like a rock, except for shaking his head to dislodge the flies.  He was perhaps a bit tense but nothing major and stood still quite happily until we got the shot we wanted.

DSCF1425

We didn’t win the class but I certainly had a lot of fun getting the picture!

Fun Riding

On Friday my riding club had a fun ride around the grounds of a local National Trust property.  I have done a couple of sponsored rides before but never a fun ride and I was very keen to go.  I couldn’t get Galahad there but my instructor had a horse I could use and I jumped at the chance.

The weather could not have been better – we have been having a heatwave recently but this was an evening ride so everything was much cooler but still lovely and dry.  Even better – we were barely bothered by flies at all!

20190726_201325

The ride was a mix of woodland, quiet lanes and open fields.  We had some great canters but also plenty of time to walk and absorb the surroundings – there were some stunning views.

It was a lovely, sociable ride with the added interest of a treasure hunt to follow – I do love looking out for clues!  We even had a barbecue waiting for us when we got back which was just wonderful.  Of course, as we hadn’t started riding until nearly seven, it was getting dim by this point and it was properly dark when we got the horses home.  In a way that just added to the excitement though.  I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait for the next ride!

Speedy Pony

Now that I’m home again it is lovely to be spending more time with the ponies.  It is good just having them to talk to but of course I am appreciating the riding as well.

The big field up behind us has just had its hay crop cut which means we can now use it for riding.  It is very exciting and definitely livens up our hacks.  The ponies love it too!

20190716_194300

I always try to keep Galahad to just a steady canter the first time we have the field each summer.  In the past he has been known to get far too overexcited and just take off across the field and I don’t want him to get the idea that that is okay.  Speed is fun but I do like to know that I can stop if I want!

Once we’ve established who is in charge we can have fun and Galahad likes to go fast!

He only has little legs though so Equilab still thinks we’re trotting some of the time!

We have been having a great time – it is always good to get a new place to ride!

Equestrian Scotland

I am just back from spending a week in Scotland, a place which I love.  I didn’t have much time with horses while I was up there but I did find these very cute ponies at the Highland Folk Museum (which is such a fascinating place to visit and I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the area).

DSCN6670

I was staying in Pitlochry and since I was so close I had to visit two very famous horses.

DSCN6809

They are of course not horses at all but kelpies and they are simply magnificent.  They are huge (the tallest equestrian sculpture in the world) and yet they are remarkably lifelike.

DSCN6812

We got to go inside one of them which was brilliant and the engineering involved is incredible.

DSCN6819

It was a great day and I was so glad we had made the trip.  I had a wonderful time for the whole week but it is always good to be back behind these ears again.

20190714_201654

A New School

Galahad and I have recently received permission to use a small indoor school just up the road from us.  It’s not a full size arena but it is certainly big enough to do a little schooling.

The main reason I hoped to use it was so that we can still school even in the depths of winter – the fields are lovely but just a bit too slippery when it has been raining for weeks on end.  Of course, that isn’t an issue right now but I was too excited to wait until winter to try it out.  Besides, it is good for Galahad to explore new places.

20190619_191235

We had a lovely hack up the road, met the chickens and ventured into the school.  Galahad was slightly disturbed by the exercise ball – he’s never seen anything like it before – but was otherwise pretty unfazed.  No silly spooking or anything – he has come a long way!

20190619_191510

He did actually spook once but as that was when a chicken flew up onto the wall behind him I think it was forgivable.

20190619_191315

We had a good session in the school and then another lovely hack home again.  This is going to be a great addition to my riding.