Cookster’s Adventures

The other day Cookster and I went for a little adventure in a neighbour’s field.  I had ridden Galahad in there before but it was all brand new to Cookster and he was more than a bit excited.  He is not usually the most energetic of ponies but on this occassion he was offering me a canter every time I asked for trot.

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This particular field slopes steeply down to a stream with very marshy banks.  The hill is almost terraced by a path zig-zagging its way up the slope so we skirted our way round the marsh and set off up the hill.

The path isn’t particularly wide and the hill is very steep but I was still enjoying myself immensely.  Then I got to the top and had to come back down and I realised that the branches I had happily avoided on the way up had become much more intimidating.  Ducking under branches when riding downhill is pretty nerve wracking anyway but I was suddenly very aware that I was sat on a pony who has occasionally been known to nap and try to canter home.  It was amazing how such a small moment could rob me of all confidence.

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Of course, Cookster was in fact perfectly well behaved and my momentary panic was a complete overreaction.  It made me very aware though of how fragile a thing confidence can be.

Emma Massingale Demo

On Friday evening I went out to see a demonstration by Emma Massingale.  I have been a fan of hers for several years now but had never managed to see a demo so I was very much looking forward to it – I bought the ticket way back in May!

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I had wanted to get a hot chocolate to keep myself warm but I only had five minutes to spare when I arrived and didn’t want to miss the beginning.  It was so cold though – it took me ages to warm up when I got home.

The demo was brilliant.  The bond Emma has with her ponies is wonderful to see and something I would love to achieve with my own ponies.  Not that Galahad and I don’t have a bond but it could be so much more.

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Emma worked with several ponies individually to show us their various stages of experience.  She reinforced something which really I already knew but which is easy to forget sometimes – it is much better to stop working on something once it has been successful than to keep repeating it because the first time might have been a fluke.  I can certainly be guilt of doing that sometimes.

She also said something which I found very interesting – she doesn’t want to be the herd leader because, although the other ponies do what the leader tells them, they don’t actually like him very much.  She had left her leader at home and the ponies she had brought didn’t really care.  Emma said she wants to be the ponies’ friend and that seems like a much better attitude to me.

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The work with the liberty team was great to watch too.  The way she can get the ponies to work together and then send one off to do something by himself is just incredible.

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I had such an enjoyable evening (despite the cold!) – if you get the chance to see one of Emma’s demos I would highly recommend it.

Beautiful Autumn

Today was very exciting for me – I wore my riding skirt out on a pony for the first time since last winter.

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I actually don’t wear it riding as much as I would like because I love to wear it as an ordinary skirt so much and it isn’t really sociable to wear it around town when it smells of horse!  Today though it was raining and I decided it was time to take it out.

We had a beautiful ride as all the leaves are turning and the countryside is a blaze of colour.  My sister and I turned a corner and it was like we came out into the light – we were surrounded by bright orange leaves.  It was absolutely stunning and we sat there for a good five minutes just drinking it all in.

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I love autumn!

The Open Road

I have written several times about fighting my way up the lane when it gets overgrown – it’s incredible how fast everything can grow in the summer!  For a few weeks it got so overgrown that Galahad and I could not force our way through at all.

However, my parents have recently been doing a lot of work outside and also got a man in to help with cutting the undergrowth in the lane and scraping the surface back to its original stone level.  There is even a new gate at the top so I don’t have to get off to move the hurdle any more.  Such a luxury.

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It is all looking a lot better, if still a little muddy.  The grass will grow though and I already have access to the longer rides we have been missing (and an indoor school just up the road!).  We have a lot to look forward to.

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Autumn Habits

Every autumn I dither about when to start bringing the ponies in at night.  Yes they are Exmoors and and are perfectly capable of staying out all winter but they do get fat on thin air and need their grass intake to be monitored somewhat.  Besides that, it helps to save the ground a bit.

Throughout the summer I go out to do evening checks on them in the field.  Often they ignore me, sometimes they skitter away as if they think I might actually make them do some work and sometimes they come to say hello.

However, for the past couple of evenings the ponies have started whickering when I go out to see them and even run over to say hello.  Then they have followed me back to the yard and stood about looking hopeful.  I’m pretty sure they were asking for dinner!

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Therefore they came in for the first time last night.  It does mean a bit more work for me but there is something very cosy about having the ponies all tucked up in bed.  Autumn is a lovely time.

Dressage Divas

Last Sunday was our area qualifier for the novice winter dressage championships and I am pleased to report that my superstitious hacking in my show gear did the trick – I did not fall off!

I had never actually represented the riding club in dressage before so I was pretty nervous.  I enjoy dressage but it isn’t my strong point as I am not very good at maintaining the correct outline.  Nevertheless, I was determined to do my best and not let the side down.

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I started off with Prelim 18 as a warm up class and although I felt it could have gone better it was at least not as bad as I thought it might have been (our practice the day before had not been great).  We ended up with a score of 67.88 and eighth place which pleased me immensely.  I even won my first goody bag!

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For the qualifier itself we did Prelim 12 and while it was still not perfect it felt a lot better than the first test – until we started centering and he threw his head right up in the air.  Still, we scored 67.59 and came sixth which was very exciting.

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My team mates did well too and we came away with team fifth.  No qualification this time but I was pleased and I think they were too.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and, as we all know, that is the important thing.

On Superstition

When I was a teenager I noticed that I quite often fell off when I was wearing new clothes for the first time.  A new t-shirt or jumper was usually okay but specifically horsey things like riding hats made me fall off.  Once I wore a new hat cover and carried a new whip at the same time.  I was bucked off whilst out for a hack by myself.

I have no idea how many times things like that actually happened but it was enough for me to develop a superstition about it.  I had to make sure that if I got anything new I did not wear it for the first time at a competition.  That would just be asking for trouble.

Of course, the rational part of me knows that a new hat will not make me fall off.  However, I also know that the mind is incredibly powerful and if I think I will come off it makes it much more likely that I will.  Which is why this week I found myself hacking out in a new hat cover and new (to me) show jacket.

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It felt a bit odd but also as if I was in one of Ruby Ferguson’s Jill stories which I love so actually I was very happy.  Perhaps we should go back to hacking in hacking jackets!

Holiday at Home

I have been working very long hours this week – almost double what I normally do.  I am utterly exhausted now but I have actually had a great time working at the Appledore Book Festival and I wouldn’t want to change it.

However, it has meant that I have had to neglect the ponies a bit.  Obviously I have made sure that they are fed and watered but that has been about it.  My Dad has done a sterling job of turning them out and bringing them in when necessary.

I think they have been a bit lonely though – they have started turning up at coffee time looking for company (and possibly treats!).

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This coming week should be more normal and I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle.  First though I need to sleep!

Sneaky Ponies

After the excitement of the past few weeks it has been nice to be back home spending time with the ponies.

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Obviously, I have had a fantastic time while I was away but it was pretty tiring and of course it meant that I wasn’t riding the ponies.  Now though I am back home and back on the ponies which is lovely.

The ponies are enjoying themselves too.  I turned them out a few days ago without checking the gate across the other side of the field because it is always closed.

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It had however been accidentally left open after a dog walk and naturally the ponies noticed – they were soon through the gate and munching on the lush grass on the other side.

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Luckily there were two more gates between them and the road.

It taught me the lesson though – always check all the gates!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.