We do not have the best hacking out here. Everything involves a long trek on a road and there are no bridle paths near us. I have, however, been very lucky with my neighbours and a couple of them let me ride over their fields.
Unfortunately those fields have both been sold but I have relatively new neighbours in the other direction who have now given me permission to ride in their fields.
This is a lovely space for riding and I am so grateful to have access to it. We can wend our way round several fields (and a bit of woodland!) and make a very decent length ride with only a short amount of roadwork to get there. It is wonderful.
It has been a long time since the ponies last had a jump. We stopped jumping in October or November when the field got too wet to be safe and of course we had a long gap over lockdown when first I wasn’t riding at all and then I was being extra careful when I did. Now though, I have finally made the effort to set the jumps out again. Typically, the dog was the most excited about this.
I wasn’t quite sure how Galahad would react to jumping for the first time in about nine months. He loves to jump and can get very strong and over excited. There was every possibility that those months off might mean he was unmanageable to start with.
Of course, as is pretty much always the case, I need not have worried at all. Galahad behaved impeccably and was even a little sluggish to start with – but then schooling on the flat is not at all exciting as far as he is concerned. He perked up once we actually started to jump and by the end he was starting to get a bit stronger and I felt I was having to hold him back.
We had a great time and I am looking forward to a lot more jumping over the summer.
While I was at home over lockdown, I decided to take part in an online trec competition. Galahad and I haven’t done any trec in a few years because of transport issues and, although I have known about competitions online, for some reason I have never got around to taking part.
I signed up whilst I was still not riding so I only entered the in-hand classes. We have only done a handful of those before so I wasn’t entirely sure how we would get on but it promised to be a fun way to use our time.
It was fun too. Many of the tasks were things I knew we could do fairly competantly but there was the odd thing – such as getting Galahad to touch a pole with his nose and then his foot – which we had never even attampted before. I have, however, been introducing him to some clicker training which was invaluable in training for these – although we still haven’t quite got the touching with a foot yet.
I signed up for five tasks as part of a league and they were all very different. The first felt much like a ridden test but there were also tests on the lunge and a specific polework one (which felt very messy but scored a lot better than I thought it would). Unfortunately I went back to work when I had only completed three tasks and that was overwhelming enough to stop me filming the other two before the closing date.
It didn’t matter though – the main aim had been to have fun and to give me something different to do with Galahad whilst I wasn’t riding him. It was certainly successful in that.
As ever, we are busy fighting the flies this summer. The ponies often get quite nasty bites but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet this year. Fingers crossed that it will stay that way. I did try a deet fly spray for the first time but it made Cookster’s skin peel a bit so I have gone back to the plain citronella version which does seem to be pretty effective too.
More of an issue than the bites is Cookster’s eyes. A combination of flies and his long forelock mean that they can get quite weepy. The fly mask obviously helps with that but often I go out to find the ponies looking like this.
Then of course, I have to go off and find the missing mask. Cookster spent a whole day without his mask this week which led to slightly swollen eyelids and a fair bit of discharge. That prompted me to plait his forelock up – it keeps it out of his eyes and definitely makes a huge difference as they are fully back to normal again. I like to think that it makes him look a bit like a unicorn too.
Sometimes I quite welcome the wet and windy days – there are far fewer flies about then!
I am not riding as much as normal at the moment – work is still a bit strange and stressful and when I get home all I really want to do is collapse in a heap. I am therefore mostly riding on my days off. I am hopeful that will change soon but for the moment that is how I am coping.
However, when I do ride I am so grateful that I can. There is nothing quite like taking Galahad out for a hack to make me relax and calm down a bit. We are not going as far as we might otherwise have done but it is so peaceful poddling along the lanes. Ponies really are the best kind of therapy.
Galahad has always been good at escaping into places he should not be. If there is a way out of a field he will find it so I really need to be extra careful about checking all the gateways when I turn him out. Sometimes though, I have moments of careless oversight.
I recently turned the ponies out into a small paddock without realising that a hurdle was slightly out of place and had left enough room for a pony to squeeze out. Luckily it only led along our stream, not onto the road and even more fortunate was the fact that I came out and found him very soon afterwards.
I wasn’t too worried – I just had to catch him and take him back. Nobody was in any danger. Then he decided he wasn’t ready for that and jumped into our neighbour’s field (there isn’t much of a hedge there – it is mainly a ditch and a drop from our side). The grass next door was pretty long and it’s quite possible that Galahad did not realise how far down he would actually go.
I had to walk round to the farmhouse and apologise profusely for my pony, whilst still observing social distancing. Then I had to try and catch him. Galahad found himself in a large field filled with far more grass than he has at home. Why would he want to be taken away from that? I spent a very embarrassing time completely failing to get hold of him. He did try a couple of times to climb back over the hedge but it was much harder going the other way!
In the end I resorted to trying to herd him which was also pretty difficult – again, it was a large field and there was only one of me. Eventually though, he allowed himself to be moved up to the farmyard where we could corner him and my Dad could grab hold of his fly mask. I got out of there as quickly as I could!
Galahad had looked very beautiful in all that long grass but it is definitely not an experience I want to repeat!
As I’ve mentioned before, the lockdown meant that Galahad did not get his second clip this winter. That didn’t really matter all that much – especially as I didn’t ride him for so long. It is just a bit annoying that he is still moulting!
More irritating for me though was the fact that his bridle path was growing out. He has so much mane that the bridle path is very useful to have – plus it looks pretty silly when it is growing out and sticking straight up in the air!
I decided though that this at least was something I could deal with and attacked it with the scissors. It may not be quite as neat as it would have been with clippers but it did the job and he looks much smarter again. Perhaps this year I’ll remember to trim it throughout the summer too!
As I work in retail I have been furloughed for the last twelve weeks. However, Monday’s re-opening of shops in England means that I have been called back in and have spent the past few days helping to set up the shop with its new social distancing measures in place.
That has meant some long, tiring days which has obviously curtailed my riding time. The past couple of weeks have been wonderful – I was able to go out and ride or play with the ponies whenever I wanted. It is going to be a bit of a shock going back to being restricted to before or after work only!
Even that hasn’t happened for the past couple of days – I have been drained at the end of the day and haven’t wanted to do anything beyond collapsing on the sofa. Of course, once I’m back into the routine that will change but for the moment the ponies have had a few days off. I don’t think they’re worried!
During lockdown we have of course been limiting our trips out shopping as much as we possibly can. Given that it is difficult to buy all of our own food and the ponies’ food from the same place I have been so grateful that a local tack shop has been driving around to make deliveries in the area. Not just of pony food either – I’ve been able to top up my fly spray, training treats and even dog food too.
We’ve been getting all of our deliveries dropped off at the gate which meant I had an excuse to drive the lawn tractor too which was fun.
I very much appreciated getting the delivery – I do not cope so well with the heat and standing for an hour or so in blazing sunshine queuing to get into the shop would have made me feel terrible. This way was a lot less stressful and I am so grateful.
I wouldn’t have believed it a couple of months ago but we are in desperate need of rain. The grass is just not growing and any already there is burning brown in the sun!
I also have the problem that the ground – particularly in the yard and stables – is getting very dry and dusty. Cookster is quite sensitive to dust and so is liable to cough if he’s kept in at the moment. The ponies are therefore currently turned out all the time. With the grass not growing they shouldn’t get too fat.
I’m also giving the ponies some time turned out on the lane each day. That way they have access to some nice, fresh grass which has got to be more appetising and is more nutritious too.
I have to supervise these forays though – otherwise the ponies are liable to wander off. Yesterday the ponies grazed happily for an hour. Then Galahad determinedly walked back to the field with Cookster trailing in his wake. Cookseter was happy to stay and eat but Galahad had clearly had enough!