Sunshine and Sheep

This weekend has been another filled with glorious sunshine. It makes such a difference not to be battling the elements when I am out with the ponies and of course the sunshine does a lot to make everyone smile too.

Cookster is now fully recovered and is pottering along on ours hacks just as usual. He may even be feeling the joys of spring himself – he had quite a turn of speed when we cantered this morning. The ground is not quite up to schooling yet – it is so much drier but very thick and sticky. Not at all conducive to nice riding!

Galahad is also carrying on as usual. We had a fun experience yesterday when a whole flock of sheep looked like they wanted to see us off the premises.

Galahad knew what was happening long before I did, standing stock still and staring up the hill. I assumed he was just aware of the pheasants in the hedgerow but no – all the sheep in the field came running over to see what we were up to. That was one thing but when they started following us along the fence line it became somewhat unnerving.

I assume they were just looking for food but it was still quite a surreal experience. They did the same thing when we came back the other way so it really seemed a bit personal. Luckily Galahad was not fazed at all – we used to keep sheep at home so he is used to them. Not that that would stop him spooking at them if he felt like it!

Tranquility and Chaos

As I was riding home on Galahad today I realised that the air was feeling slightly less wintry. Yes the fields are still absolutely sodden – no chance of recording a dressage test just yet – but there was that undefinable feeling in the air that perhaps spring is not so far away after all.

I know I have shared this view many, many times before but it gave me such a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquility today. Just that small effort of getting on the pony and riding out is so good for me and it really does make all the difference. It was a lovely feeling to have as I got home.

Then I opened the tackroom door to find this scene inside. The dog can’t be trusted out on hacks so I shut her in as I left. She has a perfectly good bed in there but she had to pull out the clean numnahs and curl up on them instead. Naturally she was wet and muddy too so I have plenty of pony laundry to do now. There is a bright side though – I had been putting off the laundry and these were the only two clean numnahs left. It was definitely time to get them washed!

Frozen Mud

I seem to be writing a lot about the state of the ground at the moment – but it is a big factor in my life right now. I was meant to be doing an online dressage competition with my riding club in January but the ground was so sodden that there was no chance we could do a decent test. Even at walk and trot Galahad was reluctant to go forward.

This week has been wonderful though. All those minus temperatures – and very strong winds – froze and dried the mud up so we could just walk over the top of it. It still wasn’t suitable for schooling of course but it did make life so much easier. The dog was happy too – she hates mud and always takes twice as long to get somewhere as she should because she goes the long way round to keep her feet dry.

Today the rain is back – and with a vengeance too! It has been absolutely tipping it down and the mud is pretty much back to where we started. Dry feet were nice while they lasted!

Galahad and I still enjoyed ourselves on our hack though and we admired these very cosy looking sheep. At least, I admired the sheep – Galahad was probably eying up all that lovely hay!

First Aid

It feels like it has been raining for weeks. The fields are absolutely sodden and there is even standing water in places. It’s not ideal but it’s something we have to expect in the winter – although I don’t remember them being quite so wet before! It can cause a whole host of problems though and I was not entirely surprised when Cookster came in slightly lame the other day – standing around in wet mud is ideal for causing hoof abscesses.

I was well prepared to deal with that, although I did have to order more duct tape as we were getting rather low. What I did not expect was that Cookster would stand so patiently in an Epsom salts solution. He is not a fan of standing still at the best of times. Apparently though all it takes is a haynet and he won’t budge. Again, that isn’t something that should have surprised me!

All of this did mean that I finally got some use out of Galahad’s treat ball which has been gathering dust because it is far too scary for Galahad to contemplate. Cookster though will do anything for food so it was a great tool to keep him from boredom.

Not that he spent all that much time cooped up – I wanted to keep him outside as much as possible and tried to pick out the least muddy spots for him. Of course, all the fields are wet but we managed pretty well considering.

Cookster is of course not mine but my sister’s pony and as she couldn’t come to visit him she sent him his own special delivery of some polos and a postcard.

The polos were very popular and the postcard is now decorating the stable and looking cheerful. The polos had to be shared with Galahad who was glad of that but still seemed to be jealous of all the attention Cookster was getting. Or possibly he just wanted extra food!

Cookster seems to be better now and is running around the field without a care. It is always such a relief when they get better.

Pony Watching

As with every winter, we are now finding that we have very little grass left in the fields and we are looking for ways to keep the ponies fed without feeding them too much of our hay – it would be nice if that lasted a bit longer! Our main problem at the moment is that the fields are so incredibly wet – nothing has a chance to grow.

The lane still has a decent amount of grass in it though so the ponies have been having an hour or two of turnout there most days. It is very difficult to fence off securely so we normally sit out there with them to make sure they don’t wander off – although so far their heads have pretty much stayed down in the grass and they have barely moved. This is something we usually do in the summer when it is lovely to sit out in a deckchair with a book. Things are obviously a bit different at the moment so we have a car parked at the end of the lane, I make sure I am wearing many layers and I always take a blanket and a cup of tea. Providing I manage to keep myself warm enough it is actually quite enjoyable.

The ponies never take long to learn a new routine – especially where food is involved. By the second day they were quick to come when called to the gate. Now every time we walk up the lane they come running – just in case we feel like feeding them!

They have also got a little more adventurous now – one of their favourite places to graze is on the top of this bank. It doesn’t look like the most appetising grass to me but apparently it is worth the climb – and the effort involved in getting down again!

Acrobatics

Yesterday was quite the adventure.

I took both ponies out for a gentle hack around the fields (separately – not together) and as Galahad and I were heading home I thought it would be a good idea to canter up the grass in the lane. The fields are absolutely sodden at the moment so it’s the only place we can actually canter.

The field gate leading back to the stables is halfway up the lane and I knew Galahad would want to go that way. Usually I can keep him going past it but he breaks into a trot in doing so. This time I was determined to keep the canter. I was actually successful in that but I failed to keep him straight and he ducked into the gateway. That wouldn’t have been so bad but the gate – which I had left wide open – had swung until it was almost closed. There was just about room for an Exmoor pony to squeeze through but not so much for my legs, one of which got caught on the latch and I was pulled out of the saddle. The next thing I knew, Galahad pulled the reins out of my hand and galloped for home.

No, I should not have been wearing wellies for riding – I was lazy and hadn’t bothered to change them. Chances are I might not have come off if I had. I was incredibly lucky – no broken bones, just some bruises and pulled muscles. Galahad too was lucky – he could easily have seriously damaged himself on the bolt on the gate. That being so, my training kicked in and I got back in the saddle – which is now covered in mud and in serious need of a clean – and we cantered past the gate a few times. This time though it was firmly shut!

My clothes were in no fit state to go in the washing machine and as the hosepipe is frozen I made use of the stream to get rid of the worst of the mud. It’s an incredibly useful resource!

Wassail!

Every year we make sure to wassail our apple trees to ensure that we get a good harvest in the autumn. Our wassailing last year was certainly effective – we had an excellent crop of apples and we still have a good number of jars of apple jam waiting to be eaten. We almost left it too late this year (today was the last day for wassailing) but we weren’t going to leave it out.

On the odd occassion in the past the ponies have joined in this ritual. This year they were just bystanders – but they were very interested in what was going on and followed us from tree to tree to see if there was anything in it for them.

They were not fans of the noise intended to scare away evil spirits though!

The dog has always accompanied us on these ritual trips but like the ponies she has normally been a bystander. This year she was an enthusiastic participant – she barked and even played the tambourine.

With all that noise we should have a bumper crop of apples this year!

Pony Obstacle Course

Galahad and I had one last ‘outing’ for the year when we took part in the utility pony class for the Christmas Exiefest. I was very tempted by the dressage and Prix Caprilli tests as well but decided that the field was too soggy for us to perform at our best. The utility pony gave us plenty of work to do by itself!

Most of the obstacles didn’t worry us too much but I did have some issues with the curtain. Galahad didn’t even want to go near it to start with and it took a lot of patience and cajoling to get him walking through. Even then, we had to pin the curtain to the side. Luckily the test sheet specifically stated that we wouldn’t be penalised for dismounting for this obstacle.

Any other problems were mine rather than Galahad’s – things like my getting the scarf completely tangled up in the reins on our first attempt. Galahad stood like a rock though, just turning his head to see what on earth I was trying to do to him.

Despite letting myself get frustrated by the curtain I had a lot of fun doing this class. I didn’t think we had done well enough to place but I was glad we had taken part. I was therefore astonished to get the results sheet and find that we had won the class. Galahad had worked very hard though and he definitely deserved the win.

I was so proud of him and I would definitely recommend that anyone who gets the chance to do a class like this should take it – it is a lot of fun!

Wintry Landscapes

Much of the country has had snow over the past few days. We have not but we did get some heavy hailstorms and as it has been so cold the hail didn’t melt but lay about on the ground looking absolutely beautiful.

We went out for a little potter on the ponies to enjoy it. We had a look at the roads but decided they were just too icy to be safe so we stuck to riding about the fields and up our own lane. Its surprising how much of a ride you can get in a few fields!

Both ponies were feeling very jolly and bouncy so I was fully prepared for them to explode and for me to end up on the floor. However, they behaved impeccably and we had what may have been the most sedate trot ever. That was a relief and so I had a lovely time admiring the view. It was the best way to start the new year!

Christmas Cheer

The ponies and I have been having a lovely, restful Christmas. It began for the ponies on Christmas Eve with apples and carrots added to their dinner. Then they had treats brought out to them early on Christmas morning.

The dog was very interested in them too – she has brilliant balance on two legs!

Today we went for our Boxing Day walk (yes we were a day late but I had to work yesterday) and I brought Galahad along too. He was somewhat inclined to think that the slower pace was designed to allow him to snack but was otherwise well behaved and happy to amble aong with the others. He may have been influenced by the knowledge that these rare walks together usually mean apples at some point! I on the other hand was kept going by chocolate coins.

We had a lovely time and had plenty to look at – the river has burst its banks and is rushing along very noisily. The weather was glorious while we were out but by the time I finished untacking it was hailing and the dog and I were glad to get back indoors for hot chocolate and stollen. For me at least – the dog had to make do with water!

Once we’re back on our own land the dog can come off the lead. She’s getting much better at coming along with me on a pony but is definitely not ready to do so on the roads!