With the changes to the lockdown which were announced last week, the BHS relaxed its advice not to ride. I was of course delighted to think that I might be able to ride again.
I started off by taking a couple of days to lunge the ponies under saddle. I was fairly sure that I wouldn’t have any problem with them but they have had two months off and I didn’t want to take any chances. A trip to hospital is definitely not desirable at the moment. I also took them for a bit of a walk up and down the lane so they got the idea of that again too.
Neither of those posed any kind of problem so actually riding was the next step. Again, not taking any chances was the order of the day so I wore my back protector despite the fact that we were just going to poddle up the lane. I was still fairly sure that it wouldn’t be an issue but I was also aware that I was nervous and that the ponies – especially Galahad – would be sensitive to that.
In the end, both ponies were absolutely fine. Galahad behaved just as usual and Cookster’s only problem was that he was trying to nap a bit more than usual. That was only to be expected though – just a few days off can affect him.
It was so good to be back in the saddle. I had actually been intending to leave it another day before riding but in the end I couldn’t resist hopping on for a very short stroll. We still haven’t ventured out onto the road or the open fields but nonetheless it was a simply wonderful feeling.
Every winter when the field gets too wet for riding I have to put all the jumps and dressage markers away. Inevitably, I’m not very good at doing that and so they often don’t get put away until it is basically time to get them out again. Even then, they would probably just stay where they were if it were not for the fact that the field needs harrowing and that’s a lot easier if there are no jumps in the way.
That time had finally come so the dog and I spent a very hot afternoon lugging poles across the field. At least, I carried them – the dog just jumped over them.
It seems only a few weeks ago that we were knee deep in mud but the dry weather we have had since lockdown started means that the fields are now bone dry and the harrow kicked up a huge cloud of dust. I only did a tiny bit of the field but my Dad – who did most of the work – had to wear a mask for the worst parts.
It was warm work but the field looks so much better for it now.
This week I would normally have been spending many happy hours watching Badminton Horse Trails. Of course, that wasn’t possible this year and although it had to be that way, it was still rather sad and I knew I would miss it. However, I was saved by the genius of the NAF 5* Virtual Eventing who have been working hard to raise money for medical charities around the world.
The trot up outfits on Wednesday were so much fun – I especially loved Ginny Howe’s teddy bear audience and Tom Rowland’s roller blades. I also really appreciated having the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the riders’ yards – it is so interesting to see them!
Watching in style
The dressage days were more serious but it was great to get to watch some 5* eventing dressage and again those glimpses of the riders’ set ups at home. Spencer Sturmey’s test was particularly good and I was sorry to find he was eliminated – I was very much looking forward to his cross country round!
The cross country was a brilliant obstacle course with dogs and utterly hilarious – I haven’t laughed so much for ages. Similarly, the show jumping today (with bicycles!) was great fun to watch – although it seemed to be hard work! The cross country looked as much fun to do as it was to watch but I think I would have struggled more with the show jumping.
The whole week has been wonderfully entertaining and I so much appreciated all the work done by the organisers, riders and grooms to put this on for us. If you didn’t see it I would highly recommend heading over to the Virtual Eventing website or YouTube channel where you can still watch the live streams.
I know lots of peopgle are still able to ride during the lockdown but there are many who like me have chosen not to and more who just cannot.
For those of you who are missing your riding, I invite you to join Galahad and I on a hack from last summer. Think of it as pony ASMR!
We have been in lockdown for five weeks now and although riding has not been banned riders were asked to consider whether riding was really essential for us and our horses. Obviously, the answer is different for all of us but for me personally the answer is, ‘probably not’. The ponies are not hugely fit event horses and they have plenty of turnout so have no problem in stretching their legs. I have therefore not ridden since the morning of 23rd March.
That doesn’t mean the ponies are just lazing about getting fat though. They are bound to be less fit than usual – and I know I am – but I am trying to make a habit of getting them out to do some form of exercise or different activity every day. Mostly that has meant lunging, although we have been for some nice walks together over the fields and I am planning on building ourselves some trec style obstacles this week.
When I first started trying to lunge them years ago I had completely opposite problems with them. Galahad was so scared of me that he would take off, whilst Cookster would just stand and stare at me, completely bewildered. No amount of talking, waving or being led round by someone else had any effect – he would just stand there.
Now they are both much better and go round me quite happily. In fact, Cookster is now the one who can be a bit too forward and he has got very good at leaning out of the circle and pulling me with him if I’m not careful. I find that much easier to cope with than the nothing we had before though!
In a normal world I get Galahad a full clip around February time. Exmoors don’t tend to get clipped but he is so slow to lose his winter coat that if I don’t he still has the dregs of it in June and he gets far too hot when I ride him.
This year, however, his full clip got delayed until mid March and we all know what happened then! He is therefore left with just his original clip (done in November I think) and I have not one but two moulting ponies to contend with. Every time I brush them I get absolutely covered in hair.
On the bright side, I am at home all the time so it’s not like I’m short of time to groom them. Constantly grooming can get a little wearing though so I’m trying to spend just some time every day working at getting rid of the loose hair. Luckily the exercise they’re getting has dropped too so they’re not overheating!
Our work on the hedges is continuing apace. Our focus has shifted though – the hedge behind the stables had started to grow a bit close to the buildings and needed looking at. Then a very old tree stump collapsed against the wall of Cookster’s stable and we really did have to do something about it.
It is huge and very heavy so had to be cut up into smaller sections before we could move it. That was pretty time consuming and in fact we still haven’t finished – my Dad cut off enough so we could shift it away from the wall but it blunted the chainsaw blade and we have had to leave the rest for another day.
I had the far less impressive but very satisfying job of pulling all the brambles out of an elder tree. It is so good when you can actually see the difference you are making but it really is a never ending job. You turn around and more have sprouted out of nowhere!
It does mean that we spot the most beautiful things though – just look at these tiny little toadstools I found. They are so pretty!
This week has been an exciting one for the ponies – they have been spending a few hours each day in their summer pasture. This field has a stream in it and tends to be quite wet in winter so it can only be used when the weather is dry enough. We have been having such lovely weather for the past couple of weeks though that they have finally been turned out.
Only for a few hours each day though – they haven’t been in there for about six months so it it full of lovely, lush grass. The ponies love it but it would not do their waistlines any good at all if they were turned out there full time!
I thought this first turning out might be very exciting to see but it turned out to be rather dull. They weren’t at all interesting in running about – all they wanted was to eat that delicious grass. Very disappointing!
This weekend I should have been at the British Riding Club’s Novice Winter Championships but for obvious reasons that had to be cancelled. Instead, I have been spending the time helping out on the land.
My parents do a lot of work maintaining the fields and – although I would like to help more – I very rarely have enough time to do very much. Now, however, I have a lot of time and as the fields are right here by the house we can work on them without contravening any quarantine rules.
We have one hedgeline in particular which has been growing unchecked for several years. Our first job was to get all the brambles out, then there was a lot of sawing that needed to be done. We are getting a decent amount of firewood put aside for next winter and are shredding what we can of the rest to help with the mud situation (keeping any spiky bits away from the ponies) – although that has been drying up very nicely over the past few days.
It is a never ending job and once this hedge is done there will be plenty more to keep us occupied. The weeds along the edge of the stream may well be next – they don’t look much at the moment but they only take a few spring weeks to go mad.
The ponies seem to think that every load of shredded undergrowth – not to mention every opened gate – is meant for them and they have been following me about hopefully. I think their main aim was to be turned out into their summer field but it’s not quite dry enough yet. It won’t be long though!
It has been a very strange week for all of us but there have been some lovely, positive moments for us here as well.
Firstly, Galahad has a cheerful new set of ears which is really brightening up our hacks.
Secondly – as you can see if you look closely – the pussy willow is coming out and spring is definitely springing. It is always a wonderful feeling.
Today has been utterly glorious, with blue skies all day long. I managed to sit outside with my cup of tea and even felt like I was running the risk of burning. The dog had some time in the sun and Galahad enjoyed a day without his rug. I’m pretty sure he appreciated that!