Galahad and I have made it to our first show of the year! Granted it was a virtual show but still – we had fun. This was the Exmoor Pony Society‘s annual Midlands Pony Show which of course we would never normally get to but as it had to go online and was open to all we thought we might as well give it a go.
I was attracted initially to the utility class – essentially a combination of handy pony and trec elements and it looked like it would be a fun obstacle course to try. We built the required course and set off.
Galahad was amazing. A couple of the obstacles needed a bit of practice to get him feeling comfortable but that was completely understandable. Funnily enough I’ve never actually asked him to stand still while I put up an umbrella before! However, he behaved perfectly and the only problem we had was that I was fighting the wind and took what felt like forever to get the umbrella down again.
Since we were entering one class I thought we might as well do an actual showing class as well – although I fully expected to come last in that one! The ground is getting a bit sticky and Galahad does not really appreciate being asked to canter on it.
The results and clips of everyone’s entries were posted on the society Facebook page and it was a lot of fun to see how others tackled the obstacles. Our rosettes came this week and I was amazed to find that we had come fourth in both classes. That was definitely not something I expected but I was very pleased indeed. Galahad definitely deserved them.
I have been very much enjoying the autumn colouring recently. The hedges and trees have been simply glorious with colour and I have been revelling in it. I know that the lockdown in England means many people are not able to ride at the moment so I thought I would share one of my rides with you.
It all started out well as I headed off up the lane but before I reached the road I realised that I didn’t have my hi-viz tabard on. I did debate about going out anyway but it wasn’t really sensible – it may be a small, quiet road but it it is also a small, twisty road and cars coming round the corners don’t have much time to see you. I was riding a brown pony and wearing a dull green jacket. I was basically invisible.
So, here is a very small section of a hack.
I didn’t really have time to grab the tabard and go out again so Galahad and I had a little canter in the field to use up the time we did have instead.
It was just as well that I hadn’t gone too far as I found that my paranoia about having not shut the dog away in the tack room was for once not paranoia at all and she had wandered off. I panicked terribly but found that she had just gone back home and was waiting patiently outside the back door. Evidently the tack room is far too boring!
This year – for what is probably the first time – I have actually put all my jumps away for the winter at a decent time. As in, not in February when it is nearly time to get them out again. Although when I say I did it I really mean we – my parents were brilliant and helped me out.
Not that this means I am suddenly super organised. No, this productivity is just because I have entered an online dressage competition and I needed the space to set out a dressage arena. My flatwork is usually done around the jumps but that doesn’t really go down so well in an actual test.
Once again, my parents helped me mark it out properly – it would have taken me forever to do it all myself. We even did the maths to make sure the corners really were right angles.
The dog was not at all interested in the process but she did have fun making one last use of the jumps before they went away.
The ponies of course couldn’t care less.
It is all looking rather lovely and I am very pleased to see it. All it needs now is the actual riding of the test!
The ponies have had a very exciting week as the tractor came to trim our hedges. They have obviously seen the tractor before and as one of their fields is next to a main road they see both tractors and huge lorries go past all the time without turning a hair. They still had to run away from this one though – maybe it was more threatening because it was invading their space.
However, they didn’t panic and it wasn’t long before they stopped running and stood to watch. They were still jittery though and kept a close eye on the tractor’s movements. They were very careful to keep a safe distance away from it!
It was good to get the hedges done – they look so much nicer and neater now. We were lucky too that although we have had a lot of rain recently – and the fields are rather wet now – the tractor didn’t actually make too much of a mess of the ground. I thought it would be a quagmire but it stood up pretty well. Hedgetrimming smells so nice too – it was a good day!
Galahad and I haven’t been out to a single show this year, for very obvious reasons. We don’t normally go to all that many shows anyway but still it has been something fun that I have missed so when I got the chance to spruce him up and show him off I jumped at it.
I have an online book club with an amazing group of friends and we were inspired by some great book swap videos to create our own. With our shared love of the works of L M Montgomery we had to focus on her books and somebody mentioned that it would be great if we could have a pony and trap in the video. I don’t have a trap (I would love one!) but I do have easy access to the pony so Galahad was roped in to help.
It was a lot of fun to smarten him up and – until we added the flowers – it really did feel like a show day. I even painted his toes with hoof oil. Not that you can tell – they got muddy again befre we started filming. That’s pretty typical for a show day too though!
My sister was standing just out of shot while we were filming, ready to catch him if he got bored and wandered off but he was too busy wondering what on earth I was doing! He stood still and watched me the entire time we were filming and generally behaved perfectly. He really stole the show and was generally very cute.
Having the ponies in at night over the winter is of course more labour intensive than their summer routine. Apart from the mucking out, I have to deal with Cookster’s mild dust allergy.
Over the summer it can sometimes be difficult even to shut him in the stable – the dry weather makes everything too dusty. With a reasonable amount of rain we lose that problem but I do still have to think about haynets which need soaking for him.
We don’t have a hay steamer but have developed our own system and soak the nets in the stream. That works perfectly as it washes all the dust away so the nets aren’t sat in dusty water. The only problem is that hay floats so we have to stand on the nets to weigh them down.
As you can see this is a job for all the family!
It does make us look a bit odd though – my sister once found herself being watched by an estate agent and the people he was showing round the field next door. They didn’t buy the house and we still don’t know if it’s because they thought the neighbours were mad!
Over lockdown we didn’t really do much schooling. Obviously we did the odd bit of flat work when warming up for jumping but proper, serious schooling got put on hold – mainly because we had nothing to work towards. We are still not going out to shows but I am hoping to do some online dressage soon so schooling has suddenly become important again!
Galahad was not impressed in our first session. Flat work is never his favourite thing anyway and he has got used to not having to do it. He was rather sluggish to start with and I could really tell how much schooling does improve his way of going – I couldn’t get him to bend to the right at all. He is improving now but it just shows how important schooling really is.
As well as the flat schooling I have introduced some gridwork into our routine. Partly because it is good for Galahad’s rather weak hindquarters and partly because he loves to jump so it makes the session more interesting for him too. I wanted to try some bounce distances which we have only ever done in lessons before. Those tend to be with other people whose horses inevitably have longer legs than Galahad so normally he can squeeze in an extra stride and avoid the bounce altogether. The advantage of being at home is that this time I could shorten the distances until they were right for him.
The first time we tried it he had no clue what to do with his feet and we were very scrappy on our way through. It didn’t take him long to figure it out though and soon he was bouncing through like a pro.
I think Galahad enjoyed it and I know I did so we’ll be keeping the grid up as long as the state of the ground lets us.
This week I decided it was time to switch the ponies to being stabled at night. It has been raining so much and at least if they are out during the day we can see if they are being stupid standing out in the rain getting cold (Cookster especially is very prone to to doing this) and do something about it. At night they are just left to their own devices.
Of course, the ponies were not aware of this and were waiting impatiently to be brought in on the morning of the day of the change. They were very miffed to be left out in the field! Then in the evening I had to traipse across the field in the dark (because of course I didn’t remember a torch) to find them. By the next evening though, they had it sussed and were all ready and waiting for their dinner.
It is obviously much more work to have the ponies properly stabled but there is something so cosy and satisfying about tucking them up in bed. Plus, it guarantees me the best welcome in the mornings!
This weekend autumn seems to have hit us with a vengeance. We have had two days of driving rain and splashing through puddles. Of course, that didn’t stop us going out to ride – it just meant that we got very wet indeed. We also spent a lot of time inspecting the hedges as the ponies turned their heads away from the wind. Gettng out at all was interesting – we had to ride across a field and turn into the wind. The ponies were quite happy to walk forward but they definitely did not want to turn left!
I also made the mistake of wearing my spare pair of waterproof trousers as they were handily in the tackroom , as opposed to in the house. It turns out that I did buy the newer pair for a reason and there is not really any point in keeping the old ones for emergencies. They didn’t keep me dry at all.
In brighter news, the ponies had their back checks this week. Galahad hasn’t seen the back lady in about a year (he normally gets looked at ewvery six months or so but covid caused a hiatus) and he miraculously only needed a few tweaks – no full treatment and no time off afterwards. That is a first and a definite reason to celebrate.
As with many horsey people, I also love dogs. The idea of roaming the countryside with my pony and my dog is a dream which seems just perfect. Unfortunately, my dog is a spaniel cross and she will go off after any smell which takes her fancy. On foot I can keep her in check but I would not feel at all happy on a pony, especially if we were on or near a road – which we would be.
However, she has learnt to be sensible and look after herself when she is around the ponies in the yard. I used to have to shut her up away from the ponies and their dangerous feet but her sense of self preservation has finally kicked in and she is now more or less sensible about keeping her distance. Of course, I still keep an eye on her but I can now be much more efficient than I was.
The ponies are also very well behaved around her. They are used to dogs running round at my instructor’s yard so they barely react to them now. As long as the dog doesn’t do anything to startle them they pretty much ignore her. Which is exactly how I like it – we can all just get on with our own thing. It is wonderful.
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