Making Do

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Spring!

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.

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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.

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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!

The Highs and Lows of Horses

Horses are a great leveller.  Three weeks ago I had a great day competing and qualified as part of a team for the British Riding Clubs’ Novice Winter Championships.  Last week we went to a combined training qualifier and I fell off in the warm-up for dressage.  Horses will never let us get too big headed!

He had felt quite tense and bouncy when we first started but I thought he had settled and he was actually working very nicely in walk and trot.  Then I asked for canter and he took off across the arena and exploded.  I found myself on the floor.

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I was only winded so we carried on but did not get our nice frame back before we had to go in to the test.  It was not very pretty.  The canter was far too fast (the judge said there was ‘much confusion’ in the transition) and he was resisting my aids the whole way round.  We did get round though and the judge was very kind in her final comments, saying that perservering will be worth it.

He nearly threw me off twice more in the show jumping warm-up which was not encouraging but as before I was hoping that the extra space and the ability to keep him moving forward in the competition arena would help me out.

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Thankfully, that did prove to be the case.  We were rather too fast and overshot many of the turns but all that practice keeping my eyes on the next fence no matter what really paid off and we managed to clear all the fences in the right order.  That was despite our stopping dead for no apparent reason as we went past a fence we had already jumped.  I can only assume that he thought I was asking him to jump one of the huge cross country fences around the arena and didn’t fancy it!

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About to stop dead!

Of course, our poor dressage performance meant that we stood no chance of a placing but it was good to finish on a positive note.  If nothing else, it reinforced what I already knew – I am much better at jumping than dressage!

Signs of Spring

We have had rain nearly every day for weeks.  The fields are absolutely sodden and the ponies are very often dripping when they come in.

However, we do have the odd day when we can really feel that spring is coming.  I rode out on Tuesday in beautiful sunshine – it was still rather cold but perfect weather for hacking out.

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Galahad and I had a lovely time pottering along the lanes.  The primroses and daffodils were out looking cheerful and making life feel good.  It is amazing how uplifting a bit of sunshine can be!

Riding Club Outing

A couple of weeks ago my riding club got to visit a local event rider’s yard for a demo.  I jumped at the chance to go as I love watching how other people ride.  You can learn so much from them – one of the most interesting parts of the Wilton Horse Trials was watching all of those very famous riders in the warm-up ring and seeing what they were doing.

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It was a fascinating evening.  We had a little course walk and were given some tips about working in the warm-up ring at competitions.  We also watched two horses being ridden – one much greener than the other – and it was very interesting to see the way they each developed.

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As you can see, the light was not great for photographs!

It was a freezing cold evening so I was very grateful for the hot cup of tea in a warm room halfway through!  I was also encouraged when things went wrong – not the fact that they had gone wrong but the way any errors were explained.  For example, when a pole was knocked down we were told that it was because the horse hadn’t been presented quite straight at the fence.  I always appreciate riders who don’t blame the horse for any errors and of course it is always good to know that mistakes can happen to anyone.

It was a great evening and I do hope we will have more like it.

Joyful Jumping

Today we got to compete in the showjumping qulaifier which should have happened two weeks ago – Storm Ciara had other ideas then!  As ever, I was looking forward to it and rather nervous at the same time.  The early morning did not help either – I never like getting up but half past four is just too early!

It was still blowing quite strongly even today but we made it to the show safely and in plenty of time to walk the course and get ready.  My horse was feeling rather bouncy and full of beans but I was hopeful that when we could keep going around the course – instead of doing single practice fences – he would settle down nicely.

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Photo Credit – BLM Photography

That did prove to be the case and in fact we achieved a clear inside the time which I think was a first for us in competition – we are not generally very fast but have been working on it!

The second round also included the jump off phase so there were several more jumps to navigate (and remember!).  I was a little worried about losing my way but managed to pilot us round without error.  The horse was amazing and jumped everything I asked – we rattled the last pole but thankfully it stayed up and we were again within the time.

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Photo Credit – BLM Photography

We were still nothing like the fastest combination but we were one of only two double clears which meant we were placed second individully.  Even better, we came first as a team which means we will be going to the winter National Championships next month.  I could not be more excited – and, naturally, terrified!

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Fashion Pony

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cookster has had to start wearing a rug to stop him freezing himself in the rain.  Obviously, we have had rather a lot of rain over the last week so the rug is very much needed at the moment.

However, although he measures for the same rug size as Galahad, the old rug he was using had rubbed his chest a bit.  Nothing too bad – his skin wasn’t raw, he just had a bit less hair than before – but he clearly needed something a bit better.

My sister therefore went shopping and decided on a much more exciting rug than Galahad has ever had.

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Sadly, it didn’t stay looking like this for long – most days he is just a muddy shade of brown.  Occasionally though, the rain manages to wash off some of the mud and the stags shine through once more.

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Riders of the Storm

Today I was meant to be show jumping with the riding club but Storm Ciara meant that it was understandably postponed and I had an unexpected day at home.

I have spent much of the day cosied up indoors – there’s nothing quite like a log fire and a book when the storm is raging.  However, I did manage to venture outside for a hack.

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I rode out in the morning when the weather wasn’t too bad.  There was of course constant rain – at times we couldn’t even see to the other side of the valley – and it was blowing a gale but actually it was quite exhilarating.

The ponies didn’t think so.  I thought they would be completely wound up but in fact they were pretty sluggish today and moped along with their heads lowered.  Not that I could really blame them – I’m sure they would have much preferred to be tucked up in the stables!

A Rant

I love living in the countryside.  I am very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and the scenery just adds to my enjoyment when we go out for a hack.

Some days though, it seems that somebody is trying to spoil that.  We go out for a ride and see so much rubbish littering the lanes.  These are tiny little lanes too with very little traffic – I know bigger roads are far worse.

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Apart from the aesthetic and environmental implications, the rubbish is actually dangerous for us personally.  We have to keep a very close eye on our field which runs along the side of the road as there is almost always some rubbish which ends up in there.  If the ponies ate it there could be terrible consequences.

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I just cannot understand how anyone can think it is okay to throw litter out of a car window.  I used to assume that it was people used to road sweepers coming along every so often.  Realistically though, these lanes are only used by locals.  I don’t know if they think someone will pick up after them or if they just don’t care but it makes me sad to see so much rubbish filling up the lane.  Please, always take you litter home to a bin or to be recycled!

Playing With Ponies

I had to go out pretty early this morning so was lazy and left the mucking out until I got home again.  I did have a nice free afternoon though, so – barring the mucking out – I could spend time just playing with the ponies.

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First of all, of course, I had to bring the ponies in.  I rode Cookster while Galahad plodded in beside us.  It is so wonderful to be able to wander along riding bareback.

I had two lovely, gentle hacks with the ponies, just pootling along the lanes.  It was a  very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

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Now of course, I am tucked up by the fire with a blanket, a cup of tea and a book just waiting to be read.  Perfect.