After Galahad and I had our schooling incident last week I was banned from riding when nobody else was home so I used my riding time for groundwork instead. This is something I definitely do not spend enough time doing. Galahad can be very stiff through his hindquarters and exercises like turns on the forehand and lunging over a curving line of poles are very good for getting him to use his hindlegs better.
His turns on the forehand actually went very well – better than they ever have before I think. He is starting to step through very nicely and he seemed to me to be tracking up better than usual too – his back feet were very nearly stepping right into the place where his front feet had been which is really good for him.
We even tried stepping sideways along a pole as we failed completely at that the last time we went to a trec event. Galahad still didn’t really understand what I was asking but we were starting to get there and did manage a few steps in the right direction. It is definitely something we can build on next time.
I was very pleased with the session. It showed that we really are making improvements and it felt as though we were working more together and were recovering the bond which had been lacking a little over the last few days. Galahad has very good manners but even so he had been getting a little tricky to catch and it was starting to feel a bit as though we weren’t communicating very well. Now we seem to be back where we were and we are both happier for it. At least, I am – I hope he is too! It just shows how important it is to make time for groundwork.
Schooling this week has been interesting. I went out on Tuesday and although I didn’t feel like I had Galahad’s full attention – he felt very distracted and full of pent up energy – he was at least doing what I asked when I asked. Then my sister walked into the field, he apparently found her terrifying and we went tearing up to the other end of the field. I wasn’t too concerned by that – he can still be very spooky – but he then galloped right back to the other end again which is less common. The neighbouring farmer had just come into his field to feed his sheep which seemed like a possible reason for the second dash.
We went back to walking in circles and my sister went back indoors. I was very aware of the farmer going through the next gate but Galahad didn’t react and I hoped that was it.
It wasn’t. Next thing I knew we were galloping up and down the field again. I think it wouldn’t have been so bad but that particular field is very long and thin so Galahad can really get going before he has to stop or turn. This time he ran into the field shelter which was rather scary as I had no option but to duck right down. I did manage to stop him though and got off as it seemed safer! I led him round the field a few times until the farmer had left and Galahad seemed more settled. I knew I had to get back on but I got my Dad to hold Galahad as I did so. I was barely back in the saddle before he took off again, straight into the shelter. This time though I managed not to let him gallop up the field. We walked a lot of circles near the gate and then ventured a little further which was going well until we turned back and Galahad tried to take off again.
This time though, I was starting to get the hang of him. I couldn’t stop him immediately but I could direct him so we cantered several circles, then trotted a few and finally walked again. When he eventually started to relax I stopped him and got off. It seemed like a sensible idea to stop while we were ahead and not try to push it too much.
It was rather an unnerving experience but hopefully we were just having a bad day. I have ridden several times since then and although he once tried to canter home across the field we haven’t really had any more problems. Everyone is entitled to an off day once in a while!
I am finding that there are several benefits to having a clipped pony. Beyond the obvious one that he gets a lot less hot and bothered without his coat.
Firstly, I don’t have this to deal with.
Not that he lost his coat all at once anyway but he would gradually moult over several months and it is nice not to have all that hair floating around. Of course, when I ride my sister’s pony I still get covered in hair but at least his moulting is over relatively quickly. She is getting so much off him when she brushes him that she filled a bird feeder in the hope that it would be taken for nest building.
I tried to take the picture myself but something – who knows what – startled Galahad and we disappeared round the corner of the house. It seemed prudent to hand over the camera!
Secondly, I get to use my lovely body brush which I only use on Galahad’s summer coat – so it only normally gets used for a couple of months in the year.
Lastly, it means that Galahad’s brands are very visible and not surrounded by long hair which means it is much easier to put aloe vera gel on them.
The aloe vera has definitely improved them. They will probably never be perfect but anything I can do to make them a bit better for him has got to be a good thing.
I am definitely enjoying Galahad’s new shorn status!
It is now just about dry enough to school in the field. Most of the time. If it rains it is still not really a good idea but I have managed to school twice this week which was brilliant!
In general the sessions went very well. Galahad was pretty good at listening to me and although he spent a few minutes trying to load his right shoulder so he could go home it didn’t take him long to settle. We did a lot of circles and changes of direction and he started working quite nicely. We even managed some fairly decent turns on the forehand which have always been hard for him but are good for helping him to use his hindquarters properly.
The ground still isn’t perfect yet though. We only had one little slip but it ended up being pretty dramatic. We were cantering round a corner and it threw me off balance which made him spook and throw me further off. We went cantering across the field with me practically coming off sideways. I imagine it must have looked hilarious but from on top it was bit worrying! Luckily I managed to hang on, we recovered and the rest of the session went well. It was a good start and we even got to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Last weekend my riding club ran a fun jumping event and I decided to have a go. Galahad had never jumped a course indoors before but he has been in several indoor schools so I was not anticipating any trouble. It was rather chilly and drizzling so we spent a lot of time walking up and down outside still wearing a rug. A first for Galahad but one he took in his stride.
Our first class was 40-45cm – nice and simple to start. Apart from a bit of hesitation at the bogey fence by the gate (a lot of horses stopped there) we had a lovely round, although as usual it wasn’t particularly flowing – there was a lot of trotting round the corners.
Luckily the hesitation wasn’t counted as a refusal and we got through to the jump off – our first! After the first fence the whole jump off course was on the left rein which made it easier to keep the canter and as he had been so good I felt a lot more confident about pushing him a bit more. Of course we weren’t competitive speed-wise but suddenly it felt like we were jumping a proper course instead of several separate jumps strung together. It was a fantastic feeling.
Next was a pairs class at the same height but all against the clock. I now felt a bit of team responsibility so pushed for a bit more speed and Galahad was amazing. We jumped a lovely clear round which was only slightly spoiled by him shying away from the box at the end and delaying my pair’s start. It was only when I was back in the box watching his round that I remembered I could have cut some corners but that was just my being over-cautious. We actually managed to come fourth in the pairs class which I was not expecting. Another first – a rosette for jumping!
Lastly we had a speed class, this time at 60-65cm. We had another really good round with only a few strides of trot for lead changes but sadly one pole down. We weren’t fast enough to be competitive but Galahad was amazing, clearing the jumps with plenty of room. We even managed to cut one corner! I was so proud of him.
I had such a great day and it finally felt like we had really got the hang of riding a course. It helped that the fences were nice, plain poles with no scary fillers but it seems like a big step forward for us – Galahad is growing up!
Galahad’s haircut obviously necessitated an addition to his wardrobe. It is a bit too cold for him to be without a rug now!
Unfortunately I forgot to take a photograph of it when it was brand new and clean and it didn’t take long for Galahad to make it look rather used. It isn’t just the mud – he has caught it on brambles several times and has even managed to tear the lining a bit.
He has been very good about wearing it though. He still sometimes rolls his eyes a bit when I approach him with it but he stands still to let me put it on. He even lets me do it when he is loose which is very useful!
Look how smart he is!
I have also finally been able to use his fleece blanket in earnest. We went out with the riding club last weekend and as it was rather cold and drizzly I kept the blanket on whilst I was riding around outside the ring. I was sure he would not like that at all but he barely seemed to notice. Which was great as it meant I could use the front of the blanket to keep my own legs dry when it started raining properly!
When I got on my half clipped pony for our lesson on Friday I was ready for anything. He had never been clipped before and my sister has vivid memories of a freshly clipped pony throwing her off. In the event I needn’t have worried. Galahad had a bit more energy (a good thing) but that was all. I could feel myself tensing ready for an explosion though which is definitely something I need to try to avoid. The lesson went really well. Galahad is perhaps a little stiffer than he was in the summer but that is only to be expected – we haven’t been able to school in months. He is also still using his right shoulder as an escape route so I haven’t improved much there. Hopefully as the ground dries out I will get the hang of stopping him.
We also jumped for the first time since before Christmas and I was thrilled with the way he went. He had a good look at the water tray before he jumped it but he didn’t stop. In fact,the only stop we had was at the scary fillers in the second part of the double. Galahad was not at all keen on those but once we got over them once we had no trouble at all.
It was a really good session and clearly demonstrated that the clip was worthwhile. Galahad had been working hard for an hour and wasn’t sweating at all.
The next day I again took advantage of the limited time we had access to the school. Galahad was fully clipped by then but still behaving impeccably. No jumping this time but still a good session and I think we were showing some improvement, even if it was erratic. My sister was schooling her pony at the same time so we would switch between working in a fairly nice outline to working very hard at escaping through the shoulder towards them. In general though it was very encouraging work.
It has got to the point where Galahad needs clipping. I am able to ride every day now and it is warm enough to make him uncomfortable in his fur coat, even if we just go out for a short hack. I have never clipped anything myself so the ponies went away to my riding instructor’s this week. I spent the few days before they went trying to get Galahad used to the sound of the clippers. Since we don’t own any I used a drill instead. Without the actual drill in it of course!
I arrived for a lesson after work on the day the ponies went to find Galahad half clipped. He had so much hair that it had taken an hour and three quarters just to get this far.
It wasn’t until the next day that he was finished. He wore out three sets of blades in the process but as my instructor pointed out he has ten years worth of hair which has never really shed properly. Next year it should be much easier!
He has completely changed colour but is looking rather smart and his dapples are showing up rather well! The training with the drill apparently paid off as although he was obviously rather scared about the clippers he stood very still. He also seems to be coping pretty well with his lack of hair. I didn’t know how he would react to being ridden but he behaved very well. Now we should hopefully be able to get some proper schooling done without him getting too tired.