After our busy day on Saturday, Sunday was wonderfully restful.
I had two lovely hacks, the ponies behaved well, the sun was shining and everything seemed right with the world.
My reward for riding and looking after Cookster – my sister’s pony after all – was to find him absolutely covered in mud.
At first I thought t was highly ironic that I was wearing my ‘Living the dream’ gilet. Who dreams of spending their Sunday afternoon scrubbing mud off of a pony? Especially one who is moulting.
However, as we pottered up the hill, I realised that actually it was an amazing day. If anyone had told my twelve year old self that one day I would be able to spend a sunny afternoon playing with two ponies and riding them I would have been thrilled. I really am living the dream.
Yesterday Galahad and I were at another dressage competition. As it was a small, friendly event we had a go at doing two Prelim level tests – we normally do one Intro and one Prelim.
Always correctly attired!
Cantering is not our strong point – Galahad’s weaker hindquarters makes it hard for him, especially picking up the correct lead on the right rein. However, it is good to push yourselves a bit and I thought we were up to it.
Galahad felt pretty relaxed in the warm up which was a good sign after our last outing. Something spooked him just as we were entering the indoor arena though so we shot in at ninety miles an hour and it took him a while to settle again. I did for a minute think we would have a repeat of last time but once we got going he went really nicely.
It only took two attempts to get the correct lead on the right rein but I was so focused on that I muddled myself a little and cantered our circle in the wrong place. Other than that it was a nice test though. We scored 62% – which for us is good at Prelim level – and came in fourth.
Our second test was better navigationally and felt really good to ride too. It took us three goes to get the right canter lead but otherwise I was very pleased with it. Our score was 64.8% which gave us sixth place. Both tests got us some nice comments from the judge but as ever we need to work on getting Galahad responding better to my leg and covering the ground more. We seem to have managed to crack the straightness issues we had so I’m sure this will come in time as well.
Mainly though, I was pleased with how relaxed and calm he was. It made for a lovely day overall and the dressage classes were almost incidental.
It was an odd thing for us though to be competing later in the day. Most of the time I am hanging about after my classes but this time Galahad was loaded back onto the lorry almost as soon as we finished.
Partly that was to keep the ponies warm – the wind was a little chilly – but it was also the end of the day. Once the ponies were loaded there was only one test left to watch. It made me feel very grown up!
It was a great day which has given me a lot of confidence that if we work hard we can improve and do even better in the future. Definitely something to work towards!
Waiting for our turn (with my Dad as groom!)
The ponies have gone away for a short working holiday. Galahad and I are going to a dressage competition on Saturday and I have been making the most of a couple of days off to use my instructor’s school for a bit of practice.
The ponies were collected yesterday morning, although owing to some crossed wires we were ready twelve hours too soon. We had some nice in hand grazing time though!
Galahad and I had a pretty good schooling session yesterday and a proper lesson today. I was pleased with how we did – especially compared to the lack of brakes in our last lesson! I was having some trouble getting the correct canter lead on the right rein and we really need to work on getting Galahad’s near hind leg working correctly. It has always been his weak point but it has improved immensely and I am generally pleased with him.
Driving home was fun – the snow in the middle of the road was frozen hard and high enough to scrape the bottom of my car – I thought for a moment I was going to get stuck!
Just when we thought that spring was on its way, this happened.
This winter storm has been dubbed the ‘mini beast from the East’ which, as my sister says, rather suggests a woodlouse with a snow machine.
We drove home last night through a proper snow storm but about two miles from home the snow suddenly just stopped and we thought we would get none at all. It did eventually start snowing though and by this morning everything was white.
I always find the snow fascinating for watching wildlife – the tracks are great – and this morning I spent quite some time watching the pair of thrushes that arrived here recently. I am very much hoping that they will nest and we will have a little brood of them.
We also had a proper snowball fight for the first time in ages – the snow last time was not great for snowballs. We even built a little snowman!
We did managed to go for a very short ride. Galahad was a little chilly to start with and it didn’t really feel safe to go too far but it was wonderful to get to use my riding skirt in earnest!
By that time a lot of the snow had melted but as we came back in it was snowing again and pretty soon all the green was hidden once more. It is still snowing now, although not as much as it was, and I will soon be curled up by the fire with a book and a cup of tea. It is a pretty good day.
Our hacking at the weekend was pretty exciting – relatively speaking. First Cookster and I met our neighbour and then immediately afterwards a Waitrose van. At first I was hugely impressed with the amount it slowed down for us – especially as we weren’t actually on the road at the time. Then I realised it was trying to turn into the same lane as us and so it had to slow down because we were just in the way. Oops.
Next we encountered a lady in her back garden chasing away the pheasants. As she lives on the edge of a pheasant shoot I think she is fighting a losing battle! Cookster was remarkably calm about that though and barely batted an eyelid. We then of course met the Waitrose van coming back but this time I made sure we were well out of the way.
Galahad and I had a very calm ride really and only met one car. They were extremely good at slowing down to pass us – so much so that Galahad started to grow restless waiting on the verge. I had pulled him up from what he thought was going to be a canter and he was not overly happy about it. It was lovely to see that the driver was so aware of slowing down to pass us though.
As you can see, it was rather a wet day but we had a great time!
By Sunday it was safe enough to ride again so Galahad and I set off up the hill. I love the snow but it did feel good to be riding.
Not that all the snow was gone – it wasn’t quite clear in the valley and we didn’t have to go far up the hill to find more.
It is all gone now and what with the heavy frosts and a few sunny, dry days, the ground was beginning to dry out and show signs of recovering from our very wet winter.
For the last couple of days though it has poured with rain and the mud is just as bad as it ever was. It does make life interesting – we usually use the stream to soak the ponies’ overnight haynets and with it flowing as strongly as it is at the moment that takes quite a bit of strength!
Even before the snow came last week we were living in a beautiful, frozen landscape. The mud had frozen hard, which make walking much easier, and even the stream froze – in some places all the way across.
It wasn’t quite strong enough to bear my weight but the dog had no problems at all. I’m not even sure she realised it wasn’t normal ground.
The water tank in the yard was very well frozen and that was enough to bear my weight. In fact, it was a bit of a problem because although we could break the ice it just kept freezing throughout the day. Once the snow came the ponies were eating a lot more hay which meant they needed more water too. We had to increase the number of water buckets inside the stables – they still froze but with only a very thin layer of ice – and we periodically topped them up with warm water as well. The ponies loved that!
We also stopped soaking the overnight haynets for a while too. They just froze solid and made eating very difficult indeed for the ponies!
Despite the problems though, everything was simply beautiful and I miss the frost now the rain has come back and we are once again sloshing through the mud.
In the end we were let off pretty lightly with the snow this week. We had a blizzard forecast to start at three on Thursday afternoon and it arrived bang on time. There were some absolutely beautiful snowflakes – something I haven’t seen very often.
By five o’clock we had a pretty decent covering of snow – enough for some tobogganing – and by Friday morning everything was white. The high winds meant that it was hard to tell just how much snow had fallen – some places had a couple of inches and in others there were drifts over a foot deep. It might not sound like much but we hardly get any snow down here (we live in a valley and are pretty sheltered) so even that is very exciting for us.
In some patches the snow had blown away altogether – as you can see, the lane is very patchy. However, all the bits with no snow were covered with a sheet of ice so it was still extremely slippery.
I love the snow though so I have been having a whale of a time. The ponies haven’t minded it either, although they have been a bit skittish – possibly because they aren’t getting much exercise. I was impressed at their snow-scraping skills – they first saw a decent amount of snow eight years ago and have barely seen any since, yet they still know how to find the grass!