Spring Cleaning

The ponies being away last week seemed like an excellent opportunity to get in some spring cleaning.  It was more than time for me to properly clean the rubber mats in the stables and the beautiful weather made it seem like an even better idea.

It was a difficult job getting the mats out of the stables – they are very heavy and the dog didn’t help by jumping all over them.

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Having got them all out but done no actual cleaning I then swanned off to a riding lesson leaving my sister with all the mucky work.

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I was not expecting her to finish the job but she worked incredibly hard and not only cleaned the underside of the mats themselves but scrubbed out the stables as well.

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All that was left for me to do was clean the other (less dirty) side of the mats, wait for everything to dry and put it all together again.  It was actually extremely satisfying to clean something which was so very dirty.  I could definitely see that I was making a difference!

The stables looked beautifully clean afterwards.  Of course, now the ponies are home again they are not quite so pristine but at least they won’t need such a thorough clean for a while.

Easter Bonnets

Sorry for the lack of blog yesterday – I was rather caught up in the Easter festivities.  I sing in a church choir and we had five services over the past few days.  It is something I love to do but it did mean that by yesterday evening I was exhausted and completely failed to write anything.

It has been a glorious weekend here and the ponies are enjoying the spring grass very much.  The downside is that Galahad’s mane is once again filling with burrs most days and I spend most of my grooming time extracting them.  On the bright side, he did look very fetching in his Easter bonnet.

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We have been having a lovely weekend.  Normal service will be resumed next week.

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A Most Exciting Day

Yesterday the ponies and I went to the riding club dressage competition.  This one was held at my instructor’s yard so we were wonderfully relaxed and at home.  It felt strange not to be going away to compete but it was fun to be involved in the set up.

Cookster and I did the Intro C dressage test.  We are not quite ready for a canter test yet – our steering can be dodgy and we often lack impulsion – but our walk and trot tests are definitely improving.

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He felt nice and responsive in the warm up and was actually going forward which was gratifying.  He was a little wobbly in the test itself  and very noisy – he kept calling for Galahad and the judge commented that we could have done with some music to go with his vocals!

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This was only our third test though and I was extremely pleased with how he went.  We ended up with a score of 63% and a fourth place so I was thrilled.

I had time for a quick cup of tea and then I had to get Galahad ready for the pairs class.  My sister couldn’t ride with me so I had recruited one of the children on the yard.  Our practices had definitely improved but we were not expecting much – for two ponies who live together they were not really working very well as a pair.  Galahad tried to bite Cookster more than once and Cookster was determined to play follow my leader instead of riding side by side.

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Having two ponies to compete is wonderful but it does keep you busy!

However, once we got into the arena I was pleasantly surprised.  There was no fighting at all and although we definitely lacked impulsion – I had to work very hard to keep Cookster up with Galahad – we were more or less together most of the time.  It certainly felt much better than any of the practices had done and was a lot of fun.

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Some of the other pairs had looked very good though so we were not really expecting to place very high.  However, at the prize giving our names kept not being called until there were only two pairs left.  I had picked the other pair as the winner and so I was convinced we would be called next.  We weren’t though which meant we had won the class with 68%.  We were both astonished but absolutely delighted.

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Cookster was very miffed he didn’t get to eat the Easter egg!

After that excitement I had to calm down to take Galahad in for the Prelim 13 test.  I had never done that one before but I really like the way it flows.  Galahad felt great warming up but by this point I was freezing – it was a beautiful day but the wind was icy.

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I kept my coat on as long as I possibly could!

The test felt pretty good and not rushed as it can do sometimes.  Most important for me though was that we got the correct canter lead on the right rein.  That is a major achievement for us and meant that no matter the result it was a successful test for me.  In fact, we came fourth with 66% and were the best of the senior competitors.  It was a very successful day for the junior riders!

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Once the ponies were away I had to rush and write for the judge.  It’s a job I find very interesting and it is possible to learn a lot from hearing all the comments as the tests are ridden.  I also found it fascinating watching the novice tests as I could see that some of the movements were very similar to the ones we had done in the prelim test but just slightly more advanced.  It shows how we need to be working to improve.

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‘We’ve been working hard all day – where’s our dinner?’

I had the most wonderful day and was so proud of both ponies – they really did work hard.

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Excursions

Once again I have been off gallivanting without Galahad to compete for the riding club.  This time I was taking part in an eventer’s challenge – a round of show jumps immediately followed by a round of cross country fences.

I have only done a few cross country courses over the past couple of years and those were on Galahad so the jumps were very little.  I probably haven’t jumped a big round of cross country fences for about ten years so I was more than a little apprehensive.

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The horse felt quite tight and wound up underneath me and we had a couple of argumentative moments in the warm up ring which did not help my confidence.  However, I am nothing if not determined and we made our way into the ring.

Of course, we had to have a very good look at all of the scary tents and vans along the edge but once we were past those I asked for a canter and he shot off at top speed.  I felt like I had no brakes at all but we had gone through the start so I could hardly turn away from the first fence to settle him before we began.  I just had to commit to the jump and hope for the best.

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Look at his tail fly!

Thankfully once we were over the fence he started listening to me and we finished the show jumps at a much more respectable speed.  In fact, it would have been better if we had gone a bit faster but I was just grateful I wasn’t being carted away!

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Show jumping immediately followed by cross country means cross country colours all the time – no show jackets!

We finished the show jumping with no penalties and moved on to the cross country fences.  Suddenly we found our rhythm and the scary, solid fences flowed beautifully.  We had an unfortunate stop at one of them – the team had noticed that several people were having trouble with horses ducking out to the left at that particular fence and I think I overcompensated and sent him the other way – but he jumped beautifully and I found myself enjoying it more than the show jumping.

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Professional photographs are from Dorset Photo Event

We even managed to clear the tricky joker at the end of the course – a show jumping gate 10cm higher than the rest of the fences.  I had the most wonderful day and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It is so good to be part of the team again!