As ever, we are busy fighting the flies this summer. The ponies often get quite nasty bites but thankfully that hasn’t happened yet this year. Fingers crossed that it will stay that way. I did try a deet fly spray for the first time but it made Cookster’s skin peel a bit so I have gone back to the plain citronella version which does seem to be pretty effective too.
More of an issue than the bites is Cookster’s eyes. A combination of flies and his long forelock mean that they can get quite weepy. The fly mask obviously helps with that but often I go out to find the ponies looking like this.
Then of course, I have to go off and find the missing mask. Cookster spent a whole day without his mask this week which led to slightly swollen eyelids and a fair bit of discharge. That prompted me to plait his forelock up – it keeps it out of his eyes and definitely makes a huge difference as they are fully back to normal again. I like to think that it makes him look a bit like a unicorn too.
Sometimes I quite welcome the wet and windy days – there are far fewer flies about then!
I am not riding as much as normal at the moment – work is still a bit strange and stressful and when I get home all I really want to do is collapse in a heap. I am therefore mostly riding on my days off. I am hopeful that will change soon but for the moment that is how I am coping.
However, when I do ride I am so grateful that I can. There is nothing quite like taking Galahad out for a hack to make me relax and calm down a bit. We are not going as far as we might otherwise have done but it is so peaceful poddling along the lanes. Ponies really are the best kind of therapy.
Galahad has always been good at escaping into places he should not be. If there is a way out of a field he will find it so I really need to be extra careful about checking all the gateways when I turn him out. Sometimes though, I have moments of careless oversight.
I recently turned the ponies out into a small paddock without realising that a hurdle was slightly out of place and had left enough room for a pony to squeeze out. Luckily it only led along our stream, not onto the road and even more fortunate was the fact that I came out and found him very soon afterwards.
I wasn’t too worried – I just had to catch him and take him back. Nobody was in any danger. Then he decided he wasn’t ready for that and jumped into our neighbour’s field (there isn’t much of a hedge there – it is mainly a ditch and a drop from our side). The grass next door was pretty long and it’s quite possible that Galahad did not realise how far down he would actually go.
I had to walk round to the farmhouse and apologise profusely for my pony, whilst still observing social distancing. Then I had to try and catch him. Galahad found himself in a large field filled with far more grass than he has at home. Why would he want to be taken away from that? I spent a very embarrassing time completely failing to get hold of him. He did try a couple of times to climb back over the hedge but it was much harder going the other way!
In the end I resorted to trying to herd him which was also pretty difficult – again, it was a large field and there was only one of me. Eventually though, he allowed himself to be moved up to the farmyard where we could corner him and my Dad could grab hold of his fly mask. I got out of there as quickly as I could!
Galahad had looked very beautiful in all that long grass but it is definitely not an experience I want to repeat!
As I’ve mentioned before, the lockdown meant that Galahad did not get his second clip this winter. That didn’t really matter all that much – especially as I didn’t ride him for so long. It is just a bit annoying that he is still moulting!
More irritating for me though was the fact that his bridle path was growing out. He has so much mane that the bridle path is very useful to have – plus it looks pretty silly when it is growing out and sticking straight up in the air!
I decided though that this at least was something I could deal with and attacked it with the scissors. It may not be quite as neat as it would have been with clippers but it did the job and he looks much smarter again. Perhaps this year I’ll remember to trim it throughout the summer too!
As I work in retail I have been furloughed for the last twelve weeks. However, Monday’s re-opening of shops in England means that I have been called back in and have spent the past few days helping to set up the shop with its new social distancing measures in place.
That has meant some long, tiring days which has obviously curtailed my riding time. The past couple of weeks have been wonderful – I was able to go out and ride or play with the ponies whenever I wanted. It is going to be a bit of a shock going back to being restricted to before or after work only!
Even that hasn’t happened for the past couple of days – I have been drained at the end of the day and haven’t wanted to do anything beyond collapsing on the sofa. Of course, once I’m back into the routine that will change but for the moment the ponies have had a few days off. I don’t think they’re worried!
During lockdown we have of course been limiting our trips out shopping as much as we possibly can. Given that it is difficult to buy all of our own food and the ponies’ food from the same place I have been so grateful that a local tack shop has been driving around to make deliveries in the area. Not just of pony food either – I’ve been able to top up my fly spray, training treats and even dog food too.
We’ve been getting all of our deliveries dropped off at the gate which meant I had an excuse to drive the lawn tractor too which was fun.
I very much appreciated getting the delivery – I do not cope so well with the heat and standing for an hour or so in blazing sunshine queuing to get into the shop would have made me feel terrible. This way was a lot less stressful and I am so grateful.
I wouldn’t have believed it a couple of months ago but we are in desperate need of rain. The grass is just not growing and any already there is burning brown in the sun!
I also have the problem that the ground – particularly in the yard and stables – is getting very dry and dusty. Cookster is quite sensitive to dust and so is liable to cough if he’s kept in at the moment. The ponies are therefore currently turned out all the time. With the grass not growing they shouldn’t get too fat.
I’m also giving the ponies some time turned out on the lane each day. That way they have access to some nice, fresh grass which has got to be more appetising and is more nutritious too.
I have to supervise these forays though – otherwise the ponies are liable to wander off. Yesterday the ponies grazed happily for an hour. Then Galahad determinedly walked back to the field with Cookster trailing in his wake. Cookseter was happy to stay and eat but Galahad had clearly had enough!
With the changes to the lockdown which were announced last week, the BHS relaxed its advice not to ride. I was of course delighted to think that I might be able to ride again.
I started off by taking a couple of days to lunge the ponies under saddle. I was fairly sure that I wouldn’t have any problem with them but they have had two months off and I didn’t want to take any chances. A trip to hospital is definitely not desirable at the moment. I also took them for a bit of a walk up and down the lane so they got the idea of that again too.
Neither of those posed any kind of problem so actually riding was the next step. Again, not taking any chances was the order of the day so I wore my back protector despite the fact that we were just going to poddle up the lane. I was still fairly sure that it wouldn’t be an issue but I was also aware that I was nervous and that the ponies – especially Galahad – would be sensitive to that.
In the end, both ponies were absolutely fine. Galahad behaved just as usual and Cookster’s only problem was that he was trying to nap a bit more than usual. That was only to be expected though – just a few days off can affect him.
It was so good to be back in the saddle. I had actually been intending to leave it another day before riding but in the end I couldn’t resist hopping on for a very short stroll. We still haven’t ventured out onto the road or the open fields but nonetheless it was a simply wonderful feeling.
Every winter when the field gets too wet for riding I have to put all the jumps and dressage markers away. Inevitably, I’m not very good at doing that and so they often don’t get put away until it is basically time to get them out again. Even then, they would probably just stay where they were if it were not for the fact that the field needs harrowing and that’s a lot easier if there are no jumps in the way.
That time had finally come so the dog and I spent a very hot afternoon lugging poles across the field. At least, I carried them – the dog just jumped over them.
It seems only a few weeks ago that we were knee deep in mud but the dry weather we have had since lockdown started means that the fields are now bone dry and the harrow kicked up a huge cloud of dust. I only did a tiny bit of the field but my Dad – who did most of the work – had to wear a mask for the worst parts.
It was warm work but the field looks so much better for it now.
This week I would normally have been spending many happy hours watching Badminton Horse Trails. Of course, that wasn’t possible this year and although it had to be that way, it was still rather sad and I knew I would miss it. However, I was saved by the genius of the NAF 5* Virtual Eventing who have been working hard to raise money for medical charities around the world.
The trot up outfits on Wednesday were so much fun – I especially loved Ginny Howe’s teddy bear audience and Tom Rowland’s roller blades. I also really appreciated having the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the riders’ yards – it is so interesting to see them!
Watching in style
The dressage days were more serious but it was great to get to watch some 5* eventing dressage and again those glimpses of the riders’ set ups at home. Spencer Sturmey’s test was particularly good and I was sorry to find he was eliminated – I was very much looking forward to his cross country round!
The cross country was a brilliant obstacle course with dogs and utterly hilarious – I haven’t laughed so much for ages. Similarly, the show jumping today (with bicycles!) was great fun to watch – although it seemed to be hard work! The cross country looked as much fun to do as it was to watch but I think I would have struggled more with the show jumping.
The whole week has been wonderfully entertaining and I so much appreciated all the work done by the organisers, riders and grooms to put this on for us. If you didn’t see it I would highly recommend heading over to the Virtual Eventing website or YouTube channel where you can still watch the live streams.