Acrobatics

Yesterday was quite the adventure.

I took both ponies out for a gentle hack around the fields (separately – not together) and as Galahad and I were heading home I thought it would be a good idea to canter up the grass in the lane. The fields are absolutely sodden at the moment so it’s the only place we can actually canter.

The field gate leading back to the stables is halfway up the lane and I knew Galahad would want to go that way. Usually I can keep him going past it but he breaks into a trot in doing so. This time I was determined to keep the canter. I was actually successful in that but I failed to keep him straight and he ducked into the gateway. That wouldn’t have been so bad but the gate – which I had left wide open – had swung until it was almost closed. There was just about room for an Exmoor pony to squeeze through but not so much for my legs, one of which got caught on the latch and I was pulled out of the saddle. The next thing I knew, Galahad pulled the reins out of my hand and galloped for home.

No, I should not have been wearing wellies for riding – I was lazy and hadn’t bothered to change them. Chances are I might not have come off if I had. I was incredibly lucky – no broken bones, just some bruises and pulled muscles. Galahad too was lucky – he could easily have seriously damaged himself on the bolt on the gate. That being so, my training kicked in and I got back in the saddle – which is now covered in mud and in serious need of a clean – and we cantered past the gate a few times. This time though it was firmly shut!

My clothes were in no fit state to go in the washing machine and as the hosepipe is frozen I made use of the stream to get rid of the worst of the mud. It’s an incredibly useful resource!

Wassail!

Every year we make sure to wassail our apple trees to ensure that we get a good harvest in the autumn. Our wassailing last year was certainly effective – we had an excellent crop of apples and we still have a good number of jars of apple jam waiting to be eaten. We almost left it too late this year (today was the last day for wassailing) but we weren’t going to leave it out.

On the odd occassion in the past the ponies have joined in this ritual. This year they were just bystanders – but they were very interested in what was going on and followed us from tree to tree to see if there was anything in it for them.

They were not fans of the noise intended to scare away evil spirits though!

The dog has always accompanied us on these ritual trips but like the ponies she has normally been a bystander. This year she was an enthusiastic participant – she barked and even played the tambourine.

With all that noise we should have a bumper crop of apples this year!

Pony Obstacle Course

Galahad and I had one last ‘outing’ for the year when we took part in the utility pony class for the Christmas Exiefest. I was very tempted by the dressage and Prix Caprilli tests as well but decided that the field was too soggy for us to perform at our best. The utility pony gave us plenty of work to do by itself!

Most of the obstacles didn’t worry us too much but I did have some issues with the curtain. Galahad didn’t even want to go near it to start with and it took a lot of patience and cajoling to get him walking through. Even then, we had to pin the curtain to the side. Luckily the test sheet specifically stated that we wouldn’t be penalised for dismounting for this obstacle.

Any other problems were mine rather than Galahad’s – things like my getting the scarf completely tangled up in the reins on our first attempt. Galahad stood like a rock though, just turning his head to see what on earth I was trying to do to him.

Despite letting myself get frustrated by the curtain I had a lot of fun doing this class. I didn’t think we had done well enough to place but I was glad we had taken part. I was therefore astonished to get the results sheet and find that we had won the class. Galahad had worked very hard though and he definitely deserved the win.

I was so proud of him and I would definitely recommend that anyone who gets the chance to do a class like this should take it – it is a lot of fun!

Wintry Landscapes

Much of the country has had snow over the past few days. We have not but we did get some heavy hailstorms and as it has been so cold the hail didn’t melt but lay about on the ground looking absolutely beautiful.

We went out for a little potter on the ponies to enjoy it. We had a look at the roads but decided they were just too icy to be safe so we stuck to riding about the fields and up our own lane. Its surprising how much of a ride you can get in a few fields!

Both ponies were feeling very jolly and bouncy so I was fully prepared for them to explode and for me to end up on the floor. However, they behaved impeccably and we had what may have been the most sedate trot ever. That was a relief and so I had a lovely time admiring the view. It was the best way to start the new year!

Christmas Cheer

The ponies and I have been having a lovely, restful Christmas. It began for the ponies on Christmas Eve with apples and carrots added to their dinner. Then they had treats brought out to them early on Christmas morning.

The dog was very interested in them too – she has brilliant balance on two legs!

Today we went for our Boxing Day walk (yes we were a day late but I had to work yesterday) and I brought Galahad along too. He was somewhat inclined to think that the slower pace was designed to allow him to snack but was otherwise well behaved and happy to amble aong with the others. He may have been influenced by the knowledge that these rare walks together usually mean apples at some point! I on the other hand was kept going by chocolate coins.

We had a lovely time and had plenty to look at – the river has burst its banks and is rushing along very noisily. The weather was glorious while we were out but by the time I finished untacking it was hailing and the dog and I were glad to get back indoors for hot chocolate and stollen. For me at least – the dog had to make do with water!

Once we’re back on our own land the dog can come off the lead. She’s getting much better at coming along with me on a pony but is definitely not ready to do so on the roads!

Soggy Dressage

This has been a busy end of the year for Galahad – from no shows at all we have been to several in the past few weeks – at least virtually! The latest was the British Riding Clubs’ Christmas Cracker online dressage competition.

Given our lack of practice over the summer, the sogginess of the field and Galahad’s reluctance to canter on such wet ground I had intended to enter the intro level test as an easier re-introduction fo us. Sadly I realised that my one novice level test (not on Galahad) last year disqualified me from that class so I ended up doing the prelim riding test instead. I had never done a riding test before so I wasn’t quite sure how it would go but as I was expecting our performance to be somewhat under par anyway I wasn’t too worried and just gave it a go.

It definitely was not our best effort – Galahad was very reluctant to go near the wettest part of the field and it really showed in the test. On the other hand, we hadn’t ridden a whole dressage test for a year and we had fun trying so it was still a good experience for us. When the results came through we had scored 65% which considering everything was not a bad effort. We ended up coming 18th in the class – not brilliant but not last!

I had a lot of fun filming the test and I will definitely be entering more online competitions in the future. Hopefully the ground will dry out a bit before then though!

Pony Express

Today it was time for our annual pony post excursion to deliver our local Christmas cards. This year my sister was able to come too so we had a socially distanced hack around the lanes. I had a parcel to deliver this year as well so the backpack was dragged out for the first time in months and we were ready to go.

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This is one of my favourite traditions – I love dressing up in tinsel and Christmas outfits, singing carols as we ride. Although not much singing was done this year – the pandemic means that I don’t get to see much of my sister these days so a lot of chattering went on instead! Sadly it was pouring with rain just before we started so I had to wear a jacket but if you look closely you can just about see my elf hood and bell.

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We had a lovely time – the rain eased off and in the end we barely got wet at all so it was a fun jaunt around the lanes. I wanted to do this from the time I helped my riding instructor’s daughter deliver their cards when I was about ten and it still feels very special every time. Christmas is definitely coming now!

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Houdini Pony

The ponies have definitely given us some excitement this week. First of all they have been clipped – which isn’t hugely exciting in itself, although they do look very smart now.

We are not normally quite so Christmassy so early in December but we dressed up for an online competition and I didn’t want to take it off again!

However, we then had two days of heavy, very cold rain. These ponies are apparently not all that bright and stand out in the rain even when they have access to shelter. When I went to get them in for the night Galahad was definitely cold and I changed their rugs for nice dry ones. The rugs are waterproof and the ponies were still dry but all that rain meant that the fabric was cold and would take a long time to warm up.

The rugs were still wet and cold in the morning – and the weather hadn’t warmed up – so I left Cookster’s stable rug on underneath his turnout. It was a big more rug on him that I would have liked but his turnout rug is basically just a waterproof sheet so I knew he would be fine for a bit and I intended to take it off again before long.

I obviously wasn’t quick enough though – when I went out again in the evening this is what I found.

The impressive thing is that he was still wearing his turnout rug which showed no signs whatever of being disturbed. It’s a new talent I didn’t know he had and it’s a good job the stable rug was so near the yard so I saw it before I inspected Cookster. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what had happened!

Show Time!

Galahad and I have made it to our first show of the year! Granted it was a virtual show but still – we had fun. This was the Exmoor Pony Society‘s annual Midlands Pony Show which of course we would never normally get to but as it had to go online and was open to all we thought we might as well give it a go.

I was attracted initially to the utility class – essentially a combination of handy pony and trec elements and it looked like it would be a fun obstacle course to try. We built the required course and set off.

Galahad was amazing. A couple of the obstacles needed a bit of practice to get him feeling comfortable but that was completely understandable. Funnily enough I’ve never actually asked him to stand still while I put up an umbrella before! However, he behaved perfectly and the only problem we had was that I was fighting the wind and took what felt like forever to get the umbrella down again.

Since we were entering one class I thought we might as well do an actual showing class as well – although I fully expected to come last in that one! The ground is getting a bit sticky and Galahad does not really appreciate being asked to canter on it.

The results and clips of everyone’s entries were posted on the society Facebook page and it was a lot of fun to see how others tackled the obstacles. Our rosettes came this week and I was amazed to find that we had come fourth in both classes. That was definitely not something I expected but I was very pleased indeed. Galahad definitely deserved them.

Autumn Adventures

I have been very much enjoying the autumn colouring recently. The hedges and trees have been simply glorious with colour and I have been revelling in it. I know that the lockdown in England means many people are not able to ride at the moment so I thought I would share one of my rides with you.

It all started out well as I headed off up the lane but before I reached the road I realised that I didn’t have my hi-viz tabard on. I did debate about going out anyway but it wasn’t really sensible – it may be a small, quiet road but it it is also a small, twisty road and cars coming round the corners don’t have much time to see you. I was riding a brown pony and wearing a dull green jacket. I was basically invisible.

So, here is a very small section of a hack.

I didn’t really have time to grab the tabard and go out again so Galahad and I had a little canter in the field to use up the time we did have instead.

It was just as well that I hadn’t gone too far as I found that my paranoia about having not shut the dog away in the tack room was for once not paranoia at all and she had wandered off. I panicked terribly but found that she had just gone back home and was waiting patiently outside the back door. Evidently the tack room is far too boring!