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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20201213_181959.jpg

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20201213_112235.jpg

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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 20201213_185054.jpg

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!

Exciting Times

Exciting things are happening here!

This year – for what is probably the first time – I have actually put all my jumps away for the winter at a decent time. As in, not in February when it is nearly time to get them out again. Although when I say I did it I really mean we – my parents were brilliant and helped me out.

Not that this means I am suddenly super organised. No, this productivity is just because I have entered an online dressage competition and I needed the space to set out a dressage arena. My flatwork is usually done around the jumps but that doesn’t really go down so well in an actual test.

Once again, my parents helped me mark it out properly – it would have taken me forever to do it all myself. We even did the maths to make sure the corners really were right angles.

The dog was not at all interested in the process but she did have fun making one last use of the jumps before they went away.

The ponies of course couldn’t care less.

It is all looking rather lovely and I am very pleased to see it. All it needs now is the actual riding of the test!

Invasion!

The ponies have had a very exciting week as the tractor came to trim our hedges. They have obviously seen the tractor before and as one of their fields is next to a main road they see both tractors and huge lorries go past all the time without turning a hair. They still had to run away from this one though – maybe it was more threatening because it was invading their space.

However, they didn’t panic and it wasn’t long before they stopped running and stood to watch. They were still jittery though and kept a close eye on the tractor’s movements. They were very careful to keep a safe distance away from it!

It was good to get the hedges done – they look so much nicer and neater now. We were lucky too that although we have had a lot of rain recently – and the fields are rather wet now – the tractor didn’t actually make too much of a mess of the ground. I thought it would be a quagmire but it stood up pretty well. Hedgetrimming smells so nice too – it was a good day!

A Very Different Show Time

Galahad and I haven’t been out to a single show this year, for very obvious reasons. We don’t normally go to all that many shows anyway but still it has been something fun that I have missed so when I got the chance to spruce him up and show him off I jumped at it.

I have an online book club with an amazing group of friends and we were inspired by some great book swap videos to create our own. With our shared love of the works of L M Montgomery we had to focus on her books and somebody mentioned that it would be great if we could have a pony and trap in the video. I don’t have a trap (I would love one!) but I do have easy access to the pony so Galahad was roped in to help.

It was a lot of fun to smarten him up and – until we added the flowers – it really did feel like a show day. I even painted his toes with hoof oil. Not that you can tell – they got muddy again befre we started filming. That’s pretty typical for a show day too though!

My sister was standing just out of shot while we were filming, ready to catch him if he got bored and wandered off but he was too busy wondering what on earth I was doing! He stood still and watched me the entire time we were filming and generally behaved perfectly. He really stole the show and was generally very cute.

If you’d like to see the full video, you can find it here on my Bookstagram account. You may notice that Galahad appears elsewhere on the page too!

I did show the video to Galahad – he was polite but not really interested. Cookster on the other hand was desperate to find out what was going on. I’m pretty sure he thought there was food involved!

Odd Jobs

Having the ponies in at night over the winter is of course more labour intensive than their summer routine. Apart from the mucking out, I have to deal with Cookster’s mild dust allergy.

Over the summer it can sometimes be difficult even to shut him in the stable – the dry weather makes everything too dusty. With a reasonable amount of rain we lose that problem but I do still have to think about haynets which need soaking for him.

We don’t have a hay steamer but have developed our own system and soak the nets in the stream. That works perfectly as it washes all the dust away so the nets aren’t sat in dusty water. The only problem is that hay floats so we have to stand on the nets to weigh them down.

As you can see this is a job for all the family!

It does make us look a bit odd though – my sister once found herself being watched by an estate agent and the people he was showing round the field next door. They didn’t buy the house and we still don’t know if it’s because they thought the neighbours were mad!