Playing With Ponies

I had to go out pretty early this morning so was lazy and left the mucking out until I got home again.  I did have a nice free afternoon though, so – barring the mucking out – I could spend time just playing with the ponies.

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First of all, of course, I had to bring the ponies in.  I rode Cookster while Galahad plodded in beside us.  It is so wonderful to be able to wander along riding bareback.

I had two lovely, gentle hacks with the ponies, just pootling along the lanes.  It was a  very relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

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Now of course, I am tucked up by the fire with a blanket, a cup of tea and a book just waiting to be read.  Perfect.

Mounted Shepherds

Over Christmas Cookster and I had a Very Exciting Adventure.  We were riding up the hill and met a flock of sheep – not actually all that unusual but these sheep were neither in their field nor accompanied by a human.  We drove them back up the hill away from the main road and hoped that they would be obliging and slip back into their field.  Of course, they didn’t.

Luckily my parents were also out with the dog so my Dad could skirt round them and drive them back towards me and the gate.  Cookster had been boggling at the sheep the whole time so it was a lot easier for us to stand still and block the way back to the main road.

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This time the sheep were very obliging.  I swung the gate open, they trotted in and I shut it behind them.  All very simple really in the end!

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Learning to Stop

Several times recently I have been at demos which have told me that when I’m working on something with a horse and they get it right I should stop.  This is something I know very well in theory but for some reason I find it very hard to put into practice.

It is just so tempting to think, ‘Hurrah he’s got it – we’ll just do it once more and then we can stop.’  Of course, then we make a complete mess of it and end up doing whatever it was five times more until we get it right again.  Every time it happens I remind myself that next time I must reward Galahad by stopping as soon as we get it right.

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Yes Galahad is still wearing tinsel here. I took the picture last weekend – before Twelfth Night. All tinsel has since been removed!

It’s not necessarily that easy though.  We have recently been working on a pole work exercise which doesn’t always go to plan.  Today we got it right first time and it’s very difficult to stop after only one attempt – it doesn’t feel like a proper schooling session at all!  It’s yet another thing which will take time to learn.

Standing and Staring

When I bring the ponies in for the night I quite often stand and watch them eat for a few minutes – just enjoying the peace and the sound of the munching.  It turns out that it’s actually a very valuable stable management tool.

I was watching them on the evening of Boxing Day and realised Cookster didn’t look quite right – a little tucked up and shivery.  It had been cold and drizzly for most of the afternoon and Cookster is not always sensible about seeking shelter.  He was eating okay though and seemed fine in himself so I dried him off as well as I could and tucked him up in bed in pyjamas.

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PJ pony!

He was very quickly himself again but the next morning I sent him out with a thin waterproof rug on – he’s barely clipped so I didn’t want him too warm, just kept dry because apparently he can’t look after himself.

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Now of course I have the extra dilemma every day of wondering whether he should still be wearing it or not.  If it’s just cold and not wet then he doesn’t really need it but can I guarantee no rain?  Thankfully, as it is just a thin rug the risk of over rugging is pretty slim at the moment and he has certainly shown no signs of being too hot.  It’s a bit of a different experience for him though – he didn’t roll in the field for two days, although he was quite happy to lie down in the stable!

Christmas Revelries

On Boxing Day my sister came round to ride and we set off for our very tinselly Christmas hack.

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I always love riding out but it is especially great at the moment – it is such fun to dress the ponies up and carol our way along the lanes.  Good King Wenseslas was obviously the first choice for Boxing Day singing!

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Added to that, our parents usually come out on Boxing Day as well – their company is lovely but it also means we may get some tasty treats which are very welcome!

Christmas Deliveries

One of the exciting parts of Christmas for me is delivering our local Christmas cards by pony post.  We always dress up the ponies with tinsel and set off around the lanes carolling – although usually only when we think we can’t be heard!

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This year for the first time we were spotted by one of the recipients who very much admired us.  It is always nece to feel appreciated!

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Of course, such a ride has to be rounded off with hot chocolate and Christmas goodies.  The ponies got some carrots too.

If you celebrate I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

Super Samples

I love feed samples.  It is just so fun to try out different food for the ponies.  Of course, they usually come with a short conversation about the ponies and what they need, which means I get some samples of food that are actually recommended for them and not just random food which would not be suitable.  I lugged a huge range of samples all the way back from Burghley and I tried every single one.

It works too – I have actually bought a bag of Allen and Page’s Fast Fibre to try on the strength of the sample I got at Burghley.  It has lots of things to recommend it but I have to admit that the fact it can be served warm was a huge draw for me!

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This week Christmas came early for the ponies as we received a huge box of samples from Mikholl Ltd.  This is a new feed company based in the UK who makes organic horse feeds from what sounds like great ingredients.  They come in recyclable packaging too which is a excellent point for me – I love the sample bags!

They have only just arrived so I can’t comment much on them yet except to say that the ponies seem to like the alfalfa treats and the apple flakes went down well too.  I am very excited about trying them though.

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Sometimes there’s more reality than dream

For a couple of months every winter I can usually only ride twice a week on my days off.  It is almost dark when I leave for work and definitely dark when I get home so – as I don’t have floodlights – it is just not possible to ride.  Having said that, I did ride Galahad in the very, very dim the other day.  It was only around our fields and not on the road but was still rather nervewracking!

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This year I seem to be more than usually burdened (though they are not really burdens) with odd hours at work and extra rehearsals for Christmas concerts so that even when I have a day off I am still not free to ride in the daytime.  I am currently in the middle of what will be almost two weeks off for the ponies – something which can make me feel incredibly guilty, even though there is not really anything I can do about it.  It is what comes of having too many hobbies!

I have to remember that the ponies really don’t care if they don’t get ridden.  They have a whole field to gallop round and each other to play with so it’s not as if they are cooped up and getting bored.  In fact, it is quite possible that they prefer being left alone!

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It does sometimes seem as if I have all the hard work and none of the fun at the moment – the ponies still need mucking out and feeding even when they are not being ridden.  However, I do really enjoy all of that too – just spending time with them is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to ride instead.  Besides, I will get to ride soon!

Advent Carolling

Today being the first of December – and also Advent Sunday – I allowed myself to bring Galahad’s Christmas ears out of storage.  After all, we can use them for such a short time, we might as well make the most of them.

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As usual he did not object to them at all, despite the fact that I made a complete mess of actually getting them on in the first place.  Those pom poms can be tricky to get under the bridle!

We went out for a ride with my sister and Cookster and had a lovely time, singing as we went.  The ponies seemed to enjoy themselves too and were bouncing along until Cookster got spooked by a pheasant flying up behind him.  He’s not normally a spooky pony but he didn’t enjoy that so much!

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On our way back to the yard we stopped off at the house for some Advent carolling and the ponies were rewarded with some lovely looking apples.  We, however, had to wait until we had sorted the ponies out and got back inside for some delicious cherry shortbread stars and hot chocolate to warm up.  It was a good day!

Studying Hard

With all the extra competing I have been doing for the riding club, I have been making sure to have lessons as often as possible – and on horses other than my own two ponies.

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Before I had Galahad I used to ride so many different horses and it was such a good thing for my riding.  When i competed at university (where we had to ride unfamiliar horses at a yard near the host university) I had a huge advantage over the riders who only ever rode their own horse and didn’t know how to cope with one which reacted differently.  Not that I won but it did give me a head start!

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Since I started riding Galahad though, I have ridden far fewer other horses.  I hadn’t realised what a difference it made until I started practising for my first riding club competition earlier this year.  I suddenly found myself  sat up on a strange horse and I didn’t have a clue how he would react.  It was quite scary and is part of the reason I have made sure I kept having the lessons.  Of course, the extra practice also makes me much more likely to do well!

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Incidentally, this pony was pretty much my dream horse as a child.  I was hooked on Patricia Leitch’s Jinny and Shantih books (although I was quite scared by some of them) and so I always dreamed of a chestnut horse.