Alternative Show Jumping

Yesterday I was jumping the ponies in the field but today I tried an alternative form of show jumping – I finally managed to take my dog to our first agility competition.


The show ground is a bit overwhelming at first – it seems to just be a sea of jumps and other obstacles and it is only when you get closer that you can pick out the different rings.  They are separated by a single strand of string and as I have seen dogs in the past running amok, leaving their own ring and invading the others, I was more than a little nervous about our first runs.  I was not at all confident that the dog would listen to me!

Our first two classes were on first thing so we arrived bright and early to walk and try to remember two courses at once.  Luckily my years of showjumping stood me in good stead for that!


More importantly though, the dog stayed beautifully focussed on me and although we didn’t quite get clear rounds (we had trouble with the weaves in both classes) we got round with very little trouble.  I could not have been more pleased with her.

The scoring system was amazing – as each dog finished, their score was immediately posted up on a tablet at the ringside.  You could see exactly how you did and keep track as the rest of the competitors went as well.  It was brilliant!


We don’t have to do this with the horses!

We had a long wait until our next class so we watched some of the other dogs running before heading back to the car for lunch.  The dog was already very tired and couldn’t really keep her eyes open but every time a dog barked – which was often – she would jerk back awake again.  Poor dog.  At least she was resting.

Most of the rings had finished by the time we got to our last class so the show ground was getting quieter and less distracting.  I thought we might be in trouble though when the dog before us ran off with someone else’s treat box.  In fact my dog was right with me for most of the course – the only problem being the weaves (again – we need to work on those) when she decided she really had to stop for a scratch.  We got a cricket score in time faults but again I was so incredibly proud of her.


Yes, I did nearly run into the fence myself!

Today went so much better than I thought it might and it has given me a lot of confidence for the next competition.  Hopefully I’ll remember that when the time comes!  The dog is currently fast asleep and looking like she might stay that way – these days are as hard work for her as they are for me!  Definitely worth it though.

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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


‘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.



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.


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.

No brakes

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!


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.


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!

Getting a Soaking

Last Sunday was our inter-club team show jumping event.  Cookster came with Galahad and I so for the very first time I had two ponies to compete.  That really is the dream!


What wasn’t the dream was the weather – it poured down all day and I don’t think I have ever been so wet.  I have certainly never been able to pour water out of my riding boots before and they are still not quite dry now!  Luckily, the long dry spell meant that although the ground got a bit soggy it was nowhere near as slippery as it might have been. We had to be aware of the footing but there was very little slipping.

The teams consisted of four riders, each jumping a different height.  As my two ponies were the smallest on our teams I jumped the lowest height – 50-60cm – on both of them.  Cookster was first up and stopped at both of the first two jumps.  After that though he suddenly seemed to wake up to what we were doing and flew round.  He sadly knocked two poles down but he was jumping beautifully and I was so pleased with him.


As soon as we were finished I got straight onto Galahad (who had been warmed up by one of the children – such luxury!), had a practice jump and within a few minutes we were called into the ring.  As we went through the gate my instructor – who knows all my weaknesses – said, ‘Keep those eyes up!’  It was good advice and it worked as Galahad jumped a lovely, flowing clear round.  It was so good to feel him going forward confidently.


After a break whilst the higher rounds were jumped Cookster and I were back in the ring.  This time Cookster knew from the start what was going on and he jumped a beautiful round with only one fence down.  We also had a silly stop which was entirely my fault – there was a bit of a dog leg line which I messed up, tried to correct and ended up completely confusing him so he slid to a stop.  It was annoying but I was so pleased with the rest of the round and, again, it was definitely not his fault.


Then it was another quick change onto Galahad – and another instruction to keep my eyes up!  Once again, Galahad jumped a super round but we did have a stop as the same fence as Cookster.  Again, it was my fault – I think I was worried about it after Cookster’s round and that made me mess it up again.  Definitely need to work on dog legs!  Galahad was great though and I was so pleased with him.


In fact, I was very proud of both ponies.  Cookster has really come on with his jumping and did so well, especially as this was his first show.  Galahad is really jumping nicely too and feels wonderfully confident – which is not always the case!  They both also coped very well with the ground – Galahad can be a bit tentative on slippery surfaces but that was not a problem at all.

Cookster’s team came third and Galahad’s second so it was a pretty successful day results wise too.  Definitely worth braving the weather!


Intrepid Treccing

On Sunday Galahad and I had another trec event.  Most events in our area were cancelled – it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain (and sleet and hail).  We are pretty tough though so our event went ahead.   Luckily it was so windy that although the showers were very heavy they blew over pretty quickly.


First of all we had a great lesson.  Galahad went over all the obstacles with no trouble at all.  The only issue we had was a group of scary people watching us.  We had a bit of an argument about whether to go past them.  Eventually I won – apparently he had a hilarious expression on his face when he realised he wasn’t going to get away with it.

We then had our individual class and Galahad was again really good.  Our main problem was that I did the neck reining obstacle in trot but got my reins in a bit of a mess and didn’t quite pull up in enough time before the next obstacle.  That happened to be the s-bend of poles which needs a bit more control than that!


We also did not do well at the jump in hand.  Galahad was so good at it in training but I think I hadn’t given him enough space to think about it so he stopped dead before hopping over.  The judge still thought it was the best course she had seen us do though so I was very pleased.

Next we went straight into our pairs class which actually went even better.  The in hand jump was still not good – we didn’t get over it at all – but everything else was brilliant.  Galahad was a star and I was so proud of him.


It turned out that we had managed to win both our classes.  That has never happened to us before so it was pretty exciting.  We had a fantastic day despite the weather and I am so looking forward to going again.


Out and About

Sunday dawned bright and clear – a perfect day for competing.  I got so cold riding on Saturday that I put on a lot of layers on Sunday. Naturally it was warmer on Sunday and I didn’t really feel like I needed them but I was glad of them later in the day.


I was completely rubbish at getting up so I had to rush through the chores and then enlisted my sister’s help – she washed off Galahad’s feet and fed me breakfast.  Literally!  Luckily I had packed the night before and we were ready when my lift arrived.

We had about two hours to wait before our first class so I got to watch some training classes which were pretty useful.  Galahad stood tied to the lorry the whole time and was very good indeed.


Anyone who saw my trec training post might know that I was hoping we wouldn’t get a gate to open in our course.  I also didn’t want the wooden ‘bridge’ as Galahad is not too happy walking over it.  I was thrilled to find that neither of them was on my individual course.  The gate was in my pairs course but I decided not to think about that!

I got on Galahad and he felt amazingly calm and relaxed – much more than he usually is at events.  We didn’t really have any spooking all day – just the odd stop to have a good look at people.


Our individual class went pretty well.  The first part is the control of paces – walking fast and cantering slowly.  I never expect to get points for walking (we only have little legs) but normally we do well on the canter (again, little legs – our fast canter counts as slow!).  However, this time I was trying to be too clever and slow the canter too much so we broke into trot.  Twice.


Apart from that – which was completely my fault – I was really pleased with our round.  Galahad refused point-blank to walk over the water tray but he had never seen one before except under a jump.  If we could school over one I am sure he would be fine. He also refused the tarpaulin which is not usually a problem for us.  Everything else was brilliant.  We had never done the low branches obstacle mounted before so we stuck to a walk.  I needn’t have worried though – Galahad just walked straight through with no hesitation.  I didn’t ride the S-bend of poles very well but Galahad figured out his feet by himself like the clever pony he is.


We next had a pairs class over the same obstacles plus the gate.  This time I just focused on keeping the controlled canter going and we scored 15 points out of a possible 30 which was pretty good!

Again the obstacles went pretty well.  He still wouldn’t walk over the water tray but we did at least manage to open the gate which was better than I thought.  Of course, to get any points we needed to walk through the gate and close it again!  Still, it was a start.  The low branches were set a little higher this time and we trotted through easily.  Now I just need the confidence to canter and get even more points.  The same goes for the bending poles – I know Galahad can do it at home but it is very different at a competition!


We came away with a third in the individual and a second in the pairs.  Our scores were a bit lower than they have been in the past but given our lack of practise that is hardly surprising.  For me the day was still a complete success because Galahad’s behaviour was impeccable.  He was so calm and relaxed all day, he let people pet him and he was even happy for a lady to have a good look at his saddle – she has an Exmoor cross and is struggling to find a saddle to fit him.  It was an amazing day and a great start to 2017.


Galahad and I recently got another chance to compete as part of a team, this time with the riding club.  It was again teams of four with each person jumping a different height.  Obviously with my little pony I was jumping the lowest height.

The warm up was again on rather damp grass and given our mishap on our last outing I was very careful over the practise fences and didn’t come out of a trot.  We still slid into one of the jumps and Galahad was a bit wobbly trying to avoid the muddy take off spot so I didn’t over jump him.


Our first round went very well and we whizzed round clear.  My team mates did the same so after one round we were in the lead and quite excited.

Galahad was also great in the second round but I messed it up for him.  Between fences three and four we needed to change the canter lead but I got my whip tangled in my reins and was distracted by trying to untangle it.  I didn’t even think about the leading leg until it was too late.  We had to jump off the wrong leg so Galahad wasn’t well balanced and we knocked the fence down.

It was such a silly mistake and it really wasn’t necessary to untangle my whip – I felt pretty bad about letting both Galahad and my team down.  The next two members of my team both got four faults as well and the last got twelve.  We ended up eighth out of ten which wasn’t bad but was rather disappointing after our good start!

A Wonderful Weekend

The ponies were due to come home after their back checks on Tuesday but I extended their stay to make it easier for me to compete at the weekend.  I had a short lesson with just a few jumps on the Friday night which went well on the flat but we had rather too many runouts when it came to jumping which did not fill me with confidence!

We went show jumping on Saturday and when I got on Galahad was the most relaxed I have ever felt him when out at an event.  I think he is getting used to it!  Our first class was 60cm and Galahad flew round without even hesitating anywhere.  He felt amazing.


The jump off also went really well and we cut two corners we wouldn’t have been able to cut a few months ago.  We could have gone a bit faster but I was still very happy with the progress we had made.  I wasn’t expecting to get placed – Galahad only has little legs after all – but we ended up fifth.  Our first solo jumping rosette!  Our only other jumping rosette was in a pairs class and was mainly due to my very speedy partner.

We next rode in the 65cm class.  This time we had a little wobble in front of a (perfectly plain) fence when Galahad wanted to run out.  I managed to get him over the fence but it meant we knocked it down.  That was our only problem though and I was not really worried by the knockdown.  The fact that he jumped the fence when he hadn’t wanted to was far more important.


It was the first time we had a photographer in the ring with us!  Galahad didn’t react to him at all.

Altogether it was a very successful day.  I went home and rode Cookster out still wearing my show gear and just in shirt sleeves as it had been absolutely gorgeous all day.  About half way round there was the most enormous clap of thunder and the heavens opened. We got completely drenched.  Cookster was a little worried by the thunder but behaved very well indeed so I was pleased with him too.

Both ponies went out on Sunday as they were getting dropped off home on the way back.  It was the first time Cookster has been anywhere other than home and my instructor’s yard but although he was noisy when they were separated he was very good.  It was Galahad who tried to barge out of the lorry after Cookster!

This time we were doing an eventer’s challenge – a show jumping round followed immediately by cross country.  Galahad had never been cross country before so I wasn’t at all sure how he would get on with all the scary jumps and we entered the 50cm class so we had a less testing start.  We jumped clear round the showjumping with six time faults.  The time was pretty tight though and I had less faults than the person before me so I was actually pleased with that.


The cross country went less well as we had four runouts.  Two were at a wall which was quite intimidating and after the second I took the easier alternative.  If we had been at home I would have persevered with the wall but a competition didn’t seem the place to do that!  The other two runouts – one at a log and one at a double of roll tops – were a bit unnecessary really.  I definitely needed to channel Galahad better to hold him to the line.  However, he did seem to enjoy himself and he finished without running out of steam which had been another concern of mine.  I was thrilled with him.

DSCF6516 2.jpg

He even went straight through the water!

As I was doing such a small class everyone else was riding later in the day which meant that I had my own little team of grooms.  My pony was tacked up (almost the wrong pony!) whilst I dressed and when I dismounted he was taken off me, untacked and washed down.  It was like riding at Badminton!

There was also a small clear round jumping course in a corner of the lorry field which I decided to take Cookster round.  I was a bit worried about my steering as he very much wanted to go back to Galahad in the lorry and he is so good at loading his right shoulder that I was having a hard time turning him left as we warmed up.  However, once we got into the ring he went very nicely and the steering wasn’t an issue at all.  We had two fences down but he didn’t even think about stopping.  He isn’t nearly as coordinated as Galahad but he has had a lot less practise and I was very pleased with him.  I have never had two ponies competing before – it made me feel quite professional!


I had an absolutely fantastic weekend filled with riding.  I was pretty tired (and a bit sunburnt) by the end but it was definitely worth it!

Trying our hand at trec

This weekend Galahad and I went to our first ever trec event and we LOVED it!


The day didn’t have a very auspicious start as I had to get up early to clean my tack and Galahad came in from the field covered in mud.  He even had mud dreadlocks in his mane.  I hadn’t left myself all that much time so we had to have a very fast, very effective grooming session!  We still managed to arrive in plenty of time which gave Galahad a chance to settle a bit before I actually got on.  He was very spooky though and kept jumping at the slightest thing.  When a rug billowed in the wind (it was very windy!) he shot sideways and caught the side of my head with his lead rope.  Again – not a good start!

However, once I was on he felt a lot better and even walked straight past a pile of wrapped bales – all with wildly blowing loose ends – with barely a glance.  We ride past a flappy set of bales at home and he hates them but that could be because they are hidden behind a hedge.  He was still a bit tense and he was not at all keen on the big doors of the school which were also rattling in the wind.  I took him in the little warm up area and after a few times round he was beginning to settle nicely.  For him the warm up isn’t so much about warming up his muscles – although obviously that is important – but more about warming up his brain and reminding him that he should listen to me because I’m not going to ask him to do anything dangerous.


Once we were in the school – which he walked straight into with no trouble – we started introducing the horses to the trec obstacles in hand. Galahad was quite happy with them all except the mounting block which he has never liked.  That is something I meant to work on before the weekend but I never got around to it.  I had to mount from the ground this time but I am determined to change that!

Once we were mounted we went back round all the obstacles again.  The bending, tarpaulin, immobility and neck reining were no trouble at all.  The s-bend was sometimes brilliant and sometimes terrible.  It was the first time Galahad had seen it though and he was still working out what was expected of him.  He was definitely trying hard!  The rein back was okay but the gate was not good at all.  We did manage to open it, go through it and close it again but it was not at all stylish.  Something else to work on.


At the end of the lesson we had a mini competition which was great fun.  We got no points for the gate or the rein back (which started well but then went to pieces) but we did get some good marks  – including tens for the tarpaulin and immobility!  We came fourth out of the four in the lesson but I wasn’t expecting anything else and I was so proud of how relaxed he had been about everything.  He had never been in an indoor school before so I was prepared for him to be terrified and refuse to do anything!


‘Very calm’ was the judge’s comment for our immobility!

We had a break then, while I watched the more advanced classes, before I got back on board for the newcomers class.  Galahad was a bit worried about things rattling around again but soon settled and was fine once we were in the school.  He had clearly remembered what he was doing in the morning and had improved immensely.  We still got no points for the gate and I had to get on from the ground but this time we got four tens!  Again for the immobility and tarpaulin but also for the led s-bend and the jump.  We hadn’t jumped in the morning and we obviously haven’t at home for a few weeks so I wasn’t sure what he would do but he flew over it.

The newcomers class also contained the control of paces section which we hadn’t tried in the morning.  The idea is to canter slowly and walk quickly.  We got no points for the walk – fast walking has never been Galahad’s strong point.  The canter felt very rushed but the score wasn’t too bad – probably because he only has little legs!  With a bit more schooling to balance the canter we ought not to do too badly with that.

There were three people in my class and I knew I would probably come last.  I thought I knew where we had all come but then this happened:


Our first first!

Not bad for our first try!

I had such a fantastic day and I can’t wait to try it again.