Navigating Corners

Galahad and I have been continuing our education this week. Having started a quest to build scary jumps for us to face I decided to have a go at building a corner fence – the only one we have jumped before was about six inches high.

Corners scare me because I’m convinced that I will manage to pilot the horse towards the widest bit of the fence and something catastrophic will happen when we attempt to jump it. Of course, this has never actually happened but it’s always possible that this time will be different.

As I am presumably therefore pushing the horse hard towards the narrow end of the corner, it would be very easy for them to run out and I was fairly sure that this is what Galahad would do. I was delighted that he just popped over it with barely a hesitation.

We jumped it several more times without a worry so it turned into an excellent day for me. It is great to have another skill to hand!

Having Fun

I realised recently that I haven’t been making the most of the facilities we have here. Galahad and I have only done a handful of cross country competitions but at those we have done we have tended to get into trouble at any fences that look rather different to what we are used to. Galahad loves to jump but he isn’t very brave and if I’m honest my own nerves haven’t helped either.

We have several logs in the fields which we jump regularly but it suddenly came home to me that actually I can create far more of a cross country course for schooling than I have ever done. The ponies are currently turned out in a field which – until lockdown – I very rarely used for riding. Even when I did ride in it, I didn’t make use of all the natural features. We have a stream which runs right through the field and – although I have ridden through it many times – I never thought to use some of the drops down into it, instead using the gentler slopes.

Likewise, the steep slopes in the field have always scared me a bit as I do not like going downhill at speed! However, the ditches across it are perfect for schooling and in places they can even be used as a practice for drop fences – something at which we have historically been very bad.

Once I got over my nerves and realised Galahad was not going to cart me off down the hill I had so much fun playing with jumping all these new obstacles. It is obviously good for Galahad too but my confidence is soaring which is something I hadn’t anticipated when I started. Now I just want to make jumps out of anything I can find!

Unexpected Bonus

We recently had a visit from some tree surgeons as some of our trees were growing too tall and getting rather close to the power cables. They cut down an awful lot of branches but – although it made a lot of work – that is good news as it means that we are already getting a good supply of logs for next winter.

In the meantime, we might as well get some fun out of the drying logs. My parents built me a great little log pile to jump which was a lovely surprise. I thought Galahad would take some persuading to go over it – he is not a fan of new jumps – but he sailed over it without an issue.

We had a great time playing with the logs. It is wonderful to have fields that are dry enough to ride in – we had such a wet winter it seemed it might never happen again! Galahad is having a whale of a time being able to jump. He really does enjoy it and gets ever so excited when he realises what is going on. Of course, I am rather pleased too!

Jumping Joys

Now the weather is less rainy the fields have dried up beautifully.  Which of course means that we are able to school again.  Not only that – we can jump!

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It has been a good few months since the ponies have jumped so I like to start them off with pretty simple jumps and not rush into anything too big or complicated.  Galahad loves to jump though – he really comes alive when we get the jumps out.  In fact, he can get a bit too strong if I don’t watch it.  On Thursday I kept him to a strict trot over the fences for serveral minutes as I had felt he wasn’t really listening to me.

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We have had a lovely few sessions playing with the jumps and my sister has even been able to join us a couple of times which just adds to the fun.  For one thing, it means we can have a go at pairs jumping which can be hilarious.

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I am so much enjoying having the jumps out again!

Excursions

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Wilton Horse Trials

I am just back from a great weekend at Wilton Horse Trials.

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Wilton ’18 was written incarrots and bananas!

We had a small setback to start with as we were staying in Wilton very near to the main entrance to the house but hadn’t realised that the only way in to the horse trials was two miles away round the other side of the park.  We knew that was the main gate but not that it was the only one.  It was a shame but we’ll be better prepared another time.

I don’t get to go to many of the smaller events but I do love them – you can be so much closer to the action.  I spent Saturday morning basically sat in the warm up area watching the dressage and showjumping.  It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many horses.

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Once the cross country started we obviously had to walk the course and apart from being a little wary of approaching horses (there are less string fences than at the bigger events so we had to be very aware of where the horses would go) it was fantastic exploring the course and being able to get a good look at the fences.

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Saturday morning was novice cross country but I had a look at all the jumps we passed and I was particularly interested in a double on the BE100 course.  I could see several different ways to approach it and I was curious to see how it rode.

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Once the BE100 class started I went to have a look and the first two riders took one route but both had a run out at the second element.  The third rider took a different route and made it look easy so I thought that settled the question.

It’s never as simple as that though – over the two days I saw all possible routes taken and all of them cleanly so my first look must have just been bad timing!

Saturday had been mostly sunny – although very windy – but rain was was forecast for Sunday.  We knew that but the long dry spell has made us a bit complacent and although we had brought waterproof jackets we hadn’t really considered how cold we might get and we had actively decided not to take waterproof trousers.  It rained all day so we learnt our lesson!

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Even the horses were hiding from the rain!

We arrived on Sunday to find that the majority of the trade stands had packed up which was a real shame.  We hadn’t had time to look round them the day before and had planned to do so on Sunday morning.  The few remaining food stands were doing a roaring trade though!

First up on Sunday were the intermediate classes and it was great to be able to get a good look at the riders warming up.  I hope that I managed to learn something.

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We didn’t walk the whole of the cross country course this time – partly because we now knew it pretty well and partly because it was pouring with rain and blowing pretty well too.  I had dreadful trouble with my hat and ended up looking like Paddington.

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The hat will never be the same again.

We picked out a few of our favourite jumps and went to watch those.  The furthest field from the main showground had a fantastic group of trees where we could sit in comfort and watch six fences (eight or nine jumping efforts depending on the class).

I really think we had the best seats on the course, although a coffee van would have been nice!  We were also sat right by the double I had been interested in the day before so I not only got a good view of it being jumped, I also got to watch many different people walking it and it was fascinating to see all the different approaches.

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Despite the weather we had a great weekend and I’m already looking forward to the next event.

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Sunday Schooling

I very nearly didn’t ride Galahad this evening.  I had a busy day yesterday, I was at work all day today and had already ridden Cookster out so I was pretty tired and wanted to curl up with a book. However, I told myself that was not the right attitude and tacked him up.  It was too good an evening to waste anyway.

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We had a pretty decent schooling session.  The ground is a little rutted from the winter but is actually in surprisingly good condition considering how wet it has been.  I was pleased with Galahad too – we don’t manage a lot of schooling over the winter but he worked well and is even improving at picking up the correct canter lead on the right rein – he got it right nearly every time today!

I was hoping to get in a little jumping as well but I was more cautious with that.  We hadn’t jumped at all yet this year and in the past if Galahad has had a break from jumping he has had a tendency to get over excited when we pick it up again – he either rushes at the fences or gallops off after them.  I made sure he was calm and listening to me before I attempted a jump, then I introduced some very small fences, keeping strictly to a trot.

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I was very pleasantly surprised as he popped neatly over them and showed no sign of getting above himself.  Before long we were happily cantering over the bigger, scarier jumps.

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It was a very positive start to this year’s jumping.  We will hopefully manage to harrow the field this week and then I’ll be able to put out the rest of the jumps.  I was lucky enough to get some new fillers for my birthday this year and I am very excited about trying them out!

 

Beautiful Bank Holiday

The weather this bank holiday weekend has been glorious.  Blue skies all day with just a bit of mist in the mornings.  We went out for a lovely ride early yesterday morning and then spent most of the rest of the day in front of the television.  It is Badminton weekend after all!

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I always try to keep this weekend free because even if I can’t actually get there I love to watch.  I even watch snatches of dressage in my breaks at work.  On Friday I had an almost perfectly timed break and managed to watch Jonty Evans’ test.

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I was one of the many people who chipped in to pay for a tail hair of Cooley Rorkes Drift last year so I was very pleased with that.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Badminton.  So far I am a fan of the new scoring system without the dressage coefficient – recently eventing has felt a bit like a dressage competition!

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It has been a great weekend and we are now just out for what will hopefully be another lovely hack – an evening one this time.

Making Progress

Last Sunday Galahad and I went to a jump-cross challenge competition – a round of show jumping followed by a cross country course.  Given our last cross country outing had involved a lot of stops I was feeling a little apprehensive.  However, Galahad was jumping very well in training (barring some braking issues).  That and the fact that his back was probably a bit sore last time gave me some reason to hope we would manage better this time.

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We entered the 50cm class and the show jumping went pretty well.  We had one stop – I still don’t know why – but the rest of the round felt really good and back up to our normal level.  We made our way to the cross country course and actually managed to get over the first fence at the the first attempt.  That was much better than last time – as you can hear if you watch to the end of the video and listen very carefully!

In fact, the whole course was miles better than last time.  It was almost the same course and the only fences we stopped at were the quarry (which we had previously only jumped with a lead in the pairs class) and the chair (which was the fence we had to miss out last time).  Everything else we just flew over.  I was enjoying it, Galahad was enjoying it and it was so much fun.

We had too many stops to place in the cross country or the combined competition but as the show jumping was split into senior and junior riders we managed a fourth place for that which was very welcome.

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We also entered the show jumping section of the 65cm class.  Galahad felt even better and I was much more confident.  I did however completely misjudge the turn into the double and presented Galahad with a horrible angle at one of the widest fences on the course.  I was convinced he would either stop or just crash through it.  He did hesitate slightly but popped over it and the second part of the double with no problem at all.

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We did knock one fence down but in a completely unrelated incident.  We claimed fifth place in that class which felt very good indeed.

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It was good to feel that Galahad was enjoying his jumping – the rosettes were a bonus and we had a fantastic day.

Pinging

We recently had to have the fields topped again, which meant that I had to put all of my jumps away.  Then it started raining and we couldn’t cut the grass.  It didn’t seem worth getting the jumps out when I would only have to pack them up again so it has been a couple of weeks since we have been able to jump.

Last week however, it was finally dry, the grass was cut and the jumps came out of storage.  I found this lovely moth on one of them – it was huge!

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Its wings were open when I first saw it but it closed them before I could get to my camera.  It was beautiful though.

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I’m sorry the pictures are rather blurry.  Apparently the camera couldn’t cope with the light levels!

Galahad seemed as excited as me to see the fences – he was rushing rather to start with and he was putting in some enormous jumps.  We then had a horrid jump over the filler and completely demolished the fence.  After that he was much more sane!

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He was actually jumping quite nicely and we had a lovely evening in the field.  We didn’t overdo it though – it was still pretty hot even at nine o’clock in the evening!