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!

Cookster’s Adventures

The other day Cookster and I went for a little adventure in a neighbour’s field.  I had ridden Galahad in there before but it was all brand new to Cookster and he was more than a bit excited.  He is not usually the most energetic of ponies but on this occassion he was offering me a canter every time I asked for trot.

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This particular field slopes steeply down to a stream with very marshy banks.  The hill is almost terraced by a path zig-zagging its way up the slope so we skirted our way round the marsh and set off up the hill.

The path isn’t particularly wide and the hill is very steep but I was still enjoying myself immensely.  Then I got to the top and had to come back down and I realised that the branches I had happily avoided on the way up had become much more intimidating.  Ducking under branches when riding downhill is pretty nerve wracking anyway but I was suddenly very aware that I was sat on a pony who has occasionally been known to nap and try to canter home.  It was amazing how such a small moment could rob me of all confidence.

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Of course, Cookster was in fact perfectly well behaved and my momentary panic was a complete overreaction.  It made me very aware though of how fragile a thing confidence can be.

Beautiful Autumn

Today was very exciting for me – I wore my riding skirt out on a pony for the first time since last winter.

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I actually don’t wear it riding as much as I would like because I love to wear it as an ordinary skirt so much and it isn’t really sociable to wear it around town when it smells of horse!  Today though it was raining and I decided it was time to take it out.

We had a beautiful ride as all the leaves are turning and the countryside is a blaze of colour.  My sister and I turned a corner and it was like we came out into the light – we were surrounded by bright orange leaves.  It was absolutely stunning and we sat there for a good five minutes just drinking it all in.

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I love autumn!

The Open Road

I have written several times about fighting my way up the lane when it gets overgrown – it’s incredible how fast everything can grow in the summer!  For a few weeks it got so overgrown that Galahad and I could not force our way through at all.

However, my parents have recently been doing a lot of work outside and also got a man in to help with cutting the undergrowth in the lane and scraping the surface back to its original stone level.  There is even a new gate at the top so I don’t have to get off to move the hurdle any more.  Such a luxury.

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It is all looking a lot better, if still a little muddy.  The grass will grow though and I already have access to the longer rides we have been missing (and an indoor school just up the road!).  We have a lot to look forward to.

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Autumn Habits

Every autumn I dither about when to start bringing the ponies in at night.  Yes they are Exmoors and and are perfectly capable of staying out all winter but they do get fat on thin air and need their grass intake to be monitored somewhat.  Besides that, it helps to save the ground a bit.

Throughout the summer I go out to do evening checks on them in the field.  Often they ignore me, sometimes they skitter away as if they think I might actually make them do some work and sometimes they come to say hello.

However, for the past couple of evenings the ponies have started whickering when I go out to see them and even run over to say hello.  Then they have followed me back to the yard and stood about looking hopeful.  I’m pretty sure they were asking for dinner!

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Therefore they came in for the first time last night.  It does mean a bit more work for me but there is something very cosy about having the ponies all tucked up in bed.  Autumn is a lovely time.

On Superstition

When I was a teenager I noticed that I quite often fell off when I was wearing new clothes for the first time.  A new t-shirt or jumper was usually okay but specifically horsey things like riding hats made me fall off.  Once I wore a new hat cover and carried a new whip at the same time.  I was bucked off whilst out for a hack by myself.

I have no idea how many times things like that actually happened but it was enough for me to develop a superstition about it.  I had to make sure that if I got anything new I did not wear it for the first time at a competition.  That would just be asking for trouble.

Of course, the rational part of me knows that a new hat will not make me fall off.  However, I also know that the mind is incredibly powerful and if I think I will come off it makes it much more likely that I will.  Which is why this week I found myself hacking out in a new hat cover and new (to me) show jacket.

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It felt a bit odd but also as if I was in one of Ruby Ferguson’s Jill stories which I love so actually I was very happy.  Perhaps we should go back to hacking in hacking jackets!

Holiday at Home

I have been working very long hours this week – almost double what I normally do.  I am utterly exhausted now but I have actually had a great time working at the Appledore Book Festival and I wouldn’t want to change it.

However, it has meant that I have had to neglect the ponies a bit.  Obviously I have made sure that they are fed and watered but that has been about it.  My Dad has done a sterling job of turning them out and bringing them in when necessary.

I think they have been a bit lonely though – they have started turning up at coffee time looking for company (and possibly treats!).

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This coming week should be more normal and I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle.  First though I need to sleep!

Sneaky Ponies

After the excitement of the past few weeks it has been nice to be back home spending time with the ponies.

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Obviously, I have had a fantastic time while I was away but it was pretty tiring and of course it meant that I wasn’t riding the ponies.  Now though I am back home and back on the ponies which is lovely.

The ponies are enjoying themselves too.  I turned them out a few days ago without checking the gate across the other side of the field because it is always closed.

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It had however been accidentally left open after a dog walk and naturally the ponies noticed – they were soon through the gate and munching on the lush grass on the other side.

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Luckily there were two more gates between them and the road.

It taught me the lesson though – always check all the gates!

Relaxing Rambling

My sister and I recently took advantage of the weather to go for a little mini picnic ride.  She was in charge so all I had to do was get my pony ready.  She even carried the food!

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We rode up the hill to a little patch of woodland.  It is rather overgrown but that makes it all the more perfect for picnics – it is secret and seems suited to a fairy tale.

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The ponies were very interested in the food and Cookster actually managed to find – and attempt to eat – an apple which should have been safe inside the bag.  He made proper teethmarks in it!  They were pretty cross not to be allowed the chocolate biscuits but were pleased with the apple cores!

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Having eaten I could have quite happily settled down for a nap but of course Galahad couldn’t allow that!  The view from the log was simply stunning though and I could have stayed there gazing at it for hours.

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Dressage Downpour

Yesterday the ponies and I went to another home riding club dressage event.  This time – for the first time – they were doing three tests as each had an individual test and we were also having a go at both the walk/trot and the canter pairs tests.  I don’t often get to compete both ponies so it was an exciting day before we even got started.

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Luckily, my ever supportive ground crew was ready to lend a hand!

First up was Cookster in the Intro B class.  He is starting to feel very nice in his walk and trot work and although his canter still needs work that obviously isn’t an issue in an intro level test.  I came out of the arena feeling very positive about our test but even so I was surprised to find that not only had we come second, we had managed to score 69.56%.

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I was then straight on to Galahad to warm him up whilst my partner for our pairs tests was riding the test with someone else.  A quick turnaround and we were into the arena for the walk/trot test.  We started this with a pretty major spook at the people watching by the gate but after that they settled quite nicely and even had moments when their legs were working beautifully in unison.

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We didn’t have long before the next class but did find out just before we went in that we had managed to win the walk/trot class with 72.87% – a good score for both of us which left us feeling very positive as we began the canter test.

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Unfortunately, there was an absolute downpour part way through.  I for one had a terrible time trying to stop Cookster from swinging his quarters round into the rain and our first canter circle was somewhat messy.  However, it still felt pretty good overall and I would have been pleased with it as our first attempt at a canter test even if it hadn’t been raining.  The judge was very nice about the way the ponies kept going and we managed to score 77.5% to win that class as well.  We were thrilled and just a bit surprised.  Also absolutely soaked!

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Before long I was up again and ready to do the Prelim 13 test with Galahad.  By then he was starting to feel a bit tired and although he did a pretty obedient test I was struggling to get him bending the correct way.  I finished it thinking that it had been okay but not spectacular – and not as good as Cookster’s test which is a first.  Still,  I was so proud of both ponies and how well they had behaved.  It had been a great day.

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As it turned out, Galahad and I came fourth with a score of 65.96%.  This was a bigger class than Cookster’s and we had scored almost as high as our last outing when he did only two tests.  It was a pretty successful day altogether and I can’t wait to take them out again.