Thrills and Spills

Last week definitely had the full spectrum of highs and lows for me. We started off with a great schooling session which finished with some jumping. Galahad was feeling so good that I raised the fences higher than we had jumped for a while and he soared over them without a second thought. He can sometimes back off his fences a bit and so to feel him really keen to jump was wonderful.

This was just over 2’4″ – we have jumped this height before but not for a long time – so not huge. It felt like a big achievement for us though, especially as previously this height has seemed to intimidate him. This time, he made it feel tiny.

The low came a few days later when we were just having a gentle hack around the fields. We had just popped over a small ditch on a downhill slope when a pheasant flew up on our right, Galahad shot off to the left and I pretty much stayed where I was. Thankfully my sister was there to catch Galahad and call for reinforcements in the form of my parents – I was still lying flat on my face and she couldn’t cope with that and two ponies! I had told her I was fine so she wasn’t being callous leaving me there but at the same time I was clearly not okay – I am normally trying to stand up sooner than I should.

I was in fact fine, just rather bruised and I had pulled a few muscles which are still feeling sore a week later. The shock was the worst bit – I cannot remember the last time I cried when I fell off – although it had been a bit of a stressful week for me and I think the fall just finished me off emotionally!

It is clear that the blogging bug has infected more than just me now. Even as my Mum ran – in her slippers – out of the house to pick up the pieces she paused to wonder if she should bring a camera to record the event for posterity!

Acrobatics

Yesterday was quite the adventure.

I took both ponies out for a gentle hack around the fields (separately – not together) and as Galahad and I were heading home I thought it would be a good idea to canter up the grass in the lane. The fields are absolutely sodden at the moment so it’s the only place we can actually canter.

The field gate leading back to the stables is halfway up the lane and I knew Galahad would want to go that way. Usually I can keep him going past it but he breaks into a trot in doing so. This time I was determined to keep the canter. I was actually successful in that but I failed to keep him straight and he ducked into the gateway. That wouldn’t have been so bad but the gate – which I had left wide open – had swung until it was almost closed. There was just about room for an Exmoor pony to squeeze through but not so much for my legs, one of which got caught on the latch and I was pulled out of the saddle. The next thing I knew, Galahad pulled the reins out of my hand and galloped for home.

No, I should not have been wearing wellies for riding – I was lazy and hadn’t bothered to change them. Chances are I might not have come off if I had. I was incredibly lucky – no broken bones, just some bruises and pulled muscles. Galahad too was lucky – he could easily have seriously damaged himself on the bolt on the gate. That being so, my training kicked in and I got back in the saddle – which is now covered in mud and in serious need of a clean – and we cantered past the gate a few times. This time though it was firmly shut!

My clothes were in no fit state to go in the washing machine and as the hosepipe is frozen I made use of the stream to get rid of the worst of the mud. It’s an incredibly useful resource!

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!

Comeuppance

Monday was a glorious day so Galahad and I went out for a hack.  The road was quiet, the birds were singing and everything was right with the world.

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Until we came home.

We had to come down a narrow lane which is closed off by a hurdle at the top.  The hurdle needs lifting and really needs to be opened dismounted.  As it is a little awkward to manage I always seem to end up on the off side of the pony when I have closed the hurdle again.  Without much room to manoeuvre it is far easier to hop on from the wrong side and on Cookster I do that without thinking.

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Never with Galahad though.  I tried it once at home and he panicked.  Partly because he isn’t used to it and partly because my muscles aren’t tuned enough to mounting from the wrong side so it isn’t as smooth as my mounting usually is.

On Monday I was feeling lazy and hopping up from where I was seemed a good plan.  After all, sometimes trec competitions ask for the rider to mount from the off side so practising is a good idea.  At least, that’s what I told myself.

It did not end well.  He shot off forwards when I was only half on.  I ended up in a patch of nettles minus my hat cover and with only one boot.  I had to paddle through the mud to find that – there is a spring at the top of the lane so it is wet all year round.

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We were only about a hundred yards from the house so as I plodded home I was imagining the concern Galahad would cause when he careered into the yard witout me.  In the event, nobody saw him and I found him unconcernedly munching grass.  He was nicely decorated though!

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Obviously mounting from the wrong side is something we can work on – especially if I want to be able to use it in a trec competition.  I will improve my own ability by practising on Cookster before I try it on Galahad again though!

Part of a Team

Galahad and I have made our debut as part of a team!  It was incredibly exciting as I haven’t been on a riding team since I left university and Galahad never has.  I was nervous I would completely mess up – not on my own account but I did not want to let my team down.

The day didn’t have the best of starts as the warm up fence was on grass and it had been raining.  Galahad was jumping well but slipped over just after landing and we both ended up on the floor and pretty muddy.  Luckily neither of us was hurt and after getting the worst of the mud off Galahad we were ready to go again.  I was a little concerned he would have lost his confidence but he popped back over the fence with no problem and we were all set.

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I needn’t have worried at all – Galahad was a star and flew round the course clear.  Each team member jumped a different height and had two rounds – the second against the clock.  Our practise over angled fences gave me the confidence to push Galahad a bit harder in the timed round and again Galahad was super and flew round. I could not be more pleased with him.

We ended up coming second in the class and were only beaten by a boy on another team from my yard which wasn’t so bad.  Apparently there wasn’t much between us time wise and I was absolutely thrilled (the fact that I had done well for the team definitely helped with that!).

I spent the rest of the day manning the arena gate (and getting sand constantly blown into my eyes).  It was good to feel part of the team and I got to catch up  with a few friends I hadn’t seen for a while so I had a great time.

The next member of my team won her class, then the other two came tenth and eighth.  It was a very close run thing but overall as a team we came fourth which I was very pleased with as a first attempt.  We were second out of the three teams from my instructor’s yard and as we were the least experienced I thought that wasn’t bad either!

Overall I had a fantastic day and was very pleased with the way Galahad went.  He has improved so much over the last few months and I have a lot more confidence in our ability now.  It feels great to take him round a course and I can’t wait for the next time!

Taking a Tumble

Galahad and I had another great lesson on Friday.  Our flatwork is steadily improving and my instructor thinks Galahad is looking less stiff and much better in general.

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Our jumping also went really well.  We again jumped the barrel with no trouble and this time we jumped the big, scary, white filler which was a first for him.  It is a real sign of growing up!

 

I followed that up with a lesson on my sister’s pony which didn’t go quite so well.  His legs are not so coordinated when it comes to jumping and we completely messed up the striding in the double.  He got his front legs tangled in the pole and we both fell down.  Luckily we were both relatively unscathed, if rather sandy.

The ponies are having a visit from the back lady this week so she’ll be able to check he hasn’t damaged himself.  If we had to fall we couldn’t have timed it better!