Every winter when the field gets too wet for riding I have to put all the jumps and dressage markers away. Inevitably, I’m not very good at doing that and so they often don’t get put away until it is basically time to get them out again. Even then, they would probably just stay where they were if it were not for the fact that the field needs harrowing and that’s a lot easier if there are no jumps in the way.
That time had finally come so the dog and I spent a very hot afternoon lugging poles across the field. At least, I carried them – the dog just jumped over them.
It seems only a few weeks ago that we were knee deep in mud but the dry weather we have had since lockdown started means that the fields are now bone dry and the harrow kicked up a huge cloud of dust. I only did a tiny bit of the field but my Dad – who did most of the work – had to wear a mask for the worst parts.
It was warm work but the field looks so much better for it now.
Our work on the hedges is continuing apace. Our focus has shifted though – the hedge behind the stables had started to grow a bit close to the buildings and needed looking at. Then a very old tree stump collapsed against the wall of Cookster’s stable and we really did have to do something about it.
It is huge and very heavy so had to be cut up into smaller sections before we could move it. That was pretty time consuming and in fact we still haven’t finished – my Dad cut off enough so we could shift it away from the wall but it blunted the chainsaw blade and we have had to leave the rest for another day.
I had the far less impressive but very satisfying job of pulling all the brambles out of an elder tree. It is so good when you can actually see the difference you are making but it really is a never ending job. You turn around and more have sprouted out of nowhere!
It does mean that we spot the most beautiful things though – just look at these tiny little toadstools I found. They are so pretty!
This week has been an exciting one for the ponies – they have been spending a few hours each day in their summer pasture. This field has a stream in it and tends to be quite wet in winter so it can only be used when the weather is dry enough. We have been having such lovely weather for the past couple of weeks though that they have finally been turned out.
Only for a few hours each day though – they haven’t been in there for about six months so it it full of lovely, lush grass. The ponies love it but it would not do their waistlines any good at all if they were turned out there full time!
I thought this first turning out might be very exciting to see but it turned out to be rather dull. They weren’t at all interesting in running about – all they wanted was to eat that delicious grass. Very disappointing!
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.
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.
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.
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!).
This coming week should be more normal and I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle. First though I need to sleep!
After the excitement of the past few weeks it has been nice to be back home spending time with the ponies.
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.
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.
Luckily there were two more gates between them and the road.
It taught me the lesson though – always check all the gates!
Now that I’m home again it is lovely to be spending more time with the ponies. It is good just having them to talk to but of course I am appreciating the riding as well.
The big field up behind us has just had its hay crop cut which means we can now use it for riding. It is very exciting and definitely livens up our hacks. The ponies love it too!
I always try to keep Galahad to just a steady canter the first time we have the field each summer. In the past he has been known to get far too overexcited and just take off across the field and I don’t want him to get the idea that that is okay. Speed is fun but I do like to know that I can stop if I want!
Once we’ve established who is in charge we can have fun and Galahad likes to go fast!
He only has little legs though so Equilab still thinks we’re trotting some of the time!
We have been having a great time – it is always good to get a new place to ride!
Today has been somewhat blustery! My ride with Cookster was rather interesting as he regressed back to trying to nap for home and we had to have a discussion about which way to go!
I thought Galahad would be spooking all over the place but in actual fact he was very relaxed and well behaved. There is a for sale sign on a field gate halfway up the hill and now Galahad knows it is there he is always prepared – he slows right down and stares very hard towards the gate so that as soon as it comes into view he is ready to spook. Today, however, it wasn’t there – it had blown off and was lying on the other side of the lane. Galahad kept looking for it on the gate though and it was only when the sign was right under his nose that he noticed it and had a mini spook the other way. It was hilarious.
Galahad has also been earning his keep this week – we needed to move the ponies into a new field and he took me round to check the fences and for poisonous plants and litter. The field runs along a road and passing motorists seem to think it’s okay to throw their rubbish over the hedge so we have to keep a close eye on it. At least it’s quite fun on a pony!
On Thursday Galahad and I were very lucky and were given permission to ride in a field on our neighbouring farm.
We were very happy to set out exploring and it was wonderful to have such a big field to play in.
There is a wood along one side of the field with lots of little entrances I would have loved to explore if I hadn’t had Galahad with me.
In fact, I did dismount and take him along this path. It led to the most delightful glade.
It had been a pretty stressful day at work and by the time I got home I was not feeling great and wasn’t even sure I wanted to ride. The lure of the field took me out though and before we got round it once I felt so much better.
In fact, the only (unimportant) downside was that my boots filled with grass seeds. They look so beautiful though.
It was the best end to the day.
Over the winter my parents have been working hard at tidying up the ponies’ summer paddock. Brambles have been cleared, fences mended and hedges wrestled into shape.
I have helped a bit too of course but it was barely anything compared to the amount they have done. The field is looking so much better for it too.
On Sunday the ponies were turned out in the field for the first time this year. Instead of running out – like they have been into their old field – they stopped not far in and their heads went straight down. I think they were very happy!
Obviously, there is a lot of grass in there at the moment so we have to be a bit careful they don’t put on weight. Hopefully we can keep them in check!
My parents have done an amazing job and the field is looking beautiful. The ponies – and I of course – are so incredibly lucky.