On Boxing Day my sister came round to ride and we set off for our very tinselly Christmas hack.
I always love riding out but it is especially great at the moment – it is such fun to dress the ponies up and carol our way along the lanes. Good King Wenseslas was obviously the first choice for Boxing Day singing!
Added to that, our parents usually come out on Boxing Day as well – their company is lovely but it also means we may get some tasty treats which are very welcome!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Today was very exciting for me – I wore my riding skirt out on a pony for the first time since last winter.
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.
I love autumn!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
On Friday my riding club had a fun ride around the grounds of a local National Trust property. I have done a couple of sponsored rides before but never a fun ride and I was very keen to go. I couldn’t get Galahad there but my instructor had a horse I could use and I jumped at the chance.
The weather could not have been better – we have been having a heatwave recently but this was an evening ride so everything was much cooler but still lovely and dry. Even better – we were barely bothered by flies at all!
The ride was a mix of woodland, quiet lanes and open fields. We had some great canters but also plenty of time to walk and absorb the surroundings – there were some stunning views.
It was a lovely, sociable ride with the added interest of a treasure hunt to follow – I do love looking out for clues! We even had a barbecue waiting for us when we got back which was just wonderful. Of course, as we hadn’t started riding until nearly seven, it was getting dim by this point and it was properly dark when we got the horses home. In a way that just added to the excitement though. I had a fantastic time and I can’t wait for the next ride!
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!