Sometimes there’s more reality than dream

For a couple of months every winter I can usually only ride twice a week on my days off.  It is almost dark when I leave for work and definitely dark when I get home so – as I don’t have floodlights – it is just not possible to ride.  Having said that, I did ride Galahad in the very, very dim the other day.  It was only around our fields and not on the road but was still rather nervewracking!

20191130_165247

This year I seem to be more than usually burdened (though they are not really burdens) with odd hours at work and extra rehearsals for Christmas concerts so that even when I have a day off I am still not free to ride in the daytime.  I am currently in the middle of what will be almost two weeks off for the ponies – something which can make me feel incredibly guilty, even though there is not really anything I can do about it.  It is what comes of having too many hobbies!

I have to remember that the ponies really don’t care if they don’t get ridden.  They have a whole field to gallop round and each other to play with so it’s not as if they are cooped up and getting bored.  In fact, it is quite possible that they prefer being left alone!

20191208_193333

It does sometimes seem as if I have all the hard work and none of the fun at the moment – the ponies still need mucking out and feeding even when they are not being ridden.  However, I do really enjoy all of that too – just spending time with them is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to ride instead.  Besides, I will get to ride soon!

Emma Massingale Demo

On Friday evening I went out to see a demonstration by Emma Massingale.  I have been a fan of hers for several years now but had never managed to see a demo so I was very much looking forward to it – I bought the ticket way back in May!

DSCN7076

I had wanted to get a hot chocolate to keep myself warm but I only had five minutes to spare when I arrived and didn’t want to miss the beginning.  It was so cold though – it took me ages to warm up when I got home.

The demo was brilliant.  The bond Emma has with her ponies is wonderful to see and something I would love to achieve with my own ponies.  Not that Galahad and I don’t have a bond but it could be so much more.

DSCN7079

Emma worked with several ponies individually to show us their various stages of experience.  She reinforced something which really I already knew but which is easy to forget sometimes – it is much better to stop working on something once it has been successful than to keep repeating it because the first time might have been a fluke.  I can certainly be guilt of doing that sometimes.

She also said something which I found very interesting – she doesn’t want to be the herd leader because, although the other ponies do what the leader tells them, they don’t actually like him very much.  She had left her leader at home and the ponies she had brought didn’t really care.  Emma said she wants to be the ponies’ friend and that seems like a much better attitude to me.

dscn7080.jpg

The work with the liberty team was great to watch too.  The way she can get the ponies to work together and then send one off to do something by himself is just incredible.

DSCN7082

I had such an enjoyable evening (despite the cold!) – if you get the chance to see one of Emma’s demos I would highly recommend it.

Dressage Divas

Last Sunday was our area qualifier for the novice winter dressage championships and I am pleased to report that my superstitious hacking in my show gear did the trick – I did not fall off!

I had never actually represented the riding club in dressage before so I was pretty nervous.  I enjoy dressage but it isn’t my strong point as I am not very good at maintaining the correct outline.  Nevertheless, I was determined to do my best and not let the side down.

DSCF1584

I started off with Prelim 18 as a warm up class and although I felt it could have gone better it was at least not as bad as I thought it might have been (our practice the day before had not been great).  We ended up with a score of 67.88 and eighth place which pleased me immensely.  I even won my first goody bag!

DSCF1618

For the qualifier itself we did Prelim 12 and while it was still not perfect it felt a lot better than the first test – until we started centering and he threw his head right up in the air.  Still, we scored 67.59 and came sixth which was very exciting.

DSCF1639

My team mates did well too and we came away with team fifth.  No qualification this time but I was pleased and I think they were too.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and, as we all know, that is the important thing.

Beautiful Burghley

Last week I went up to Burghley Horse Trials.  I have only been once before but I absolutely loved it and I was so excited to go again.  It just has such a great atmosphere and of course the competition is exciting too.

We made sure to get there in time for the first trot-up on Wednesday and were back bright and early for the dressage next day.  We even had time to stop off at our favourite place for breakfast – the Country Living vintage tea room.  It was just a shame that they have had to stop using teapots as so many of them got stolen.

DSCN7014

The two days of dressage were excellent – it was great to see first timer Eliza Stoddart take the early lead, although all the changes on Friday afternoon made it very exciting.  I loved the cross country course which was a proper five star test and I had a great day walking round the course on Saturday.  We finished at the leaf pit and once the final few riders had been past us we listened with bated breath to the loudspeakers as they made their way round the rest of the course.

DSCN7024

Of course, the Sunday show jumping could not have been closer – at least for the final three riders.  I was actually trembling as I watched Oliver Townend, Piggy French and Pippa Funnell go round.  It did not help me at all that they each had a pole down!  I would have been happy if any of them had won but I was so, so pleased to see Pippa come out on top.  She has long been a hero of mine.

DSCN7028.JPG

I am also clearly a lucky charm for British riders.  When I went two years ago there was a British 1-2-3-4 and it was the same again this year.

DSCN7059 2.jpg

Naturally I did a little shopping while I was there too.  Burghley seems to be a place for me to buy slogans – last time I got my ‘Living the dream’ gilet.  This time, I found this excellent polo shirt on the BHS stand.

DSCF1540.JPG

I also treated myself to these riding tights.  I have never had any before but I have enjoyed wearing them this week.  Plus, my phone actually fits in the pocket properly!  I also loved looking at all of the horse feed stands.  When I was little I used to wish I had a pony and could get samples to take home for it.  Now I can and it felt so good.

Once again I had the best time at Burghley.  I will definitely be back in the future.

British Riding Clubs National Championships

Last weekend was absolutely wonderful.  I was of course very nervous but definitely excited too.  I love being part of a team, although I do worry about getting everything right!

It was fun to pack everything into the lorry and we had a surprisingly easy run up to Lincoln – six hours in total with only about an hour stuck in traffic.  We arrived at lunch time, got the horses checked in and settled whilst our camp was set up, then sat down for lunch.  It was very civilised!

20190830_134946

My favourite part of the day was hacking the horses to stretch their legs and help us get our bearings.  The competition has grown a bit since I was last there!  I also walked the style jumping course which actually helped to settle my nerves – fear of the unknown is far worse than fear of the known.  Plus, once I knew what I was facing I could visualise myself riding round the course – and getting it right!

The next morning it was all hands on deck to get the senior horses ready.  Dressage was first for us so I went up to support my team and also managed to watch the first few style jumping rounds.  These did not fill me with confidence as the first four riders all had refusals at the first fence and the first two were both eliminated by fence three.  In reality though, it was really useful – it made me very determined to get over the first fence if I did nothing else.

Before long I was up on my horse and ready to go.  Murphy can get worried and tense at shows but – apart from calling desperately for his friends – he felt remarkably relaxed.  We were soon into the ring and saluting the judge – 0Murphy had to call out a greeting too!

Our round didn’t feel all that tidy – which matters in style jumping – and we got a couple of incorrect canter leads but we were at least jumping clear.  Murphy had a good look at fence one but there was no way I was going to stop at it!  After that he didn’t look at anything and was jumping beautifully

Then we came to the penultimate fence.  We were only a couple of strides out when it blew over and we had to circle away whilst it was rebuilt.  We jumped it on our second attempt but sadly knocked the last pole down.  Its impossible to tell how much we were affected by the break in rhythm but I was nevertheless thrilled to have got round respectably.

20190830_180627

I have no pictures of me riding yet but I will share them when they arrive.

Having waited for the class to finish I found that we had come 16th out of 50 in our arena and 30th out of 108 overall.  I was delighted – at a national championship and my first attempt that wasn’t bad at all.

Sunday was another busy day helping our junior riders in their classes.  It is great to be part of a team, where everyone supports each other and the delights of success are shared.  The success wasn’t missing either – the lorry had a good decoration of rosettes and sashes for our long journey home.  It was a wonderful weekend and I will be trying very hard to make it happen again.

Fun Riding

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!

20190726_201325

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!

Equestrian Scotland

I am just back from spending a week in Scotland, a place which I love.  I didn’t have much time with horses while I was up there but I did find these very cute ponies at the Highland Folk Museum (which is such a fascinating place to visit and I would highly recommend it if you are ever in the area).

DSCN6670

I was staying in Pitlochry and since I was so close I had to visit two very famous horses.

DSCN6809

They are of course not horses at all but kelpies and they are simply magnificent.  They are huge (the tallest equestrian sculpture in the world) and yet they are remarkably lifelike.

DSCN6812

We got to go inside one of them which was brilliant and the engineering involved is incredible.

DSCN6819

It was a great day and I was so glad we had made the trip.  I had a wonderful time for the whole week but it is always good to be back behind these ears again.

20190714_201654

Alternative Show Jumping

Yesterday I was jumping the ponies in the field but today I tried an alternative form of show jumping – I finally managed to take my dog to our first agility competition.

20190616_110909

The show ground is a bit overwhelming at first – it seems to just be a sea of jumps and other obstacles and it is only when you get closer that you can pick out the different rings.  They are separated by a single strand of string and as I have seen dogs in the past running amok, leaving their own ring and invading the others, I was more than a little nervous about our first runs.  I was not at all confident that the dog would listen to me!

Our first two classes were on first thing so we arrived bright and early to walk and try to remember two courses at once.  Luckily my years of showjumping stood me in good stead for that!

DSCF0752

More importantly though, the dog stayed beautifully focussed on me and although we didn’t quite get clear rounds (we had trouble with the weaves in both classes) we got round with very little trouble.  I could not have been more pleased with her.

The scoring system was amazing – as each dog finished, their score was immediately posted up on a tablet at the ringside.  You could see exactly how you did and keep track as the rest of the competitors went as well.  It was brilliant!

DSCF0740

We don’t have to do this with the horses!

We had a long wait until our next class so we watched some of the other dogs running before heading back to the car for lunch.  The dog was already very tired and couldn’t really keep her eyes open but every time a dog barked – which was often – she would jerk back awake again.  Poor dog.  At least she was resting.

Most of the rings had finished by the time we got to our last class so the show ground was getting quieter and less distracting.  I thought we might be in trouble though when the dog before us ran off with someone else’s treat box.  In fact my dog was right with me for most of the course – the only problem being the weaves (again – we need to work on those) when she decided she really had to stop for a scratch.  We got a cricket score in time faults but again I was so incredibly proud of her.

DSCF0742

Yes, I did nearly run into the fence myself!

Today went so much better than I thought it might and it has given me a lot of confidence for the next competition.  Hopefully I’ll remember that when the time comes!  The dog is currently fast asleep and looking like she might stay that way – these days are as hard work for her as they are for me!  Definitely worth it though.

A Horseless Horsey Day

Today has been extremely busy for me.  I went to help my riding club team at the horse trials qualifier and it was a long but very fun day.

20190609_220617.jpg

I got to walk the cross country course with the team, then it was all hands on deck to tack up and get the first riders down to the dressage warm up.

20190609_125559.jpg

Once the first rider was finished with dressage I helped adjust their tack for jumping, then I became our team’s chief pole putter-upper in the warm up ring.  I spent several hours adjusting poles and getting rather sandy in the process.

I also got drenched – when I left the lorry it was blazing sunshine and I was worried about sunburn but before too long there was an almighty crack of tbunder and the heavens opened.  I was in the middle of the warm up at the time and had no chance to get my coat.

20190609_143616.jpg

By the time our last team member was finished show jumping most of the others had finished completely so once I’d helped her get ready for her cross country round it was time to start removing studs and getting the horses booted up and ready for the journey home.

I had a great day helping out and hopefully learned a lot too.  I managed not to fall asleep on the way home but I was definitely not the world’s greatest conversationalist!

Mechanical Horse Riding

Yesterday I went to have a lesson on a mechanical horse.

DSCF0617

The riding club have organised several of these days but I have never before managed to get there so I was very excited to finally be able to have a go.  I was more than a little nervous as well though as I really didn’t know what to expect.

DSCF0622

I honestly do not know what I’m doing with my hands here. I can only assume I am describing something but I cannot remember what!

This particular mechanical horse is people powered so it is the rider using their weight correctly which makes the horse move in different gaits.  It’s incredibly clever and means that if you do something wrong you can really feel it because the horse stops what it should be doing.  At one point I was trying to get the horse to canter and instead managed to make it buck!

It was such a fun experience and extremely interesting too.  I learnt a lot about how to use my body more effectively in the saddle and got some useful pointers about my feet too – they always want to turn out!  Being sat on a mechanical horse rather than a real one means you can concentrate properly on how your body is working rather than on what the horse might be doing. I woud definitely recommend the experience if you get the chance.

Now I know how it should feel when I’m using it correctly – all I need to do is put it into practice when I’m riding the ponies!