Navigating Corners

Galahad and I have been continuing our education this week. Having started a quest to build scary jumps for us to face I decided to have a go at building a corner fence – the only one we have jumped before was about six inches high.

Corners scare me because I’m convinced that I will manage to pilot the horse towards the widest bit of the fence and something catastrophic will happen when we attempt to jump it. Of course, this has never actually happened but it’s always possible that this time will be different.

As I am presumably therefore pushing the horse hard towards the narrow end of the corner, it would be very easy for them to run out and I was fairly sure that this is what Galahad would do. I was delighted that he just popped over it with barely a hesitation.

We jumped it several more times without a worry so it turned into an excellent day for me. It is great to have another skill to hand!

Playing in the Sunshine

It has been an absolutely glorious Bank Holiday Weekend here, with barely a cloud in the sky. Of course, I wanted to make the most of that with the ponies and luckily my sister was free this weekend too so we have been having a lovely time.

Yesterday we went for a relaxing hack around the lanes. Nothing too strenuous, just a lazy poddle which was very calming. It is nice for the ponies to get out together as they don’t necessarily do that too much at the moment.

Today we worked harder and got the poles out for the first time this year. It was still a lot of fun of course – and the ponies definitely seemed to enjoy it too. I did try some harder things though and even got Galahad jumping at an angle – something we very rarely do.

He jumped it beautifully and in fact didn’t put a foot wrong the whole time. It has been a great day.

Having Fun

I realised recently that I haven’t been making the most of the facilities we have here. Galahad and I have only done a handful of cross country competitions but at those we have done we have tended to get into trouble at any fences that look rather different to what we are used to. Galahad loves to jump but he isn’t very brave and if I’m honest my own nerves haven’t helped either.

We have several logs in the fields which we jump regularly but it suddenly came home to me that actually I can create far more of a cross country course for schooling than I have ever done. The ponies are currently turned out in a field which – until lockdown – I very rarely used for riding. Even when I did ride in it, I didn’t make use of all the natural features. We have a stream which runs right through the field and – although I have ridden through it many times – I never thought to use some of the drops down into it, instead using the gentler slopes.

Likewise, the steep slopes in the field have always scared me a bit as I do not like going downhill at speed! However, the ditches across it are perfect for schooling and in places they can even be used as a practice for drop fences – something at which we have historically been very bad.

Once I got over my nerves and realised Galahad was not going to cart me off down the hill I had so much fun playing with jumping all these new obstacles. It is obviously good for Galahad too but my confidence is soaring which is something I hadn’t anticipated when I started. Now I just want to make jumps out of anything I can find!

Unexpected Bonus

We recently had a visit from some tree surgeons as some of our trees were growing too tall and getting rather close to the power cables. They cut down an awful lot of branches but – although it made a lot of work – that is good news as it means that we are already getting a good supply of logs for next winter.

In the meantime, we might as well get some fun out of the drying logs. My parents built me a great little log pile to jump which was a lovely surprise. I thought Galahad would take some persuading to go over it – he is not a fan of new jumps – but he sailed over it without an issue.

We had a great time playing with the logs. It is wonderful to have fields that are dry enough to ride in – we had such a wet winter it seemed it might never happen again! Galahad is having a whale of a time being able to jump. He really does enjoy it and gets ever so excited when he realises what is going on. Of course, I am rather pleased too!

Working Again

Over lockdown we didn’t really do much schooling. Obviously we did the odd bit of flat work when warming up for jumping but proper, serious schooling got put on hold – mainly because we had nothing to work towards. We are still not going out to shows but I am hoping to do some online dressage soon so schooling has suddenly become important again!

Galahad was not impressed in our first session. Flat work is never his favourite thing anyway and he has got used to not having to do it. He was rather sluggish to start with and I could really tell how much schooling does improve his way of going – I couldn’t get him to bend to the right at all. He is improving now but it just shows how important schooling really is.

As well as the flat schooling I have introduced some gridwork into our routine. Partly because it is good for Galahad’s rather weak hindquarters and partly because he loves to jump so it makes the session more interesting for him too. I wanted to try some bounce distances which we have only ever done in lessons before. Those tend to be with other people whose horses inevitably have longer legs than Galahad so normally he can squeeze in an extra stride and avoid the bounce altogether. The advantage of being at home is that this time I could shorten the distances until they were right for him.

The first time we tried it he had no clue what to do with his feet and we were very scrappy on our way through. It didn’t take him long to figure it out though and soon he was bouncing through like a pro.

I think Galahad enjoyed it and I know I did so we’ll be keeping the grid up as long as the state of the ground lets us.

Jumping Again

As I am not spending any money competing or going out with the ponies at the moment I decided it was time to treat myself to some new show jump wings.  I have been wanting some for a long time and finally had the impetus to do it.

They came flat packed but were easy to put together.  Cookster was very interested in the process!

20200816_140907

It is lovely to have some extra fences up and it has made me feel able to use two whole sets of wings for a small spread fence.  The ponies have both jumped fences like this in lessons and at competitions but we have never done it at home before.  The added variety is good for all of us and the ponies seem to enjoy it just as much as I do!

S0262117

Despite that, Cookster decided to put in a very dramatic stop in front of a fence he’s been jumping quite happily for weeks.  For a moment I thought we were both going over.

S0372149

That didn’t stop me having a fun evening playing with both ponies and I can’t wait to do it again!

 

Back to Jumping

It has been a long time since the ponies last had a jump.  We stopped jumping in October or November when the field got too wet to be safe and of course we had a long gap over lockdown when first I wasn’t riding at all and then I was being extra careful when I did.  Now though, I have finally made the effort to set the jumps out again.  Typically, the dog was the most excited about this.

20200720_121658_015

I wasn’t quite sure how Galahad would react to jumping for the first time in about nine months.  He loves to jump and can get very strong and over excited.  There was every possibility that those months off might mean he was unmanageable to start with.

DSCF1973

Of course, as is pretty much always the case, I need not have worried at all.  Galahad behaved impeccably and was even a little sluggish to start with – but then schooling on the flat is not at all exciting as far as he is concerned.  He perked up once we actually started to jump and by the end he was starting to get a bit stronger and I felt I was having to hold him back.

DSCF1975

We had a great time and I am looking forward to a lot more jumping over the summer.

Joyful Jumping

Today we got to compete in the showjumping qulaifier which should have happened two weeks ago – Storm Ciara had other ideas then!  As ever, I was looking forward to it and rather nervous at the same time.  The early morning did not help either – I never like getting up but half past four is just too early!

It was still blowing quite strongly even today but we made it to the show safely and in plenty of time to walk the course and get ready.  My horse was feeling rather bouncy and full of beans but I was hopeful that when we could keep going around the course – instead of doing single practice fences – he would settle down nicely.

404_9593

Photo Credit – BLM Photography

That did prove to be the case and in fact we achieved a clear inside the time which I think was a first for us in competition – we are not generally very fast but have been working on it!

The second round also included the jump off phase so there were several more jumps to navigate (and remember!).  I was a little worried about losing my way but managed to pilot us round without error.  The horse was amazing and jumped everything I asked – we rattled the last pole but thankfully it stayed up and we were again within the time.

404_9594

Photo Credit – BLM Photography

We were still nothing like the fastest combination but we were one of only two double clears which meant we were placed second individully.  Even better, we came first as a team which means we will be going to the winter National Championships next month.  I could not be more excited – and, naturally, terrified!

20200223_155032

Nationals Bound

In July I went to our regional showjumping and style jumping qualifier for the British Riding Clubs National Championships.  The showjumping did not go quite to plan as we had one refusal and  twenty three time faults in the first round which clearly put us well out of the running.

We had to go into our second round almost immediately so I gave myself a stern talking to and tried to push my horse forward more.  We had a pole down but were at least inside the time and it felt like a much better round.  Obviously I came nowhere individually but we did come fourth as a team which was some comfort.

_C2_5934

Picture credit: Indy Equine Photography

We moved on to style jumping which I had never done before so I was quite nervous about it.  Especially as the horse I was riding is inclined to pick up the wrong canter lead on the left rein.  However, this time we got all the right leads, the course felt nice and flowing and we jumped clear.  All I could do then was cheer on the rest of my team and wait.

I ended up coming second which was very exciting and totally unexpected.  The person who beat me was on the winning team so I knew there was a chance I could be invited to the Nationals as an individual but I tried very hard not to get my hopes up.  However, two weeks ago I received an invitation and so we are going to Nationals after all.  When I heard I was so thrilled I actually squealed and dropped my phone.

I have been up once before – fifteen years ago when I was a junior and got eliminated in the second round of the show jumping.  Hopefully I will at least manage to finish the competition this time!

The Championships are next weekend (I am both very excited and very nervous at the moment!) so I will have no blog post next Sunday.  I will update you on the whole experience the following week.  Fingers crossed it’s a good one!

Jumping Joys

Now the weather is less rainy the fields have dried up beautifully.  Which of course means that we are able to school again.  Not only that – we can jump!

DSCF0467

It has been a good few months since the ponies have jumped so I like to start them off with pretty simple jumps and not rush into anything too big or complicated.  Galahad loves to jump though – he really comes alive when we get the jumps out.  In fact, he can get a bit too strong if I don’t watch it.  On Thursday I kept him to a strict trot over the fences for serveral minutes as I had felt he wasn’t really listening to me.

DSCF0450

We have had a lovely few sessions playing with the jumps and my sister has even been able to join us a couple of times which just adds to the fun.  For one thing, it means we can have a go at pairs jumping which can be hilarious.

DSCF0477

I am so much enjoying having the jumps out again!