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.
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!
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!
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.
That didn’t stop me having a fun evening playing with both ponies and I can’t wait to do it again!
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.
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.
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.
We had a great time and I am looking forward to a lot more jumping over the summer.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
My riding of the ponies has been a bit curtailed recently as I had the opportunity to ride on my riding club’s showjumping team last weekend and I had no hesitation in taking it. Obviously the jumps are too high for Galahad – hence the riding of other horses. Before we had the ponies I used to ride so many different horses in my lessons and it really did make me a better rider – I was reasonably confident sitting on anything. These days I am much more nervous and it feels like it takes me longer to get to know new horses – just because I have got so used to the ponies’ way of going. These couple of weeks have really brought home to me how much I have lost and I am determined to keep riding other horses.
It has been several years since I jumped proper grown-up sized jumps and even longer since I competed for the riding club so I was somewhat nervous but very, very excited. We had a much earlier start than Galahad and I are used to – we do stick to the local shows after all – and I am certainly not used to getting the horses ready in the dark. We also had an interesting journey as the lorry broke down and we arrived as the class was starting.
I didn’t have my usual support crew with me so thank you to Wayne for taking some brilliant photographs!
Of course, that meant we could not walk the course but we are nothing if not determined and it certainly wasn’t the first time I have jumped without a course walk. I overshot one turn slightly but overall we got round pretty well with just one pole down.
We did manage to walk the course for the second round but annoyingly we still had a pole down and time faults as well – which meant we were the discard score for that round. I was still so proud of us though – I had only ridden Murphy a few times and we were working well together. I learnt so much too which I can hopefully use another time.
In the end our team came third overall and second of the qualifiers. We actually had the same score as the qualifying team but were slightly slower – which makes that pole and time faults extra frustrating!
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I had the most amazing day though and am very much hoping that I get to do it again soon.
We have been having a pretty quiet week here. After the excitement of a show it is good to have a bit of a rest. Galahad and I have been out for some lovely hacks.
We have been working too though and have had some successful schooling sessions. It does however currently seem to be my fate to get absolutely soaked whenever we jump. I don’t think it has rained any other time I’ve been riding this week but when we had a play over the jumps there was an absolute downpour.
Galahad has been having fun too – he seems to permanently have a mane full of burrs and I have to spend ages working them out. I then have fingers full of splinters for hours afterwards. It is pretty painful!
Last Sunday was our inter-club team show jumping event. Cookster came with Galahad and I so for the very first time I had two ponies to compete. That really is the dream!
What wasn’t the dream was the weather – it poured down all day and I don’t think I have ever been so wet. I have certainly never been able to pour water out of my riding boots before and they are still not quite dry now! Luckily, the long dry spell meant that although the ground got a bit soggy it was nowhere near as slippery as it might have been. We had to be aware of the footing but there was very little slipping.
The teams consisted of four riders, each jumping a different height. As my two ponies were the smallest on our teams I jumped the lowest height – 50-60cm – on both of them. Cookster was first up and stopped at both of the first two jumps. After that though he suddenly seemed to wake up to what we were doing and flew round. He sadly knocked two poles down but he was jumping beautifully and I was so pleased with him.
As soon as we were finished I got straight onto Galahad (who had been warmed up by one of the children – such luxury!), had a practice jump and within a few minutes we were called into the ring. As we went through the gate my instructor – who knows all my weaknesses – said, ‘Keep those eyes up!’ It was good advice and it worked as Galahad jumped a lovely, flowing clear round. It was so good to feel him going forward confidently.
After a break whilst the higher rounds were jumped Cookster and I were back in the ring. This time Cookster knew from the start what was going on and he jumped a beautiful round with only one fence down. We also had a silly stop which was entirely my fault – there was a bit of a dog leg line which I messed up, tried to correct and ended up completely confusing him so he slid to a stop. It was annoying but I was so pleased with the rest of the round and, again, it was definitely not his fault.
Then it was another quick change onto Galahad – and another instruction to keep my eyes up! Once again, Galahad jumped a super round but we did have a stop as the same fence as Cookster. Again, it was my fault – I think I was worried about it after Cookster’s round and that made me mess it up again. Definitely need to work on dog legs! Galahad was great though and I was so pleased with him.
In fact, I was very proud of both ponies. Cookster has really come on with his jumping and did so well, especially as this was his first show. Galahad is really jumping nicely too and feels wonderfully confident – which is not always the case! They both also coped very well with the ground – Galahad can be a bit tentative on slippery surfaces but that was not a problem at all.
Cookster’s team came third and Galahad’s second so it was a pretty successful day results wise too. Definitely worth braving the weather!
After the excitement of getting the jumps out, I finally got the chance to use some of my birthday presents (from March!).
First I had a wall jump for the first time. It’s a great design and fits neatly over a straw bale.
It might be meant for the ponies but the first jump belonged to the dog.
When I did get to jump it with Galahad I was fully expecting him to try to run out so I set up some guide poles but he actually popped over it with no trouble at all. I think my face shows how astonished I was.
The wall is double sided so of course we had to jump it both ways. This time Galahad did run out at our first attempt but as usual it was because I didn’t keep my eyes up.
I also got some pole sleeves which just needed trimming and sliding on. As always, my Dad came in very useful.
Once again I looked down at the jump and Galahad ran out. After that he jumped very well but I really must work on looking up!
As you can see, there were enough trimmings to make an extra interestingly coloured pole.
We had a great time playing with the jumps and I am looking forward to using them more. It is good to get Galahad jumping as many different things as possible but apart from that it is fun!