Taking a Break

As the ponies had been staying away I took the opportunity to hack over some different routes to our usual fare and also to squeeze in a couple of lessons. Galahad and I had a lovely time roaming around the countryside and it was amazing what a change had come over him in little more than a week. He was beginning to get a bit fluffy before he went away but now his winter coat is most definitely coming through – even his ears are starting to look fluffy!

The lessons were great too and I was plesaed with the way both ponies went. Cookster especially jumped beautifully – once you get him straight he really does have a good jump.

Despite enjoying the time away it was good to have the ponies home again. There is nothing quite like walking out of the door and the ponies being right there. However, I don’t get to enjoy that for long. My parents and sister are taking over the care of them as I am going away for a fortnight to work at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I am so excited about going but I will miss the ponies and I know I will feel the lack of riding when I get back! I have decided to take two weeks off from writing the blog as I will have no pony content to share – and I know I am going to be incredibly busy while I am away. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks desperate to share everything the ponies have been doing!

Competing Again

Galahad and I recently took part in another virtual event with Exiefest. We did the utility pony class again and this time had the chance to do a working hunter class as well.

The utility pony class is essentially an obstacle course – a bit like doing trec. We can do that very well but this was not one of our better days. Nothing went especially wrong but Galahad was a bit tense the whole time and we were just not as fluid as usual. I found it particularly hard to put the watering can back down in the right place – it would have been easier just to carry it around with us! In the end we came fifth out of six in that class. My sister had a much better day with Cookster – she came third.

For the working hunter class I decided to push ourselves a bit and do the 65cm plus class. I knew Galahad was more than capable and would probably actually jump better at a higher height. He doesn’t really see the point of tiny fences!

Of course, he flew around the course and made it feel tiny. It felt wonderful and I was so proud of him. We came second in that class – although there was only one other competitor so that’s not quite as good as it sounds!

I had such a great time filming the classes and am very much looking forward to the next one.

Changing Seasons

Autumn is definitely creeping up on us. I have actually had to turn the tack room light on in the evening a couple of times – it has been a while since that was necessary! I would have liked to turn the stable light on too but the swallows have a second brood in the nest built against the light so that is not currently possible.

The ponies’ winter coats are starting to come through too. They aren’t very fluffy yet but the effect of even that small extra amount of hair is already showing itself. We had a pretty hot day yesterday and Galahad got surprisingly sweaty very quickly as we went over a few jumps. So much so that I cut our schooling session a little shorter than I had planned. We need to go a little bit gently until Galahad is clipped. At least while this warm weather lasts.

Not that we didn’t still have a good ride – and this evening Galahad and I went out for a post work hack which was delightful. In fact, I love autumn – there is something about the crispness of the air in the mornings and evenings which is wonderful. Plus, we will start lighting the woodburner in the evenings – something which always makes me happy, even if it does encourage me to spend more time inside.

I actually spent a fair bit of yesterday indoors anyway though – it was wonderful to be able to watch the five star eventing from Bicton which made for a very exciting couple of days. I have missed having the big events to watch, although I very much enjoyed what I could see of the Paralympcs over the past couple of weeks. Sadly most of the dressage happened whilst I was at work but I watched what I could and I loved it. Now I’m very much looking forward to the next one!

Thrills and Spills

Last week definitely had the full spectrum of highs and lows for me. We started off with a great schooling session which finished with some jumping. Galahad was feeling so good that I raised the fences higher than we had jumped for a while and he soared over them without a second thought. He can sometimes back off his fences a bit and so to feel him really keen to jump was wonderful.

This was just over 2’4″ – we have jumped this height before but not for a long time – so not huge. It felt like a big achievement for us though, especially as previously this height has seemed to intimidate him. This time, he made it feel tiny.

The low came a few days later when we were just having a gentle hack around the fields. We had just popped over a small ditch on a downhill slope when a pheasant flew up on our right, Galahad shot off to the left and I pretty much stayed where I was. Thankfully my sister was there to catch Galahad and call for reinforcements in the form of my parents – I was still lying flat on my face and she couldn’t cope with that and two ponies! I had told her I was fine so she wasn’t being callous leaving me there but at the same time I was clearly not okay – I am normally trying to stand up sooner than I should.

I was in fact fine, just rather bruised and I had pulled a few muscles which are still feeling sore a week later. The shock was the worst bit – I cannot remember the last time I cried when I fell off – although it had been a bit of a stressful week for me and I think the fall just finished me off emotionally!

It is clear that the blogging bug has infected more than just me now. Even as my Mum ran – in her slippers – out of the house to pick up the pieces she paused to wonder if she should bring a camera to record the event for posterity!

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!

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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!

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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.

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