Several times recently I have been at demos which have told me that when I’m working on something with a horse and they get it right I should stop. This is something I know very well in theory but for some reason I find it very hard to put into practice.
It is just so tempting to think, ‘Hurrah he’s got it – we’ll just do it once more and then we can stop.’ Of course, then we make a complete mess of it and end up doing whatever it was five times more until we get it right again. Every time it happens I remind myself that next time I must reward Galahad by stopping as soon as we get it right.
Yes Galahad is still wearing tinsel here. I took the picture last weekend – before Twelfth Night. All tinsel has since been removed!
It’s not necessarily that easy though. We have recently been working on a pole work exercise which doesn’t always go to plan. Today we got it right first time and it’s very difficult to stop after only one attempt – it doesn’t feel like a proper schooling session at all! It’s yet another thing which will take time to learn.
Yesterday I went to have a lesson on a mechanical horse.
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.
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!
On Thursday Galahad and I had a fantastic lesson.
The eagle eyed among you may spot that these photographs were not taken during the actual lesson. I didn’t have a tame photographer there so we had to recreate the scene afterwards!
We started off with flatwork and spent some time doing work without stirrups. Galahad hasn’t really done much of that before and he definitely hasn’t done the exercises that go with it. They can be a bit scary for a nervous pony like him so I wasn’t quite sure how he would react but he was as good as gold. It may be time for me to stop assuming that everything will scare him because most of the time that isn’t true anymore. In fact, when I think he will react badly I know I make it more likely – I tense up and that definitely affects him badly.
We then moved on to some jumping. Specifically – gridwork. Galahad hasn’t even done a single bounce fence before, let alone a line of fences. More than that, we started off without reins which was another new thing for him (and something I haven’t done for years).
Galahad just pinged through them like a pro. He never fails to amaze me and once again I was so proud of him. I feel like I say that a lot but it is true!
As I mentioned in my last post, the ponies went away for a few days so they could see the dentist. Before now I have always been at work when they have seen him but this year – although I didn’t see him with my ponies – I managed to get a look him working with the other horses. The tools do look a little bit like instruments of torture but it was fascinating.
While the ponies were there though I took full advantage of the facilities. I managed to school one pony every day and I had a lesson almost every day. I worked on quarters in with both ponies as they both need to use their hindquarters more. The exercise definitely helped both of them and Cookster in particular was working better (and straighter!) than I ever remember him doing.
As well as the school, I also had access to plenty of hacking. It is always nice to have a change of scenery so every day I hacked out with whichever pony had not been schooled. Most of the time that was with company too which was lovely. We had a great time!
This has been a busy week for the ponies. On Tuesday they went away to my instructor’s yard so Galahad could have a follow up back check on the Wednesday. I managed to squeeze in a lesson on the Tuesday night first and it was somewhat interesting! He was full of energy and bounced around the arena. Cookster was in a stable very close by which was probably the main reason.
Galahad took quite a while to settle but once he did we had a really good lesson. We are even starting to get the hang of quarters in!
His muscles were still pretty tight when he had his back check but thankfully it could be massaged out rather than needing a full treatment. It’s the first time that has ever happened and I couldn’t be more pleased. It definitely pays off to make his back checks more frequent!
On Saturday I rode Galahad for the first time in almost three weeks. It was so good to be back in the saddle! It has been very strange at home without the ponies – I get home from work and there is no need to go outside. Really odd.
Galahad and I had a fairly short lesson (I am still not quite 100%) but I was pleasantly surprised with how we did. Galahad was nice and calm and even when I couldn’t stop coughing he didn’t really react. One of my main concerns had been that he would spook at the coughing and I would not be able to control him so I was very pleased!
We even managed a little jumping which I was not expecting to be able to do quite so soon. We had three small fences lined up across the arena and jumped them in a figure of eight pattern. I was thrilled with Galahad during this exercise – he was very responsive and didn’t put a foot wrong. I on the other hand started coughing a bit more at this point and my legs were running out of energy – I struggled a bit to keep him going forward. As I said – still not 100%!
I was so glad to be back in the saddle and I am very much looking forward to getting back to full fitness.
The day Galahad was clipped I managed to squeeze in a lesson before the ponies came home. He had literally just been finished so he started off feeling rather fresh and bouncy.
All at once though he started working really nicely – in a proper outline and everything! It was the most amazing feeling as he has not really done it consistently before.
Sadly I failed to get any photographs at all from my lesson. These are old pictures from a trec training day!
It turned out to be a great lesson – I really managed to crack using my hand and leg to stop Galahad loading his shoulder and falling in. I’m not saying that it will never happen now but I least I know I can stop him!
Galahad and I had another great lesson on Friday. Our flatwork is steadily improving and my instructor thinks Galahad is looking less stiff and much better in general.
Our jumping also went really well. We again jumped the barrel with no trouble and this time we jumped the big, scary, white filler which was a first for him. It is a real sign of growing up!
I followed that up with a lesson on my sister’s pony which didn’t go quite so well. His legs are not so coordinated when it comes to jumping and we completely messed up the striding in the double. He got his front legs tangled in the pole and we both fell down. Luckily we were both relatively unscathed, if rather sandy.
The ponies are having a visit from the back lady this week so she’ll be able to check he hasn’t damaged himself. If we had to fall we couldn’t have timed it better!
The ponies are away for a couple of weeks again as we join in with my riding instructor’s horses for visits from the dentist and the back lady. They saw the dentist on Thursday and were apparently very well behaved – I was at work so couldn’t be there.
It is very strange not having them at home. Yesterday I had lessons on both of them in the morning and when I came home I didn’t know what to do with myself. Normally if I have been out in the morning I come home and ride the ponies. Yesterday I didn’t even have any mucking out to do! It was most odd but I managed to occupy myself by watching the livestreams of Royal Windsor Horse Show and the Event Rider Masters at Chatsworth. I just about had enough wifi signal to watch under the apple tree in the garden. It was lovely!
Galahad’s lesson went very well. He felt a little stiff to start with but did loosen up and felt much better by the end. I had a bit of trouble getting the correct canter lead on the right rein though. A lot of that was due to him having a good look at things going on outside the school and bending the wrong way.
We had a great jumping session as well. We began at about two foot which is probably the highest he has jumped to start – normally we work up from much smaller jumps. We jumped all the scary jumps without a single run out and even went straight over the barrel, although Galahad had a good look at it first! The first time we had a guide pole up at the side to help us but in our second round it was gone and we still sailed over. We finished with a fairly substantial spread which Galahad flew over. He is getting stretched a little more every time we go out but is taking it all in his stride. Clever pony!
Way back before Christmas when the ponies were away I managed to squeeze in another lesson. Actually two more – I split my lesson in two and did half on each pony.
This time it was daylight so Galahad was concentrating a bit more and worked really well. We still have issues with him escaping through his right shoulder but I think it is improving. My riding and ability to deal with any wobbliness is certainly getting better! My instructor made the interesting point that Galahad’s trot work is so much freer and looks a lot nicer after he has done some cantering. Even if it is just halfway round the ring it really makes a difference. I would have liked to take advantage of this and have a bit of a canter before my walk-trot dressage test but the waterlogged warm up ring made it impossible. Still, it is good to know for the future.
We also had a jump over what was quite a twisty course my instructor had built. She was impressed with how Galahad had improved since the summer. He is now much better able to hold the canter round corners between jumps and the whole course was much more fluid than before. The jumps were slightly bigger too – this was more of a 2’3″ – 2’6″ course and in the summer we were jumping 2′ – 2’3″. We even had a pretty decent spread as the last fence – which we probably jumped better than anything else!
in fact, our only trouble was caused by me. I know that if I look down he is more likely to run out but it can be quite hard for me to act on that. Something to work on.
The shorter lesson actually worked out pretty well as Galahad was starting to get tired. A clip will definitely be in order once I can start working him a bit more consistently.