With the changes to the lockdown which were announced last week, the BHS relaxed its advice not to ride. I was of course delighted to think that I might be able to ride again.
I started off by taking a couple of days to lunge the ponies under saddle. I was fairly sure that I wouldn’t have any problem with them but they have had two months off and I didn’t want to take any chances. A trip to hospital is definitely not desirable at the moment. I also took them for a bit of a walk up and down the lane so they got the idea of that again too.
Neither of those posed any kind of problem so actually riding was the next step. Again, not taking any chances was the order of the day so I wore my back protector despite the fact that we were just going to poddle up the lane. I was still fairly sure that it wouldn’t be an issue but I was also aware that I was nervous and that the ponies – especially Galahad – would be sensitive to that.
In the end, both ponies were absolutely fine. Galahad behaved just as usual and Cookster’s only problem was that he was trying to nap a bit more than usual. That was only to be expected though – just a few days off can affect him.
It was so good to be back in the saddle. I had actually been intending to leave it another day before riding but in the end I couldn’t resist hopping on for a very short stroll. We still haven’t ventured out onto the road or the open fields but nonetheless it was a simply wonderful feeling.
We have been in lockdown for five weeks now and although riding has not been banned riders were asked to consider whether riding was really essential for us and our horses. Obviously, the answer is different for all of us but for me personally the answer is, ‘probably not’. The ponies are not hugely fit event horses and they have plenty of turnout so have no problem in stretching their legs. I have therefore not ridden since the morning of 23rd March.
That doesn’t mean the ponies are just lazing about getting fat though. They are bound to be less fit than usual – and I know I am – but I am trying to make a habit of getting them out to do some form of exercise or different activity every day. Mostly that has meant lunging, although we have been for some nice walks together over the fields and I am planning on building ourselves some trec style obstacles this week.
When I first started trying to lunge them years ago I had completely opposite problems with them. Galahad was so scared of me that he would take off, whilst Cookster would just stand and stare at me, completely bewildered. No amount of talking, waving or being led round by someone else had any effect – he would just stand there.
Now they are both much better and go round me quite happily. In fact, Cookster is now the one who can be a bit too forward and he has got very good at leaning out of the circle and pulling me with him if I’m not careful. I find that much easier to cope with than the nothing we had before though!
On Friday I lunged Galahad again – this time whilst my sister was riding Cookster in the school as well. That was mainly because we were aiming to enter a pairs dressage test on Sunday and we wanted the ponies to get some practice at working independently in the school. It wouldn’t really make for a good test if we couldn’t get them apart!
They actually worked very well. We even ran through the test with me leading Galahad and although it wasn’t a great performance it showed that they could work well separately. Cookster wasn’t too keen on my running about near him but that wouldn’t be an issue in the real test!
On Saturday evening I was allowed to ride Galahad for the first time in a week and he felt really good. The back treatment had definitely improved his way of going.
We ran through our individual test which was nice and forward. I decided to stick to the walk and trot test as he had just had the week off and it felt like it rode pretty well.
We also practised the pairs test. We had thought the parts of the test where we separated would be the hardest but those bits went fairly well. When we had to actually ride as a pair though we really struggled to keep them close enough together. It did improve with practice but there was still a long way to go. Still, it was fun and we hopefully won’t disgrace ourselves in the competition!
On a side note, Galahad has been wearing a rug since his back treatment to keep his damaged muscles warm and it is amazing how shiny his coat is now. Even his tail lies flat!
Galahad and Cookster are spending the week at my instructor’s yard. As they went for the back check on Friday and will be staying until at least Sunday for the dressage, it seemed like a good opportunity to use the school.
I have been working all week so my riding has been restricted to after work hours. Obviously it is dark then but being away means we have the luxury of lights!
Cookster has never been ridden under lights before but, although he was a bit nervous about them (or the inpenetrable darkness behind them) at first, he settled really well and we had one of the best schooling sessions we have ever done.
Galahad is used to the lights but has been having a few days off after his back check. I was allowed to start lunging him today and I think I can see some improvement in his movement which is good news. I will be able to ride him again on Saturday so I’ll be able to see haw he feels then. Hopefully, we should be able to do our dressage test on Sunday after all!
After our ‘ditch’ troubles last Sunday I decided I really ought to practise those trec obstacles I can recreate at home so I went out and bought a couple of small trays we could school over. The first day I just put the trays across the doorway of Galahad’s stable. If he wanted his dinner he needed to walk over them. I just left him to it and although he thought about it he actually went in without too much trouble. Taking the pressure off sometimes works well for him.
I moved on to leading Galahad through a gap between the two trays. He did hesitate slightly but then walked through easily. I gradually moved the trays closer together and he didn’t object at all. I didn’t want to push it so left it at that.
In our next session I started lunging him through the gap – mainly because he is often braver when being led than he is when ridden. I wanted to make sure that he would go through without having me to follow. Obviously I was still asking him to go forward but then I would be when riding him as well.
Again he went through with no problems but when I closed the gap he was having none of it. I put in a couple of guide poles and suddenly it all clicked.
I realise he isn’t actually stepping in the trays but the point of the ditch in trec is for the horse to get over calmly – stepping all the way over is absolutely fine!
I am so pleased with the progress Galahad has made in just a couple of days. Now I just need to get on and ride him over!