Learning to be a Pack Pony

Our neighbours have just been away for a few days and while they were gone I volunteered to fill up their bird feeders.  The best way to do it seemed to be to use Galahad to transport the food.  It promised to be fun!

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We set off on our hack loaded with bird food and had a lovely ride up the hill, despite the fact that it was pouring with freezing cold rain.  Obviously I couldn’t take Galahad into the garden so I had to tie him to a nearby gate – I took some binder twine with me specially.

He waited very patiently while I went off to fill the feeders.  The poor thing got absolutely drenched and I was not thrilled about sitting on the saddle again afterwards!

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We had a great time and it was nice to have a purpose on our ride – I’d be quite happy to do it again!

Getting a Soaking

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Wilton Horse Trials

I am just back from a great weekend at Wilton Horse Trials.

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Wilton ’18 was written incarrots and bananas!

We had a small setback to start with as we were staying in Wilton very near to the main entrance to the house but hadn’t realised that the only way in to the horse trials was two miles away round the other side of the park.  We knew that was the main gate but not that it was the only one.  It was a shame but we’ll be better prepared another time.

I don’t get to go to many of the smaller events but I do love them – you can be so much closer to the action.  I spent Saturday morning basically sat in the warm up area watching the dressage and showjumping.  It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many horses.

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Once the cross country started we obviously had to walk the course and apart from being a little wary of approaching horses (there are less string fences than at the bigger events so we had to be very aware of where the horses would go) it was fantastic exploring the course and being able to get a good look at the fences.

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Saturday morning was novice cross country but I had a look at all the jumps we passed and I was particularly interested in a double on the BE100 course.  I could see several different ways to approach it and I was curious to see how it rode.

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Once the BE100 class started I went to have a look and the first two riders took one route but both had a run out at the second element.  The third rider took a different route and made it look easy so I thought that settled the question.

It’s never as simple as that though – over the two days I saw all possible routes taken and all of them cleanly so my first look must have just been bad timing!

Saturday had been mostly sunny – although very windy – but rain was was forecast for Sunday.  We knew that but the long dry spell has made us a bit complacent and although we had brought waterproof jackets we hadn’t really considered how cold we might get and we had actively decided not to take waterproof trousers.  It rained all day so we learnt our lesson!

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Even the horses were hiding from the rain!

We arrived on Sunday to find that the majority of the trade stands had packed up which was a real shame.  We hadn’t had time to look round them the day before and had planned to do so on Sunday morning.  The few remaining food stands were doing a roaring trade though!

First up on Sunday were the intermediate classes and it was great to be able to get a good look at the riders warming up.  I hope that I managed to learn something.

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We didn’t walk the whole of the cross country course this time – partly because we now knew it pretty well and partly because it was pouring with rain and blowing pretty well too.  I had dreadful trouble with my hat and ended up looking like Paddington.

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The hat will never be the same again.

We picked out a few of our favourite jumps and went to watch those.  The furthest field from the main showground had a fantastic group of trees where we could sit in comfort and watch six fences (eight or nine jumping efforts depending on the class).

I really think we had the best seats on the course, although a coffee van would have been nice!  We were also sat right by the double I had been interested in the day before so I not only got a good view of it being jumped, I also got to watch many different people walking it and it was fascinating to see all the different approaches.

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Despite the weather we had a great weekend and I’m already looking forward to the next event.

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Perhaps Not

On Sunday I wrote a nice, positive post about the arrival of spring.  Then I went out for a ride with my sister.

As I mentioned in that post, I have been riding in short boots with no coat and I didn’t see any reason to change that on Sunday.  Naturally, within about five minutes it was pouring with rain.  We got so wet!

The sound in the video is mostly from the hundreds of tiny pebbles being washed down the hill.

On the bright side, Galahad wanted very much to turn away from the rain and we got some lovely lateral work out of it.  It was much better before we started filming of course.

Naturally I am sat writing this on Wednesday evening – after the springiest of spring days.  Perhaps this is the end of the rain!

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April Showers

Really it should be April downpours!

We have a couple of days of sunshine without rain and the ground starts to look like it might be thinking about drying up.

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Then the heavens open and we are swimming in mud again.  It seems to be never ending!  The other day we rode out in reasonably nice weather but it wasn’t long before we were being drenched in some very cold rain which turned to hail after a few minutes.  All of the lambs in the surrounding fields suddenly started complaining  and before we knew it they had disappeared into the hedges.  It didn’t make them quiet though – we were surrounded by a wall of sound.

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On the bright side, the rain means that I have good reason to wear my riding skirt.  It keeps both of us lovely and dry – although when I am wearing it I’m sure the rain is more likely to hold off!

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Another positive is that since the clocks went forward we have been having some lovely light evenings and there is finally time to ride after work.  It is wonderful to get more riding!

Exciting Times

Our hacking at the weekend was pretty exciting – relatively speaking.  First Cookster and I met our neighbour and then immediately afterwards a Waitrose van.  At first I was hugely impressed with the amount it slowed down for us – especially as we weren’t actually on the road at the time.  Then I realised it was trying to turn into the same lane as us and so it had to slow down because we were just in the way.  Oops.

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Next we encountered a lady in her back garden chasing away the pheasants.  As she lives on the edge of a pheasant shoot I think she is fighting a losing battle!  Cookster was remarkably calm about that though and barely batted an eyelid.  We then of course met the Waitrose van coming back but this time I made sure we were well out of the way.

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Galahad and I had a very calm ride really and only met one car.  They were extremely good at slowing down to pass us – so much so that Galahad started to grow restless waiting on the verge.  I had pulled him up from what he thought was going to be a canter and he was not overly happy about it.  It was lovely to see that the driver was so aware of slowing down to pass us though.

As you can see, it was rather a wet day but we had a great time!

By Sunday it was safe enough to ride again so Galahad and I set off up the hill.   I love the snow but it did feel good to be riding.

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Not that all the snow was gone – it wasn’t quite clear in the valley and we didn’t have to go far up the hill to find more.

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It is all gone now and what with the heavy frosts and a few sunny, dry days, the ground was beginning to dry out and show signs of recovering from our very wet winter.

For the last couple of days though it has poured with rain and the mud is just as bad as it ever was.  It does make life interesting – we usually use the stream to soak the ponies’ overnight haynets and with it flowing as strongly as it is at the moment that takes quite a bit of strength!

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Glorious Mud

It seems to have been raining solidly for the past few weeks and I have never known the ground to be so wet.  We will definitely not be schooling here anytime soon!

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However, on Monday Galahad and I got out for a hack which was miraculously dry.  We got a little further afield than usual and found distinct signs that spring is on its way.

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It’s hard to tell in the picture but there is a whole bank of snowdrops in front of Galahad. It was beautiful!

There have been primroses out since before Christmas and the snowdrops have been around for a while too but a bit further up the road we found daffodils and even some campion.

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Then on Thursday morning I stepped out of the door to find the sky was a gorgeous blue and the birds were singing like crazy.  Make sure you have the sound on when you play the video!

It was a beautiful morning until the rain came back.  Definitely promising signs of spring though – it’s amazing how much better it can make one feel!

New Year New Haircut

For a few weeks now I have been thinking that it was time to give Galahad a haircut.  Specifically his tail – it might not be very thick but it does get rather long.

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It is not technically correct to trim native ponies but that has never stopped me clipping him.  We don’t tend to show much anyway so it really doesn’t matter.  Besides, when it rains as much as it has done this last week this is the sort of thing that happens.

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It can’t be particularly pleasant!

I didn’t want to wash the whole tail but I did clean off the ends before I trimmed them – the mud wasn’t just wet it was cold too.  Plus, clean hair is much better for the scissors!

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Galahad looks much smarter now and I should think is more comfortable.  I seem to have neglected to take a picture of the finished product though – I wanted the hair to dry first so we went for our ride and I forgot all about it.  It was a lovely hack though, even if it was blowing a gale!

Riding into the New Year

The weather this morning was rather nice but we wasted it as my sister was making a trifle and I curled up with a book.  By the time we got out to ride it was pouring with rain so we dragged on all of our waterproofs.

Naturally, it stopped raining as soon as we were tacked up and ready to ride – I’m sure that if we had decided against waterproofs the rain would have got worse!  However, at least it meant that we had a lovely, dry ride out.

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We had a great time and I think the ponies enjoyed it too despite our making them splash through the puddles.

The only downside was that Galahad thought the perfect place to stop for a poo was right outside our neighbours’ house.  I got off to clear it into the hedge and they came out of the house just as I was doing so.  We had a nice chat and I don’t think they realised what I was doing… They didn’t mention it anyway!

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We had some chores to do outside and just as we got back indoors the heavens opened again.  We timed our outing perfectly!