Managing the Heat

We have been having such a heatwave this past week! The ponies have been spending as much time as possible in the shade and the riding has taken a bit of a hit as well. When we did manage to get out it was always for something very gentle to keep down the temperature. Having said that, on Friday morning I took Galahad out for an early hack only to find that the dog had tagged along too. She isn’t really safe on the roads without a lead so our hack turned into a schooling session – albeit one that was still not too strenuous.

The evenings have been so much nicer and cooler this weekend that I have been able to get out again after work. Both ponies have enjoyed some lovely hacks – at least, I enjoyed them and I hope they did too!

I have also been very much enjoying the snippets of the Olympics I have been able to watch in between working. I will watch pretty much any Olympic sport but of course I am enjoying the dressage and am so looking forward to the team final on Tuesday which just happens to be my day off!

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!

Exciting Times

Exciting things are happening here!

This year – for what is probably the first time – I have actually put all my jumps away for the winter at a decent time. As in, not in February when it is nearly time to get them out again. Although when I say I did it I really mean we – my parents were brilliant and helped me out.

Not that this means I am suddenly super organised. No, this productivity is just because I have entered an online dressage competition and I needed the space to set out a dressage arena. My flatwork is usually done around the jumps but that doesn’t really go down so well in an actual test.

Once again, my parents helped me mark it out properly – it would have taken me forever to do it all myself. We even did the maths to make sure the corners really were right angles.

The dog was not at all interested in the process but she did have fun making one last use of the jumps before they went away.

The ponies of course couldn’t care less.

It is all looking rather lovely and I am very pleased to see it. All it needs now is the actual riding of the test!

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!

 

Back to Jumping

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.

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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.

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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.

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We had a great time and I am looking forward to a lot more jumping over the summer.

Under Saddle Once More

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Riding Club Outing

A couple of weeks ago my riding club got to visit a local event rider’s yard for a demo.  I jumped at the chance to go as I love watching how other people ride.  You can learn so much from them – one of the most interesting parts of the Wilton Horse Trials was watching all of those very famous riders in the warm-up ring and seeing what they were doing.

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It was a fascinating evening.  We had a little course walk and were given some tips about working in the warm-up ring at competitions.  We also watched two horses being ridden – one much greener than the other – and it was very interesting to see the way they each developed.

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As you can see, the light was not great for photographs!

It was a freezing cold evening so I was very grateful for the hot cup of tea in a warm room halfway through!  I was also encouraged when things went wrong – not the fact that they had gone wrong but the way any errors were explained.  For example, when a pole was knocked down we were told that it was because the horse hadn’t been presented quite straight at the fence.  I always appreciate riders who don’t blame the horse for any errors and of course it is always good to know that mistakes can happen to anyone.

It was a great evening and I do hope we will have more like it.