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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
That didn’t stop me having a fun evening playing with both ponies and I can’t wait to do it again!
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.
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.
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.
We had a great time and I am looking forward to a lot more jumping over the summer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Galahad and I have recently received permission to use a small indoor school just up the road from us. It’s not a full size arena but it is certainly big enough to do a little schooling.
The main reason I hoped to use it was so that we can still school even in the depths of winter – the fields are lovely but just a bit too slippery when it has been raining for weeks on end. Of course, that isn’t an issue right now but I was too excited to wait until winter to try it out. Besides, it is good for Galahad to explore new places.
We had a lovely hack up the road, met the chickens and ventured into the school. Galahad was slightly disturbed by the exercise ball – he’s never seen anything like it before – but was otherwise pretty unfazed. No silly spooking or anything – he has come a long way!
He did actually spook once but as that was when a chicken flew up onto the wall behind him I think it was forgivable.
We had a good session in the school and then another lovely hack home again. This is going to be a great addition to my riding.
We have been having a proper wintry week. The snow started for us on Tuesday, we had some heavy snow showers on Wednesday and a proper snowstorm on Thursday night. Everything is very icy as well but I was pretty disappointed that the snow at home was mostly very wet and didn’t always settle properly.
However, I have been out and about this week as the ponies went away to my instructor’s yard for a few days. The yard is high enough above us for the snow to have settled much more than it did at home. In fact, I was worried they would be snowed in and the ponies wouldn’t be able to go at all.
Luckily, the roads weren’t that bad and the ponies were duly collected on Wednesday. I have had a fantastic few days playing in the snow. Thursday was the best day though – a heavy snowfall was forecast for the afternoon so I decided to ride nice and early. Driving over to the yard the roads were pretty clear so I fully intended to take Galahad out for a hack. First though, I had to school Cookster.
The school was excitingly snowy when we started and before long a few flakes of snow were falling, just to add interest. Those few flakes increased and suddenly we were in a proper snowstorm. It was really rather lovely.
I’m not sure how much Cookster appreciated it but I certainly did – everything was so beautiful! Even better, my riding skirt was getting a proper use too.
Of course, I couldn’t very well take Galahad out on the roads in weather like that so we stuck to the school too, although – annoyingly – the snow had stopped by the time I got on him. Not that the roads would have been safe anyway!
I know the snow causes all sorts of problems but I can’t help enjoying it!
Last weekend Galahad and I went to our first competition in several months. It was a riding club dressage event and I was very happy to be out competing again.
The warm up was slightly interesting – there were cross country jumps stacked around the arena which Galahad thought were pretty scary – I spent half my time trying to persuade him to go near them. Then the rain started coming down in earnest. I had forgotten my contact lenses and before long my glasses were covered with rain and I could barely see.
We got them cleaned up and ourselves into the indoor arena for our actual test. Galahad settled down nicely and did what felt like a pretty good test. I didn’t think it was amazing but he did everything I asked and – best of all – he picked up the correct canter lead on both reins. As I said last week, that’s something on which we have really been working hard so I was especially pleased to get it right.
Before long we were called for our second test and again it felt like a nice, safe clear round. The canter leads were correct and this time our shapes felt a little more accurate. I was so pleased with Galahad!
Really, the canter leads made my day but it got better. When the scores were posted I found I had scored 60.53% and 62.93%. We got our usual comments about Galahad being, ‘Economical with the energy’ but the judge also made some nice comments about the trot which were good to see. We placed second and fourth which was obviously great but even better the scores were good enough to qualify us for a local dressage championship next week. So exciting!