Taking a Break

As the ponies had been staying away I took the opportunity to hack over some different routes to our usual fare and also to squeeze in a couple of lessons. Galahad and I had a lovely time roaming around the countryside and it was amazing what a change had come over him in little more than a week. He was beginning to get a bit fluffy before he went away but now his winter coat is most definitely coming through – even his ears are starting to look fluffy!

The lessons were great too and I was plesaed with the way both ponies went. Cookster especially jumped beautifully – once you get him straight he really does have a good jump.

Despite enjoying the time away it was good to have the ponies home again. There is nothing quite like walking out of the door and the ponies being right there. However, I don’t get to enjoy that for long. My parents and sister are taking over the care of them as I am going away for a fortnight to work at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I am so excited about going but I will miss the ponies and I know I will feel the lack of riding when I get back! I have decided to take two weeks off from writing the blog as I will have no pony content to share – and I know I am going to be incredibly busy while I am away. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks desperate to share everything the ponies have been doing!

Having Fun

Sometimes it is good to get back to basics and just have a little fun with the ponies. For my sister and I today that meant building some obstacles and playing some gymkhana style games – things like rearranging my dressage letter cones on the top of some jump wings. I had intended to spell the word cake but as I couldn’t find the A I ended up just alphabetising them.

We also did some bending, threw socks in a bucket, walked over a tarpaulin and navigated our way through a maze of poles.

I spent quite some time working on neck reining with Galahad too. It isn’t something we practise often but he isn’t bad at it – at least at walk. Our ability to do it properly decreases as we speed up. Trot is okay but canter definitely needs some work. Having said that, I also played with riding without reins and even at canter that went pretty well – although my steering was somewhat limited. The brakes weren’t bad though.

I had a very fun afternoon and it has reminded me how much I enjoyed playing with the ponies when we first started riding them. I really should do it more often.

Changing Seasons

Autumn is definitely creeping up on us. I have actually had to turn the tack room light on in the evening a couple of times – it has been a while since that was necessary! I would have liked to turn the stable light on too but the swallows have a second brood in the nest built against the light so that is not currently possible.

The ponies’ winter coats are starting to come through too. They aren’t very fluffy yet but the effect of even that small extra amount of hair is already showing itself. We had a pretty hot day yesterday and Galahad got surprisingly sweaty very quickly as we went over a few jumps. So much so that I cut our schooling session a little shorter than I had planned. We need to go a little bit gently until Galahad is clipped. At least while this warm weather lasts.

Not that we didn’t still have a good ride – and this evening Galahad and I went out for a post work hack which was delightful. In fact, I love autumn – there is something about the crispness of the air in the mornings and evenings which is wonderful. Plus, we will start lighting the woodburner in the evenings – something which always makes me happy, even if it does encourage me to spend more time inside.

I actually spent a fair bit of yesterday indoors anyway though – it was wonderful to be able to watch the five star eventing from Bicton which made for a very exciting couple of days. I have missed having the big events to watch, although I very much enjoyed what I could see of the Paralympcs over the past couple of weeks. Sadly most of the dressage happened whilst I was at work but I watched what I could and I loved it. Now I’m very much looking forward to the next one!

Thrills and Spills

Last week definitely had the full spectrum of highs and lows for me. We started off with a great schooling session which finished with some jumping. Galahad was feeling so good that I raised the fences higher than we had jumped for a while and he soared over them without a second thought. He can sometimes back off his fences a bit and so to feel him really keen to jump was wonderful.

This was just over 2’4″ – we have jumped this height before but not for a long time – so not huge. It felt like a big achievement for us though, especially as previously this height has seemed to intimidate him. This time, he made it feel tiny.

The low came a few days later when we were just having a gentle hack around the fields. We had just popped over a small ditch on a downhill slope when a pheasant flew up on our right, Galahad shot off to the left and I pretty much stayed where I was. Thankfully my sister was there to catch Galahad and call for reinforcements in the form of my parents – I was still lying flat on my face and she couldn’t cope with that and two ponies! I had told her I was fine so she wasn’t being callous leaving me there but at the same time I was clearly not okay – I am normally trying to stand up sooner than I should.

I was in fact fine, just rather bruised and I had pulled a few muscles which are still feeling sore a week later. The shock was the worst bit – I cannot remember the last time I cried when I fell off – although it had been a bit of a stressful week for me and I think the fall just finished me off emotionally!

It is clear that the blogging bug has infected more than just me now. Even as my Mum ran – in her slippers – out of the house to pick up the pieces she paused to wonder if she should bring a camera to record the event for posterity!

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.