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!
This week I have been focussing very much on our canter transitions. Galahad particularly struggles picking up the correct lead on the right rein as the brand on his near hind makes it weaker.
We have, however, been making progress. This week we did some work on simple changes in a figure of eight. We got the first one wrong but after that they went so well that I decided to try something a bit harder.
I trotted up the centre line, asked Galahad for a particular lead and he got every single one right. That was unexpected! The video isn’t perfect but it is proof.
I’m not expecting us to just get them all perfectly now – in fact it took us a couple of asks to get it right the very next day – but it is definite progress and it does show we are capable!
The ponies are spending a couple of weeks with my riding instructor – partly so Galahad can have a bit of a trim and partly so we can get to our dressage competition in a fortnight.
Of course, I am taking full advantage of the facilities while they are there. They were collected on Friday afternoon and I went over straight after work to school Galahad. He hasn’t been ridden under lights for months – probably not since last winter – so he was a little tense at first and had to have a very good look at the darkness beyond the lights to make sure there were no hidden monsters.
I just worked him quietly round the school and before long we could ride on a loose rein with no problem.
We actually had a very good session. Galahad was working nicely, although he did tire a bit. He got pretty hot as well – definitely time for that clip.
I have written a lot recently about our hacks but I have been schooling Galahad as well.
We had a great session on Thursday – Galahad really felt like he was listening to me, was nicely forward going and seemed very willing. We did some work on turns on the forehand and they felt amazing. I had no eyes on the ground so I don’t know how they looked!
When we moved onto canter work I was even more pleased as Galahad struck off with the correct lead every time – I’m not sure that’s ever happened on the right rein before.
I finished up feeling very positive indeed and looking forward to more. Hopefully the ground will hold up for a while yet before we have to stop for the winter.
We have been having a pretty quiet week here. After the excitement of a show it is good to have a bit of a rest. Galahad and I have been out for some lovely hacks.
We have been working too though and have had some successful schooling sessions. It does however currently seem to be my fate to get absolutely soaked whenever we jump. I don’t think it has rained any other time I’ve been riding this week but when we had a play over the jumps there was an absolute downpour.
Galahad has been having fun too – he seems to permanently have a mane full of burrs and I have to spend ages working them out. I then have fingers full of splinters for hours afterwards. It is pretty painful!
On Thursday Galahad and I had a fantastic lesson.
The eagle eyed among you may spot that these photographs were not taken during the actual lesson. I didn’t have a tame photographer there so we had to recreate the scene afterwards!
We started off with flatwork and spent some time doing work without stirrups. Galahad hasn’t really done much of that before and he definitely hasn’t done the exercises that go with it. They can be a bit scary for a nervous pony like him so I wasn’t quite sure how he would react but he was as good as gold. It may be time for me to stop assuming that everything will scare him because most of the time that isn’t true anymore. In fact, when I think he will react badly I know I make it more likely – I tense up and that definitely affects him badly.
We then moved on to some jumping. Specifically – gridwork. Galahad hasn’t even done a single bounce fence before, let alone a line of fences. More than that, we started off without reins which was another new thing for him (and something I haven’t done for years).
Galahad just pinged through them like a pro. He never fails to amaze me and once again I was so proud of him. I feel like I say that a lot but it is true!