British Riding Clubs National Championships

Last weekend was absolutely wonderful.  I was of course very nervous but definitely excited too.  I love being part of a team, although I do worry about getting everything right!

It was fun to pack everything into the lorry and we had a surprisingly easy run up to Lincoln – six hours in total with only about an hour stuck in traffic.  We arrived at lunch time, got the horses checked in and settled whilst our camp was set up, then sat down for lunch.  It was very civilised!

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My favourite part of the day was hacking the horses to stretch their legs and help us get our bearings.  The competition has grown a bit since I was last there!  I also walked the style jumping course which actually helped to settle my nerves – fear of the unknown is far worse than fear of the known.  Plus, once I knew what I was facing I could visualise myself riding round the course – and getting it right!

The next morning it was all hands on deck to get the senior horses ready.  Dressage was first for us so I went up to support my team and also managed to watch the first few style jumping rounds.  These did not fill me with confidence as the first four riders all had refusals at the first fence and the first two were both eliminated by fence three.  In reality though, it was really useful – it made me very determined to get over the first fence if I did nothing else.

Before long I was up on my horse and ready to go.  Murphy can get worried and tense at shows but – apart from calling desperately for his friends – he felt remarkably relaxed.  We were soon into the ring and saluting the judge – 0Murphy had to call out a greeting too!

Our round didn’t feel all that tidy – which matters in style jumping – and we got a couple of incorrect canter leads but we were at least jumping clear.  Murphy had a good look at fence one but there was no way I was going to stop at it!  After that he didn’t look at anything and was jumping beautifully

Then we came to the penultimate fence.  We were only a couple of strides out when it blew over and we had to circle away whilst it was rebuilt.  We jumped it on our second attempt but sadly knocked the last pole down.  Its impossible to tell how much we were affected by the break in rhythm but I was nevertheless thrilled to have got round respectably.

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I have no pictures of me riding yet but I will share them when they arrive.

Having waited for the class to finish I found that we had come 16th out of 50 in our arena and 30th out of 108 overall.  I was delighted – at a national championship and my first attempt that wasn’t bad at all.

Sunday was another busy day helping our junior riders in their classes.  It is great to be part of a team, where everyone supports each other and the delights of success are shared.  The success wasn’t missing either – the lorry had a good decoration of rosettes and sashes for our long journey home.  It was a wonderful weekend and I will be trying very hard to make it happen again.

Jumping Joys

Now the weather is less rainy the fields have dried up beautifully.  Which of course means that we are able to school again.  Not only that – we can jump!

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It has been a good few months since the ponies have jumped so I like to start them off with pretty simple jumps and not rush into anything too big or complicated.  Galahad loves to jump though – he really comes alive when we get the jumps out.  In fact, he can get a bit too strong if I don’t watch it.  On Thursday I kept him to a strict trot over the fences for serveral minutes as I had felt he wasn’t really listening to me.

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We have had a lovely few sessions playing with the jumps and my sister has even been able to join us a couple of times which just adds to the fun.  For one thing, it means we can have a go at pairs jumping which can be hilarious.

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I am so much enjoying having the jumps out again!

Excursions

Once again I have been off gallivanting without Galahad to compete for the riding club.  This time I was taking part in an eventer’s challenge – a round of show jumps immediately followed by a round of cross country fences.

I have only done a few cross country courses over the past couple of years and those were on Galahad so the jumps were very little.  I probably haven’t jumped a big round of cross country fences for about ten years so I was more than a little apprehensive.

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The horse felt quite tight and wound up underneath me and we had a couple of argumentative moments in the warm up ring which did not help my confidence.  However, I am nothing if not determined and we made our way into the ring.

Of course, we had to have a very good look at all of the scary tents and vans along the edge but once we were past those I asked for a canter and he shot off at top speed.  I felt like I had no brakes at all but we had gone through the start so I could hardly turn away from the first fence to settle him before we began.  I just had to commit to the jump and hope for the best.

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Look at his tail fly!

Thankfully once we were over the fence he started listening to me and we finished the show jumps at a much more respectable speed.  In fact, it would have been better if we had gone a bit faster but I was just grateful I wasn’t being carted away!

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Show jumping immediately followed by cross country means cross country colours all the time – no show jackets!

We finished the show jumping with no penalties and moved on to the cross country fences.  Suddenly we found our rhythm and the scary, solid fences flowed beautifully.  We had an unfortunate stop at one of them – the team had noticed that several people were having trouble with horses ducking out to the left at that particular fence and I think I overcompensated and sent him the other way – but he jumped beautifully and I found myself enjoying it more than the show jumping.

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Professional photographs are from Dorset Photo Event

We even managed to clear the tricky joker at the end of the course – a show jumping gate 10cm higher than the rest of the fences.  I had the most wonderful day and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It is so good to be part of the team 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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Some good news – and a change

On Thursday Galahad had his six monthly back check.  For the first time ever he was fine and didn’t need any treatment.  I was so pleased!  It is wonderful to know that we are doing something right.

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Apart from the obvious benefits for him healthwise, it is great news as it means I have been able to ride him instead of giving him a week off.  We had a lovely hack out on Friday evening and even managed to arrange a jumping lesson yesterday morning.  Galahad flew around the jumps in a lovely, flowing round.  Things are looking up.

I have mentioned before that I have a vintage book stall which I take to local shows.  I have now started a blog to go with it and have started to struggle a bit with the schedule of maintaining two separate blogs.  Therefore, I am going to cut this blog back from twice a week to once a week.

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If you are interested in following my bookish adventures you can find them here.  Otherwise, I will be back here with Galahad next Sunday.

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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Jumping!

Now we have finished the work on the field we can get the jumps out again.  It has been seven or eight months since we have been able to jump at home so this was a very exciting moment.

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We went out to jump as soon as we could but as it has been so hot recently we wanted to ride reasonably early.  We got out into the field by about eight but even so the sun was blazing and it was still very hot.

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Considering how little jumping the ponies have done recently, they both did really well.  Galahad and I had a few run outs to start with but once we got going he jumped really nicely.

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The run outs are mostly my fault.  I know very well that if I look down at a jump Galahad is almost certainly going to try and run out.  The trouble is that if I think Galahad will be worried about a jump I find it very difficult not to look at it.  At least I know what I need to do to get better!

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We had a lovely play in the sunshine and even the lambs next door seemed to enjoy it!

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It is wonderful to have the jumps out again and we are looking forward to using them over the summer.  Let’s just hope the ground doesn’t get too hard!

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Sunday Schooling

I very nearly didn’t ride Galahad this evening.  I had a busy day yesterday, I was at work all day today and had already ridden Cookster out so I was pretty tired and wanted to curl up with a book. However, I told myself that was not the right attitude and tacked him up.  It was too good an evening to waste anyway.

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We had a pretty decent schooling session.  The ground is a little rutted from the winter but is actually in surprisingly good condition considering how wet it has been.  I was pleased with Galahad too – we don’t manage a lot of schooling over the winter but he worked well and is even improving at picking up the correct canter lead on the right rein – he got it right nearly every time today!

I was hoping to get in a little jumping as well but I was more cautious with that.  We hadn’t jumped at all yet this year and in the past if Galahad has had a break from jumping he has had a tendency to get over excited when we pick it up again – he either rushes at the fences or gallops off after them.  I made sure he was calm and listening to me before I attempted a jump, then I introduced some very small fences, keeping strictly to a trot.

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I was very pleasantly surprised as he popped neatly over them and showed no sign of getting above himself.  Before long we were happily cantering over the bigger, scarier jumps.

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It was a very positive start to this year’s jumping.  We will hopefully manage to harrow the field this week and then I’ll be able to put out the rest of the jumps.  I was lucky enough to get some new fillers for my birthday this year and I am very excited about trying them out!

 

Part of a Team

Galahad and I have made our debut as part of a team!  It was incredibly exciting as I haven’t been on a riding team since I left university and Galahad never has.  I was nervous I would completely mess up – not on my own account but I did not want to let my team down.

The day didn’t have the best of starts as the warm up fence was on grass and it had been raining.  Galahad was jumping well but slipped over just after landing and we both ended up on the floor and pretty muddy.  Luckily neither of us was hurt and after getting the worst of the mud off Galahad we were ready to go again.  I was a little concerned he would have lost his confidence but he popped back over the fence with no problem and we were all set.

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I needn’t have worried at all – Galahad was a star and flew round the course clear.  Each team member jumped a different height and had two rounds – the second against the clock.  Our practise over angled fences gave me the confidence to push Galahad a bit harder in the timed round and again Galahad was super and flew round. I could not be more pleased with him.

We ended up coming second in the class and were only beaten by a boy on another team from my yard which wasn’t so bad.  Apparently there wasn’t much between us time wise and I was absolutely thrilled (the fact that I had done well for the team definitely helped with that!).

I spent the rest of the day manning the arena gate (and getting sand constantly blown into my eyes).  It was good to feel part of the team and I got to catch up  with a few friends I hadn’t seen for a while so I had a great time.

The next member of my team won her class, then the other two came tenth and eighth.  It was a very close run thing but overall as a team we came fourth which I was very pleased with as a first attempt.  We were second out of the three teams from my instructor’s yard and as we were the least experienced I thought that wasn’t bad either!

Overall I had a fantastic day and was very pleased with the way Galahad went.  He has improved so much over the last few months and I have a lot more confidence in our ability now.  It feels great to take him round a course and I can’t wait for the next time!

Playing in the School

Whilst I was away at camp the ponies spent a few days at my instructor’s yard which meant that I got to use the school when I came home.  We were going to a showjumping competition the next day so I wanted to make sure that we were still working together after my week off  (Galahad didn’t get a week off as I had asked for him to be ridden a couple of times).

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He was nice and responsive and we had a lovely evening schooling session.  I didn’t want to jump too much but we did pop over a couple of fences which felt really good and gave me confidence for the next day.

I was delighted to find that somebody had cleaned Galahad’s tack so I just had to wipe it over and load my stuff into the lorry.  I very much appreciated that after a week’s camping!