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!

Jumping Angles

The other day Galahad and I went for a hack with my sister and Cookster.  On our way back we decided to have a pop over a couple of fences.  Galahad is really starting to jump nicely and we had a lot of fun.

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I mentioned recently that he has started taking off further from the fences which is lovely but was feeling rather odd as I wasn’t used to it.  It is feeling almost normal now and we are much more together again over the jumps.

We even had a go practising jumping some angled fences which Galahad completely took in his stride.  The angle isn’t obvious in the video but the fences were not lined up at all.  Good news for future jump offs (if we get into them)!

On Sunday we returned to the scene of Galahad’s showing debut.  This time the weather was much kinder to us, although it could hardly have been worse!  We did have the odd spot of rain but it was mostly dry all day and even sunny a lot of the time.

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Galahad and I again did the into dressage test which went reasonably well.  Our right bend was a bit iffy to start with and Galahad tripped over something invisible but I was overall very pleased with him.  I didn’t have my tame photographer with me this year so I have no pictures but I did have an audience – I met a couple of people in the warm up who are hoping to start some dressage with their own Exmoor and they walked over to watch me.

We didn’t do any actual showing this year but two jumping classes instead.  The first was the 2’3″ novice pony which we flew round (we had a few wobbles in the lines between fences but jumped all the jumps well) and got into the jump off.  Unfortunately our steering went a bit for that so we came at rather too acute an angle into a fence and knocked it down.  There were seven of us in the jump off and two with four faults but sadly I was just a bit slower and missed out on a place.

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The next class was the 2’3″ open.  Although it was listed as the same height the first class had been quite a bit below height and so the fences went up and fillers were added.  I knew I had to ride positively and I was very focused on getting Galahad over the wall at fence two.  He sailed over and I was so pleased with him that I relaxed a bit too much and we had a runout at the next fence.  It was such a shame as he popped over with no trouble at our second attempt.  The rest of the course went very well apart from one rail down so I was thrilled with him.

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That was the end of the day for Galahad and he spent the rest of the afternoon snoozing and munching on his haynet.  I on the other hand was kept very busy – my instructor had brought several children for their first show and I was needed first as support in the mini jumping and second as a leader for the gymkhana races.  It was exhausting!  I did get some very good cake out of it though so I was well rewarded.

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As I lovely finish to the day I went to collect my dressage score sheet and found I had come fourth with a score of 59.34%.  We had some nice comments, expecially about our walk.  Now we just need to work on the trot!

Birthday Jumping

It has only taken me three months but this week I was finally able to use my birthday presents!

It was a very exciting moment as apart from the odd hop over a small log  we haven’t been able to jump at home since last autumn. My sister and I had a lovely time playing in the field and both ponies behaved very well.  Galahad loves jumping anyway but even Cookster was putting in some very nice jumps and looking beautiful.  Galahad is starting to take off further from the fences and is making a much better shape in general – I am very pleased with his progress.

We are starting to build up a proper little course now.  Hopefully we will be able to move the logs in from the other field soon and then we can have some cross country jumps too.  It is all very exciting!

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A Wonderful Weekend

The ponies were due to come home after their back checks on Tuesday but I extended their stay to make it easier for me to compete at the weekend.  I had a short lesson with just a few jumps on the Friday night which went well on the flat but we had rather too many runouts when it came to jumping which did not fill me with confidence!

We went show jumping on Saturday and when I got on Galahad was the most relaxed I have ever felt him when out at an event.  I think he is getting used to it!  Our first class was 60cm and Galahad flew round without even hesitating anywhere.  He felt amazing.

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The jump off also went really well and we cut two corners we wouldn’t have been able to cut a few months ago.  We could have gone a bit faster but I was still very happy with the progress we had made.  I wasn’t expecting to get placed – Galahad only has little legs after all – but we ended up fifth.  Our first solo jumping rosette!  Our only other jumping rosette was in a pairs class and was mainly due to my very speedy partner.

We next rode in the 65cm class.  This time we had a little wobble in front of a (perfectly plain) fence when Galahad wanted to run out.  I managed to get him over the fence but it meant we knocked it down.  That was our only problem though and I was not really worried by the knockdown.  The fact that he jumped the fence when he hadn’t wanted to was far more important.

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It was the first time we had a photographer in the ring with us!  Galahad didn’t react to him at all.

Altogether it was a very successful day.  I went home and rode Cookster out still wearing my show gear and just in shirt sleeves as it had been absolutely gorgeous all day.  About half way round there was the most enormous clap of thunder and the heavens opened. We got completely drenched.  Cookster was a little worried by the thunder but behaved very well indeed so I was pleased with him too.

Both ponies went out on Sunday as they were getting dropped off home on the way back.  It was the first time Cookster has been anywhere other than home and my instructor’s yard but although he was noisy when they were separated he was very good.  It was Galahad who tried to barge out of the lorry after Cookster!

This time we were doing an eventer’s challenge – a show jumping round followed immediately by cross country.  Galahad had never been cross country before so I wasn’t at all sure how he would get on with all the scary jumps and we entered the 50cm class so we had a less testing start.  We jumped clear round the showjumping with six time faults.  The time was pretty tight though and I had less faults than the person before me so I was actually pleased with that.

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The cross country went less well as we had four runouts.  Two were at a wall which was quite intimidating and after the second I took the easier alternative.  If we had been at home I would have persevered with the wall but a competition didn’t seem the place to do that!  The other two runouts – one at a log and one at a double of roll tops – were a bit unnecessary really.  I definitely needed to channel Galahad better to hold him to the line.  However, he did seem to enjoy himself and he finished without running out of steam which had been another concern of mine.  I was thrilled with him.

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He even went straight through the water!

As I was doing such a small class everyone else was riding later in the day which meant that I had my own little team of grooms.  My pony was tacked up (almost the wrong pony!) whilst I dressed and when I dismounted he was taken off me, untacked and washed down.  It was like riding at Badminton!

There was also a small clear round jumping course in a corner of the lorry field which I decided to take Cookster round.  I was a bit worried about my steering as he very much wanted to go back to Galahad in the lorry and he is so good at loading his right shoulder that I was having a hard time turning him left as we warmed up.  However, once we got into the ring he went very nicely and the steering wasn’t an issue at all.  We had two fences down but he didn’t even think about stopping.  He isn’t nearly as coordinated as Galahad but he has had a lot less practise and I was very pleased with him.  I have never had two ponies competing before – it made me feel quite professional!

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I had an absolutely fantastic weekend filled with riding.  I was pretty tired (and a bit sunburnt) by the end but it was definitely worth it!

When Everything Clicks

Last weekend my riding club ran a fun jumping event and I decided to have a go.  Galahad had never jumped a course indoors before but he has been in several indoor schools so I was not anticipating any trouble.  It was rather chilly and drizzling so we spent a lot of time walking up and down outside still wearing a rug.  A first for Galahad but one he took in his stride.

Our first class was 40-45cm – nice and simple to start.  Apart from a bit of hesitation at the bogey fence by the gate (a lot of horses stopped there) we had a lovely round, although as usual it wasn’t particularly flowing – there was a lot of trotting round the corners.

Luckily the hesitation wasn’t counted as a refusal and we got through to the jump off – our first!  After the first fence the whole jump off course was on the left rein which made it easier to keep the canter and as he had been so good I felt a lot more confident about pushing him a bit more.  Of course we weren’t competitive speed-wise but suddenly it felt like we were jumping a proper course instead of several separate jumps strung together.  It was a fantastic feeling.

Next was a pairs class at the same height but all against the clock.  I now felt a bit of team responsibility so pushed for a bit more speed and Galahad was amazing.  We jumped a lovely clear round which was only slightly spoiled by him shying away from the box at the end and delaying my pair’s start.  It was only when I was back in the box watching his round that I remembered I could have cut some corners but that was just my being over-cautious.  We actually managed to come fourth in the pairs class which I was not expecting.  Another first – a rosette for jumping!

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Lastly we had a speed class, this time at 60-65cm.  We had another really good round with only a few strides of trot for lead changes but sadly one pole down.  We weren’t fast enough to be competitive but Galahad was amazing, clearing the jumps with plenty of room.  We even managed to cut one corner!  I was so proud of him.

I had such a great day and it finally felt like we had really got the hang of riding a course.  It helped that the fences were nice, plain poles with no scary fillers but it seems like a big step forward for us – Galahad is growing up!

Back to School

When I got on my half clipped pony for our lesson on Friday I was ready for anything.  He had never been clipped before and my sister has vivid memories of a freshly clipped pony throwing her off. In the event I needn’t have worried.  Galahad had a bit more energy  (a good thing) but that was all.  I could feel myself tensing ready for an explosion though which is definitely something I need to try to avoid.  The lesson went really well.  Galahad is perhaps a little stiffer than he was in the summer but that is only to be expected – we haven’t been able to school in months.  He is also still using his right shoulder as an escape route so I haven’t improved much there.  Hopefully as the ground dries out I will get the hang of stopping him.

We also jumped for the first time since before Christmas and I was thrilled with the way he went.  He had a good look at the water tray before he jumped it but he didn’t stop.  In fact,the only stop we had was at the scary fillers in the second part of the double.  Galahad was not at all keen on those but once we got over them once we had no trouble at all.

It was a really good session and clearly demonstrated that the clip was worthwhile.  Galahad had been working hard for an hour and wasn’t sweating at all.

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The next day I again took advantage of the limited time we had access to the school. Galahad was fully clipped by then but still behaving impeccably.  No jumping this time but still a good session and I think we were showing some improvement, even if it was erratic.  My sister was schooling her pony at the same time so we would switch between working in a fairly nice outline to working very hard at escaping through the shoulder towards them.  In general though it was very encouraging work.

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Working Hard

Way back before Christmas when the ponies were away I managed to squeeze in another lesson.  Actually two more – I split my lesson in two and did half on each pony.

This time it was daylight so Galahad was concentrating a bit more and worked really well.  We still have issues with him escaping through his right shoulder but I think it is improving.  My riding and ability to deal with any wobbliness is certainly getting better!  My instructor made the interesting point that Galahad’s trot work is so much freer and looks a lot nicer after he has done some cantering.  Even if it is just halfway round the ring it really makes a difference.   I would have liked to take advantage of this and have a bit of a canter before my walk-trot dressage test but the waterlogged warm up ring made it impossible.  Still, it is good to know for the future.

We also had a jump over what was quite a twisty course my instructor had built.  She was impressed with how Galahad had improved since the summer.  He is now much better able to hold the canter round corners between jumps and the whole course was much more fluid than before.  The jumps were slightly bigger too – this was more of a 2’3″ – 2’6″ course and in the summer we were jumping 2′ – 2’3″.  We even had a pretty decent spread as the last fence – which we probably jumped better than anything else!

in fact, our only trouble was caused by me.  I know that if I look down he is more likely to run out but it can be quite hard for me to act on that.  Something to work on.

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The shorter lesson actually worked out pretty well as Galahad was starting to get tired.  A clip will definitely be in order once I can start working him a bit more consistently.

Speedy Pony!

This has been a fun week for Galahad.  We don’t have any shows lined up in the near future so we have been having a bit of a play.  We had a go at some gymkhana games which can be tricky as things like flags are often scary.  Just how scary varies day to day.  We haven’t played games for a few months now so Galahad needed building up to the real scary stuff.  I got a very bad grip on a pair of socks and dropped them.  They hit one of his forelegs and he took off across the field.  Still a lot of work to be done!

Jumping is something Galahad really does like though.  He is always keen to jump and touch wood seems to run out a lot less now.  He has been such a good teacher for me.  Looking down has always been a bit of a weakness of mine but I found that if I looked down at the jump he almost always ran out.  That gave me an incredible incentive to look up!

Yes that pole is going flying.   It was the only jump he knocked down but the best photograph by far!

Yes that pole is going flying. It was the only jump he knocked down but the best photograph by far!

Our hacks have been pretty wet, over the weekend especially.  It turns out that my waterproof trousers are now not so much waterproof and more just trousers!  In one of our dry spells we went up to have a canter in the exciting galloping field only to find that it had sprouted scary round things. 20150820_181927

After a careful look we decided perhaps they were safe. 20150820_191404

I didn’t ride him round them though as he felt pretty wound up and I was by myself so thought I’d be sensible.  The next field hadn’t been cut so we had a nice canter round that.  At least, that was the plan.  He started the first canter with his head well down which always unnerves me as I remember his bucking very well!  The next canter started better but I could feel him wanting to go and as we got round the corner he took off and properly galloped up the hill.  I don’t think we’ve ever been so fast!  I almost left it at that but decided to try the last canter.   Before we had even got down the hill Galahad was ready and he galloped across it then round in a nice curve.  That was enough and we went home.  Without someone to watch me it seemed a bad idea to have an argument with him when he was so wound up.

All in all it has been an exciting few days.  This evening is much calmer – I rode before work so am now catching up on the European showjumping.  I will miss having the Europeans to watch every day!

Show Time – Take Two

Galahad’s second show was on Friday and a lot drier than his first attempt!  For the first time he just walked straight into the trailer without even a pause on the ramp.  He has never been bad at loading but he does normally stop on the ramp for a bit of a look so it seemed like a good omen.  He was a lot more settled at the show itself than he was last time as well – he wasn’t calling for his friend all the time which was more restful for me!  He did reply to the other ponies though.  He was a bit more distracted while we were warming up this time but he did eventually settle and start listening properly.

Our first class was the 2’3″ jumping but I decided that we might as well have a go at the clear round too as a warm up.  He felt quite strong over the practice fence but once we were jumping the actual course it was better.  For one thing I didn’t want to stop him!  He jumped the clear round very well and only looked at a few things.  We knocked the last fence down which was a shame but I was so pleased with the way he jumped that it didn’t matter.Chulmleigh 31.7

It was then a race to see which of my classes would be next as the showing rings were progressing much faster than the jumping ring.  I put myself down to jump early in the hope that I could squeeze it in before my showing class.  In the end I almost managed it – the showing class started as I was jumping.  He jumped just as nicely in the actual class, although we did have two down this time.  Just like the last show he was more worried about things in the hedge than the jumps themselves.  That is definitely something to work on.Chulmleigh 31.7 2

We then had a mad dash across the showground for the rare breeds class – the first in hand showing Galahad has done.  We were obviously a bit late but he behaved very well, the only trouble being that he was scared of the chairs being moved about in the next ring.  We got pulled in sixth out of seven but were moved up to fifth which seemed a pretty good result!DSCF5534

Next was the mountain and moorland class.  Whilst we were waiting for it to start an old friend came up to speak to us and Galahad was very good about letting her stroke him.  Much better than he usually is with strangers,  especially with me riding as well.  The class itself went well.  There were several lead rein combinations so we didn’t do individual shows, just a walk up and trot back.  He wasn’t too happy about the judge looking at him – he has a thing about hats – but she was very nice, letting him sniff her hands and get used to her.  Again we were called in sixth and moved up to fifth but this time it was out of nine so was even better!DSCF5540

That was Galahad’s day finished.  He had a couple of spooks but nothing major and overall behaved incredibly well.  I had the best of days.