Intimidating Alpacas

I mentioned on Sunday that I took all my photographs when riding Cookster because he was being far more sensible. Unfortunately,  that was only true up to a point.

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I was quite happily taking pictures of the alpacas when one came up very close to the fence.  That was rather nice and we stood there looking at it.  I could feel Cookster trembling a bit but didn’t think anything of it – after all, we have seen them many times before.

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Cookster suddenly whipped round and charged off back towards home.  At that point I was only wearing one glove and I was holding my phone so I didn’t have a great grip on the reins and our braking was not doing too well.  To make it worse, Cookster’s braking can be iffy at the best of times and hauling on the reins is not the way to stop him.

Luckily though we did manage to stop before we ran down the hill to the main road.  It is steeper than it looks in the photograph!

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I led him back past the alpacas and we carried on our way.  He was absolutely fine after that but I knew we would have to go back past them.  Cookster knew it too and was stopping dead a hundred yards before the alpacas’ field.  I could get him moving again but I ended up leading him past.  I didn’t really fancy charging down the hill to the main road.

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We have definitely got something to work on now!

A Blustery Ride

Today’s hack was definitely interesting.   It has been very blustery here for the past few days and Galahad was suitably spooky.

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Disclaimer: All of the ears in this post actually belong to Cookster. I wasn’t getting my camera out on a spooking pony!

First he was determined to walk over to the far corner of the field instead of straight to the gate.  Cookster frequently does this but it is new for Galahad.  I have no idea what is so exciting over there!  We had a bit of an argument but I did manage to persuade him to go the right way.

Next we were just approaching the gate in the lane when a bird rustled in the hedge. Normally that barely registers with him any more but today it was terrifying and we had to canter back up the lane again.   I got him back to the gate but he would not go past it.  He was quite happy to stand still next to it but walking past was apparently very dangerous.   In the end I had to lead him through the gate.

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After that our ride went pretty well.  He was having a good look at everything but didn’t properly spook again.  He was very determined to eat the grass but then the verges are a lot lusher than the fields at the moment – nobody is eating them!

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We also renewed our acquaintance with the alpacas who have appeared in the field again.  They haven’t been around for a while so it was nice to see them.

Wheeee!

We have had rather an exciting time recently.  I was riding down the hill towards home when three girls walked across the bottom of the lane and stopped to have a good look at us.  They walked on before long but they kept bouncing to see us over the hedge.  Galahad was very intrigued and really sped up to try and see what was going on.  He does like to walk much faster towards potentially scary things which can be unnerving.

We were just getting to the bottom and I could hear a large group of cyclists approaching along the main road so I pulled up to let them pass before we emerged from the lane – sometimes that seems like the most sensible option.  The road is very popular with cyclists, although I wouldn’t like to ride the ponies along it.  It is very twisty and cars can drive incredibly fast along it.  I would feel very unsafe on a pony.

Unfortunately Galahad got spooked by a walker and shot out towards the cyclists – I thought he was going to head straight into their path.  One of the cyclists shouted, ‘Tally ho!’ which I’m sure was very amusing but was not entirely helpful.  Luckily it didn’t affect Galahad who pulled up without any trouble.  All the same, I was rather angry and a bit shaky too.

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The next day I was riding Cookster down the same hill and thought I would take a picture to illustrate the scene.  I wanted to wait until something passed the end of the lane though which meant a bit of waiting about – something at which Cookster has never excelled.  He started moving just as I took the picture (hence the blurriness !) and as I was messing about with my phone I automatically pulled on the reins.  That doesn’t really work too well with Cookster – he responds much better to the legs than the reins.  He strode down the hill and before I could stop him he was cantering along our lane for home.  Apparently the cat was watching us through the window and the sound of hoof beats made her run away!

I took Cookster back up the hill a little way and then walked all the way home.  I had to force myself to keep the reins slack and just use my legs to slow him down if he sped up.  It was very hard work but we managed it and I think we learnt our lesson.  I did at any rate.

Schooling Catch Up

For one reason or another our schooling has been a bit lax of late.  I have always had a reasonable excuse for not schooling (the builders are here/it’s too windy for Galahad to concentrate on me/the field is too wet…) but I have definitely been feeling a little guilty about it.

Yesterday was pretty windy, the builders were still around (although they had stopped for lunch) and it was raining but I decided enough was enough and Galahad and I marched purposefully into the field.  I was actually pretty impressed with him.  He could have had a bit of a better bend and we had a couple of moments when he tried to nap towards home but in general he did what I asked.  His turns on the forehand even felt amazing, possibly better than ever.  Of course, they may have looked terrible!

We did have one major spook (my entire weight went into one stirrup and it actually felt like we stretched the leather a bit), apparently at nothing.

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I realise there are several potentially scary things in my neighbour’s field but as they have probably been there as long as the pony they seem like a poor excuse.

Overall though, Galahad tried pretty hard and I was pleased with him.

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No Stirrups November

No Stirrups November is something I heard of for the first time this week but apparently it has been around since 2010!

I have done a fair bit of riding without stirrups in my time – practically every lesson ever – and it really has been helpful.  Not least when I lost my stirrups in a jumping class and finished the round without them.

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I have never ridden Galahad without stirrups except for dropping them for a few minutes on quiet rides.  To start with he was always far too spooky and although he has improved incredibly I somehow have never got around to it.  No Stirrups November seems like the ideal time to start.

However, I will not be losing my stirrups for the whole month.  Firstly I have to ride on the roads when I hack out and it seems like a really bad idea to have no stirrups when a car might come hurtling round the corner at any moment.  Secondly, Galahad can still be spooky – usually when I am least expecting it.  If I can fall off with stirrups I certainly can without!  Also Galahad has barely been ridden without stirrups before and it is something that should be built up slowly.

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My plan is to use this as the impetus to introduce some work without stirrups in our schooling sessions.  I’ll warm up Galahad with them and lose them when he is properly settled.  I know it will be beneficial for me at least!