TREC Winter Awards Show

For once we had a glorious day for our trec competition on Sunday.  It certainly helped bring a cheerful atmosphere to the final event of the winter season.  Although I wasn’t so sure when I saw these little people in the arena!

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They had a tarpaulin right behind them and I was sure Galahad was not going to like them one bit.  I was watching all the in hand competitors walking their course and bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t entered – at least then he would have got a chance to see them before I rode him at them.  I was told I was welcome to enter as someone had pulled out.  I jumped at the chance!

I hadn’t done a full in hand class before so my brain wasn’t really engaged.  I forgot I was meant to be walking as quickly as possible until we were halfway through the control of paces section and I completely forgot I could trot under the low branches.  I was really treating it as extra training for the ridden class.  I did notice that without me riding Galahad negotiated the s-bend with no trouble at all.  Clearly all our problems lie with my dodgy aids when riding!

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Photo credit: Rosie Squires

It was good fun though and I was pleased with how relaxed Galahad was  – he even walked straight past the gnomes with no trouble.   That did get us my favourite ever comment on the score sheet – ‘Slight gnome tension.’

I wasn’t expecting to place well at all as the other competitors had been doing this class many times over the winter.  However, my name kept not being called and we ended up winning.  It was a bit embarrassing really but obviously I was thrilled.  It was completely down to Galahad being sensible.

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Photo credit: Rosie Squires

We then went straight into our individual ridden class.  There were only two entries in this but I knew the others were more than capable of beating us.  The control of paces went well – hopefully we have cracked that now – but the first ridden obstacle was bending.  Galahad went round the first two posts and then just charged past the rest. Not a good start. The rest of the course felt a bit messy and worst of all was the immobility.  We have never scored less than a ten for that but on Sunday he only stood still for six seconds.  It was just one of those days.  On the bright side the gnomes were not an issue at all.

The gate was still a problem though – we didn’t even manage to open it.  We did show an improvement as Galahad would actually stand next to it this time. Baby steps.

 We went a little better in the pairs class.  The gate was still an issue but the immobility was back on track and we managed to do the bending properly.  It wasn’t pretty  – we had some very wide turns – but we did complete it with no mishap.

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Photo credit: Rosie Squires

The prize giving was again a bit of a surprise.  We were the only entry in the pairs class so we were expecting to win that (our first sash!) but we had also just managed to scrape the prize in the individual class.  We got a trophy for that one. Galahad stood like a rock and let our rosette and trophy be handed up to me.  I was incredibly proud of him but I got off before we received the sash.  That would have been pushing it too far!

Not only that, as this was the final event of the season the league prizes were presented and we were reserve champion in the novice rider class.  At the beginning of the season that was such an unlikely event that I didn’t even consider it.  We have worked hard though and the improvement in Galahad has been amazing.  I am so proud of how far he has come.

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Still Working Hard

We are still working hard at our gate opening for the next trec competition.

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We are at the point now where it is not so hard for us to get the gate open.  Even walking through the gate is going well.

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The only real difficulty now is trying to close the gate again.  Our rein back when neck reining is not great at the moment – we can go backwards but not in a straight line!

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This makes it just a little hard to get the rope back on the post.  My arms just aren’t long enough!  It is such huge progress though and I am sure the rest will come in time.  At least he does not seem to be afraid of the rope any more.

Getting to Grips with Gates

All this wonderful weather we have been having for the past couple of weeks has meant that the fields are drying out nicely.  That is good in itself but it also means that I am able to school again – hurrah!

The very first thing I wanted to work on was our gate opening. We have another trec competition coming up next week and I really want to have improved before that.  Plus, if I work on it then the chances are it won’t come up in the course!

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I wanted to take things slowly so we started by just walking past the gate.  Working on a circle so Galahad’s head was slightly turned away from it definitely helped.  That wasn’t a problem so we moved onto stopping and standing still but still not trying to actually touch the gate.  That took a bit more work as Galahad wanted to swing away from the gate so he was facing it and could see if it tried to attack him!

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From there we progressed to lifting the rope and putting it back again and before long we could open the gate and walk through it – from both directions of course.

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We still can’t close it again but we made huge strides in just one session and I am thrilled with that.

Intrepid Treccing

On Sunday Galahad and I had another trec event.  Most events in our area were cancelled – it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain (and sleet and hail).  We are pretty tough though so our event went ahead.   Luckily it was so windy that although the showers were very heavy they blew over pretty quickly.

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First of all we had a great lesson.  Galahad went over all the obstacles with no trouble at all.  The only issue we had was a group of scary people watching us.  We had a bit of an argument about whether to go past them.  Eventually I won – apparently he had a hilarious expression on his face when he realised he wasn’t going to get away with it.

We then had our individual class and Galahad was again really good.  Our main problem was that I did the neck reining obstacle in trot but got my reins in a bit of a mess and didn’t quite pull up in enough time before the next obstacle.  That happened to be the s-bend of poles which needs a bit more control than that!

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We also did not do well at the jump in hand.  Galahad was so good at it in training but I think I hadn’t given him enough space to think about it so he stopped dead before hopping over.  The judge still thought it was the best course she had seen us do though so I was very pleased.

Next we went straight into our pairs class which actually went even better.  The in hand jump was still not good – we didn’t get over it at all – but everything else was brilliant.  Galahad was a star and I was so proud of him.

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It turned out that we had managed to win both our classes.  That has never happened to us before so it was pretty exciting.  We had a fantastic day despite the weather and I am so looking forward to going again.

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Out for a Lesson

Last Saturday Galahad and I went out for our first trec lesson.  It was a beautiful morning but still really cold – I spent my entire lesson litterally shivering in the saddle.  Which is probably why Galahad was a bit more spooky than he has been recently.  He still behaved pretty well though  and most of the obstacles went well.

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We managed to do the neck rein obstacle in trot for the first time away from home.  This time it was just a tear drop shape rather than the figure of eight we normally have but it still felt like a great achievement.  Sadly there wasn’t a ditch this time so we couldn’t show how much we have been working on it.

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The only obstacles we really struggled with were the gate and the maypole – where the rider picks up the end of a rope and carries it in a circle round the other end.  Galahad has started having a problem with the rope but we really progressed during the lesson.  To start with we couldn’t even stop near the stand holding the rope but we ended up being able to pick it up – just not move very far.  We had better start working on that next!

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We also had a mini competition at the end of the lesson.  In the control of paces section Galahad shied out of the corridor we were meant to canter along and then broke into a trot right on the finish line when we were meant to be walking.  The instructor found it hilarious!  We really need to work on that too – we can get decent marks for the canter when we do it properly.

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We still had a great day though and I am looking forward to doing it again.

Practising our Ditches

We have still been working on ‘ditches’ or water trays this week.  I needed to be able to ride over them but as I am still only able to ride a couple of times a week at the moment our practise opportunities have been few!

I took full advantage of them though – every time I rode I got out the ditches too.  We have had so much rain in the past week that the fields are now rather slippery so I resorted to schooling ditches in the lane.

First I led him over the ditch again.  Of course, this time he caught the edge of the tray with his foot so the other side lifted and spooked him.  I was worried it would send us right back where we started but luckily he got over it.

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Once I was mounted I started off as I did in hand by riding between the two trays.  That gave us no problem at all so I pushed them together and tried again.  He walked straight over them.

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We repeated the exercise successfully next time I rode and hopefully we have cracked it.  Of course, it is one thing to do it at home and something entirely different when we are out at a competition!

Dealing with Ditches

After our ‘ditch’ troubles last Sunday I decided I really ought to practise those trec obstacles I can recreate at home so I went out and bought a couple of small trays we could school over.  The first day I just put the trays across the doorway of Galahad’s stable.  If he wanted his dinner he needed to walk over them.  I just left him to it and although he thought about it he actually went in without too much trouble.  Taking the pressure off sometimes works well for him.

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I moved on to leading Galahad through a gap between the two trays.  He did hesitate slightly but then walked through easily.  I gradually moved the trays closer together and he didn’t object at all.  I didn’t want to push it so left it at that.

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In our next session I started lunging him through the gap – mainly because he is often braver when being led than he is when ridden.  I wanted to make sure that he would go through without having me to follow.  Obviously I was still asking him to go forward but then I would be when riding him as well.

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Again he went through with no problems but when I closed the gap he was having none of it.  I put in a couple of guide poles and suddenly it all clicked.

I realise he isn’t actually stepping in the trays but the point of the ditch in trec is for the horse to get over calmly – stepping all the way over is absolutely fine!

I am so pleased with the progress Galahad has made in just a couple of days.  Now I just need to get on and ride him over!

Out and About

Sunday dawned bright and clear – a perfect day for competing.  I got so cold riding on Saturday that I put on a lot of layers on Sunday. Naturally it was warmer on Sunday and I didn’t really feel like I needed them but I was glad of them later in the day.

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I was completely rubbish at getting up so I had to rush through the chores and then enlisted my sister’s help – she washed off Galahad’s feet and fed me breakfast.  Literally!  Luckily I had packed the night before and we were ready when my lift arrived.

We had about two hours to wait before our first class so I got to watch some training classes which were pretty useful.  Galahad stood tied to the lorry the whole time and was very good indeed.

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Anyone who saw my trec training post might know that I was hoping we wouldn’t get a gate to open in our course.  I also didn’t want the wooden ‘bridge’ as Galahad is not too happy walking over it.  I was thrilled to find that neither of them was on my individual course.  The gate was in my pairs course but I decided not to think about that!

I got on Galahad and he felt amazingly calm and relaxed – much more than he usually is at events.  We didn’t really have any spooking all day – just the odd stop to have a good look at people.

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Our individual class went pretty well.  The first part is the control of paces – walking fast and cantering slowly.  I never expect to get points for walking (we only have little legs) but normally we do well on the canter (again, little legs – our fast canter counts as slow!).  However, this time I was trying to be too clever and slow the canter too much so we broke into trot.  Twice.

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Apart from that – which was completely my fault – I was really pleased with our round.  Galahad refused point-blank to walk over the water tray but he had never seen one before except under a jump.  If we could school over one I am sure he would be fine. He also refused the tarpaulin which is not usually a problem for us.  Everything else was brilliant.  We had never done the low branches obstacle mounted before so we stuck to a walk.  I needn’t have worried though – Galahad just walked straight through with no hesitation.  I didn’t ride the S-bend of poles very well but Galahad figured out his feet by himself like the clever pony he is.

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We next had a pairs class over the same obstacles plus the gate.  This time I just focused on keeping the controlled canter going and we scored 15 points out of a possible 30 which was pretty good!

Again the obstacles went pretty well.  He still wouldn’t walk over the water tray but we did at least manage to open the gate which was better than I thought.  Of course, to get any points we needed to walk through the gate and close it again!  Still, it was a start.  The low branches were set a little higher this time and we trotted through easily.  Now I just need the confidence to canter and get even more points.  The same goes for the bending poles – I know Galahad can do it at home but it is very different at a competition!

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We came away with a third in the individual and a second in the pairs.  Our scores were a bit lower than they have been in the past but given our lack of practise that is hardly surprising.  For me the day was still a complete success because Galahad’s behaviour was impeccable.  He was so calm and relaxed all day, he let people pet him and he was even happy for a lady to have a good look at his saddle – she has an Exmoor cross and is struggling to find a saddle to fit him.  It was an amazing day and a great start to 2017.

Trec Training

This weekend I will be taking Galahad to another trec event.  It will be his first outing since August and the first trec PTV (basically an obstacle course) for almost a year.

I haven’t really practised a huge amount over obstacle since then.  The idea of the obstacle course is to recreate the sort of things we might find out hacking and obviously we get to do a lot of that.  We are well versed in opening gates and I try to make sure we walk over all sorts of different surfaces.  We are also very much used to riding under low branches!

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The trouble is that doesn’t necessarily transfer well to the man-made obstacle course.  Take the gate opening.  Galahad has got very good at this and unless the gate is particularly tricky I rarely have to dismount nowadays.  In a competition though, marks are lost every time the rider lets go of the gate.  Galahad is not too keen on the gate closing behind him so at the moment I normally have to let go.  It is fine for hacking but not so great for competition.

Apart from that, sometimes the gate is not a real gate at all but made of rope.  Galahad doesn’t like them much either, although he was getting better.  I think he has regressed over the winter but that is entirely my fault for not working on it.  I did build a little course in the last couple of days so at least we aren’t going in entirely unprepared.

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This is my sister and Cookster on their first attempt at my rope gate.  They made it look easy – perhaps I should take Cookster to compete instead of Galahad!

I know we will have fun and it will be interesting to see how we do compared to last year.  There will almost certainly be some brand new obstacles we have never seen before anyway!

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I couldn’t find the tarpaulin so used feed sacks instead.  The puppy though she would be helpful!

Bearing the Burden

This week Galahad has been learning to wear his saddlebags.  I bought them in the summer before we went on our trec expedition but decided not to use them as we didn’t really have much time for him to get used to them.  He was facing a lot of new things at once and I didn’t want to push him too far and make him panic.  I have now finally got around to using them when I am riding and Galahad behaved very well – he didn’t really react at all.

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I picked a great day for it though.  We started out for our hack and were almost immediately faced with our neighbour’s recycling bin.  We ride past it every week but we had to stop and stare at it before we could walk past.  Next I noticed that the paper had been delivered for another neighbour so I picked it up to take up the hill.  I decided not to put it in the saddlebags because I wanted Galahad to get used to the idea of them before I started putting things in them.  We set off up the hill with only one and a half hands on the reins.

Just as we got up the first slope a squirrel ran across the road and up a tree.  It was very scary and we had to shy at it (of course).  Luckily Galahad didn’t actually spin all the way round and charge off.  I’m not sure I was in a state to stop him!

Next we met my neighbour driving down to collect the recycling box.  He stopped the engine but for some reason Galahad wasn’t at all keen to go past.  He didn’t spook but he did have to walk very slowly towards the car!  Almost as soon as we were past I heard the beep of a lorry reversing.  I waited in a spot where it would have room to turn and discovered that it was a man delivering coal.  Not something we meet every day!  I was convinced Galahad would be terrified but he didn’t turn a hair – just stood there calmly watching.  I was so proud!

By this point I had decided that Galahad was fine with the saddlebags so I stuck the newspaper in and we trotted off up the rest of the hill.

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We delivered the paper with no trouble and set off for home.  Most of the excitement was over by then but we did have to stop for a good look where the squirrel had been.  It could easily have been lurking ready to pounce!  As we got closer to the main road it seemed as if almost every lorry in existence was driving past.  They don’t come up the lane but it looked pretty hectic in the valley.

Despite all the excitement we had a lovely ride.  Now I can look forward to longer hacks and picnics in the summer!