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!

Treccing

On Sunday Galahad and I went to our first trec POR competition.  I wasn’t really too worried about how he would behave – I was much more concerned about making sure that I had all the right equipment and that I didn’t make a fool of myself by getting lost.  Or just getting something wrong because I had never done it before and was not entirely sure how it all worked.  Thankfully the tack check was fine and I managed to copy the route onto my map with no trouble.  I was shown what the ticket points looked like, given my score card and we were ready to go.

Galahad was a bit too ready.  Something set him off and we went haring round the field with one stirrup.  I thought we were going to end up in the hedge but we got ourselves under control and finally set off properly.

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I hadn’t really given myself enough time in the map room to properly study the field system so I felt a little vulnerable through the first few fields – especially since the people at the start could still see me so it would be very obvious if I went wrong.   The joy of coming out of the final field and finding a lane looking like I expected was immense!

The next bit of navigation was fairly straightforward and I found a couple of the tickets which was comforting.  Galahad was very good about my getting off to mark my score card and he was mostly well behaved for the gates, although I did have to get off to do a couple.  The next complicated bit was again over some fields but I was fairly sure we were going the right way and at the top of the field we found a manned ticket point which confirmed it.  Sadly it also meant that I had missed one ticket but at least we were in the right place!

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We then had a relatively long stretch on a road which led down into the woods.  This is when it started pouring down with rain and even though we were fairly well sheltered by the trees I had to give in and put on my waterproof trousers.  It was at this point that my navigation went a bit up the creek.  I thought we were a lot further on through the woods than we actually were and took us left over a river we were not supposed to ford. When the path started climbing I was a bit concerned – we were meant to be following the contour lines so the track should have been fairly level.  I pushed on a little way but decided I was definitely wrong and turned back.  On the bright side Galahad walked straight through the river both ways and it did mean that he got the opportunity to have a drink.

Once we were back on the right track we were very quickly out of the woods and at the second checkpoint where Galahad got a bit of a rest.  From then on it was all road work so pretty simple navigation and our only problem came when Galahad took exception to the man at the finish and refused to go past.  He even spun around and started going back the other way – I ended up having to get off and lead him over the line.  A little embarrassing but at least we finished!

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I was very pleased with him – he finished still full of energy and apart from the mishaps right at the beginning and end he behaved very well in completely unknown territory and open spaces.  He was still pretty hot and sweaty despite the rain and definitely deserved his wash down.

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We were the only entry in our class which was sad, even if it did mean we won by default.  Several people in another class got completely lost though so we didn’t do too badly.  In fact, I was very pleased with our score – we lost points for missing the ticket point and for our speed but we still got 189 out of a possible 240 which was the high score of the day.  I was expecting us to be well over the optimum time and on the first half we were eleven minutes over (if only I hadn’t taken the wrong route!).  Weirdly we were ten minutes too fast on the second half.  That still meant time faults but hopefully it means that if  I practise measuring our speed we might be able to get fairly close to the optimum.

Overall it was a very successful day for us.  I had a fantastic time and I definitely want to do it again!

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A well deserved snack!

Practising

This week has mostly been spent getting Galahad used to anything he might encounter at out trec event on Sunday.  That even included wearing my new hat cover.  I used to fall off a lot if I was wearing something new so I got into the habit of making sure that I never wear something for the first time at an event.  It is a superstition that has stuck.  It has meant that Cookster has been neglected a bit riding wise but I’ll make it up next week.   Not that I suppose he minds!

I decided against using the saddle bags. Galahad was okay with them but he was definitely very aware of them and I thought that since everything will be very new to him anyway one less thing to worry about would probably be a good idea. Instead I will be using a backpack which I have worn on him several times before.

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I did need to get him used to a map case though.  Luckily, since we often take up our neighbour’s newspaper, he is used to me carrying flappy bits of paper and even having a sneaky read.  He was not at all fazed by the map case and I was even able to open it and hold it when we were going along.  Hopefully we will be able to make good use of that at the event.  I think we are as prepared as we can be!

Trying New Things

Galahad and I are planning to go to another trec event next weekend.  This time we will just be doing the POR section, which is basically orienteering on horseback.  It is a fun introductory event and apparently first timers – that’s me – will get a lot of help. My map reading is not bad but I have no very clear idea of how the event works so I am glad there will be help!

There are several things we have to carry with us (compass, waterproofs, first aid kits…) which means that we really need some kind of saddlebags. It is another new experience for Galahad as he has never worn them before.  I started off leading him around the field with them on and making sure we went pretty fast to ensure they flapped as much as they were likely to.  Galahad didn’t seem bothered by them at all.  Hopefully that is a good sign of things to come.

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We are also practising riding in a headcollar as we will need to do that on the day as well.

Sunday Adventures

Galahad and I finally made it to our second trec event. It has only taken us three months!  We couldn’t make it to the training this time so we had to go straight in for the competitions without a look at the obstacles first.  There were some we had not seen before and hadn’t even tried at home so I was a little apprehensive.

Our first class was the pairs – I had asked for a sympathetic partner!  Galahad was very good with the new obstacles,  even the maypole which was the one concerning me most.  It is made up of two posts with a length of rope between them.   We had to pick up one end of the rope and ride in a circle round the other post, replacing the rope at the end.  Galahad was very good about letting me play about with the rope and the only trouble we had was that the rope wasn’t rotating properly and got tangled round the pole.  That wasn’t our fault so we got another go which went much better.

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Tackling the maypole

The only real problem we had was with the side pass – walking sideways along a pole.  Galahad didn’t have a clue what I was asking him to do!  We didn’t score anything for that but we did get a few tens – for the immobility, tarpaulin, rein back,  leading under low branches and double U bend – and with our pair we came second so I was thrilled.

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The water crossing – complete with rubber ducks!

Our individual event was outside near an apparently very scary (it was rather noisy) tractor so there was some spooking but in general he behaved very well.  We didn’t score nearly so well this time but it was our first attempt at trec in an outdoor arena and there were a lot of distractions.  We still got a ten for the immobility though – dismounted this time – and were third out of four.

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I had another fantastic day and enjoyed it just as much as our first attempt.  This is definitely something I want to keep doing!

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Spring, spring, spring!

It is starting to feel very spring like here.  The birds are singing, the sun  is shining  (not all the time but quite a lot) and the flowers are starting to bloom.  I am very much enjoying the primroses in the hedgerows.

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I went into Galahad’s stable today and wondered why there was moss all over the floor.  Last year some birds started to build a nest on one of the beams.  They never finished it but someone is giving it a go now.  Hopefully they will have more luck than last year.

This week I have been practising mounting from a mounting block – or at any rate the wall which serves as a substitute.  We are going to another trec event soon and since we had so much trouble with this last time I thought we had better work on it.  Typically we had no difficulty all in the yard – if only we could do as well when we go out!  I even managed to get on from the wrong side a couple of times.  That didn’t go quite so well – Galahad moved a little each time – but that was entirely my fault.  I am just very bad at mounting from the off side.  Something for us both to work on.

Trec Training

Galahad and I have signed up for our first trec event in December.  Both a training day and a mini competition.  I have no idea how Galahad will cope with all the scary obstacles but he will never cope if we don’t try.  It will also be his first time in an indoor school but hopefully that won’t be too much of an issue.  He has been in barns before which ought to help.

There is no real way to prepare him for what we might find when we are there.  Any obstacles I create will be different to the ones we find elsewhere and no matter how comfortable he gets with mine he will be back at square one when we go out.

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However, I am hoping that by introducing Galahad to as many scary obstacles as possible I can make it easier for him on the day.  Today I built an obstacle course along our lane – it is now definitely too wet to use the field.

We had a rope gate – which went a lot better than I expected.  We managed to open it and go through without dropping the rope.  I couldn’t close it again because the bank was in the way but Galahad was brilliant.

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We also had cones to weave through, a tarpaulin to walk over, a board to walk on, things to step over, narrow spaces to squeeze through and a rope to duck under.  A lot of the obstacles were similar to things he has seen before so were navigated without too much trouble.

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The only real issue we had – and he wasn’t panicking – was walking under the rope.  The rope itself was fine but I had draped a sheet over one end which was a bit too scary.  I got off and led him under a few times then got back on and he went under with no fuss at all.  I was so proud of him!

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After all that hard work I was a bit irresponsible and let him eat some grass which is not normally something he is allowed to do when wearing a bridle.  I hope it doesn’t put ideas in his head!

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Gate Troubles

I was rather short of riding time the other morning – I think I have mentioned before that I am not the best morning person!  I decided that it would be a good use of our time to do some work on opening gates or – more specifically – rope pretending to be a gate.  I have booked a trec training day with mini competition in December and I know that one of the obstacles is likely to be a rope tied between two posts which needs to be opened and closed like a gate.

Galahad is normally pretty good with gates but not so great if I try to keep hold of them – which I would need to do with the rope!  One of our gates has a piece of rope tied to it and I have been getting Galahad used to me moving it about.  I have never actually managed to use it like a gate and it seemed  like a good time to try.

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Unfortunately though, I picked a bad day weather wise.  It wasn’t raining that hard but the wind was blowing well and so Galahad wanted to turn away from the rain.  That was unfortunate as it meant he absolutely would not stand parallel to the gate but was determined to face it and so I couldn’t reach the catch to open it.

In the end I got off to open the gate.  Galahad doesn’t really have an issue with gates and I wanted to spend the time playing with the rope.  I finally managed to be in the saddle holding the rope when  Galahad spooked.  It was only a very small spook but it was enough for the rope I was holding to slam the gate hard – right in his ear.  I then dropped the rope – which probably hit him – and we went charging across the field.

I decided to call it a day.  I was already going to be late leaving for work and it was clear by that point that I wasn’t going to achieve a great deal.  We’ll have another go soon but I’ll pick a day when it is neither windy nor raining!

Schooling Successes

Galahad and I have had two very profitable schooling sessions this week.  The first one was perhaps nothing spectacular but Galahad was very much listening to me and seemed to be trying hard.  It is always very satisfying to finish a session feeling that we both did our best.

We also managed to achieve some fairly good neck reining which is something we have been finding tricky.  I am hoping to have a go at trec this winter and neck reining is pretty important for that.  Ours is not perfect yet but we are definitely making progress.

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Our other notable schooling session came after I had ridden my sister’s pony and put him out in the other field.  Not surprisingly Galahad was rather distracted and very tense the whole time.  He did feel at times as though he might explode but the important point was that he didn’t.  We didn’t necessarily look particularly good but he did everything I asked him to do.  It was a good learning experience for both of us – I gained a lot of confidence for riding him when he feels so tense.

When we finished I left him loose in the yard as I thought he would stay by the gate nearest to the other field.  Instead he did this.

Which presumably is what he was wanting to do the whole time I was riding.  I’m very glad he didn’t!