Earning Our Keep

Today has been somewhat blustery!  My ride with Cookster was rather interesting as  he regressed back to trying to nap for home and we had to have a discussion about which way to go!

I thought Galahad would be spooking all over the place but in actual fact he was very relaxed and well behaved.  There is a for sale sign on a field gate halfway up the hill and now Galahad knows it is there he is always prepared – he slows right down and stares very hard towards the gate so that as soon as it comes into view he is ready to spook.  Today, however, it wasn’t there – it had blown off and was lying on the other side of the lane.  Galahad kept looking for it on the gate though and it was only when the sign was right under his nose that he noticed it  and had a mini spook the other way.  It was hilarious.

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Galahad has also been earning his keep this week – we needed to move the ponies into a new field and he took me round to check the fences  and for poisonous plants and litter.  The field runs along a road and passing motorists seem to think it’s okay to throw their rubbish over the hedge so we have to keep a close eye on it.  At least it’s quite fun on a pony!

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Rain Stops Play!

I pride myself on not being a fair weather rider but the weather on Wednesday was a bit much even for me.

Sorry about the video orientation! 

I had been planning to film my next online dressage test for BHS Somerset but I definitely was not going to film in that.  It’s not like we would do a good test in those conditions anyway.

I  gave up for the day, turned out the ponies and went indoors for a cup of tea.  Of course, within ten minutes the rain had stopped and the sky had cleared. I decided it was still too dark to film, plus the field was probably pretty slippery,  but there was no reason why we shouldn’t go out for a hack.

Galahad had other ideas though – I had turned him out and he had no intention of coming back in again!  It took me at least five minutes to catch him but I managed it and we went out for a lovely ride splashing through the puddles.

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It turned into a beautiful evening!

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Blustery Schooling

Tuesday was a very windy day.

I schooled both the ponies after work and I was concerned that Galahad would be completely wound up, especially as I had just ridden Cookster and our steering left a little to be desired!

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Galahad though was surprisingly relaxed and we had a pretty good session.  He has sometimes been a little nappy towards the gate lately but we had no trouble this time.

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We even managed to work in an outline – of course, I didn’t get that on camera!  He is perhaps not using his hindquarters as much as I would like but we can work on that.  Both ponies will be having their backs checked this week as well, so we can make sure everything is okay.

Overall though, I was very pleased with Galahad and how relaxed he was considering the weather.

Sun in our eyes and wind in our tails

Sunday was a beautifully sunny day so Galahad and I went out for what should have been a lovely relaxing hack.  It seemed like I was constantly riding into the sun and spent the whole time squinting.  It really was a beautiful day though and the views were gorgeous.

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It was also a very windy day.  Galahad isn’t usually too bothered by the wind but it does get to him occasionally.  Sunday was one of those days and he was looking for things to frighten him.  I had been planning to take him for a canter in my neighbour’s field but I knew that in that frame of mind there would be monsters in every hedge and it didn’t really seem worth it.  We stuck to the lanes but did manage a canter up the grass in the middle.  The sheep all ran away as we came up the lane but once they decided we weren’t coming to get them the started running back towards us.

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It was somewhat unnerving but not unkown in these particular sheep.  We once cantered through their field, went through the open gateway and heard the thunder of hooves behind us.  For a moment I genuinely thought they were going to stampede us but they didn’t go quite that far!

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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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!

Stormy Weather

I seem to be writing a lot about the weather recently but it has been pretty dramatic.  On Monday we were hit by Storm Imagen with the wind gusting at 45 miles an hour and causing a power cut.  I was obviously at work for most of the day and missed a lot of the excitement.   The power stayed on there with just a few flickers of the lights.  It was very windy around town though, especially when I walked along the river to and from my car.  I had hoped that the wind might dry the fields out a bit but we are still having very heavy showers which are undoing any effect it might have.

Driving wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be, although a tree in the village had completely snapped in half.  I got home to find that there was still no power so I had to see to the ponies by torchlight.  Galahad has improved immensely when dealing with torches.  He always used to absolutely hate them, which I assumed was because he couldn’t see what was behind them.  It’s a pretty sensible stance to take really.   However,  he does seem to be getting used to them.  He is still wary of them but I can at least catch him when I am holding a torch now and even check him over when he is loose.  It makes things so much simpler!

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The ponies’ colds are still improving.  They are not better yet but they are definitely getting there.  The other day though Galahad sneezed all over my sister’s freshly washed hair.  She was not impressed!

Trying our hand at trec

This weekend Galahad and I went to our first ever trec event and we LOVED it!

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The day didn’t have a very auspicious start as I had to get up early to clean my tack and Galahad came in from the field covered in mud.  He even had mud dreadlocks in his mane.  I hadn’t left myself all that much time so we had to have a very fast, very effective grooming session!  We still managed to arrive in plenty of time which gave Galahad a chance to settle a bit before I actually got on.  He was very spooky though and kept jumping at the slightest thing.  When a rug billowed in the wind (it was very windy!) he shot sideways and caught the side of my head with his lead rope.  Again – not a good start!

However, once I was on he felt a lot better and even walked straight past a pile of wrapped bales – all with wildly blowing loose ends – with barely a glance.  We ride past a flappy set of bales at home and he hates them but that could be because they are hidden behind a hedge.  He was still a bit tense and he was not at all keen on the big doors of the school which were also rattling in the wind.  I took him in the little warm up area and after a few times round he was beginning to settle nicely.  For him the warm up isn’t so much about warming up his muscles – although obviously that is important – but more about warming up his brain and reminding him that he should listen to me because I’m not going to ask him to do anything dangerous.

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Once we were in the school – which he walked straight into with no trouble – we started introducing the horses to the trec obstacles in hand. Galahad was quite happy with them all except the mounting block which he has never liked.  That is something I meant to work on before the weekend but I never got around to it.  I had to mount from the ground this time but I am determined to change that!

Once we were mounted we went back round all the obstacles again.  The bending, tarpaulin, immobility and neck reining were no trouble at all.  The s-bend was sometimes brilliant and sometimes terrible.  It was the first time Galahad had seen it though and he was still working out what was expected of him.  He was definitely trying hard!  The rein back was okay but the gate was not good at all.  We did manage to open it, go through it and close it again but it was not at all stylish.  Something else to work on.

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At the end of the lesson we had a mini competition which was great fun.  We got no points for the gate or the rein back (which started well but then went to pieces) but we did get some good marks  – including tens for the tarpaulin and immobility!  We came fourth out of the four in the lesson but I wasn’t expecting anything else and I was so proud of how relaxed he had been about everything.  He had never been in an indoor school before so I was prepared for him to be terrified and refuse to do anything!

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‘Very calm’ was the judge’s comment for our immobility!

We had a break then, while I watched the more advanced classes, before I got back on board for the newcomers class.  Galahad was a bit worried about things rattling around again but soon settled and was fine once we were in the school.  He had clearly remembered what he was doing in the morning and had improved immensely.  We still got no points for the gate and I had to get on from the ground but this time we got four tens!  Again for the immobility and tarpaulin but also for the led s-bend and the jump.  We hadn’t jumped in the morning and we obviously haven’t at home for a few weeks so I wasn’t sure what he would do but he flew over it.

The newcomers class also contained the control of paces section which we hadn’t tried in the morning.  The idea is to canter slowly and walk quickly.  We got no points for the walk – fast walking has never been Galahad’s strong point.  The canter felt very rushed but the score wasn’t too bad – probably because he only has little legs!  With a bit more schooling to balance the canter we ought not to do too badly with that.

There were three people in my class and I knew I would probably come last.  I thought I knew where we had all come but then this happened:

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Our first first!

Not bad for our first try!

I had such a fantastic day and I can’t wait to try it again.

Making New Friends

We had a very exciting time on our ride this morning.  We got to the top of the hill to find two things with long necks peering over the fence at us – a pair of alpacas!  Galahad did not have a clue what they were and wasn’t at all sure that he wanted to stick around to find out.  He spun around but didn’t actually run away and I persuaded him to turn back to have a proper look.  He decided that they might be okay but I didn’t manage to take a photograph because by the time he had settled enough the alpacas were running away themselves.

The weather has also been rather exciting.  Very windy this morning with sudden heavy showers of freezing cold rain.  Galahad was not too impressed that I wanted to keep going when the rain started.  We did have fun paddling in the puddles though – at least, I did!  I do love the wind too – there is something about it which makes it very exciting.

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Windswept pony!

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!