Tranquility and Chaos

As I was riding home on Galahad today I realised that the air was feeling slightly less wintry. Yes the fields are still absolutely sodden – no chance of recording a dressage test just yet – but there was that undefinable feeling in the air that perhaps spring is not so far away after all.

I know I have shared this view many, many times before but it gave me such a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquility today. Just that small effort of getting on the pony and riding out is so good for me and it really does make all the difference. It was a lovely feeling to have as I got home.

Then I opened the tackroom door to find this scene inside. The dog can’t be trusted out on hacks so I shut her in as I left. She has a perfectly good bed in there but she had to pull out the clean numnahs and curl up on them instead. Naturally she was wet and muddy too so I have plenty of pony laundry to do now. There is a bright side though – I had been putting off the laundry and these were the only two clean numnahs left. It was definitely time to get them washed!

Frozen Mud

I seem to be writing a lot about the state of the ground at the moment – but it is a big factor in my life right now. I was meant to be doing an online dressage competition with my riding club in January but the ground was so sodden that there was no chance we could do a decent test. Even at walk and trot Galahad was reluctant to go forward.

This week has been wonderful though. All those minus temperatures – and very strong winds – froze and dried the mud up so we could just walk over the top of it. It still wasn’t suitable for schooling of course but it did make life so much easier. The dog was happy too – she hates mud and always takes twice as long to get somewhere as she should because she goes the long way round to keep her feet dry.

Today the rain is back – and with a vengeance too! It has been absolutely tipping it down and the mud is pretty much back to where we started. Dry feet were nice while they lasted!

Galahad and I still enjoyed ourselves on our hack though and we admired these very cosy looking sheep. At least, I admired the sheep – Galahad was probably eying up all that lovely hay!

First Aid

It feels like it has been raining for weeks. The fields are absolutely sodden and there is even standing water in places. It’s not ideal but it’s something we have to expect in the winter – although I don’t remember them being quite so wet before! It can cause a whole host of problems though and I was not entirely surprised when Cookster came in slightly lame the other day – standing around in wet mud is ideal for causing hoof abscesses.

I was well prepared to deal with that, although I did have to order more duct tape as we were getting rather low. What I did not expect was that Cookster would stand so patiently in an Epsom salts solution. He is not a fan of standing still at the best of times. Apparently though all it takes is a haynet and he won’t budge. Again, that isn’t something that should have surprised me!

All of this did mean that I finally got some use out of Galahad’s treat ball which has been gathering dust because it is far too scary for Galahad to contemplate. Cookster though will do anything for food so it was a great tool to keep him from boredom.

Not that he spent all that much time cooped up – I wanted to keep him outside as much as possible and tried to pick out the least muddy spots for him. Of course, all the fields are wet but we managed pretty well considering.

Cookster is of course not mine but my sister’s pony and as she couldn’t come to visit him she sent him his own special delivery of some polos and a postcard.

The polos were very popular and the postcard is now decorating the stable and looking cheerful. The polos had to be shared with Galahad who was glad of that but still seemed to be jealous of all the attention Cookster was getting. Or possibly he just wanted extra food!

Cookster seems to be better now and is running around the field without a care. It is always such a relief when they get better.

Pony Watching

As with every winter, we are now finding that we have very little grass left in the fields and we are looking for ways to keep the ponies fed without feeding them too much of our hay – it would be nice if that lasted a bit longer! Our main problem at the moment is that the fields are so incredibly wet – nothing has a chance to grow.

The lane still has a decent amount of grass in it though so the ponies have been having an hour or two of turnout there most days. It is very difficult to fence off securely so we normally sit out there with them to make sure they don’t wander off – although so far their heads have pretty much stayed down in the grass and they have barely moved. This is something we usually do in the summer when it is lovely to sit out in a deckchair with a book. Things are obviously a bit different at the moment so we have a car parked at the end of the lane, I make sure I am wearing many layers and I always take a blanket and a cup of tea. Providing I manage to keep myself warm enough it is actually quite enjoyable.

The ponies never take long to learn a new routine – especially where food is involved. By the second day they were quick to come when called to the gate. Now every time we walk up the lane they come running – just in case we feel like feeding them!

They have also got a little more adventurous now – one of their favourite places to graze is on the top of this bank. It doesn’t look like the most appetising grass to me but apparently it is worth the climb – and the effort involved in getting down again!

Wintry Landscapes

Much of the country has had snow over the past few days. We have not but we did get some heavy hailstorms and as it has been so cold the hail didn’t melt but lay about on the ground looking absolutely beautiful.

We went out for a little potter on the ponies to enjoy it. We had a look at the roads but decided they were just too icy to be safe so we stuck to riding about the fields and up our own lane. Its surprising how much of a ride you can get in a few fields!

Both ponies were feeling very jolly and bouncy so I was fully prepared for them to explode and for me to end up on the floor. However, they behaved impeccably and we had what may have been the most sedate trot ever. That was a relief and so I had a lovely time admiring the view. It was the best way to start the new year!

Houdini Pony

The ponies have definitely given us some excitement this week. First of all they have been clipped – which isn’t hugely exciting in itself, although they do look very smart now.

We are not normally quite so Christmassy so early in December but we dressed up for an online competition and I didn’t want to take it off again!

However, we then had two days of heavy, very cold rain. These ponies are apparently not all that bright and stand out in the rain even when they have access to shelter. When I went to get them in for the night Galahad was definitely cold and I changed their rugs for nice dry ones. The rugs are waterproof and the ponies were still dry but all that rain meant that the fabric was cold and would take a long time to warm up.

The rugs were still wet and cold in the morning – and the weather hadn’t warmed up – so I left Cookster’s stable rug on underneath his turnout. It was a big more rug on him that I would have liked but his turnout rug is basically just a waterproof sheet so I knew he would be fine for a bit and I intended to take it off again before long.

I obviously wasn’t quick enough though – when I went out again in the evening this is what I found.

The impressive thing is that he was still wearing his turnout rug which showed no signs whatever of being disturbed. It’s a new talent I didn’t know he had and it’s a good job the stable rug was so near the yard so I saw it before I inspected Cookster. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue what had happened!

Signs of Spring

We have had rain nearly every day for weeks.  The fields are absolutely sodden and the ponies are very often dripping when they come in.

However, we do have the odd day when we can really feel that spring is coming.  I rode out on Tuesday in beautiful sunshine – it was still rather cold but perfect weather for hacking out.

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Galahad and I had a lovely time pottering along the lanes.  The primroses and daffodils were out looking cheerful and making life feel good.  It is amazing how uplifting a bit of sunshine can be!

Fashion Pony

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Cookster has had to start wearing a rug to stop him freezing himself in the rain.  Obviously, we have had rather a lot of rain over the last week so the rug is very much needed at the moment.

However, although he measures for the same rug size as Galahad, the old rug he was using had rubbed his chest a bit.  Nothing too bad – his skin wasn’t raw, he just had a bit less hair than before – but he clearly needed something a bit better.

My sister therefore went shopping and decided on a much more exciting rug than Galahad has ever had.

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Sadly, it didn’t stay looking like this for long – most days he is just a muddy shade of brown.  Occasionally though, the rain manages to wash off some of the mud and the stags shine through once more.

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Standing and Staring

When I bring the ponies in for the night I quite often stand and watch them eat for a few minutes – just enjoying the peace and the sound of the munching.  It turns out that it’s actually a very valuable stable management tool.

I was watching them on the evening of Boxing Day and realised Cookster didn’t look quite right – a little tucked up and shivery.  It had been cold and drizzly for most of the afternoon and Cookster is not always sensible about seeking shelter.  He was eating okay though and seemed fine in himself so I dried him off as well as I could and tucked him up in bed in pyjamas.

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PJ pony!

He was very quickly himself again but the next morning I sent him out with a thin waterproof rug on – he’s barely clipped so I didn’t want him too warm, just kept dry because apparently he can’t look after himself.

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Now of course I have the extra dilemma every day of wondering whether he should still be wearing it or not.  If it’s just cold and not wet then he doesn’t really need it but can I guarantee no rain?  Thankfully, as it is just a thin rug the risk of over rugging is pretty slim at the moment and he has certainly shown no signs of being too hot.  It’s a bit of a different experience for him though – he didn’t roll in the field for two days, although he was quite happy to lie down in the stable!

Sometimes there’s more reality than dream

For a couple of months every winter I can usually only ride twice a week on my days off.  It is almost dark when I leave for work and definitely dark when I get home so – as I don’t have floodlights – it is just not possible to ride.  Having said that, I did ride Galahad in the very, very dim the other day.  It was only around our fields and not on the road but was still rather nervewracking!

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This year I seem to be more than usually burdened (though they are not really burdens) with odd hours at work and extra rehearsals for Christmas concerts so that even when I have a day off I am still not free to ride in the daytime.  I am currently in the middle of what will be almost two weeks off for the ponies – something which can make me feel incredibly guilty, even though there is not really anything I can do about it.  It is what comes of having too many hobbies!

I have to remember that the ponies really don’t care if they don’t get ridden.  They have a whole field to gallop round and each other to play with so it’s not as if they are cooped up and getting bored.  In fact, it is quite possible that they prefer being left alone!

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It does sometimes seem as if I have all the hard work and none of the fun at the moment – the ponies still need mucking out and feeding even when they are not being ridden.  However, I do really enjoy all of that too – just spending time with them is wonderful and I wouldn’t want to ride instead.  Besides, I will get to ride soon!