Small Steps and Giant Leaps

Today has been very hot for us so my planned morning ride didn’t happen – it was too hot for me and it would have been unfair on the ponies too.  Especially as Galahad is still moulting.  Even when I did eventually ride at half past seven it was still pretty warm!DSCN3336

On the bright side though his summer coat is finally starting to show through in patches.  It’s about time!  My best friend at the moment is this rubber curry comb which is amazing at getting the hair off.  My sister got it years ago but until this year Galahad hasn’t been able to tolerate it.  This year I am loving it although it does mean I am covered in hair all the time.

We also have exciting news on the schooling front – he is really beginning to get the hang of clockwise turns on the forehand.  His off side has always been stiffer which we think may be because he used to favour his near side when he was branded and overcompensated so he damaged his off side as well.  This week for the first time he managed turns on the forehand both ways under saddle and it felt like a major achievement.

I have just sent off Galahad’s first real competition entry.  He has done mini training competitions at my instructor’s yard but never an outside show before.  I have only entered the walk and trot dressage test which seems like a good introduction for him.  I’ll see how he feels on the day and decide whether he can cope with a baby jumping class or some showing.  My main worry with that would be when the judge comes to look at him – he doesn’t like strange people approaching him.  Sometimes he isn’t even keen on people he knows!

Two days ago we had an interloper in the field.20150628_191742

This is one of our neighbour’s lambs come for a visit and not able to find his way home.  He started following us and asking for help when we rode through the field.  He wouldn’t let us near him when dismounted though!

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Jumping and Being Eaten Alive!

On Wednesday we jumped for the first time in ages.  We started very small as Galahad can get rather over excited and we hadn’t played with the tyres before.

DSCN3267He stayed nice and calm though and considering our lack of practise he did very well.

DSCN3283The only issue we had was when I stupidly said I would try one more jump and he ran out.  A few times.  We had to lower the fence and start again.  I think (hope) he was just reacting to my sister being straight ahead over the jump.  I do need to get him more used to people being around – I am hoping to take him to his first proper show next month.

We had a nice gentle hack this evening which was lovely except for the FLIES which were awful.  We picked them up at the top of the hill and they followed us all the way back down.  Galahad can react badly to fly bites – not in a sweet itch way but he normally has one bite a year which stays raw for a couple of weeks.  I think it causes me more distress than him though!  So far this year Deosect has kept the flies at bay but if anyone has any tips I would welcome them!

This is our current solution.  I'm not sure that it made any difference but it made me feel better.

This is our current solution. I’m not sure that it made any difference but it made me feel better.

Galahad also spends the summer in a fly mask as the flies in his ears can be terrible.  He is sometimes a real Houdini with it though.  He goes for days with no trouble and then it disappears, usually turning up neatly hung on a tree.  Last time it took me two days to find it and then it was here.

DSCN3070Something tells me he didn’t want it found!

Sunshine and moulting ponies!

At the moment it seems that every time I ride after work this is the view I get.

20150610_195855It doesn’t matter where we go, I always manage to be riding directly into the sun and I can’t see a thing.  I was congratulating myself that at least the cars I met would be able to see me when a car behind approached us rather too fast.  It then dawned on me that cars going the same way as me couldn’t see either.  Not very comforting.

We didn’t have that problem today though as instead of riding we had a mammoth grooming session.  Galahad’s summer coat has always been rather slow to come through and I decided it was about time I attempted to do something about it.  I’m not sure I really had much of an effect but hopefully the pony will feel a bit better for it.

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I am thinking of making a horse hair cushion!

I am thinking of making a horse hair cushion!

I also did some in hand work with him.  We have been doing a lot of it recently, particularly turns on the forehand.  He needs to build up muscle in his hindquarters and his off hind is particularly weak.  He really struggled with these at first but is starting to move really nicely now.  He is even beginning to get them when ridden, at least when he is moving away from my left leg.  The other way still needs some work but there is a definite improvement.

The picture doesn't really do him justice, he is doing well with his turns on the forehand now.

The picture doesn’t really do him justice, he is doing well with his turns on the forehand now.

A Misapprehension…

I have rather naively always thought that grooming a pony was the way to keep it clean.  In fact it turns out that all it really does is move the dirt around a bit until he is a nice uniform grey colour.

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The ponies have just spent a couple of weeks away so they could see the dentist and have their backs checked.  They got turned out a lot in the school and they loved rolling in the sand!  Although it looks like I haven’t got anything off him his footprints clearly show that I was achieving something.  Just not very much.

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The ponies are now home again and are relishing being back in their own field.  It is very obvious that they have been away – sand is no longer a problem but the grass is!  Waistlines will have to be kept under strict supervision.

We went for an early morning canter through our neighbour’s fields yesterday.  The grass has also grown rather a lot there since we last rode that way.  Galahad only has little legs and it was an odd feeling riding with my feet dragging through the grass!  He seemed to love bounding along though and we had a lovely time.  This is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.

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Firstly – An Introduction

Galahad is a nine year old Exmoor gelding.  He was born on the moor and taken off at six months in the annual round up.  He came to me at eighteen months and we have grown up together.

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When he first arrived he was petrified of everything.  A sneeze would send him across the field and once he jumped the paddock fence because he took exception to my grandfather’s hat.  It took a lot of work to gain his trust and it was very easy to get too confident, push him a bit too much and make him panic – undoing all our hard work.

We devised many obstacle courses to get Galahad used to lots of scary things.

We devised many obstacle courses to get Galahad used to lots of scary things.

When it came to backing him it felt like we were starting all over again.  He would panic and completely explode.  I had some crashing falls and once terrified my sister when I was so winded I couldn’t breathe, let alone talk.  She kept asking if I was okay and all I could do was groan.  I knew I was fine but wasn’t capable of saying so!

It took a lot of time, a lot of help and numerous back checks but last summer I was finally able to start riding him properly.  It turned out that when he was branded as a foal the brand may have damaged the muscle underneath.  He is not in pain now but he will always walk a bit oddly.

We worked through it though and once he was rideable started getting him used to all sorts of things – he can still be scared!  The first time I was given a drink whilst sat on him I had to throw it across the school before he exploded.  Luckily it was a plastic beaker.  Sitting still was important to start with too – not waving my hands about when talking was very hard but necessary if I didn’t want him to run off.

It has been a lot of work but we have come so far in the last year.  Galahad now (mostly) trusts that I won’t do anything or make him do anything that will hurt.  I (mostly) trust that he won’t do anything silly that will throw me off.  We are improving all the time.  Just a few months ago I didn’t feel safe enough to open a gate whilst mounted – he couldn’t cope with me leaning over that much.  Recently I opened a gate for which I needed to have my weight so far forward that if he had moved at all I would have been on the floor.

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Playing gymkhana games was an excellent way to prepare for gate opening!

The last few months have been fantastic.  I have been living my childhood dream and I can’t wait to share the rest of our adventures.