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!

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Encounters with Tractors

Our hacks have been quite exciting recently.  The other day we heard something very rattly going up the hill.  We couldn’t work out what it was but when we rode out half an hour later we met it coming back down again.  It turned out to be a tractor and trailer collecting the hay bales from the field at the top of the hill.  I was very pleased that Galahad went past it without too much fuss,  although it was at quite a speed!  The farmer was lovely – he not only turned off his engine but when he moved off again he coasted down the hill without the engine running.  I think the tractor itself wasn’t actually too scary but the trailer with all those hay bales was rather intimidating.

On our next ride we could hear the trailer in the field and as we went down the hill we could hear it coming alongside us so we knew it would pop out into the lane before long.  We waited for it so it wouldn’t be chasing us down the lane.

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In the end the ponies weren’t too bothered by it, although it wasn’t so close to us this time.  We eventually decided to ride the top loop of our hack again as we were having to wait quite a while.  When we came back down Galahad knew exactly where the tractor had been – he kept a very keen eye on the spot!

Yesterday I took my sister’s pony out and found the farmer doing some work in the gateway between the hay fields – it had got rather rutted.  That wasn’t too scary and we still had a nice canter but as we were making our (very relaxed) way back down the track the car came up behind us.  We pulled into a gateway and they passed with no trouble but following it was this contraption.

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It has been sitting in the corner of the field ever since the hay was first cut so the ponies have actually got fairly used to it but of course now it was moving and rattling!  He did let it get very close but right at the last minute he decided it was all too much and we cantered a little way across the field.  Not very far though and we were soon quite happily chasing it down the hill.  It was exciting!

Playing Games

Yesterday was the best day.  I mentioned before that I have been doing some liberty training with Galahad but that he still has some trust issues so some things are hard for him.  I will hopefully be trying more now I can’t ride him every day – I’ll have a go at some tricks on the days he doesn’t get ridden.

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Yesterday as I was bringing him in from the field we had a quick play and he actually did a proper bow.  He had one knee on the floor and he didn’t immediately jump up in a panic but stayed down for a few moments.  It was the best feeling and felt like a real breakthrough.

Of course, when I tried with someone watching, camera at the ready,  he couldn’t bring himself to do it again.

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He trusted me enough to go down when it was just us though and I am so incredibly proud of him for that.  It’s the little things (which are really big things)!

Back From Our Holidays

Whilst I was at the Europeans Galahad had a holiday as well.  Of course, his consisted mostly of standing in his field eating grass but I am sure he enjoyed himself very much.

Being away reminds me just how far Galahad has come in the last year.  Not so very long ago a week’s break would have had him shying away from me in the field and we would have taken several steps backward.  This time however he walked up to me just as usual despite my torch – he isn’t a fan of torches!  When it came to riding him the next day he was quite full of energy but behaved very well.  He really has improved.

We had a lovely hack in the fading light and the sky was absolutely beautiful.  It doesn’t really come out in the photograph  – they never do.

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Sadly in that week the light has changed so much that I no longer have enough of it to ride both ponies after work.  I try to alternate them which means Galahad will only be ridden half as much for now.  Less once it gets too dark to ride at all.

Thursday, however, was my day off.  My sister was able to ride too so we hacked out together.  We had a good gallop in the fields up the hill and the good news is that the hay bales are not really scary anymore.  We canter around the original ones (looking a bit sorry for themselves now) quite happily and although we might roll our eyes a bit at the new ones which have appeared in the next two fields they didn’t stop us cantering there either.  All of which is very good news despite the fact that my sister’s pony makes a beeline for the bales now he has worked out they are made of hay.

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We had glorious sunshine for the whole of our ride even though we had a short drizzly shower too.  The ponies got hot enough to need a wash down and I was back to riding in a t-shirt.  We had a gorgeous time and I think the ponies enjoyed it too.  Galahad certainly enjoyed his galloping, I’m not so sure about his partial bath afterwards!

Blair Castle Europeans 2015

I spent last weekend at the European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle.  I have been planning the trip for over a year and it was so good to finally get there.

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We hired a campervan so we could stay on site.  It is the first time I have done so and it was fantastic being able to wander around when most people hadn’t arrived/had gone home.

Obviously we had to show our support for Team GB.

Obviously we had to show our support for Team GB.

That included my nails!

That included my nails!

It also meant that I got to see the opening ceremony which was very exciting.  The two children reading ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ were particularly good.

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I managed to watch very nearly every dressage test, mostly from the top of the stands which gave an excellent view.  It was rather chilly though as it was very windy!

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The first day was especially good as the Brits were doing so well.  I always find it rather comforting when watching the professionals to find that they don’t get all eights and nines either.

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Cross country day was wet.  Really wet.  I loved the course and thought it was very interesting but it was a shame that the weather meant bits had to be changed.  One of my favourite fences was the haggis which I never saw jumped as it had been removed by the time we got that far.

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It was completely understandable though – it was hard enough walking down that slope, never mind riding it.  The neeps and tatties were still good and I loved the fact that there was a baked potato stall next to the tatties (they provided the real tatties on the fence).

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It's a long way down!

It’s a long way down!

There were so many good fences I can’t possibly describe them all but here are a few of my favourites.

The Castle Wall and Cannon

The Castle Wall and Cannon

The Stags Heads

The Stags Heads

The Firth of Forth Crossings

The Firth of Forth Crossings

We waited here to watch a few extra riders in the hope that someone would take the direct route and I was thrilled when Izzy Taylor came along and jumped it beautifully.

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Of course the last fence – the Final Fling – was pretty special too.

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Show jumping day was thankfully dry (we had uncovered seats) and the course was interesting to watch – there weren’t too many clear rounds!

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The Queen came to present the medals which made it extra special.

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It was a shame we didn’t win but the Germans were just too good.  They seem to be unstoppable at the moment!

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I had such a fantastic time and it was worth every bit of planning and the (very long) journey to get there.  I only wish it happened more often and as relatively close to home.

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Beating the Flies?

Galahad’s fly mask has pretty much had it now.  It has gradually been getting more holes but now one of them is big enough for his ear to stick through.

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Given that I only got it because he has trouble with flies in his ears it seems a bit redundant now. It has also worn a (very small) bald patch on his ear which is obviously not good at all.  I would mend it but hopefully  (touch wood) the flies seem almost gone for now.  I’ll mend it if his ears get bad again, otherwise I’ll just get him a new one next year.

Strangely the more damaged it got the less often he managed to escape it.  Perhaps the holes gave it extra ventilation so he didn’t want it off so much.  I am now more likely to find my sister’s pony hatless.  His mask has lasted twice as long so far and the only problem with it now is that the velcro itself is wearing out.  He doesn’t have the same desire to get rid of it though.  I have found him in the field with the velcro completely undone but the mask still on his head!

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I just gave both ponies what I hope was their last dose of deosect for the season.  Galahad is not at all keen on being sprayed and most years up to now I have been spraying him every day with normal fly spray.   For several years I had to use a sponge to get it on.  Deosect shouldn’t be used nearly so often so he must prefer it.  It has also so far prevented him getting the nasty persistent bite he usually gets every summer so I am happy too.  It is pretty good stuff!

Autumnal Riding

We have been  having some glorious weather over the past few day.  There is still an autumnal chill in the air but it has been beautifully sunny.  The crisp air is gorgeous to ride in and everything seems so peaceful.

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We have managed to enjoy several hacks and have reacquainted ourselves with the sheep who have moved back in to the field up the lane.  They appear to be fascinated by us!

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We had a shorter hack the other day and had a play over the jumps when we got back.  This time I took care to do some circling and transitions first just to make sure Galahad was listening to me and the jumping was in a much better rhythm as a result.  He was also jumping the new tyre jump without a second thought so I will be filling in the gap a bit next time.  I am going to need more tyres soon!

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Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Hasn’t it got cold suddenly!  A few days ago I was riding in a t-shirt, then September started and someone realised it should be autumn so turned the temperature down.  Now I need my coat.  Until I start grooming/mucking out/riding and it doesn’t seem cold at all!

It is gorgeous when I go out to the ponies in the mornings.  The valley is full of mist but the sky is usually blue above and everything is beautiful.

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It certainly makes the early mornings less painful!

September also means that the hedges up the hill have been cut so I don’t have to get wet riding.20150903_193316

If it has been raining the grass in the middle gets slippery and Galahad does not enjoy it on that slope (who can blame him?).  He walked carefully to the side which meant that all the wet bracken could reach out and get me.  It got me nearly as wet as the rain itself would have done.

The blackberries are ripening now and there is something very nostalgic about picking them as I ride.  When I was little one of my favourite things was eating blackberries on hacks.DSCN3495

Autumn is definitely here but I am loving it!

Light Thickens

I really need to get a move on in the evenings.  I mentioned that a week or two ago but it has suddenly got more urgent.  Term has just restarted which means that a) I have less evenings free when I can ride and b) If I am free my sister isn’t so I have two ponies to deal with.  I don’t get home until just after seven and if I let myself get distracted – as I did last night – it can be eight o’clock before I am in the saddle.  It doesn’t help when I bring Galahad in from the field looking like this.

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Horses always know when you are in a hurry!

I had to cut the riding a bit short but both ponies had a good session.  They were listening from the start which was most welcome given the time constraints.  It was pretty dark by the time we finished, although not as dark as the picture suggests – I only had my phone on me and it couldn’t cope with the bright sky and darker landscape.

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Today I did much better and was onto the second pony before eight.  The good news is that it is still light enough to hack out both of them.  In general I prefer to school one and hack the other which is better from a light point of view too – less light is needed for schooling than hacking!  Today though I had two lovely evening hacks which ended my day perfectly.

What a difference a day makes!

What a difference a day makes!