Dutch Ponies!

I spent last weekend on a choir trip to Holland.  I had a fantastic time but obviously it meant that I didn’t get any riding.  However, I did get to see some Friesian horses in their native land.

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There was a Friesian at my riding instructor’s yard for a few months.  He was absolutely beautiful so I was looking forward to seeing some more.  I never got very close to them but they were lovely to see.

I also discovered that some of Friesland has Konig ponies roaming more or less wild much as the Exmoor ponies do.  It is a breed I have not seen in real life before and it was very exciting, even if I only got to see them from the coach.

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I am home now and very much looking forward to getting back in the saddle.  I am hoping that now the clocks have gone back there will be just enough light to squeeze in a ride before work.

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Pony Reading

It seems that I have read rather a lot of pony books over the last couple of weeks.

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I  go through phases where I will read one pony book after another and completely immerse myself in them.  I have to force myself to read something different and break the run.

There is just something so cosy about them and I suppose a bit of nostalgia for my childhood spent reading them.  I  tend to read more vintage books than modern ones and there are so many that I think I could keep reading for the rest of my life without repeating myself!

I am particularly fond of the Pullein-Thompsons, Ruby Ferguson and Monica Edwards – although hers can be hard to find. Having said that, I love Patricia Leitch, Gillian Baxter, Joanna Cannan…  I  think my favourite might depend on who I happen to have read most recently!

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Once the ponies are done for the evening the best way to finish the day is curling up in front of the fire with a cup of tea and a pony book.  Bliss!

Relaxing Evenings with the Ponies

One of my favourite things about autumn is the time I spend with the ponies in the evening.  There is something very relaxing about going out in the dark to talk to them.  I know I have complained about the lack of riding now it is darker in the evenings but it is really just as nice just being with them without the pressure of trying to actually achieve something.  I always come in feeling completely calm and happy.

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After a stressful day there is nothing better than a pony hug to make it all better.  Galahad is particularly good for hugging – he will stand patiently for ages while I tell him my troubles.   Except on those odd days when apparently I am the scariest thing he has ever seen.

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Cookster on the other hand has no time for hugging.   He comes up to see me but without any food he very quickly gets bored and goes back to munching grass.  He is a proper stereotypical pony!

Learning My Lesson…

I had been planning a post about the pheasant shoot on the farm behind us.  As the season is just starting there are pheasants everywhere and I was going to write about how this meant that the ponies are not really bothered by them any more.

Most of the time that is true but this week I was riding out with my sister and I got a very sharp lesson.  We were meandering along, having a chat and not paying a great deal of attention to our surroundings.  At least, I wasn’t.   I knew there were pheasants about but Galahad wasn’t reacting to them so I didn’t think much of it.

Almost without warning I suddenly found myself sat on the floor whilst my sister and both ponies hightailed it back down the hill.  It was terrifying  – there is a main road at the bottom.  Luckily my sister managed to stop at the top of the really steep bit of the hill so Galahad stopped too.  I am fairly sure though that neither pony would have gone as far as they did if they hadn’t been winding each other up.

I had no idea what happened but apparently a pheasant flew up on the other side of the hedge right next to us.  I imagine Galahad heard the noise but couldn’t see what it was – that would certainly be enough to spook him.

It was a very practical lesson in why one should wear long sleeves when riding (technically I was but it was warm so I had rolled them up).  I hit the hedge before landing on the road so my arm is a mess of thorn scratches and tarmac grazes.

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On the other hand my leg was well protected by my jodhpurs but it still got a nasty graze.  It also shows that however much trust one has in a horse it doesn’t pay to daydream when riding.  Especially on a spooky pony like Galahad!

I was feeling rather battered and sore but was determined to finish our ride as I didn’t want Galahad to stop on a bad note.  The rest of it was lovely!

Making the most of my time

Since I had a day’s holiday to use up I tacked it onto my weekend off and so managed to ride three days in a row which is a luxury now.  Monday was a glorious day – so warm that I found myself riding in a t-shirt again.

Galahad was feeling the heat rather as well and needed a wash down when we had finished schooling.  We worked hard on our flatwork and then had a play with the jumps so Galahad was happy.  Recently he has started to get a bit overexcited when I turn him towards a fence and it is particularly noticeable if we haven’t jumped for a while so I am trying to do some little and often to keep it less exciting.

He did feel a bit strong on Monday but having watched the video I think a lot of it was in my head as it was what I was expecting.  I was very pleased with both the jumping and the flatwork although I have realised that our right flexion can be rather dodgy and needs quite a bit of work.  Does anyone have any tips for good exercises?

I also took my sister’s pony out on a hack he hadn’t done before.  Cookster can be a bit nappy when he’s out by himself but he only tried to go home once and that was when I had turned back to let a car pass so it wasn’t entirely his fault.

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We had a lovely ride and it was nice for him to be taken somewhere different – I think he can get bored pretty easily.  We also met my sister on her way home from work and walked down with her which was fun.  Cookster liked having someone to follow too!

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Darkness

This is what the world looks like when I get home from work these days.

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It got dark in the evenings so suddenly!  One week riding wasn’t a problem, the next I couldn’t ride at all!   I am down to riding two days a week on my days off now. The ponies will be less fit over the winter and I’ll start building them up again when it gets lighter in the spring.

One bright side is that I am playing games with the ponies more.  I started trying to teach my sister’s pony to bow and he is already better than Galahad which is irritating.   He is very food oriented so it isn’t really a surprise.

Today was my day off though so Galahad and I went for a relaxed evening hack and had a lovely canter through the fields.   Even though it isn’t all that high it sometimes feels like the top of the world, especially when things are a bit hazy like they were today.   It was very calming and peaceful,  the perfect end to the day.

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Being Inspired

At the weekend I went to a talk given by Emma Massingale of the Island Project.  She has a liberty team of Connemara ponies and took four of them to live alone with her on an island for a month so she could try training two new ponies with no equipment at all.

Her talk was really inspiring and if anyone gets the chance to hear it I would definitely recommend going.  If not, have a look at her youtube videos here.

The bond she has with her ponies is incredible and I would love for Galahad to have that much trust in me.  We are still working at some liberty work and make small improvements every time.  I just need to more consistent and make sure we do a little every day.

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Blackberrying by Pony

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is to take Galahad blackberrying.  The berries are starting to go over now but there are still enough around to make it worthwhile.  This is where playing around with gymkhana games come in handy – Galahad has got pretty used to me leaning over to the side for no apparent reason.  Most of the time.  He can still have his moments!

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This year I was brave enough to show him an actual proper basket for the blackberries.  I was a bit concerned that it would be too much of a worry for him but we have been keeping apples in it so he thought it was wonderful.

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Galahad is also rather keen on the actual blackberry picking.  He is a bit too good really – he watches me pick the first lot of berries until he decides he has got the hang of it.  We move on to the next patch and he carefully picks the berries off for me.  He finds them quite a delicacy!