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!

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Brrrr!

Didn’t it get cold suddenly!  I was not at all prepared for that.  Obviously I knew that cold weather was forecast but somehow that didn’t translate to, ‘Wear more clothes.’  It was rather chilly riding on Saturday!

Monday morning was absolutely beautiful.  The ground was completely white with frost and the sun was beginning to think about coming up so the sky was turning pink.  It was magical.  I was rather cautious when riding though – once last winter we went up the hill and hit a patch of ice at the top.  Poor Galahad had a proper Bambi moment and I definitely do not want to repeat that!

I am doing less work without stirrups this month than I had hoped simply because the field is too wet to school.  What we have done has gone well though.  Walking is no problem at all and trotting is fine as long as I remember to cross my stirrups.  Galahad is not a fan of them dangling down and hitting him!  My sister’s pony seems to find the whole thing fascinating; but then he has always been a fan of boots.

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Trec Training

Galahad and I have signed up for our first trec event in December.  Both a training day and a mini competition.  I have no idea how Galahad will cope with all the scary obstacles but he will never cope if we don’t try.  It will also be his first time in an indoor school but hopefully that won’t be too much of an issue.  He has been in barns before which ought to help.

There is no real way to prepare him for what we might find when we are there.  Any obstacles I create will be different to the ones we find elsewhere and no matter how comfortable he gets with mine he will be back at square one when we go out.

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However, I am hoping that by introducing Galahad to as many scary obstacles as possible I can make it easier for him on the day.  Today I built an obstacle course along our lane – it is now definitely too wet to use the field.

We had a rope gate – which went a lot better than I expected.  We managed to open it and go through without dropping the rope.  I couldn’t close it again because the bank was in the way but Galahad was brilliant.

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We also had cones to weave through, a tarpaulin to walk over, a board to walk on, things to step over, narrow spaces to squeeze through and a rope to duck under.  A lot of the obstacles were similar to things he has seen before so were navigated without too much trouble.

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The only real issue we had – and he wasn’t panicking – was walking under the rope.  The rope itself was fine but I had draped a sheet over one end which was a bit too scary.  I got off and led him under a few times then got back on and he went under with no fuss at all.  I was so proud of him!

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After all that hard work I was a bit irresponsible and let him eat some grass which is not normally something he is allowed to do when wearing a bridle.  I hope it doesn’t put ideas in his head!

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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!

Working Hard

This week I had a long overdue riding lesson.

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I like to have a lesson on a different horse every so often so that I’m not only able to ride one horse.  I grew up riding a huge number of different horses and ponies and it really stood me in good stead.  At inter-university riding competitions we had to ride horses we had never met before and I felt I had been well prepared for that!

It has been a few months since I had a lesson and even longer since I rode a different horse.  It is always a bit of a strange feeling riding an actual horse – their strides are so much longer than Galahad’s!  Even horses I thought of as quick striding now feel incredibly smooth.  The horse I rode this week is much more forward going than Galahad and likes to test new riders to see what they can do.  Once we got to know each other though we got on pretty well.  We popped over a few jumps at the end of the lesson which my instructor set very low to start with as I hadn’t ridden the horse before but she jumped about three feet high anyway.  I always have such a great time when I have a lesson and I really must make sure I don’t let it go so long before my next one.

Galahad has had a week of hacking only as our field is definitely too wet for schooling at the moment.  However, he did have some excitement on Friday as he dressed up to support Children in Need.

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He was surprisingly okay with it but not too pleased about being made to wait for his dinner!

Blustery November

We have had a blustery few days here.  A lot of rain and pretty windy too.  Luckily the ponies do not seem to react to the wind very much and are quite happy being ridden in all weathers.  I am always more aware that we might have a problem though if it is windy!

The rain has had an interesting effect on the fallen leaves in the lane.  The water has formed into two streams down the road and neatly gathered all the leaves into the middle.

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I thought at first someone had been sweeping the leaves but it seemed rather unlikely.  Then my sister pointed out the streams and it all made sense!

Sadly though, all the rain has made our fields rather soggy.  Unless we have a reasonable dry spell I may have to curtail our schooling a bit.  At the moment I am being very careful in the field especially on the corners and I will keep a close eye on the ground conditions.

No Stirrups November

No Stirrups November is something I heard of for the first time this week but apparently it has been around since 2010!

I have done a fair bit of riding without stirrups in my time – practically every lesson ever – and it really has been helpful.  Not least when I lost my stirrups in a jumping class and finished the round without them.

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I have never ridden Galahad without stirrups except for dropping them for a few minutes on quiet rides.  To start with he was always far too spooky and although he has improved incredibly I somehow have never got around to it.  No Stirrups November seems like the ideal time to start.

However, I will not be losing my stirrups for the whole month.  Firstly I have to ride on the roads when I hack out and it seems like a really bad idea to have no stirrups when a car might come hurtling round the corner at any moment.  Secondly, Galahad can still be spooky – usually when I am least expecting it.  If I can fall off with stirrups I certainly can without!  Also Galahad has barely been ridden without stirrups before and it is something that should be built up slowly.

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My plan is to use this as the impetus to introduce some work without stirrups in our schooling sessions.  I’ll warm up Galahad with them and lose them when he is properly settled.  I know it will be beneficial for me at least!

Early Morning Schooling

Whilst a lot of my friends are complaining about the dark evenings now that the clocks have gone back, I am very much appreciating the lighter mornings!  I just have enough light and time to ride before I go off to work in the morning.

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I am not really a very good morning person but it is amazing how much easier it is to get up when I get to ride.  It is lovely riding in the early morning and I have had some very good schooling sessions.  It feels like Galahad is listening quicker when we start and his right bend is starting to improve too.  It is not at all consistent but it is there and with a bit of work it will improve.

It is beautiful at that time in the morning.  A bit misty at the moment and very peaceful.  Our resident kestrel has been flying over us and we have a trespassing lamb. In the spring he kept breaking into our field and every morning this week he has been between the hedge and the fence.  I thought he was stuck at first but it was easy enough for him to get back through the hedge when I approached!

A Very Horsey Weekend

I think Galahad  enjoyed his week off.

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He managed to cover himself in mud and is looking a bit tubby!

It was lovely to get back in the saddle this weekend.  As neither pony had been ridden for a week I just took them out for a hack.  It was a glorious morning and we had a great time.  Galahad and I acted as a newspaper delivery – my neighbour has a delivery every day but it is dropped off at the bottom of the hill about a mile from her house.  If it is there when I ride past I tend to take it up for her.

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It is times like this that I realise how far Galahad has come.  He stood like a rock while I messed about with the paper and behaved very well when I was carrying it up the hill.  There are two papers on a Saturday which makes it more tricky and it was only as I went past that I remembered I hadn’t ridden him that way since I fell off the other week.  I was a bit concerned he might get worried whilst I was riding one handed but he didn’t react at all.

I also took him for a canter in the fields.  They are always a bit wet even in summer and I think they are getting past the point where they are rideable now.  It’s not dangerous yet but we left quite a few hoof prints and as it isn’t our field I don’t like to make a mess of it.

Galahad was feeling rather fresh and he showed that he really does like going fast.  I got asked a couple of weeks ago if I can stop him when he takes off and I found that the answer is, ‘Sometimes.’  If I catch him early enough I don’t have much of a problem but it is harder once he gets going properly.  I discovered that I can be quite ineffective as a rider too – once I start to think something risky is inevitable I tend to just hang on until it is over and then start trying again afterwards.  Not that Galahad is actually dangerous – he just can gallop rather fast!

In other news we have had some work done our trees which has left us with a rather large pile of logs to burn but we also have these to jump:

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I can’t wait to get them moved so we can jump them before the ground gets too wet.  As you can see we are rather excited!

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