Tinsel Riding

Ever since I was small my riding instructor has held tinsel rides at Christmas.  We used to dress up the horses, go for a long ride and if we were lucky we would get mince pies or sweets from parents’ houses along the way.  This year we weren’t able to go on hers but we did hold our own.

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It wasn’t quite as long as her group rides but we had a lot of fun.  We even got a mini canter on a verge which Galahad enjoyed – once I could persuade him off the road.  Apparently the gateway was rather scary!  It was a nice companionable lazy hack and I loved it.

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I did order some glitter for the ponies but forgot to do it in time so we made do with our usual antlers and tinsel which was just as good really.  We had a great time and the ponies were very relaxed about the tinsel.  We even met the alpacas again which the ponies found rather boring this time – very good news!

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Christmas Post

When I was little I remember riding out with my riding instructor’s daughter to deliver their Christmas cards.  I loved it and it was something I always wanted to do myself.  Last year was the first time I was able to ride Galahad and I of course made sure that our closest neighbours’ cards were delivered by pony post.

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Naturally I wanted to do the same again this year – although I seem to have had less time free to do so.  Galahad and I set off up the hill – me with the cards clutched in my hand.  New this year was my elf jumper with rather noisy bell.  I thought Galahad would object to that but he barely seemed to notice.  He has improved so much in the past year!  Partway up I decided to adjust Galahad’s antlers.  There I was with reins, whip and cards in one hand, leaning right forwards over his ears.  Of course that was the moment a pheasant chose to fly up in front of us.  Luckily Galahad started at it but didn’t really shy properly.  Which was lucky as I wouldn’t have stood much of a chance of stopping him.

As I was on my own this year I had to leave Galahad tied up to post one of the cards – last year my sister held him.  I am fairly sure that it was the first time he has been left tied like that on a ride.  I remember taking his headcollar and leadrope with us before but don’t think I actually used it that time.  He stood quite patiently though and watched the world go by.  This was when the actual postman went past which I found a bit embarrassing – as if I was doing him out of a job!

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We were just finishing our deliveries when it started raining.  Not bad timing!  Except that we carried on riding for about twenty minutes afterwards.  Still – at least the cards were dry.

Lesson in the Dark!

This week the ponies went away for a few days which meant Galahad and I were able to have our first lesson in months.  It had to be after work which meant Galahad was also ridden under lights for the first time ever.  He has never been particularly keen on things like torches which I have always assumed is because he can’t see anything behind them.  I wasn’t at all sure what he would think of the floodlights but actually he wasn’t too bad.  We had a bit of stopping and staring and quite a lot of bending away from the lights but he settled pretty quickly.

I was very pleased with him.  He was looking at everything very carefully but felt very relaxed and not as if he might explode at any moment.  My instructor was impressed with him too and thought he was moving better than the last time she saw him which was very gratifying.  I was paranoid for a few days before that he would have stiffened up again.  In fact the only problem – and is wasn’t really an issue – was that he is starting to grow more of a winter coat and is obviously not as fit as he was a few weeks ago when I could ride every day.  He did get a bit tired but was working hard.

We even managed a little bit of jumping which of course Galahad enjoyed very much.  Again my instructor could see an improvement in him.  At one fence we saw a really long stride but he now has the strength to keep going and not send everything flying.

It was a very good lesson and I came away feeling very positive.  Looking forward to the next one now!

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Feeling Festive

It is beginning to feel rather Christmassy around here.  We have a lovely wreath up on our gate which Galahad likes very much.  He hasn’t actually tried to eat it yet but he has been looking as if he wants to!

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I have also been reintroducing Galahad to his antlers.  He wore them for the first time last Christmas and was surprisingly okay about them.  Last year he started wearing them in hand as soon as December started and I gradually introduced them when riding too until he was able to wear them for a whole ride.

They did originally have bells on them but he hated them so much  that I took them off.  I also have a hat cover with bells on it which I was able to wear when riding him, although that obviously was nowhere near as close to his ears!

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This year we have done a little in hand work with the antlers but he has not objected to them at all.  We have now started riding with them on and he still doesn’t seem to mind.  At any rate, he hasn’t reacted to them.  I am even wearing my Christmas elf hat again.  We are having a great time!

Pony Express

This week I did some shopping for my neighbour and  – as I do when I can – I delivered it by pony express.

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Galahad has got used to me carrying things up the hill by now.  I quite often carry small things – or newspapers – in my hand but this time it seemed a much better idea to use a backpack.  We have done that before too, although only with one book.

This morning we had five books to carry, although it doesn’t  really make a difference.  Galahad certainly didn’t act as if he noticed but behaved very well.  He even barely reacted to a pheasant flying up right next to him.  This time I had my sister with me to hold him when we got there – normally I have to take him into the barn with me which  he did not like at first!  Now he seems to have got used to the idea and walks in quite happily.

We had a lovely calm ride and it was even warm enough to do without a coat.  Wonderful!

Trying our hand at trec

This weekend Galahad and I went to our first ever trec event and we LOVED it!

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The day didn’t have a very auspicious start as I had to get up early to clean my tack and Galahad came in from the field covered in mud.  He even had mud dreadlocks in his mane.  I hadn’t left myself all that much time so we had to have a very fast, very effective grooming session!  We still managed to arrive in plenty of time which gave Galahad a chance to settle a bit before I actually got on.  He was very spooky though and kept jumping at the slightest thing.  When a rug billowed in the wind (it was very windy!) he shot sideways and caught the side of my head with his lead rope.  Again – not a good start!

However, once I was on he felt a lot better and even walked straight past a pile of wrapped bales – all with wildly blowing loose ends – with barely a glance.  We ride past a flappy set of bales at home and he hates them but that could be because they are hidden behind a hedge.  He was still a bit tense and he was not at all keen on the big doors of the school which were also rattling in the wind.  I took him in the little warm up area and after a few times round he was beginning to settle nicely.  For him the warm up isn’t so much about warming up his muscles – although obviously that is important – but more about warming up his brain and reminding him that he should listen to me because I’m not going to ask him to do anything dangerous.

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Once we were in the school – which he walked straight into with no trouble – we started introducing the horses to the trec obstacles in hand. Galahad was quite happy with them all except the mounting block which he has never liked.  That is something I meant to work on before the weekend but I never got around to it.  I had to mount from the ground this time but I am determined to change that!

Once we were mounted we went back round all the obstacles again.  The bending, tarpaulin, immobility and neck reining were no trouble at all.  The s-bend was sometimes brilliant and sometimes terrible.  It was the first time Galahad had seen it though and he was still working out what was expected of him.  He was definitely trying hard!  The rein back was okay but the gate was not good at all.  We did manage to open it, go through it and close it again but it was not at all stylish.  Something else to work on.

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At the end of the lesson we had a mini competition which was great fun.  We got no points for the gate or the rein back (which started well but then went to pieces) but we did get some good marks  – including tens for the tarpaulin and immobility!  We came fourth out of the four in the lesson but I wasn’t expecting anything else and I was so proud of how relaxed he had been about everything.  He had never been in an indoor school before so I was prepared for him to be terrified and refuse to do anything!

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‘Very calm’ was the judge’s comment for our immobility!

We had a break then, while I watched the more advanced classes, before I got back on board for the newcomers class.  Galahad was a bit worried about things rattling around again but soon settled and was fine once we were in the school.  He had clearly remembered what he was doing in the morning and had improved immensely.  We still got no points for the gate and I had to get on from the ground but this time we got four tens!  Again for the immobility and tarpaulin but also for the led s-bend and the jump.  We hadn’t jumped in the morning and we obviously haven’t at home for a few weeks so I wasn’t sure what he would do but he flew over it.

The newcomers class also contained the control of paces section which we hadn’t tried in the morning.  The idea is to canter slowly and walk quickly.  We got no points for the walk – fast walking has never been Galahad’s strong point.  The canter felt very rushed but the score wasn’t too bad – probably because he only has little legs!  With a bit more schooling to balance the canter we ought not to do too badly with that.

There were three people in my class and I knew I would probably come last.  I thought I knew where we had all come but then this happened:

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Our first first!

Not bad for our first try!

I had such a fantastic day and I can’t wait to try it again.

Working Hard

Galahad and I have been making the most of the time we have to work on facing all sorts of scary obstacles.  I think we really are improving.  Opening rope gates is no longer a problem, although we have started to have a bit of trouble with real ones.  I think that is mainly because the gateway has started to churn up a bit.  Galahad has never been very happy when ridden on slippery ground and trying to force him to slide towards the gate is a bit much.

The other obstacles have got much better though and we have had a few lovely mornings playing with them.

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Aren’t the hedges looking beautiful now!

Whilst I had the obstacles out I decided to take my sister’s pony over them and I took the opportunity that gave of leaving Galahad tied up wearing his new rug over his saddle.  It seemed a good idea to let him experience it at home in case he has to wear it out.  It was a little windy – although nothing like as much as it has been – and I was concerned the flapping would worry him.  He was actually perfectly calm and barely moved at all.  He has improved so much!

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Cosy Pony

After the awful weather at Galahad’s first show I  decided it was time to get him a rug.  Obviously as an Exmoor he doesn’t usually need one but spending half a day stood still in driving rain isn’t something a sensible pony would normally do.  Galahad is pretty good at sheltering from the rain but being tied to a horse box limits his movement somewhat!  If it happens again I can at least throw a rug over him to keep off the worst of the weather.

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I just got a fleece rug which should keep most of the rain off him without making him too warm.  He has been practising wearing it for a week or two now and doesn’t seem to mind at all.  If he is loose when I put it on he sometimes rolls his eyes a bit but no more than that.

My sister’s pony is fascinated by the whole thing.  He seems to think that the rug looks good to eat and is constantly sniffing at it.  Certain fabrics have always been irresistible to him.  He always tries to lick my riding jacket but ignores other coats.

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The photograph looks like he is trying to take a chunk out of Galahad which he really wasn’t.  He was mostly just sniffing the rug and I took a very badly timed picture!