Dressage in a Puddle

I don’t think I have ever seen the fields so wet.  Every so often we get a rain free day or two and things start to dry out a bit.  I get very optimistic about it and then it starts raining again.  At the moment my schooling field  looks like this.

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It makes schooling a bit difficult.  We have another dressage competition soon and this time I am doing two tests I have never ridden before.   Given that I forgot part of the test I was riding for the first time at the last show I am not too confident about this one!  Obviously trot and canter are out of the question but I have managed to ride through the test at walk which hopefully will be enough.  Galahad doesn’t really like being ridden on slippery ground but once we get started he has been settling fairly well.

I am still only managing to ride a couple of times week but it is definitely getting lighter in the mornings and it shouldn’t be long before I have time to ride before work.  In fact, I am hoping to get a couple of sessions in before our competition just to get Galahad’s fitness up a bit.  Fingers crossed!

Here be Monsters

As we started up the hill the other day I could see three sheep in the road at the top.  I wasn’t worried – after all, Galahad lives next to a field of sheep.  In reality he was a bit reluctant to head towards them but yielded to persuasion.  When we got a bit closer they jumped into the hedge which I thought would put an end to it.  I was wrong.

Galahad immediately stopped dead and refused to move.  He couldn’t possibly go any further because there were monsters in the hedge.  It took a lot of work to persuade him to carry on and even then he kept stopping – at least until we were almost level with the sheep when we shot past at top speed.

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From then on we had a lovely ride until, coming back down, we met the sheep again followed closely by our neighbours’ car.  We had a bit of impatient twirling which was worse than it should have been because I managed to completely entangle my reins, whip and hands in Galahad’s mane.  We trampled on the neighbours’ grass a bit but luckily didn’t seem to do any damage.  I’m not quite sure how.

Once the car was past it was my turn to follow the sheep.  I didn’t dare trot because we were heading towards a main road and I didn’t want to panic them onto it.  I thought at one point I would be able to overtake them but they shot forward again and I was just debating when to telephone someone to block their access to the road when they jumped back into the hedge.  This time we had no trouble getting past and we very much enjoyed the last few minutes of our ride.

It was certainly an exciting time.  Evidently being accustomed to something doesn’t make it any less scary!

A Saddle Fitting

Galahad has needed a new saddle for a while now.  My original saddle no longer fitted him after a year of riding had bulked him out a bit so for the past eight months I have been riding in a borrowed saddle which wasn’t ideal.  The main reason for my delay in buying a new one was that I really love leather saddles but it has become obvious that we really need an adjustable one.  A leather adjustable seemed out of my price range but I was a bit reluctant to commit to a synthetic.

However, I finally visited our local saddler just after new year to book a fitting – I did really need the saddle after all.  The saddle he recommended comes in leather or synthetic and although the leather was a bit more than I had been hoping to pay it was less than I had imagined it might be and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take it.

We had our fitting this week and although Galahad rolled his eyes at the saddler he behaved very well.  He only shied once (whipping right round when I was riding) and was even happy to have the saddle prodded and adjusted when I was on board.

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Test riding the saddle

I have ridden in it twice now and I love it already.  It is wonderful to be back in a leather saddle again.  It is beautiful, very comfortable and it creaks!  Such a lovely sound.

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Winter Wonderland

For the past few weeks I seem to have been spending a lot of my riding time grooming  instead.  This is the state in which I normally find Galahad these days.

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The ground is just so wet everywhere – we can’t escape the mud!

This morning however it was a different story entirely.  We had a proper hard frost – definitely the coldest it has been this winter – and everything was transformed.  The mud was no longer an issue as I could just walk along on top of it which was lovely.  It was a simply beautiful morning.

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I realise that the cold brings problems of its own but I am always very appreciative of this weather.  It isn’t wet for one thing!  Again – everything looks so lovely it is hard not to feel uplifted.

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Plus, hopefully the ponies won’t get so muddy!

Finding Inner Peace

Whenever I ride out from here I have to go up a hill.  Which means that at some point we have to walk back down again.  I have discovered that riding at a walk is incredibly soothing.  Providing you aren’t workigng hard at schooling obviously.  Grooming can help in a similar way – it is a good stress relief and the pony benefits too.

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No matter how stressed I am feeling – or how late I know I am going to be because I decided to squeeze in a ride – walking down the hill completely calms me.  It starts to seem almost meditative and I am sure it must be beneficial.  I feel so much better afterwards and I would recommend it to anyone!

Working Hard

Way back before Christmas when the ponies were away I managed to squeeze in another lesson.  Actually two more – I split my lesson in two and did half on each pony.

This time it was daylight so Galahad was concentrating a bit more and worked really well.  We still have issues with him escaping through his right shoulder but I think it is improving.  My riding and ability to deal with any wobbliness is certainly getting better!  My instructor made the interesting point that Galahad’s trot work is so much freer and looks a lot nicer after he has done some cantering.  Even if it is just halfway round the ring it really makes a difference.   I would have liked to take advantage of this and have a bit of a canter before my walk-trot dressage test but the waterlogged warm up ring made it impossible.  Still, it is good to know for the future.

We also had a jump over what was quite a twisty course my instructor had built.  She was impressed with how Galahad had improved since the summer.  He is now much better able to hold the canter round corners between jumps and the whole course was much more fluid than before.  The jumps were slightly bigger too – this was more of a 2’3″ – 2’6″ course and in the summer we were jumping 2′ – 2’3″.  We even had a pretty decent spread as the last fence – which we probably jumped better than anything else!

in fact, our only trouble was caused by me.  I know that if I look down he is more likely to run out but it can be quite hard for me to act on that.  Something to work on.

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The shorter lesson actually worked out pretty well as Galahad was starting to get tired.  A clip will definitely be in order once I can start working him a bit more consistently.

Dressage in the Rain

Our dressage competition day dawned very wet and stayed that way all morning.  The idea of a well turned out pony seems a bit ludicrous when faced with a hairy monster covered in wet mud but I did my best and I don’t think we disgraced ourselves.  In fact the weather helped us a bit – the lake had reappeared at the end of our lane so Galahad’s feet got a good clean before he was loaded.  We had to walk over the field through the mud to get to the trailer so I was very pleased with that!

The drive to the event was interesting to say the least.  It was still pouring with rain and there were puddles over most of the road.  The windscreen was covered with water every time we went through one and our main topic of conversation was how mad we all were for going.  That and wondering if anyone else would show up.

When we arrived it took us a few minutes to summon the enthusiasm to actually get out of the car but once we got moving the weather didn’t seem so awful.  The warm up ring was partially underwater so we went for a short hack instead and just spent the ten minutes before my test in the ring.

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Galahad felt much more relaxed than he has done before and he walked straight into the indoor school with no trouble.  He had a bit of a look at the people by the gate but the ones actually in the seats were no bother.  Our first test (Intro A) went quite well.  Galahad felt more forward than last time and my instructor said it was very accurate which was cheering – it is good to make the most of what we have!

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Galahad had a short break (back in the trailer – although the rain was starting to ease off) before we had to be ready for Prelim 12.  This is the one I was worried about as I hadn’t been able to ride it through properly.  I started off by almost forgetting the first trot across the diagonal and then I did actually forget the half circle in free walk.  I was riding two half circles and I knew I would be going the wrong way for the canter but had no idea where I was going wrong.  In the end I decided I must be wrong about the canter, picked up trot and got shouted at by my instructor.  After that I was fine!  Luckily it was quite a low key event and other people had been having tests read for them.

By this point Galahad was rather tired.  I haven’t clipped him yet because I can only ride twice a week at the moment so he was getting a bit warm.  As soon as the mornings get light enough to ride before work he will be having a haircut.  Also, he is not as fit as usual – again because I can only ride twice a week!  He was starting to slow down and our canter work was not all it could be but I was still very pleased with the way he went.

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I was even better pleased when the results were up.  We managed a second in the Intro and fourth in the Prelim with 68.3% and 62% respectively so I was thrilled.  One of the comments was, ‘A cracking pony,’ which I thought was lovely.  We had a brilliant day.

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Galahad Goes Paddling!

On New Year’s Day my sister and I planned to go for another tinsel ride, this time with half time snacks and hot chocolate.  However, the weather was absolutely vile and the idea of standing about in the driving rain wasn’t exactly appealing.  We scrapped the snacks part but still rode – we are not fair weather riders!

There was a rather large puddle at the end of our lane when we went out.  More of a flood really as there was no way round it.  By the time we came back it had visibly grown and we had great fun splashing through it.  I did anyway.  Galahad wasn’t too sure at first – he thought the main road looked more fun but was persuaded otherwise.

I am actually wearing a riding hat underneath the hood but I didn’t want rain going down my neck!

When we got back I had a go at practising the dressage tests for an upcoming riding club event.  The fields are definitely too wet to do any proper schooling but I ran through both my tests in walk just so we could get the shapes.  The first test is Intro A which we have done a couple of times before but the second is Prelim 12 which I have never actually ridden.  I am a bit concerned about remembering that one.  I run through it in my head all the time and am constantly drawing it in the air but it isn’t the same as riding.  I won’t get a chance to do that until the competition itself so I’ll have to hope for the best.

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Galahad behaved fairly well.  He was a bit cross as my sister’s pony had gone back to the yard and he doesn’t really like being ridden on slippery ground anyway but in general he was listening to me.  There wasn’t much more I could ask of him.

When we got back we had our hot chocolate and mince pies indoors.  It wasn’t quite the same but much warmer and very cosy.

New Year Fireworks

Fireworks have never been something that particularly seem to bother the ponies much.  We live too far from any displays for them to cause trouble and we have always been careful to only use small, quiet fireworks ourselves.  However,  a couple of months ago one of the neighbouring farms unexpectedly set off a proper display and we looked out of the windows to find both ponies tearing up and down the field in a blind panic.  They had just happened to be in the closest field to the display and as their favourite spot is right up at the far end the fireworks probably went off horribly close to them.  Ever since then we have been extra careful to check on them whenever there are fireworks about.

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I went out just after midnight on New Year’s Day and found that the ponies were absolutely fine despite the celebrations.  They came straight up to me – hoping for food probably – and followed me back to the yard.  Galahad even seems to have got over his dislike of torches which will make checking them in the dark a lot easier!  I did give them a treat each – I like to reward them for coming in.  Besides, we were celebrating the New Year so why shouldn’t they?

Happy New Year!