Friday, October 16, 2009

Harry the show cob!

It's our local riding club's Open Show, so I bathe Harry three times in two days, plait him the night before and put on a rug with a neck cover - he looks so cute, he must be in the running in the cob class!

Even better, he is still pretty clean on the day of the show. Then we see 'the opposition' - an immaculate piebald cob and rider, picture perfect and with the manners of an angel (the cob, I mean). However, Harry is really good in the ring, we're pulled in second, and I try to keep some distance between us and the perfect pair - we look so dirty and hairy in comparison (both of us). Harry gives the judge a good ride, so we stay second, and I'm very pleased, especially when I find out later that the winner is a HOYS qualifier.

Next up, working hunter. There's really nice jumping course, including rustics with live tree branches intertwined in the wings and a bank to jump off. This causes some problems, but I warm Harry up vigorously, then do the course in a very smart canter - hunting pace I think they call it - and we actually go clear. Hooee!

There are four other clears, so we enter the ring for the show judging phase, and Harry starts to get bored. Walk and trot, fine, canter – "do I have to keep doing this?" I get very red in the face, and we end up in 4th place, but I am delighted. It's the first time we've ever gone clear and got anywhere near the placings in a working hunter class.

Now if I could just improve my turnout by about 2,000 per cent!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Eventer's special

Harry and Red and Jane and I have an evening lesson with Fiona, our trainer, who is an eventer - and she builds us an Eventer's special course in the school!

First we try a corner, a bit like a parallel, but at one end the poles rest on a single barrel, forming a long V-shape to jump across. First we do it right in the middle...Harry is cool with this, as is Red. The we try it much closer to the narrower, pointy end of the corner. Harry charges into it with his usual enthusiasm, I lean forward - and he swerves a bit, half jumping the barrel. It's a good thing there wasn't a flag on it, or we'd have taken it with us! Once I have reminded myself to stay upright and riding forward until we get to the fence, we are fine.

We try a dog leg - two angled jumps with a loop between them. I have to wrench Harry between the two as he's not that quick on his feet - not pretty, but he jumps tham. Fiona points out we could have made the loop much bigger, and jumped much better - we try that, and she's right! We tackle a stile type skinny fence, and then a course - great, great, great. Finally we do a water tray under a jump – no worries, though Red has a good look right into it before jumping it.

We have to stop because it's going dark. Brilliant fun, and with just a few poles and wings!

Fabulous sponsored ride

We take the trailer to the Hamptons sponsored ride and, hallelujah, Red has settled! It is a fabulous course – they're right when they say it's 10 miles of glorious Surrey countryside, the views are stunning. And as we go fairly late in the day, we have this beautiful estate to ourselves most of the time.

Some of the jumps are quite big, (well, to us) at a good solid 2ft 6ins or so. I miss a few of the biggest ones near the start, then as Harry gets his jumping boots on we try some bigger ones, and he does them really well. Red is calm, too - no bucking or shooting off. He has a great jump and flies some of the fences in great style. Harry hardly ever stops cross country, but at one biggish, solid hedge, he swerves away several strides from it - he seems scared of a large, white-painted tyre that forms one of the jump's wings. "I'll just have a look at it" I say to Jane, luckily - the hedge has a great big drop on the other side. We take the smaller option, just a little step down.

Harry flies the last few fences and finishes with his neck and chest covered in foam – I must stop using so much saddle soap on his breastplate. I give him a huge cuddle and lots of mints...he's such a star!

We mentally pat ourselves on the back as we head for home – our double cross country weekend could have been an exhausting nightmare, instead it was exhausting, but exhilarating!

Hot cross country

Jane and I ride the hour hack to our cross country competition venue, in a further attempt to tire her horse Red out so he won't act up.

It's boiling hot, and we have to walk the course when we get there, at top speed – I look like a beetroot, and feel like a boiling beetroot! We have quite a wait until we go, and warm up gingerly. Because of this, I start to feel nervous, and transfer it to Harry, who swerves about a bit and does his 'Tasmanian Devil' act – opening his mouth, sticking his tongue out and snorting like a dragon. Red seems fine for a while, then someone finishes the course and shoots past him, whereupon he shoots off, too, and proceeds to buck and play up.

Happily, both horses settle down as they proceed round the cross country course. Red has just one stop, as does Harry - caused by me turning and talking to one of the jump judges, doh! I quite enjoy it, but resolve to only warm up fairly briefly next time so we stay calm and relaxed.

I lend Harry to a friend to ride back to the yard and feel relieved to be in a car going home. Cross country is great, but on a hot autumn day it can make you (and your horse) sweat like a pig!

Trouble looming?

My riding mate Jane and I planned a v busy weekend... cross country training Saturday, Hamptons sponsored ride Sunday. Too much fun to miss, but quite tiring separately – knackering one after the other!

We have a lesson the Thursday before, and my cob Harry is really quite good – Jane's horse Red, really quite bad! He's a cheeky boy and has been bucking quite a bit recently. He bucks and naps in the lesson, and trainer Fiona says Jane must be firm with him and keep riding him positively forward. This she does for about 40 minutes, then Fiona takes over, much to Red's annoyance. 'We must work him hard before the weekend, and nip this naughtiness in the bud" she says.

The next evening, Friday, they both ride him again in the school to wear him out a bit - will it work on Saturday?!