Snowy Horse Rides!!!

snowy rideHello!

Have you had any snow this winter?

There has been rumours of snow in other parts of the country, but I’ve not had any yet. It certainly feels very wintery though – the mornings are frozen, with frosted fields and watercolour-painted skies. It’s beautiful but so very cold, cold, cold!!

Later in the mornings, the amber sun burns into a snow-coloured sky. Poetic, yes, but it really is that beautiful! I love the snow and am hoping there will be some soon. I think I’m probably being overly optimistic!!!

It’s one of my dreams to ride in the snow!! I thought I’d share some tips I’ve come across but, just to warn you, I’ve not had the opportunity to test them out. If you’ve ever ridden in the snow I’d be interested to know if they actually work!

1: It’s kind of common sense that you should only ride in the snow in a safe environment that you know well. Snow can be dangerous because it hides ruts, ditches, and ice. Never ride on roads.

2: Remember that, unless you live somewhere a lot colder than I do, snow is likely to be unfamiliar to most horses and they might be a bit spooky. Lead them out in it first, particularly if they don’t live out in fields, and progress gradually. It’s a good idea not to ride out alone. Take friends with you, either riding or on foot, and of course always tell someone where you are going and how long you will be.

3: Snow can be slippery so never forget this risk. You can do a slow trot and steady canter if conditions are right, but if uncertain stay to a walk. At least that’s what I’ve heard – I’m doubtful as to the safety of going any faster than a plod in the snow, but you’ll know best what’s safe for you.

4: Only ride out if the conditions are safe. Light powdery snow a few inches thick is good. Icy, mushy, and deep snow are all dangerous. Don’t ride if it’s snowing heavily, but you probably already know that!

5: Wear warm layers, including gloves, and give your horse a warm exercise blanket!! Actually, just do that even if there’s no snow!!! I don’t know about you, but in my last riding lesson I felt like I was turning to ice! Wear florescent reflective tabards like you would (should?!) for road riding, even if you’re not going on the roads. If the worst happens it’ll make it easier for an air ambulance to find you.

6: Cover the inside of your horse’s hooves with a thick layer of Vaseline, which should prevent snow from balling up in them and stop your horse from ending up walking on snow stilts! I’m really curious to know if this works!!

7: Riding through snow is harder work for your horse than normal riding. Give him breaks every now and then, but keep him moving so he doesn’t get cold.

If you’ve ever had the chance to ride in the snow please tell me about it! If not, you’ll just have to keep hoping for snow like me!!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!

See you soon!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

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These Boots Were Made For… Horses!

country bootsHi everyone!

If there’s one thing that says equestrian fashion! horse lover! it has to be country boots!! There’s something almost quintessentially country about them – they’re practical yet beautiful and evocative of many horse related memories, from visiting a country show, to working on the yard.

These boots have become incredibly popular in the horse world and are made for people who spend lots of time at the stables.

Country boots are great because they can stand traipsing through the mud and puddles to catch a horse, but also look good on the high street or when going out with non-horsey friends. Many are also designed to be safe in stirrups so you can ride in them as well!!

Classic examples of country boots include Ariat’s Windermere Boots (£159.99) and Dublin’s River Boots (£149.99), although there are many others. As you’ll see from the prices, they’re not cheap!!! Country boots generally range from £50 – £300, but if you find good quality ones and look after them well they can last for years.

If you buy some country boots it’s important to shop around a bit and make sure you find some that fit well. Buying online can be tempting, but if you have a local tack shop it might be best to look there first so you can try some on. Having said that, it can be helpful to check out some reviews online to see what other people have found. Word of mouth is good too! All country boots are different, and the ones that look good might not neccessarily be the one’s that last!!

Personally I like brown country boots most, but they come in various shades – although mostly brown or black. I don’t know, brown seems more country somehow – maybe it’s just the mud!!!

Keep loving horses!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

 

Keeping a Riding Journal! (Part 2)

horse diaryHello again!

I said in part one that I’ve been keeping a riding journal for a year and have found it really helpful. This time I’m going to share some more extracts from my riding journal, and give some ideas about what you could write.

jumped grid of 3 fences, difficult on left rein mainly because the pony I was riding kept napping towards the other horses, need to fix outside elbow towards stomach & keep tummy muscles straight to be get stronger grip on rein to stop napping – worked but difficult

– extract from my riding journal, July 2015

 

practising jump off skills (even though I don’t compete much), 3 fences across the long diagonal, small because focusing on lines & straightness not the jump, the horse I was riding tanked off a bit, he use to hunt in Ireland & can be quite strong, repetitive exercises not best for the horse I was riding as he thinks he’s a know-it-all, jumped from other direction & he was better because he wasn’t expecting it

– extract from my riding journal, August 2015

 

first time ridden pony, challenging but in a good way, sensitive, fast, did Prix Caprilli but with ground poles instead of jumps, when I ride a pony/horse I know is sensitive I tend to give very light aids but my instructor told me I shouldn’t do that, need to keep under the thumb & constantly use lots of rein, rein contact will stop the pony from rushing off & remind him that I’m there

– extract from my riding journal, October 2015

 

best ride ever with the pony I was riding (the same pony as in the July 2015 extract above), in a good mood before lesson, single jump at B & then a long related distance down the other long side, in warm up quite forward going when I kept my leg on but I needed to keep him straight, not as nappy as usual though not perfect, serpentines working on standing up/ironing board/jump position,  had to circle after 1st fence as not straight enough after to jump related distance, need to work on straightness but kept pony forward going & stopped him from napping, my instructor said best jumping seen me do

– extract from my riding journal, December 2015

In each journal entry I always list which horse I was riding, where I rode, and what I did. Then I usually write a bit about what the horse is like, and try to analyse (at a basic level!) their way of going according to the scales of training. To finish I add what I learnt and/or achieved, but generally I try to keep each entry chronological so I might write this earlier if it fits.

And, of course, you can’t forget the date!!!

Hopefully this will give you some ideas about how to keep a riding journal! Let me know how you get on!!

Happy riding!!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Keeping a Riding Journal! (Part 1)

diaryHiya!

I started keeping a journal of my riding lessons just over a year ago. I’ve found it really helpful in keeping track of my rides, progress, and achievements, so I thought I would share what I’ve learnt with you!!

I keep my riding journal in note form rather than full sentences because it’s quicker and I find it means I’m more likely to keep it up to date. Here are a few extracts from various entries over the past year!

jumping lesson with superstar little pony, jumped grid of about 2’6″, need to keep my hips further back in jump position (I have the bad habit of standing up rather than actually going into jump position), need to kick on just before the jump even if I know the pony I’m riding will jump it

– extract from my riding journal, January 2015

 

first time ridden pony, jumped like the Irish hunting pony he is: very fast & very big, he “jumps like a stag” as my instructor said, told to give with my hands more over the jumps than I normally would, grid built up to 3’ (usually I only jump about 2’6”), amazing lesson

– extract from my riding journal, February 2015

 

rode two horses as we swapped half way through the lesson so we could compare different horses’ way of going:

first pony forward going & fun but not very responsive breaks, very speedy & hard to slow down, took ages to get downward transition, he didn’t have any rhythm so needed to work on that, 20m circles in walk while encouraging him to stretch & relax, some improvement

second horse not very off the leg & hard work, slow walk but more active trot, felt had to rely on tugging reins to steer (which I don’t normally do), he was heavy on the bit & on the forehand, worked on trying to get off the forehand, told not to do lots of long trots as that would put him more on the forehand

– extract from my riding diary, May 2015

 

flat lesson, tried to collect & extend paces , difficult, didn’t really understand how, instructor explained differently how to collect & extend & it suddenly all made sense, I had to “bounce him” along the short sides of the arena to collect & “then let him go” down the long sides to extend, much better after that

– extract from my riding diary, June 2015

Some people like to keep a traditional paper diary in their tack box so they can write in it straight after their ride, others write it on the computer or their phones. It doesn’t really matter how you keep a riding journal, but I recommend that you do! It really helps you remember all the tips your riding instructor gives you, and you can look back to see how much you’ve improved your riding!!

If you have your own horse it can be useful for recording his/her training. If, like me, you go to a riding school you probably ride a lot of different horses, and keeping a riding journal is useful for remembering each horse’s character for the next time you ride them.

Do you keep a riding journal? What’s the best tip you’ve ever learnt for riding?

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the extracts from my riding diary – part two will be coming soon!!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Blue Skies and Horse Dreams!

sky horseHi!

It’s nearly the end of 2015 and the start of 2016, so I’ll wish you an early happy New Year!!

Come January, we all start thinking about turning our lives into the lives we want. The scattered, abandoned promises of last year are forgotten as we enthusiastically come up with our New Year’s resolutions. Is it just me, or do New Year’s resolutions always seem to be the same, repeated then forgotten every year?

Still, I like January! It feels like a fresh start, another chance, full of endless possibilities and opportunities. A few years ago I came across the concept of blue sky thinking, which I think is very poetic and suitable for New Year. Anything is possible, there are no limitations!!!

Sometimes it’s slightly sad reflecting on the past year, but the overriding feeling is one of hopeful positivity for the future.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

– Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns

Do you celebrate New Year? Usually there’s a party on New Year’s eve, with people traditionally singing Auld Lang Syne, and then everyone setting off fireworks at the stroke of midnight!!! The sky is filled with colour and light!!

I’m determined to stick to my New Year’s resolutions this time! I want 2016 to be the year I fulfil my horse dreams and thought I’d share my horsey New Year’s resoultions with you:

  1. To work towards my Pony Club C+ test and be ready to take it by the end of the year.
  2. To start entering more shows and competitions (I’ve not done much competing but the last show I did was fun).
  3. To continue volunteering with horses and gain more equine experience.

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions, and have a very happy New Year!!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Christmas With Horses!!

christmas horseMerry Christmas!!!

One of the things I love most about Christmas is the magic and beauty of this time of year. I volunteer for a horse charity and the excitement of the children I’ve been helping makes it really feels like Christmas!!

Before the children arrived for their riding lesson we (me and the other volunteers) decorated the suprisingly patient ponies in tinsel. They looked like fluffy, four-legged Christmas trees by the time we were done! We tied tinsel around their necks, in their manes and tails, and behind their saddles. The ponies were very interested in staring at themselves in the riding arena mirrors once we were done, but the children loved it!!!

I told you in a previous blog post here that I was going to Olympia Horse Show this Christmas. I went, and it was every bit as amazing as I’d anticipated!

The extreme driving, which I’d never seen before, was very impressive – the carriages had four horses and turned really tight circles between cones/blocks at speeds, according to the announcer, of over 25mph!!

The Household Mounted Cavalry Musical Ride was incredible too! I’ve done drill rides before, which are similar, and I know how difficult it is. We only tried to trot really slowly through each other, but they were galloping full speed and jumping over each other’s spears as they did so!!

There were so many things at Olympia worth telling you about that it would take forever, so I won’t try to tell you about any more for now. I’ll just say that, if you’ve never been to Olympia before, you should defintely go next year if you get the chance!! It’s brilliant, amazing, fantastic!!!!

My last riding lesson before Christmas was so much fun! We played gymkhana games, and I think my leaning-out-the-saddle-to-pick-things-up skills made up for the fact that my pony had a tendency to canter off to join the other team instead!!! Though, to be fair, it might have helped that I was riding quite a small pony while some of the others had 16hh horses!!

I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Bye for now!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Learning to Ride!

learning to rideHello!

Whether you’ve been in the saddle since you were born, or are just considering taking up horse riding, it’s a question most riders wonder at some point: how long does it take to learn to ride?

It’s a simple question but, of course, there’s no easy answer!!

It depends what you want to do. It depends where and how often you ride. It depends on your age, balance, strength, stamina, concentration, riding instructor, the pony you ride, and many other things,

At the end of the day, the answer really is forever! You never stop learning – there’s always something new to try, something else to learn, another horse to ride. The better you get, the the higher your expectations will be of yourself, and the more challenging horses you’ll be able to ride.

However truthful that answer may be, it’s not always helpful!! Everyone learns at different rates so it’s important not to compare yourself to others, but it can be interesting to know the average time scales.

To be able to walk, trot, and canter confidently off the lead rein, my riding school say – with a 45 minute private lesson every week – usually takes about 6-8 weeks. However, it’s important to note that “confident” doesn’t neccessarily mean competent. Multitasking is one of the most difficult things for new riders to master (or mistress – language is sexist)!

The time scales vary for everyone, especially according to age. Younger children take much longer to learn new skills. It took me weeks and weeks before I could trot. My sister, who started riding when she was a few years older than I had been, pretty much learnt rising trot in her first lesson.

I can’t remember how long it took me to become confident at the basics. I know I was jumping within 8 months of weekly group lessons, but my diary was a bit irregular back then and I think I’d been jumping months before. My sister started learning to jump before she’d even had 9 lessons, which suprised me a bit. I think her instructor was pushing her a bit more than usual because she wanted to join the teenage lessons rather than ride with the little children.

As a general guide, I reckon it takes about 12 lessons (if you ride for an hour every week with a qualified instructor and well-behaved pony) to be  confident and competent enough to begin learning to jump! The real answer though, as I said before, is that learning to ride takes a lifetime!! Enjoy the experience!!!

Do you think this time scale sounds realistic? How long did it take you to be confident in walk, trot, and canter? Or are you just starting to learn? Let me know what you think!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

It’s Time For Olympia!!!

olympiaHello everyone!

It’s that time of year again!! Nothing says Christmas like Olympia!! I can’t wait, I’m so excited!!!

For those who don’t know – Olympia, The London International Horse Show, is possibly the biggest equestrian event in the Britsh calender!! It takes place every year in the week before Christmas, and for many people has become a Christmas tradition!

It’s like a huge equine festival for horse lovers from all across the country (and world)!!

Olympia has a really friendly atmosphere, and knowing that everyone has something in common, means that people are more likely to just start chatting to random strangers on the train who they would normally ignore! It’s easy to talk about horses!!! You can always tell who is going to/leaving Olympia from the country boots, wide grins, and little girls clutching giant cuddly ponies they’ve bought!!

Some of the shows at Olympia this year are:

  • the dressage Grand Prix
  • The Kennel Club dog jumping
  • Jean-François Pignon (I’ve not seen him before, but he does apparently very impressive stunt riding. Last year they had the Ukranian Cossacks.)
  • extreme (horse) driving
  • show jumping
  • the Shetland Pony Grand National (This is adorable!!!)
  • The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment musical ride (Last year the Metropolitan Mounted Police were there, jumping through rings of fire while taking off their saddles and skillfully avoiding collisions with other horses, who were going over the same jump, at the same time, from the opposite direction!!! The Household Cavalry have a lot to live up to!!)
  • the puissance (Have you seen the heights of those jumps?!!)
  • The Pony Club mini-major (These riders are incredible! The professionals and Pony Clubbers are paired up and the best combined time wins! First a professinal show jumper goes round on their horse and does some huge jumps. Then an 11/12-year-old finishes a course of jumps that are much smaller but still massive compared to the size of their ponies. The little ponies are amazingly wizzy and do impossibly tight turns into the jumps!!!)
  • the Riding Club quadrille
  • the six bar jumping
  • the native pony showing championship
  • and of course we can’t forget the Christmas Finale!
  • even Father Christmas  goes along with his sleigh!!

While waiting for the show to start, you can wander around the equine orientated shopping village, which is a great place to get any last minute Christmas presents. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a great way to soak up the excited, Christmassy, horsey atmosphere!

Olympia is possibly the most festive horse show ever, definitely at Christmas time. I can’t wait!! Will you be going to Olympia or somewhere similar this Christms?

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Equestrian Fashion!

equestrian fashionHello!

One of the many good things about horses is that they are completely unjudgemental!! They don’t care what we look like, or what we say, as long as we’re nice to them.

It’s a refreshing break from stressing over what to wear the rest of the time, but sometimes it takes longer to decide what to wear to the stables than anywhere else! There are so many thing to think about. What’s the weather like? Is it going to rain? How hot will you get while riding?

And even though the horses don’t mind what you look like, it can give you confidence and just be nice to look good!

Equestrian fashion may be influencing high street trends at the moment, but it has to consider different things to regular fashion and has its own unique style. Here are some of the key features of equestrian fashion!

Weather – If you ride or look after horses you’ll outdoors all year round, in all elements. Rain, storm, snow… horses need to be looked after whatever the weather. As with all “outdoorsy” people, having weather-proof clothes that will keep you warm and dry is probably the most important aspect of equestrian fashion.

Safety – As much as we love them, horses are unpredictable. It’s not their fault, but we need to make sure we’re safe around them. Sturdy, sensible boots are essential!

Practical – This one is pretty much common sense. You can’t really muck out a stable in high heels or ballet style shoes, can you? (If you’ve tried, let me know!!)

Warmth – Same as before, if you’re outdoors all day long you need to make sure you’re not going to get too cold or too hot. Equestrian clothing is often designed to be worn with layers so you can easily regulate your body temperature. Lots of thin layers are better at keeping you warm than one thick coat.

Comfortable – For obvious reasons, comfort is very important! Jodphurs have knee and seat patches for this reason, and are made from a soft, stretchy matierial so they won’t rub.

Close-fitting – Because horses are naturally prey animals they can be, as we all know too well, very spooky. Unless you ride one of those rare superstars who is completely bomb-proof, it’s worth putting some consideration into this. You don’t neccessarily have to wear really tight-fitting clothes around horses, but it’s important that your clothes won’t flap around and spook the horse or get caught on anything.

Tradition – There has been equestrian fashion for nearly as long as people have been riding. It can be nice to wear something traditionally associated with horses to show that you’re a horsey person – an easy way to find something in common and start a conversation – but it’s all down to your personal tastes in fashion.

Looks nice! – Last but not least is the obvious one! We all want to look nice, and looking the part will give you confidence, meaning that you’re more likely to ride well. It’s win-win!

With Christmas fast approaching, now could be the time to think about whether you need (or just would like!) any new equestrian clothing.

Bye for now!!

Horse Daydreamer xxx

Bareback Moonlit Hack!!

moonlit horseHi everyone!

It’s that time of year again! The nights are getting colder and darker, the daylight hours retreating. Soon it’ll be winter!

For us horsey people winter means frozen fingers, endless mud, and searching for that rug which always seems to disappear when it’s needed. Catching or turning out a horse becomes a challenging feat with the navigation of thick mud, and puddles that forget they’re suppose to be puddles, not lakes!!

Ok, now I’ve done the compulsory complaining about winter weather, I have to admit I actually quite like winter! The starry skies and dark shadows are beautiful at the yard after dark.

The last time I was at the stables I’d just had an amazing riding lesson. The horse I’d ridden was being used again in another lesson, so I got to help turn out the ponies. There was a group of us turning out several ponies and we decided to ride them out to their fields. We rode bareback with just an extra leadrope on the headcollar, no saddle or bridle!

I got to ride the tiniest, fluffiest, cutest little pony ever!!! He was the pony I learnt to jump on and I hadn’t ridden him for years!! I’d thought I was too big to ride him but everyone else thought it was ok, and he didn’t seem to mind. His winter coat was growing through and, because he was unclipped, he was like the fluffiest teddy bear ever!! Just so cute!!!!

It wasn’t very late but once we left the yard it was black as night. Our ponies went in the fields furthest from the stable yard, so we had to ride through fields, ditches, banks, and the woods to get there!! Really, it was like an unofficial hack – but bareback and in the dark!!! Above us hung a beautiful moon, the stars hidden behind patterned clouds. We had a head torch, but it was only faint and the light didn’t reach far.

It was a magical moment, riding that little pony out into the night! Riding with just a headcollar is easier than you’d expect if you’ve never done it before. There was plenty of laughter along the way (we were, after all, going on a night time adventure!), especially after we turned the ponies out into their field and had to walk back to the yard without getting stuck in the mud!! Now that was difficult!!!

See you next time!

Horse Daydreamer xxx