Monday, 13 April 2015

A day of high drama

The The evening before 'The Big Day' passed off peacefully enough. Mum attacked me with the full suite of grooming products to make me look beautiful. She was very pleased with her efforts and I did look handsome.

Personally I prefer the more natural look, and it took a shake of the head for me to restore my wind swept rugged good looks. 

I'm not sure I liked the early morning call, but I didn't mind getting fed my big breakfast of competition mix. I don't think I mind being a dressage diva if I get all this yummy food. It wasn't long before I was loaded up into the box on wheels for a long trip to Addington Equestrian Centre, to compete in the NPS Supreme Dressage Championships. Wow, it's massive. Two huge indoor schools, more about those later; and so many outdoor schools I lost count. 

Let the drama begin.....Mum left me in the box on wheels eating some yummy haylage (leftover from Woodys trip to us). So while I happily tucked in, Mum went off to register and get the low down on what was what and where everything was. We had arrived in plenty of time for our 11.10am test. Only to discover the entry secretary had entered Mum into the under 14's class!  Now I know Mum looks young for her age but even I think that's a bit optimistic. It turns out the Dales section started at 8.30am, so we had missed our class. Amazingly Mum was quiet calm about this and stood looking distressed and confused at the lady who had told her this. The lady was more flustered than Mum. Fortunately the same judge was also judging the Connermaras in the same arena, so the lady was able to squeeze us in at the end of their class. It meant waiting until 12.40pm. The upside to all of this was had we been entered correctly I would have been woken up in the middle of the night to get there in time and Mum's Pops already thought he had!

Eventually Mum let me out the box on wheels and tied me to the trailer, still with yummy haylage while we waited for time to pass. Now those of you who know me, know patience isn't my strongest point, but I rose to the occasion and stood very patiently eating my haylage and taking in the scenery and chatting tactics with Benji dog. He wasn't very interested in what I had to say. 

In slow time she groomed me until I thought she was going to brush away all my hair!  At last it was time to tack up and head on out to the huge warm up arena. I think we looked very smart and quite the picture of Dales talent. 

It was time to focus, with so much going on it was very overwhelming, so there is only one thing to do in these situations, and that is to listen and trust Mum. We have been to quiet a few new venues recently and I have to say Mum was feeling surprisingly relaxed and this reassured me lots. Having spent ages waiting we turned up to the warm up to be told they were running ahead of schedule and we would be on in 15 minutes, there goes the planned 30 minute warm up!  Super focused Mum put me through my paces, lots of transitions and plenty of correct canter leads, the question was could we replicate it when it mattered......

The answer was yes!  Thanks to Polly's super teaching, Mum stayed focused and didn't rush the canter transitions and I swear she was enjoying herself, which made me relax and we had great fun strutting our stuff and showing off how brilliant us Dales ponies can be. 

I've uploaded the video of us dancing our duet onto YouTube, so you can judge for yourselves. 

After we completed our test we were given our finalist rosette. 

Time for home then? Apparently not. No. More hanging around tied to the back of the trailer!  Mum kept going to check for our scores but it turned out we were in the top ten but we didn't know where and had to go to the big prize giving ceremony. After lots more hanging about, Mum decided to watch back our video that her Dad had taken of us. More drama, it wasn't there. They searched and searched, the photos were there but no video. Her Pops was mortified, and to make up for this nightmare, brought two lovely professional photos of me doing my stuff, thanks Pops. When we got home it mysteriously appeared, not sure what you did Mum but clever tactics, we need to try that again!

Eventually the time creeped along to the point where Mum decided she should tack me up ready for the prize giving. We still had a long wait but we stood and chatted to the other three Dales owners at the show, and made some new friends. There was even another Akehurst dales there (Akehurst Lady's Man) but I didn't get to say hello to him as he wasn't in our class. Mum sat chatting to Christina on her lovely Dales stallion, a Broscoe Samuel (aka Teef, cos he's handy with his teeth and they speak funny up north!) until we were called in. 

The indoor arena is huge, with flags and arena seating for lots of humans to watch and there was loud music and clapping which was making Mum tense, so I was a little unsettled too. We all trotted around the arena and were called into line, this is starting to feel like showing Mum, we don't do showing!  A loud voice was announcing the results in reverse order.  I should point out now that ponies being placed first had to go and do 4.5 minutes of dressage to music to see if they would be crowned Supreme champion. It's also worth saying I wasn't expected to qualify let alone get a top ten placing, so we hadn't even considered the need to worry about performing dressage to music!  It wasn't too long before we started to worry about this. 

8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, my name still hadn't been called, I started to think maybe it was all a mistake and with the confusion of the wrong class in the morning we weren't actually supposed to be there. 4th, 3rd still my name had not been called. It left me and the Broscoe Samuel in the line up, our riders exchanged terrified glances as it dawned on them, one of them was going to be doing dressage to music. 2nd.......Akehurst, phew, Mum collapsed with relief on top of me, Take A Chance. 

We had come 2nd, Mum was as proud as punch, I couldn't do standing still, it had all got too exciting. Not only had I come 2nd but it turned out with a score of 72.08% and we beat a Highland pony who has competed at HOYS.  Our first over 70% score at Prelim level in front of BD judges, way to go!  I can't tell you how many hugs I got from Mum, I have more brownie points than I know what to do with. 

The handsome Dales stallion went on to become Reserve Supreme Champion, Mum I think we better start choosing our music for next year! And how do we get to do dressage at HOYS Mum?

Monday, 6 April 2015

How to grow up in 24 hours

Hello, my name is Woody, I am a 10 months old Dales pony and half brother to Cyril. 

Cyril has said as I am a Dales pony I'm going to be allowed to join him in writing about my adventures. I have had the biggest adventure of my life so far in the last 24 hours. Friday I was at home in Wales sharing my pen with my big sister, Mel. It's where I have lived all my life, with my Mum, Rosie and my Dad, Rambo and all the other Akehurst ponies.  Cyril and I have the same Dad. Cyril's Mum arrived for another visit, she has known me since I was born. 

As I'm only little I haven't done too much so Cyril's Mum decided it would be good to take me for a walk around the farm. I haven't done this on my own before and was very excited about going out and exploring the tracks the bigger horses all talk about but I have never seen. 

I marched along much to Cyrils's Mums surprise, until she remembered I was related to Cyril, she blames our Dad for our enthusiasm. I know she really likes forward going ponies, but I might have overdone it a little!

She had brought her box on wheels and Mel and I got to have a play going in and out. 

Little did I know that Saturday afternoon I would get shut in the box on wheels for three hours to travel to my new home. I stood quietly and ate the haylage I had been given, it was quiet scarey and I had to concentrate hard on staying upright, but managed it ok. 

It turns out Cyril's Mum has brought me and had taken me home to her house. I now have my very own stable, all to myself, I don't have to share any more, that makes me feel really grown up. Though I get fed my food on the floor, what's that all about?  A bucket on the floor, not sure about that, but I do like my own stable. 

It's really, really busy here, I have met lots of new people, Jo and Emma, who Cyril says rides Eric, my Dales relative who lives down the road. Ellie, who is Zippy's personal hairdresser and her Dad. Katie who looks after us when Mum is away. My new Mum's Dad and her lodger Tommy. They are all nice and Jo and Emma have visited lots and taken me for walks and groomed me too. 

On Sunday we were walked to the field and I was put in my own paddock and Cyril was put in the field next to me, but I wanted to be with my big brother and knowing my new Mum loves performance ponies, I jumped the electric fencing and joined Cyril for a race around the field, much to Mums amusement. She put Zippy in the field next to us. She was ok. At the end of the day we were taken back to our bedrooms.  Cyril and I were very tired and were nearly falling asleep in our tea. 

This morning we got up for breakfast, we each have our own area to stand and eat. Zippy got given a bath by Emma while Mum mucked out and groomed Cyril. Jo gave me a groom and then Zippy and I were taken out to the field. Zippy can be a bit slow, so I marched on down to the field leaving her behind. I was put in my own field and Zippy was put next to me. 

Cyril had to go and practise his circle work. Mum dropped him back at the field later in the afternoon to find I had jumped the fence again and was sharing Zippys field. Mum couldn't believe it. So she decided she had better put Cyril in with us. Zippy wouldn't let me say hello to Cyril, so I had to keep my distance, but I know Zippy will love me eventually, I just need to be patient. 

So in the last 24 hours I have found myself in a new home with my own bedroom, having travelled for three hours on my own in the box on wheels. I have two new field friends (ok I'm not their best mate yet, but I'm working on it). I'm getting really good at being led up and down the road, having never done anything like this before and even led perfectly on my own this evening, Mum was really impressed. 

I'm very tired but I think I'm going to like living here, I gets lots of fuss from loads of different people, there is lots to see and I'm enjoying my new adventure. I hope all Cyril's fans will be ok about me stealing some of his limelight and writing in his blog too. Goodnight all, thank you for listening. Woody xxx

Saturday, 4 April 2015

I'm a Champion (qualifier)

These serious play days have been very hard work and this week Mum added a flatwork lesson in as well.  Polly spent an hour working on Mum's riding, slowing down her panicking canter transition instructions so I have some hope of understanding them and some warning so I might be able to organise my legs correctly. By the end of the lesson I think she had got it.  Not sure I like Polly so much now though as she's also been teaching Mum to get me more engaged, which means I have to work a lot harder and Mum has to keep still and not rock me along in the walk. 

I found out why we have been doing all this work. today. Another circle competition but Mum is really starting to raise her expectations and we headed off to see if we could qualify for the fluffy pony national dressage championships - yeah right Mum that might be a little optimistic. The venue was lovely, well organised and with plenty of parking. It also had a very calm atmosphere which made me chill out and relax. No kicking anything today.  I stood patiently in the trailer munching hay while Mum went to suss out the layout of East Soley Equestrian Centre (can we come back here Mum I liked it). I stood between tests quietly and ate more hay and then stood for nearly two hours after my last test chilling out eating hay of course and then finally when it started to really rain Mum tucked me up in the trailer and I waited until she was ready to go home - think I have gained all my brownie points back and I'm getting the hang of all this hanging around!

It wasn't all hay eating though, Mum had entered me into the Intro A class as a warm up. I needed to focus and it was a totally new indoor arena for me to compete in.  Ok focus, think dressage diva, let's go and impress.  Mum felt relaxed but focused and we stonked the test. I went straight into the lead with 78.8% (even with two breaks to canter) and no one got near, I won yeah!  Even better Mum hugged me to death when she read the score sheet, evidently we got five 9's. It's the highest score Mum has ever got and she has never had anything like five 9's before, let's say she was VERY happy with me. All in a day's work for a dressage diva dales pony. 

You can watch my winning Intro test at

My work was not complete though we still had to do the fluffy (aka Native Pony Society NPS) qualifier. Well the practicing and lesson paid off, we went in and again Mum felt relaxed but full of very serious concentration. In front of a British Dressage judge we did our very best and Mum remembered to be calm and slowly and clearly ask for canter so I had enough time to organise my legs and get the correct canter lead strike off even when we were in the middle of the arena. For once we left the arena with Mum grinning from ear to ear, dead pleased with my efforts. We then had a two hour hoof biting wait for the results, I was 3rd for a long time but some good horses came in towards the end and we ended up 7th, just out of the rosettes but it was ok we were the highest placed NPS pony so we did it, we qualified, yeah Mum was soooo thrilled. I'm going to the National Championships, ohhhh that's proper serious, NPS Supreme Dressage Championships, here we come!

This is the video of Mum and I qualifying

I have to say a big thank you to Polly for teaching Mum well enough that I am starting to understand what she wants and when she wants it. Another big thank you has to go to Patricia and Alison Haskins and my horsey pal Lara for our play days as this lets Mum practice but more importantly Lara for inspiring Mum to ride with a lighter touch (yet to be achieved) and for Trisha for showing her how to ride Lara and hopefully she will continue to work and improve her skills so she can ride me better too. Also to Jo and Eric who I get to chill out with and enjoy my fittening rides which are such great fun. Finally to Caroline and Iona pony who have inspired Mum and I to have a go at qualifying in the first place. 

It's countdown time......7 days to go to Championships!