The Ups and Downs of Ponies!

I hope you all had a really great Christmas and a Happy New Year. My Christmas break has been a bit like riding a roller coaster - some mega high points and a few very scary moments!

Our ponies are only getting into the field for a few hours each day, as the grass fields seem to be more like a permanent water meadow and are becoming more and more of a mud bath on a daily basis. We can't complain, as so many of our friends around the country have it so much worse than us, but I do hope the rain goes away very soon. You will remember that Claire from Dengie recently came to the yard to help us put together the winter feeding diet for the boys and the new food combined with fit ponies not getting in the field much has led to some interesting moments and different challenges for us all with each pony.

Let's start with Tiff. Tiff was moved on to Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-A Balancer, the idea being that he had less food to eat but more forward energy. The net result is that he looks simply stunning, his way of going is much more forward and the shine of his coat would be the envy of 'Mr Sheen'. This new diet suits him brilliantly - he has just enough sparkle to be forward but not enough to be naughty. We have just come back from an FEI Pony Team Test riding and training weekend with the Team GB selectors, where we rode a competitive test and were judged by Isobel Wessels, an International judge who judged the 2015 European Championships. On a positive note, Tiff went brilliantly - his test was one of the best he has ever done - but the down side was that the arena was very, very deep so he tripped twice. This led to huge drops in scores for three movements (we got threes, so that's a drop of over four marks on each of the instances… gulp!), but despite this we came away with 64.8% and an amazing 11th place out of the twenty three invited riders. I was one of the youngest riders present, so I was really pleased.

So, on to Leo - as you can imagine a six-year-old Dutch pony is full of life whatever the time of year, but he has become a real handful since he's been having less time out in the field. I can now completely understand why Carl Hester keeps his young horses out in the field 24/7, regardless of the weather! Between Christmas and New Year, I ended up in hospital following a fall in the ménage during one of his more energetic bucking sessions. Luckily, all is okay – just some shoulder muscle damage, which is getting better daily – and there is no malice with Leo at all, he's just having fun and loving life a little too much!

We started feeding Leo on Alfa-A Molasses Free at the same time as Tiff and Claire has worked with us to play around with the quantities to see if that improved Leo’s behaviour. However, given his antics, Claire has advised us to swap him onto the lower energy Hi-Fi Molasses Free and continue with his Alfa-A Balancer, so he can get all the vitamins and minerals that he needs. We are starting with just a handful twice a day and can build it up gradually until we find the quantity that suits him. I am sure once the weather improves and he is out more, we should find a good balance - it's pretty tough when they are fit and young too!

This week, I started back at school and have three weeks of exams and lots of revising (deep joy!), but on a positive note there is lots going on with the ponies too - Leo and I have a lesson at Darryl's to look forward to and possibly a trip to a local unaffiliated show on Saturday if he's behaving himself! I am also at Hannah's on Saturday for my first ride on Potter since he had his operation, which is so exciting. On Sunday, I am off to Grimsby to ride the lovely Amigo, as the Premier League season will be here before we know it, so it's a busy weekend! Enjoy your ponies and let's hope it stops raining soon.

Olivia

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