Getting Ready For Camp

I’ve spent the last week prepping for Pony Club camp: organising childcare, informing all clients and making sure their next lesson is booked in (it’s the one time of the year that my diary is organised for a whole fortnight!), choosing my musical ride music, and planning my lessons. But I’ve also been helping some clients prepare for their own Pony Club camp.

A kid’s first camp can be a nerve wracking experience, so I use the few weeks leading up to camp to prepare them as much as possible so that they don’t feel out of their depth and can enjoy camp to the maximum.

Firstly, they will be riding in a group, which some children with their own ponies aren’t used to, so I work with my little riders to make sure they know to keep a ponies distance away from the one in front, and that they know the basic etiquette of riding in a group. Last year I had a lovely little rider who I suspected would be used as lead file, so I taught her about checking that she was going the correct speed for everyone to keep up, and how to adjust her pony’s trot to accommodate everyone else.

I try to make sure my riders understand instructions that an unfamiliar instructor may use, and are familiar with the letters of the school and changes of rein or school movements. This is particularly important for my riders who only have fields to ride in. I want my riders to understand the basic commands and movements so that they don’t panic about riding it in a different environment.

I then run through exercises which I think the instructors may use to assess the children and ponies, such as sitting trot, taking away their stirrups, replacing their feet in their stirrups. Again, so that first day nerves don’t kick in too much. We do canter work, trot poles, and some jumps. With a young rider this week I’ve had her jumping over a small double as previously she’s lacked confidence over fences. I’ve lead her over some slightly bigger jumps, and then had her jumping smaller cross poles and uprights on her own. I don’t want her to have grandiose ideas about her ability, but I want her to be able to demonstrate a good approach and balanced jump position and not feel overwhelmed by any jumping exercises at camp. The pre-camp lesson needs to be a confidence building session so that they arrive feeling confident about their riding and can them cope better with the qualms which come with riding in company and in a new environment.

I also check that their tack is Pony Club legal; safety stirrups, grass reins etc. And that tack is in good condition for camp. A lot of parents use camp as a good opportunity to replace worn tack, but you want to have a test run before camp to make sure it all fits correctly and you don’t need extra holes punched in stirrup leathers! Sometimes I suggest changes to tack which may help my rider in a different environment. For example, one girl I teach holds her reins at different lengths, so her left hand sits further back than her right. In a one-to-one lesson I can monitor and correct this habit, but for camp I suggested using tape to show her where to hold her reins so that it doesn’t get overlooked and develop into a real problem.

While some of my clients don’t carry whips because it’s just one more thing for their little hands to carry, I do sometimes introduce them to one ready for camp. I explain how to use it correctly, how to hold it and how to change it from hand to hand. This is because their pony may be less forwards in a different setting, or when they’re tired towards the end of camp, and I would rather my little riders were told how to carry a whip with consideration to their pony than just given one in a hurry at camp. Plus, one of the ponies I teach has a phobia of lunge whips so I don’t want the unknown instructor to feel that they need to chivvy or chase the pony along with one as that will shatter my rider’s confidence.

I also try to make sure my rider knows what is expected of them at camp in terms of behaviour, and how they should ask for help if they need it. Sometimes children can be very shy about asking for assistance. Then finally, I try to make sure my riders are confident around their ponies. They will all have help, but by the very nature of the camp environment they will have less support than at home with either their parents or me supervising. It’s only little things such as knowing their girth needs to be checked before they mount, knowing how to dismount whilst holding onto their reins, and to run up their stirrups. Having children who are able to do this makes an instructor’s life much easier whilst keeping them all a little safer.

Of course, camp is all about learning and I look forward to getting my kids back with new found confidence and competence, but I find that the right preparation really helps them get the most out of their camping experience.

Riding Camp

In recent years horse-loving adults have been taking a leaf out of their kid’s books, and started going camping. It’s like Pony Club camp, with as much fun, and more alcohol.

My riding club runs a summer camp as well as dressage and showjumping mini camps during the year, but this year was the first that I managed to go. I wasn’t sure about going until after Easter, when I’d got on top of Phoenix’s tension issues, but I decided it would benefit both of us.

Camp started for us on the Friday morning, with a jump lesson. We were with the green horses, and Phoenix was one of the most experienced horses, but this suited us both as I was definitely uptight and unsure of how she’d behave at a busy venue. I wanted a quiet, calm lesson to settle us both. The lesson focused on quietly approaching small fences in a steady rhythm, and calmly riding away. Phoenix was great, and it did the job of setting us up for the weekend.

I spent a lot of time in the run up to camp worrying about how Phoenix would cope with being stabled and ensuring she ate sufficient forage. I was really pleased that she seemed to settle immediately into the stable, and started munching on her haylage. I planned to hand graze her as much as possible, but the fact that Phoenix was so chilled definitely helped me relax.

Our second lesson, on Friday afternoon, was flatwork. We worked on shoulder fore in trot and canter, and I felt that Phoenix had an epiphany on the right rein: riding right shoulder fore really helped her uncurl her body and improved her balance on right turns. She had previously been resisting my attempts at creating right bend and scooting forwards in panic as she lost her balance, but she seemed to thrive off the challenge of shoulder fore, even managing it in canter to my surprise.

I was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning so had the pleasure of waking up the horses. It was cross country day, and I was thrilled with how Phoenix took on each challenge. Considering that she’s only been cross country schooling twice and seen some rustic fences on sponsored rides. We had a few stops, but it was as though she needed to study the question as when I re-presented she locked on and flew it confidently. We focused on Phoenix not rushing or panicking over the jumps to build her confidence. I wanted her to have a positive experience, and then I can develop her confidence over steps and through water over the summer. Phoenix was the bravest of our group too, getting up close and personal with the life size model elephant!

I spent most of Saturday afternoon hand grazing Phoenix and chatting to friends. The part of camp that I was most enjoying was the uninterrupted time I had with Phoenix. I wasn’t against the clock, or distracted by my little helper. I felt it really helped us bond. She’s still very aloof, which made the little nicker she gave every time I came into sight much more rewarding.

Our camp also had the weighbridge come, which I found useful for getting an accurate weight for Phoenix for worming and travelling. She weighs 495kgs, which I’m happy with. There were also off-horse Pilates sessions we could join in. Under the impression that it would be a light workout to take into consideration how much riding we were doing over the weekend, I signed up for two sessions. A minute into the plank I was regretting this decision …

On Sunday morning we could choose our lesson format. I opted for another showjumping lesson as I felt that was most beneficial to us. After all, I have regular flat lessons and have a progression plan in that area, and with a showjumping competition on the horizon, my choice was obvious really. Phoenix jumped the course confidently and boldly over all the fillers. It was the biggest course I’d jumped her over without building it up gradually in height and “scare-factor” so I felt it was a good test for her, and a positive note to end camp on.

It’s easy to see why adult camps are growing in popularity; I felt I came away from camp feeling like I had a better relationship with my horse, with a few new exercises to work on, and some new training goals. It was great being surrounded by friends, getting support, encouraging others, and putting the world to rights over our banquets (that’s the only way to describe the quality of the catering!).

I’d better start negotiating childcare for next year’s camp!

Tack And Turnout

Last week a few instructors were discussing the tack and turnout of our rides at Pony Club, and how we have been marking them.

One of the instructors for a senior ride claimed that he never gave tens because “there is always room for improvement”. This threw the junior ride instructors into panic as some of them had been very generous and were throwing tens around left, right and centre.

From this, I compiled a list of things that I look for in the tack and turnout inspection and how riders can strive for perfection.

  • Who cleaned the tack and pony? I always ask my riders this. Sometimes the answer is obvious, and sometimes they admit to having been helped. If a child has cleaned their tack themselves and groomed their pony (I`ll permit Mum to have plaited if the child`s age warrants) then they tend to me marked slightly more generously as I`m taking effort into consideration.
  • How well has the tack been cleaned? This depends on who has done the cleaning, but in general I look for the tack to be pliable, no grease underneath the noseband (or any other part of the bridle for that matter), straps to be in their keepers, girth guards on correctly and covering the girth buckles, bits to be clean, stirrup irons to be shiny (try some Brasso) and the underneath of stirrup irons to be clean. No mud in the stirrup treads or at the front of the knee rolls from yesterdays gallop. I also like numnahs to be attached correctly and check the girth is clean and the martingale is in the middle of the girth, not pulled up around the elbow. The senior instructor suggested that in order for a rider to get a ten in their tack and turnout all leather holes should have been cleaned out with a matchstick. Personally, I like to see that no lumps of soap have been left. Plus, if the tack has been cleaned as opposed to washed, the holes don`t tend to fill with soapy foam, so are usually cleaned out sufficiently when the tack is wiped over with the damp sponge initially.
  • Safety of the tack comes into consideration too. Have they checked their stirrup leather stitching? Are the reins still providing sufficient grip? Does the tack fit the pony? No, I`m not a saddle fitter, but I`ll cast my eye over to make sure it is suitable for the pony and rider and the child hasn`t accidentally done the cheek pieces up too high, giving the pony a maniacal grin when he wears the bridle – on the first day I may ask why a pony wears a piece of equipment, but that`s just me being nosey! Last week I was told that a pony needed side reins because he had a tendency to snatch his head down whilst trotting. The side reins were fairly loose and looked ineffective and over the first couple of days I didn`t see the pony attempt to snatch at the reins. However, the rider decided he would go without them the next day and did we know about it! The pony seemed to sense the lack of side reins as soon as his jockey got on, and began snatching immediately. Funnily enough, we put the side reins back on for the next session!
  • You can always tell if tack has been strip cleaned, and cleaned with a hot damp sponge and then traditional saddle soap used, and it is by far my preferred method. The tack seems to be really clean – a bit like exfoliating in the bath before you put your face cream on. So often these days you see sprays and creams wiped over dirty tack, making a bodged job and bringing the marks down.
  • It`s difficult to be fair with tack as a rider who is lucky enough to have new tack will automatically look cleaner and smarter, than the other child on their hand-me-down cobbled together tack. However, you can always tell if the tack is clean, and I try to look at that more than whether the cheekpiece is the exact shade of brown as the browband.
  • Next I`ll look at the pony. This can be difficult as a child with a grey pony, or a coloured, has a lot harder job that one with a bay or chestnut pony. Again, I look for effort, and if I see the attempts to wash a stable stain off on a grey then I will accept that. But I won`t accept stable marks on the dark coloured horses! The same goes for white legs. I don`t want to see chalk piled on top of off-white socks, I`d rather see the remains of the washing off effort and then a good brush to get the kinks out of the feathers.
  • Another quick test I do is to see if I can run my fingers through the pony`s tail. If I can`t it`s not been brushed enough. A bit of baby oil can help stop it knotting when it`s been brushed thoroughly.
  • Hoof oil is nice to see on, however if the ground is dusty it can cause the hooves to look dirtier when the dust sticks to it, so I would proceed with caution there! Plus, if it`s a long way from the lorry the hoof oil can get brushed off in the grass by the time I inspect you. I always check to see that the hooves are in good condition – you can tell if they see a hoof oil brush regularly or not.
  • I like ponies to be turned out for their breed. Yes, we`re all in Pony Club, but if the pony is a cob type then I like them hogged and clipped, or fully feathered and brushed through. If they are a native then again I like them to be in their natural state, albeit clean and tidy. Otherwise I`m afraid the ponies need to be plaited, quartermarked and be trimmed correctly.
  • Then we turn to the rider. Again, some riders are in too-big hand-me-downs, whilst others are freshly pressed from being at a county show the weekend previous. I make sure the clothes are clean – no grubby marks on jodhpurs from where they`ve wiped their hoof oil brush against their leg as they`ve stood up, and their shirt tucked in, tie tied correctly and matching their jacket colour – no pink ties with green tweed jackets please! For the Pony Club, hats need to be tagged to show that they are up to the correct standard, so on the first day I always check for the tags. I like the hat to be suitable for the discipline, and would always recommend children had skull caps without fixed peaks for all round riding – you never know when they will take an unrequested dismount.
  • Jodhpur clips are important too, and I think I prefer these to chaps in tack and turnout, but I understand why a child would prefer to wear chaps. Clean boots, with no poo on the soles either! They should all be wearing gloves too, and have their jacket fastened.

Overall in tack and turnout I think it`s more important to see that a child has tried their hardest to present their pony and themselves to the highest standard, than whether they achieve perfection. It`s always good to look for ways to improve presentation, but I prefer to see someone doing a good job of what they have, rather than have the newest, shiniest equipment. Perhaps as instructors, or judges, we should be allocating a mark out of ten for effort? So we have sub categories of Pony, Rider, Tack, and then Effort, to give a maximum score of forty? Which would enable you to distinguish between areas that can be improved and you can mark more fairly as you do not have to balance out the cleanliness of the tack with the effort the child has put in, and you can give feedback more easily.

It’s The Weekend!

I’m not usually one to pine for the weekends as I love my job, but I am totally ready for this weekend!

Of course it’s been a busy five days of Pony Club Camp and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed teaching my motley crew of kids and ponies. As I told you on Monday I had quite a challenging group in that they were all of different abilities and disciplines – You can read all about it here. Well the rest of the week has been just as eventful!

On Tuesday we tried to put ideas together for our musical ride, where I spent half the time calming the speedy riders down so we didn’t gallop around the arena for the duration, and coercing the nervous rider into doing a canter together. Then I had to tone down the ambitious so we only had one pinwheel, and stayed with our bums in the saddle….

After that we went to arena cross country, where I put them to the test. The confident lot all told me how they jumped one metre (not likely, in sure) so I put the course up for them at seventy centimetres and we had a fair bit of difficulty getting around. Obviously my weaker riders did a lower course but I still made them ride the corner fence, and the style as well as all the other rustic fillers. I think I brought them down a peg or two without any disasters. Then, after lunch we went into the woods for the proper cross country session. I warmed them up by getting them to trot and then canter in pairs up the very steep hills … I wanted the steam taken out of the ponies before we went any further! Working the ponies in pairs meant they didn’t get over excited and also wouldn’t nap back to the others.

Once the speedy ponies had got the first gallop out of their system and the worried riders got over the shock of galloping up a hill, I set them to ride a course. There were a couple of hiccoughs but in general they all rode really well and after we’d ridden that course we practised going through the water so that all the riders and ponies were comfortable with the giant puddle and then we carried on through the woods. There was a face-hiding moment when I told the wobbly boy to avoid the log as it was rather large, but he aimed for it anyway. They made it safe and sound!

We finished the session going down the two steps and then I had to persuade the kids to walk their ponies back as the ponies were probably as tired as I was walking through the woods and the kids were happily jogging home, vying for lead file. Luckily Wednesday was a nice easy day for the ponies as we had fun picking up fish, posting letters and carrying cups in Handy Pony before going swimming.

It was quite overcast at the outdoor, albeit heated, swimming pool so I declined to go in – just about avoiding being pushed in by the boys – but the kids enjoyed their time in the water. After lunch I tried my hardest to prep the kids for their D test on Thursday afternoon. A couple had already taken their D test, and were being  “know-it-alls” so I quizzed them on the harder points of the pony, of which I was shocked by how ignorant they all were – it took three attempts to find the withers, and that was a pure guess! Somehow, and it will forever remain a mystery to he, whilst cleaning tack in the afternoon I ended up being pelted by wet sponges … Revenge for not going swimming, I think.

Thursday, however, was a bit more interesting.

We began with only five riders and ponies as one boy was late as his pony had thrown a shoe so he was swapping onto his sisters old pony who is in semi retirement. This made running through the musical ride tricky, but we managed to do a chaotic rush through, and I prepared myself mentally for Friday’s train wreck, I mean, demonstration. 

Then we headed off to do the treasure hunt, and were stopped by the District Commissioner to show her our knowledge of parts of the pony and tack. The kids did me proud, getting most of the questions correct.

One pony was wearing a running martingale, so I asked her rider what it was called. She got it right.

“So what other type of martingale is there?” I asked. They all looked blank, so the DC stood tall, bring attention to the fact she was standing square.

“Fat martingale!” Cried one of the girls, before clapping her hand over her mouth in horror! We got there eventually, and managed to pacify the DC. Then I sent them off around the field to hunt for sweets.

The six of them reached the bottom of the valley and all of a sudden I saw one pony gallop up one hill, another complete with screaming rider galloped up the other side, and then one pony galloped along the bottom (this one had a little bit of sense as at least he was galloping on the flat!) another pony cantered circles with his rider wrestling on the reins, and another trotted off up the hill (this one was the semi retired, who I think had forgotten how to canter) whilst the last pony listened to his rider and walked up the hill.

This was the point I tried to go home, but was restrained by the parents and ended up leading the more excitable  ponies around the hill for the treasure hunt. My thighs ached after I had to jog up the steep hill with one pony.

And the morning wasn’t over yet! We wandered over to the showjumping ring, and I quickly out my riders through a grid, working on a couple of points for each child. Unfortunately, this is where my weakest rider fell off. Twice.

He stiffly leans forward into his jumping position, but is always looking down so doesn’t push himself back into the saddle. His usual horse helps him out by lifting his head and pushing him back into the saddle, but the semi retired pony kept her head down, so the boy toppled over her head.

Next we started around the course. The boy with the hunting pony who doesn’t jump coloured poles had a toug time, and I kept telling him to sit up until the jump, not canter in a half seat. Then the other boy with a whizzy pony had some trouble as his pony didn’t like the slippery grass so kept stopping. It came together when I told him to keep the canter steadier and make bigger turns. The girls were fine, and the nervous girl was more positive towards the fences by the end. Oh, and wobbly boy fell off again.

The instructors needed a couple of glasses of wine over lunch. 

In the afternoon the kids had to ride their dressage tests. The instructors judged a different ride, so it was fair, and the kids were awarded 1st to 6th in each ride. As I expected, my girls dominated the top three placings of my ride, with the boys sitting comfortably in the lower half. I didn’t manage to watch the tests as I was judging another ride, but apparently they all did well but need to work on making their circles round!

Those kids who needed to take their D test then successfully did, which shows they must have listened a little bit in stable management.

I wearily reached Friday, feeling slightly apprehensive about the upcoming jumping competitions and musical ride. We began in arena cross country and it was a disaster for my wobbly boy, with his pony putting in no effort whatsoever, tripping over his tiny fences. He didn’t fall off though! Then came my nervous rider, over slightly bigger fences. She rode confidently around but at number five her pony put in a dirty stop at the hay bales and she fell off. I quickly pushed her back on against her protestations and led her over the jump before she could start asking for the bales to be moved. She tried really hard though, and demonstrated a really secure jumping position.  Then it was the turn of the hunting boy and pony. It didn’t go that well with the pony spooking at the rippling grass, so I had to assist. The next three thankfully flew around the course confidently. The whizzy pony who had slipped on Thursday took it steadier and was much more comfortable.  I judged this on style, performance and effort, which meant the results weren’t quite so predictable.

We were running late by now, so dashed off to the showjumping,where my wobbly boy astounded me by trotting around the tiny crosses to get a clear round, with a more secure position. Then nervous girl cantered positively around, flying over the fences because she used her leg on the approach. Unfortunately though, she took the corner a bit fast and the cheeky pony slipped out of his right shoulder. However, she got it back together and was great for the rest. I was pleased, but I know she was kicking herself after.

Next one of the other girls flew around clear, and then it was the turn of the hunting pair. Now this could either go awfully or quite well.

I didn’t expect the new solid position from my rider, sat on his bum, to push his pony over the fences and the pony didn’t even think of stopping! It was a lovely clear round. The other two jumped well too, which was a real boost for the whizzy boy as he’d had a few stops on Thursday due to the ground.

So we returned to the main field for lunch, to start clearing away, and dressing up the ponies for the musical ride.

My kids dressed up as Lego bricks and characters from the Lego movie, and we had the song “Everything is Awesome”.

I was so pleased and proud of them, remembering the moves, timing it right, keeping level with each other, pulling off the pinwheel and crossovers, and finishing in a pyramid formation! They really pulled it out the bag!

Unfortunately, the boys weren’t content with throwing sponges at me, and plotted with the girls to throw bottles of water all over me! I was drenched, just in time for prize giving!

Once the prizes were awarded camp was over for another year. I bought the kids sweets as well as giving them rosettes, and in return they gave me some lovely flowers and cards. This week seems to have flown by, but I’m looking forwards to the next camp! 

Perhaps I’ll have the weekend off first! 

Day One of Pony Club Camp

Pony Club Camp has started.

Not that it`s a bad thing, I`ve been looking forward to it since last year when it was over! This week is a proper old-fashioned kind of camp, all the kids from three to sixteen are there during the week (the mini monsters only arrive on the last couple of days) and we have the run of a family`s estate. It`s bliss! In the riding field numerous arenas have been fenced off, with a specific showjumping ring, gridwork ring, dressage arena, and arena cross country ring. The only competition we have for space is with each other, vying for extra time in the surfaced arena to practise our top-secret musical rides in preparation for the big competition on Friday.

Away from the riding field, there is also the cross country course through the woods and two small paddocks for Handy Pony and Mounted Games.

As an old hand at Camp I felt a lot more confident going in – after all, I actually knew some names! It was nice being recognised from last year too. Knowing the layout and the routine helps put you at ease too, as well as knowing the dynamics of the instructors so you can join in on banter. Which this camp has a lot of.

That reminds me of our Instructors Supper a couple of weeks ago. We were all sat around the table having a serious conversation about Health and Safety over chilli con carne when the sole male instructor at the table picked up the Chief Instructor`s brand new BMW car keys. After a muted conversation our end of the table decided that the remote would work on the car sat on the drive outside. So he pressed the button to open the boot.

With a polite cough, he informed the C.I. that “he thought her car boot was open”. So she got up and peered through the living room window. With a tut she slipped on her flip flops and went outside to shut the door.

The C.I. came back in, closed the front door and was just taking off her flip flops when the M.I. said “I think it`s happened again” as he pressed the button again. This time he had to dodge a smack on the back of the head!

I think I had tears in my eyes as we rolled around with laughter.

Anyway, I`m sure you can imagine how conversation flows over the lunch table.

My group this year is an interesting mix of boys and girls. Last year I had six sweet six year old girls, who all got on very well and would do anything to please, but were all very similar in ability and confidence.

With the boys I have one competitive, very fast yet I must say very polite boy with an equally fast pony who loves mounted games and jumping. Another boy is slightly quieter, but equally confident and happy around a cross country course. The third boy hasn`t ridden for very long, is shy, and lives in fairy land.

On the girls front, there is a nervous girl, who panics about her pony taking off with her so trots very slowly, and in actual fact her pony would be less likely to take off to catch up with the others if he opened his stride and didn`t get left behind – I`m working on it. The other two girls are both on Section A`s, which is actually rather nice to see. Kids who are on ponies slightly too small for them, yet are perfectly happy and the ponies are well behaved and toeing the line. These girls both have strong positions and are confident.

I had to do a tack check at the beginning of the day, focusing on the safety. I always ask the kids who cleaned their tack, and if they say “Me” they gain a point, even if it is not as clean as that which has been scrubbed by proud mothers. I`m also a bit more lenient if they haven`t put it together quite correctly – like the boy who had a twisted martingale which I untwirled. Checking stirrup leathers is a must, and I found two culprits who had stitching about to fray. They were fine for todays activities, but would need a new pair for Tuesday`s cross country. I also checked the bottoms of their stirrup irons for cleanliness and tightened girths.

Our first riding session was mounted games, which I was slightly worried about as I`d already identified the weaker riders and was worried they would be fazed by their confident counterparts. But I began our session with a bit of a lesson on the flat, so I could assess their control, trot, knowledge of diagonals, security, position, independent riding, and canter. First the trotted individually, and then after a trot as a ride on both reins they cantered individually.  Then I paired them up into teams.

I was surprised, if I`m honest, that I managed to make the teams so evenly matched they almost drew in our tournament. Mounted games was a great way for them to get to know each other, start to work as a team, and support each other so it was actually a really good starting point for the week. They all enjoyed the morning and we finished just before the ponies got overly excited.

The kids got a shock when we went back to the pony line though, as they all prepared to hand over the reins to their parent and dash off for lunch. I had other ideas. They all had to untack themselves, brush off, give their ponies haynets and water buckets, before I would let them sit down for their own lunch. And I strongly discouraged parents unless absolutely necessary.

This afternoon we had dressage practice. This is where we had to run through the test that they would be riding on Friday`s competition. Again, I warmed them up in a ride and ran through riding circles and changes of rein together, before running through each test individually. It was really interesting to see the gender divide in their approach to dressage. The girls all wanted to do well, focus on sitting trot and riding accurately, whilst the boys hoped for more than 46% and had long reins, swung across their change of rein two strides after the designated letter. More interesting, was the fact the boys had very little knowledge of the layout of the arena, the physical size of a twenty metre circle,  and couldn`t do sitting trot to save their life. As they bounced around one of them yelled,

“Why do we have to do this? It`s hard!”

To which one girl primly replied with “sitting trot helps develop your seat.” Touché.

They got there eventually, but I don`t envisage myself taking their stirrups or saddles away this week!

Before riding the dressage test we had a little discussion about what a dressage judge was looking for – riding position, using the corners, riding to letters, rhythm, correct canter lead and diagonals, and ensuring their pony was forwards, were all answers. I didn`t think they did too badly.

Each child tried when riding their dressage test, and I gave each one a couple of things to work on so that I didn`t overload their brains, and they would hopefully make some improvements. I think the girls would have happily run through it again, and worked on specific movements, but the boys were bored of it, and we`d run out of time, so we headed back to the pony line to untack and clean our tack ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow we`re practising our musical ride and having two cross country lessons – wish me luck!