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!