Saturday, 5 July 2014

A weekend at Adult Horse Camp - long post alert!

I've been such a rubbish blogger this week - much too busy to even get a chance to think about blogging!

I was away at Pontispool Equine Sports Centre last weekend for their Adult Camp.
I have been about 3 times now and I absolutely love it! I was going to go 4 years ago with BH and a bunch of my friends but I fell off and smashed my head up so I wasn't in a fit state unfortunately! 

Camp was AWESOME! 
The weather was pretty pants but thankfully we avoided the heaviest rain and only got caught in a short shower.
We had the same lovely stables and the same portacabin as last year, they've upgraded the showers (hurrah!) and the chef was on form as usual.

Our stables
The drive up there was horrendous. The rain was so bad we could hardly see the car in front.  

We stopped at Sheppy's Cider Farm as planned, left the horse box in the car park and headed straight for the tea room for a full English breakfast. It was huge and sooo yummy! I definitely recommend their cafe - the cakes looked amazing as well but we couldn't stuff any more food in!

We arrived at camp 10 minutes early so we found our stables and put the horses in, chucked everything in the tack room and dumped our bags in the cabin. We waved goodbye to our Chauffeur (my friend's dad!) and got cracking with unpacking and settling the horses in.

Princess F settling in
Our cabin is a no frills experience... It had a set of bunks and a single bed. There is a light and a heater but the beds come with a mattress and that's it. It's not clean and it's not overly warm!
We take our own bedding and a torch and flip flops for dashing across the yard in your pyjamas to the loos or showers! The loos and showers are just basic portacabin types but they work and you can get clean! We were so hot and sweaty and filthy while we were there, a shower was so welcome at the end of the day! We have to wear body protectors there which are a good inch thick of foam as well as your big riding hat, jodhpurs and boots etc. Not the best attire for keeping cool in the heat!

Our cabin. No frills!
In the afternoon, our lesson wasn't until the 3.30-5pm group so we had a chance to take the horses for a mooch round the parkland which was great.
We got a little bit rained on in our lesson but not too bad. We could hear thunder quite close but luckily the horses stayed calm.

Thundery skies and the view from our stables
Supper was at 7.30 so we had time to sort the horses, shower and crack open a cider!
After dinner we went and finished bedding the horses down and making sure they were all sorted for the night then we headed to bed! We were in bed by 9pm - on a Friday night! We know how to live it up I tell thee...
Unfortunately I was woken about 3.30am because I couldn't breathe. Bedding Fern down for the night had triggered my hayfever. Boooo! I drugged myself up and tried to go back to sleep but it wasn't great.

We were up at 7 on Saturday which is a bit later than usual but we managed to quickly muck out and feed the horses before breakfast.

The meals at camp are served in a canteen sort of area. There are 2 long tables with chairs and you go up and help yourself or the chef serves the evening meal and you help yourself to veg etc. There is a fridge specifically for riders to put their alcohol in and the food is brilliant. We are so well looked after there. In between meals, there are always biscuits and cakes available and tea and squash etc.
You have to scrape your plate and put it through the hatch, just like school dinners!

Yummy grub and yummy cider!
We took the horses out in hand after breakfast to have a graze before everyone started getting ready for the first ride.

Neon headcollar and rope!
We then rode around the park again before our 11am lesson and we popped a few fences and really got a buzz and couldn't wait for our lesson on the Cross Country (XC) course that afternoon.

Whilst we were waiting for our morning lesson, there was the most torrential downpour - it was like a bleddy monsoon! We stood in the stables with the horses, swearing we wouldn't be going out until it stopped. We could see the other riders in the arena from our stables getting absolutely drenched and admiring how they just carried on like nothing was happening. 
Thankfully it stopped just as we led the horses out to get on!

The photographer came into our lesson in the morning which was unfortunate because Fern hates arenas and show jumping so she stomps along with her ears back and being a real rat bag! She popped a few fences and then started getting a bit opinionated (mares for you!) so there were a few arguments about who knew best.
The photographer got a couple of nice head shots while she was looking dreamily out to the XC course though!

Beautiful Fern - Jayphotos
In the afternoon, it was XC time! Our favourite!
We were in the baby group because of various factors. Mostly rider confidence and also Fern isn't very confident over fences so for safety we stick to small stuff.
This meant we were jumping titchy little logs on the floor which was a bit dull. There were 2 baby horses in our group as well as a novice rider on his beautiful horse so we couldn't do too much but it was great for them and for us to see them all gaining confidence.
We asked to do some bigger stuff while the babies did the little stuff which was fine and we popped up and down banks, across the small ditch etc.

Wheeee! Jayphotos
After this little bit, the 2 baby horses went in and it was just us and the novice man. He was very patient while our instructor concentrated on us and getting us over some bigger fences. We had a great time and we had decided there was one fence we really wanted to do this year so we went for it. Fern whizzed over it (rather high) and I was so proud of her!
We managed to collar the photographer on her way back across the field to capture our achievement and we managed to jump it again pretty well - if a little high! It was a good 2'9" to 3' high so for a little cart horse, that was a real achievement and I'm so proud of her.

Proud of my pony! - Jayphotos
We popped a few more bigger fences and then called it a day and just mooched while the instructor taught the other rider and gave him some one to one tuition.

There was a talk on that evening but we would have been too rushed to get the horses sorted and make the talk so we decided to shelve the talk and just do the horses, browse and order official photos, have a shower whilst most people were in the talk and have an early supper. We had time to drink a cider before dinner then we had another cider with our roast dinner. Perfect!
We went and walked over to the big jump we'd done earlier and just sat on it watching the sun go down and putting the world to rights whilst slightly inebriated. 

Evening walk on the course
We dashed back to the yard and picked up our photos we'd ordered and went and tucked the (very tired) horses up for the night.
We were in bed by 10 so a bit late for a Saturday night!!

Tired Fernie!
Sunday morning we were up at 6.30 so we could get everything packed and horses fed and mucked out.
While we were away having breakfast, Fern must have had a rave in her stable because my oh so neat bed I'd left was trashed and I had to do it all over again!

Totally ready for action... Zzzzz
There was a mini competition so we warmed up and did that. My friend did amazingly well and whizzed round. Unfortunately, my round was horrendous. Fern was in a bad mood because she was tired and was expected to jump round in an arena. It was an accumulator round so each jump had a points value and you had to jump as many as possible in a minute.
I did the first 2 fences OK and then I think we demolished everything in our path... It was awful and I blame myself because I was pushing her to go fast so we could get more jumps in and more points but she wasn't in the mood for it at all and it would have been much better had I gone slower and more carefully.

Our lesson that morning started in the big arena and we did some show jumping and got going over some big 2'9" which I was pleased with. Fern has come on so much since I've had her, she's definitely getting more confident.
We did some practise over the new arena XC jumps which were steps, banks and a lake. Fern was getting bolshy and kept shooting off.

We had agreed to go out on the XC halfway through so we could jump some bigger fences. One of the baby horses and the novice rider decided to call it a day so the other baby horse came with us but didn't jump anything.
We had a great time popping bigger fences and going through the water. 

Fern is a bit of a fanny about water, she's too busy worrying about it splashing on the wood ahead of her rather than the actual obstacle that is the jump out! She had a ducking a couple of years ago where she tripped in a water jump and went under so I need to work on building her confidence up some more.

Our instructor made us do a jump that looked huge but it had twigs on top to brush through so we gave it a go. Fern popped over it the first time but she prickled her tummy and point blank refused to do it after that. Her confidence is so easily knocked.
I persevered and she did jump it again but she definitely wasn't going to let it bite her again so jumped it huuuge and nearly unseated me.

We did a few more jumps and had a real crazy gallop through a field - a rabbit moved in the crops and Fern shot sideways at a gallop and I nearly went out the side door. I clung on like a monkey and managed to stay on... just!

She was getting tired so I decided not to do any more jumping with her because it starts getting dangerous when you're on a tired horse that might not pick up over a solid jump. That's how people die doing this sport.

There was an "owl hole" jump my friend really wanted to do so we stopped and she jumped it. The grin on her face when she cleared it was enormous! I'm so proud of her. Her confidence is growing as well!
I will try that jump next year...

We got back to the stables to see our Chauffeur had arrived... but with a different car.... My friend's brother in law had had to step in to rescue us as the other car had blown up! 

We had the prize giving and I got a "placed" rosette for my atrocious jumping in the competition.... It may as well have said "never mind"!!
My friend ended up coming 2nd out of 13!! She did so well and has come on so much with her partnership with her horse. They trust each other more so are achieving more and more. 

We jammed everything back in the car and loaded the horses and waved goodbye for another year!

Camp is so much fun and I would recommend it to anyone if you have a horse and fancy the idea. Any level of ability is catered for although I would say this particular camp is more for those that want to jump. I don't think a really novice rider would get as much out of it apart from quality time with your horse and your friends.

Here's some other random photos:

Moth on the stables

Offensive headcollar again!

*ahem... * window licker...

Tucked up for bed... still licking the door...

We had the BEST time and I'm so proud of Fern and of my friend and her horse. 

My happy place - Jayphotos

I got home late Sunday afternoon and had less than 3 hours at home before setting off for London. BH had survived being on his own - Fern totally ignored him when she went back in the field! Poor chap was prancing about trying to impress her and she completely blanked him!


PS - sorry for the insanely long post!! If you got this far, go and get yourself a celebratory beverage!! x

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