The schools are back and all those weeks of lovely pony filled days are over for another year.

I know we have a great autumn of eventing and hunter trials still to come but it’s much harder to fit the riding in around the school day.

We have competed a lot this season. The weather hasn’t always been kind. It’s never good when your dressage judge has her windscreen wipers going on double speed. But it has occurred to me on several occasions this year how privileged we are to ride at some of the venues on offer. I don’t just mean the posh ones — although we had our first trip to Royal Windsor this year and I thought it was a stunning show in every respect, and I also love the view up to the Malverns from Three Counties showground. I mean all the places tucked away in breathtaking countryside that you wouldn’t normally get to see or ride in.

Exford

Exford

It’s always worth taking a moment to look up from screwing in your studs or buffing up your leatherwork to take a look around.

The view across Exmoor from the lorry parking field at Exford Show must be unchanged for centuries.

Looking out across the Bristol Channel towards Wales from Treborough cross-country course, you really feel you are on top of the world.

Treborough

Treborough

Riding in the shadow of spectacular Dunster Castle is always special too. There’s something of a West Country bias here, and I am sure you can add to this list with plenty of favourites of your own.

So I just wanted to say a massive thank you to the landowners who permit the competitions on their land, and to the show organisers, secretaries, judges, stewards, course builders, jump putter-uppers, lorry park attendants, fence judges, runners, first aiders, tea tenters, ring post tumpers, signposters, sponsors etc (hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!) who have given us yet another brilliant summer.

Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle

And a special mention to commentators, because I know our surname is a bit of a challenge. When my daughter rides into the ring, there’s usually quite a long pause between her first and second names while the commentator decides how to attack the problem.

Another view from Treborough

Another view from Treborough

Having said all that, one of my favourite pony days of the holidays wasn’t spent in pursuit of a rosette at all. My friend and I took the girls and their ponies to a local beach for a blast along the sand (pictured top), and it was glorious. It’s beginning to be a tradition for the very last day of the holidays, followed up by a mountainous double egg and chips at the Bird Garden beach café.

We love our competitions but sometimes there’s definitely more to life than line-ups and jump-offs.

JG