“Take your hobbies to work” day

Now let me stop you there before you get too excited. I did not take the horse to the office. Nope.

In an imaginary world in which I had my own trailer/lorry, the correct licensing to tow/drive it, and somewhere sensible to put him when we arrived, I still would not subject my horse to a) rush-hour traffic through the centre of the city or b) being harassed by well-meaning but, for the most part, hopelessly horse-ignorant people all day. He is not a toy, people, and he likes being patted in the face by strangers about as much as you’d like it if random strangers on the train or bus started touching your face. Boundaries!

So for everyone’s wellbeing but especially his, I did not take him to work. Having told you what I did not do, now perhaps I can start at the beginning and then tell you what I did do.

This all happened well over a month ago, and this post has been in draft for a very long time, but I’ve finally got it out to you!

We have an annual “Wellbeing” day at work, at which we are all reminded to have a life outside the office. Those of us already engaging in activities perceived to be interesting or worthwhile are encouraged to display or demonstrate our hobbies. When this was first instigated, our employer put a substantial amount of money and effort into their part of Wellbeing day. Sadly, it has got less and less impressive every year. Despite this I still I think it is a good thing, and so I thought I ought to put the effort in and volunteer to show that I do indeed have an interesting life outside the office. As crochet is suited to displaying I volunteered that, and as owning a horse is something out of the ordinary I thought I should do something about that too.

I took all our nice show photos, including the one in fancy dress, and I typed out some “fun facts” about Drifter, some of which you’ll already have heard, but I’ll share with you later anyway. To pad my stall out, I got some photos printed which don’t show us dressed up to the nines – photos from the yard, one of him in full fly-gear, one of him lying down, etc. I spread them out all over the table. If I’d known ahead of time how much display space I was getting I could have glued everything together into a nicer display, but I didn’t know how big the table was going to be so I just took lots of stuff and spread I out. Messy but (I hope) interesting. I had more photos than I had room for but a fellow exhibitor lent me some masking tape and I was able to stick some up on the pillar behind me as well.

I also dressed up in my show clothes, minus the helmet and hairnet. This was a hit, with one person saying they’d never seen anyone dressed like that except on the television. I suppose until a few years ago I hadn’t either, but their tone of voice implied that they couldn’t believe “real” people dressed like that. I have to say I do always feel like I’m ready to act in a period drama when I’m wearing breeches, long boots and a stock. Of course in any historic period where the clothes would fit in, as a woman in man’s attire I’d be cross-dressing, which might stand out rather.

On the crochet front I stuffed a lot of things I’d made into a box and included the yarns and hook I need for my blanket squares, thinking that if no one turned up at my stall I could at least be busy! When I got there I tried to arrange them on the table in a pleasing manner but I’m not sure how far I managed that.

So there I was, sat between my two adjacent tables in (almost) full dressage diva attire. It became apparent that people didn’t realise they were both my hobbies so I had to start crocheting to make the visual link for people! I realised I’d crocheted wearing my long boots before, while breaking them in around the house, but the experience of crocheting in white breeches and a jacket was a new one for me.

The two hours flew by. I was intrigued to find that most people wanted to talk to me about one hobby or the other – very few people wanted to ask questions about both. I wonder whether if I’d just taken one hobby I’d have had many fewer people coming to talk to me. The vast majority of the people who were interested in the horse stall were already horsey – I talked to many people who’d ridden as a child. There were very few people who knew absolutely nothing about it yet were still interested – in a way they were the most interesting for me because they asked quite different questions. On the crochet front the opposite was true – the most interesting questions came from other yarn-crafters, because they asked detailed questions about stitches, hooks, patterns and techniques.

Several people asked if I could teach them to crochet. I politely declined and pointed them to you YouTube and/or their local yarn stores. Teaching is not my bag at the best of times. Teaching something that my brain has automated and my hands do of their own accord is really, really hard. I’m not interested in learning to teach crochet – I have more than enough on my plate, thanks! I did give in and teach a particular stitch to a colleague who already crochets but even that was really hard! Even though she already has lots of crochet experience, trying to communicate how to make this stitch was so hard. As soon as the hook and yarn were in her hands, what I could see was all different from the view when it’s in my hands and I got confused. Eventually we did get there and she got the hang of it.

I really felt like I contributed a lot to the day, and I was glad my stalls were popular. I would have hated to sit there and be ignored by everyone. The downside of being so popular was that I didn’t really get a chance to look at the other exhibits. I spent a few minutes looking at some others at the end, but the organisers needed us to clear up and get out of the room, so there wasn’t much time. That’s also my excuse for not having better photos…

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Getting stronger. Part 1.

I am getting stronger. It’s really strange to me that now I can jog up the stairs to get that thing I forgot, but stranger still is that I go to bed every night with a very slight post-exercise feeling of muscle tiredness. And when I wake, I feel a tiny bit stronger all over. I’m not really doing that much exercise, but everything is exercise for the body that got used to doing nothing.

In so many ways I find that I’d forgotten how my body used to run itself, and now that the old ways are returning it’s rather strange but rather wonderful.

Of course now I’m watching my muscles filling out again I realise things like how much more my right arm gets to do in normal life compared to my left arm, which is still skinny and flabby. When I groom Drifter I’m trying to use my left arm some of the time, but that’s too big of a challenge to do for more than a very brief time. What it can do is crochet: I am now an ambidextrous crocheter … although I have to admit my right hand knows a lot of stitches and my right hand currently only knows one. You might be surprised to know there’s actually a crochet technique that utilises alternate right and left hand rows. Here is an item I created using the technique.

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/esparrowgrass/spirit-beaver-square-chart

Yes, I posted a picture of my beaver on the internet. (Why do I feel that anyone searching for those terms might be disappointed?)

Anyway, this is my first attempt at tapestry crochet worked with alternate hands and I have to say I think it’s not bad at all. I’m going to do another panel by the same designer in the same technique and then add borders and join them to make a cover for our large coffee table. These pattern charts are available for free which I think is amazingly generous because they are such beautiful designs. Also they work for quite a few different techniques so you don’t have to work with alternate hands unless you want to!

Geek crochet

Apparently there is a substantial overlap between yarn-o-philes and geekery. Arrayed on the internet you will find crochet Deathstars, knitted scarfs intricately patterned with the script from the LOTR one ring, and a multitude of baby Groots, pokemon and Tardises. (Oh how I wish the plural were Tardi.) I could only resist this phenomenon for so long, and actually paid real money for two crochet patterns. The first of the two was my totally inauthentic Viking helm.

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And then I had to make another for a friend… and yet another friend has also requested one!

Apparently real Vikings did not have horns on their hats. But guess what? Real Vikings did not ever wear helmets made of soft acrylic. Like ever. So that does not worry me. Most days.

Pattern: Lael Viking hat by Mamachee available for purchase from Etsy or Ravelry (and probably some other places too). The copyright on the pattern does allow you to make them for sale, if credit is given to the designer, so before you wear yours out of the house decide whether you’re going to charge anyone who asks for one!

The second (oh obscure treasure of niche interest geekery!) is a Tonberry.wpid-20150207_164158.jpg

A Tonberry is a creature found in the Final Fantasy video game series*. Looks small, cute and innocuous, huh? Oh look, you underestimated it. GAME OVER. Would you like to reload? Apart from its cute looks and unexpected fighting prowess the Tonberry epitomises cool for the following reasons:
  • It’s rare and usually solitary
  • It’s in no hurry to attack you, starting a distance away and taking a turn to move each step. You have plenty of time to flee and it’s your own fault if you don’t
  • It breaks the in-game damage limit of 999, doing 9999 damage with its little knife
  • Karma. The Tonberry’s karma attack will deal back to your player all the damage you have done in the whole game. But if Karma is cast on a healer character they will get healed because they’ll have done more healing than damaging in the game. Seriously, Karma! In a video game!

I have to say this crochet version is yet another Tonberry that I underestimated. He took much more work to do than I expected, but he is also by far the largest and most accessorised amigurumi I’ve attempted so far. Also the only one I’ve done while working full-time, which makes everything take longer!

Tonberry pattern by Natalie Bates, available to buy on Ravelry.

After my two these-patterns-cost-money projects I had a need to make a free pattern, which also has a strong geek connection. wpid-20150209_134530.jpgThis iPod nano cover appears to the uninitiated to be simply a (wrapped around) green tree on a pale green background. But to those who have played Magic: The Gathering, this is a forest, which will produce green mana so you can play your green monster cards. The pattern is just for a flat square – I worked it in the round and then crocheted across the bottom. This was my first attempt at colour-work and I’m rather pleased with it. This isn’t a great picture of it – it looks neater than that in person. Also it didn’t take long at all to make, which was a bonus.I have to say I’m now fascinated by the possibilities of colour-work and need to take care to avoid rushing into a big new project I’ll never finish.

Pattern (chart) found here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/magic-the-gathering-green-mana-forest-potholder

Which finished item is my favourite? The Tonberry. He’s the only one without a practical use and he cost me most in time but I love him the most.

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*Although I mostly know it from Final Fantasy X (10) so this description is biased to how it appears in that game. In other games in the series it behaves slightly differently and Karma is called Grudge.

Crochet Christmas and birthday gifts

I made these over the last few months but couldn’t show them to you because some of the recipients were also some of my readers.

Slippers for Mr S

Slippers for Mr S

Fan and feathers lace-weight scarf for my mother

Fan and feathers lace-weight scarf for my mother

Woolly scarf for my mother-in-law

Woolly scarf for my mother-in-law

Fiendishly difficult flowers

Fiendishly difficult flowers

A reindeer...

A reindeer for my friend …

... and a second reindeer for Mr S who wanted one for us to keep

… and a second reindeer for Mr S who wanted one for us to keep

And a penguin in a pear tree. Actually he thought he'd be comfier on the sofa because those feet are not designed for perching in trees.

And a penguin in a pear tree. (Actually he thought he’d be comfier on the sofa because those feet are not designed for perching in trees.)

All patterns are freely available except for the green scarf which I didn’t use a pattern for. It’s just a pattern of 1 fan, 1 sc; with 1/2 fans at the end of every other row so the sc goes into the middle of the previous row’s fan. Easier to do than describe!

Patterns:

Slippers: Sorry, can’t remember. But I wasn’t that enamoured of it anyway. In the picture they look like wildly different sizes – that’s just poor photography! While they’re not perfect they are pretty much the same size as each other!

Fan and feathers: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lacy-feather-and-fan-pattern

Flowers: (Iris, Columbine, Anemone) http://melibondre.com/blog/ Mine would have come out better if a) I’d had better skills to start off with and b) I’d used embroidery silks as the patterns suggest. I used the finest embroidery wools because that’s what I had but it made the job a lot harder and silks would have given a nicer finish I suspect. Don’t judge her patterns by my results! Leaves of my own invention.

Reindeer: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/murray-the-reindeer I love this pattern. It was my first amigurumi attempt and it was clear and helpful and I was delighted with the result. Also, it does not require any sewing together at the end. I simplified it a tiny bit (making body coloured hooves and paring down the features) because of my personal tastes and what yarn I had available but I don’t think I’d have found it complicated to do as written.

Penguin: http://theageingyoungrebel.com/amigurumi-penguin-pattern/ I thought this was the cutest free penguin pattern on the internet. I found it harder than the reindeer, although in part that’s because working with black makes it hard to see your stitches and working with white makes me paranoid about getting it dirty 😉 Sewing up nearly drove me mad but I fear that’s probably the norm for amigurumi.

So am I all crocheted out? Nope. I got some new hooks for Christmas 😀

Stuff I managed to do

I’m still sick, and I don’t have the energy for proper posts. So here are eleven pictures. Or “ill.” because I am both ill and illustrating.

Ill. 1 & 2. (Actually not something I managed to do – something I managed to pay someone to do 😉 )D got clipped. Although he’s not in regular structured exercise at the moment he was getting too sweaty to dry on the occasions I had someone ride him, and on the last warm days he was sweating even stood in his stable. So I had him clipped. I turned up during the process to say hello, and snapped these, but was too tired to stay and take a picture of the finished article. He actually managed to jump the clipping queue massively because a) he’s amazingly well behaved during clipping and b) I don’t mind less experienced members of staff having a go at clipping him. Everyone has to practice to get good and it’s not like we’re going out anywhere anytime soon, so if it’s not a perfect job that’s not a problem.

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Ill. 3-7: Things discovered on walks.

Ordinarily if I go for a walk I intend to be out for a little while and take a camera, perhaps finding some birds to photograph. At present if I go for a walk it lasts only a few minutes and I get exhausted super so I had to look harder to find things worth photographing only a minute or so outside the house.

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Ill. 8-11: Stuff I crocheted. The teal shawl  (pictured stretched out and also folded) was started well before I got ill. Ironically I made it for the autumn mornings in the office … which I have totally missed this year. Doh! The wrist-warmers similarly were intended for morning use in the office but are more versatile. The keyring was for Mr S, although it came out bigger than I’d hoped and not as cute. Other crochet projects have been on the go also. Some have been abandoned as a bad job, others are in progress and yet others are destined for Christmas presents, so I can’t post them here in case their recipients see them ahead of time. If I had the energy I’d post the patterns they were based on … but as it is, if you’re curious about a pattern please ask in a comment and I’ll find it for you. (But do bear in mind I never actually follow a pattern without amending something about it. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not!)

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Sparrowgrass on location

I’m at the conference in Oxford. Here’s the view from my hotel window:

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That’s also the same building that the conference is being held in: the examination rooms. Convenient!

This morning we had a gap in our schedules and wandered to the Bodleian Library where we saw an exhibition of 1st World War documents and then visited the shop and l bought a few postcards.

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Last week I realised that I wanted to bring my tablet to the conference to make notes on, but then I wondered what bag to carry it in. Could I crochet one in time? What would I make it from? -It couldn’t be anything too stretchy or it wouldn’t be safe for my tablet. I settled on using string as being robust, cheap and non-stretchy. Being quite thick it would work up fast. But could I do it in time? Err… no.

But I didn’t let that stop me! I managed to do enough to have a basic bag and shoulder strap before l left home. I was travelling by train and stood on the platform with the strap around my neck, the ball of string in the bag, adding rows to the bag even as I wore it! By the time we arrived in Oxford the bag was finished enough to use at the conference the next day. I still wanted to add thickness (extra rows) to the strap, and worked an extra row on Monday night and was happier with it today (Tuesday). I may yet add more to the strap – l haven’t decided. Here it is in its current form.
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The string gives the fabric enough weight that the flap hangs shut without needing a fastening. I would have liked a slightly longer flap but that ball of string ran out and I didn’t want a join where it might be visible. I’m really pleased with the way it’s come out. If time had not been a factor I’d have worked the strap differently but I’m still proud of the finished object.

Of course while I am away in Oxford I am missing my little black horse, so is it any wonder when l saw this postcard I had to buy it?
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Despite the busy schedule here I’m starting to feel much better than I did a few days ago. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I’m well enough to ride.

Three crochet mini-projects

Well I did you warn you there might be a crochet post in the pipe-line! And with extra time in my day from no riding, and the reduced horse-related cleaning (it’s rather nice not needing to clean tack, saddle pads, etc. and the reduction in jodhpur washing is also appreciated – here is the silver lining I’d been looking for) I have been trying different things with crochet. I’ll describe them in chronological order.

Mini-project 1

Scrumble!

A few weeks ago I had no idea that scrumbling, or freeform crochet even existed, but if you search the internet for it you’ll see that people make some beautiful random creations out of crochet. I’m not linking to any because a) these images belong to people and I wouldn’t always be sure I was crediting the right person and b) my stuff will look rubbish beside theirs!

The only rules are … there are no rules! Anarchic crochet.

Common themes are spirals, three-dimensional effects and using up the random bits of yarn left over from other projects. So I had a go at making a little scrumble of my own.

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I glued it to pale purple card for a thank you letter card, which is why I had to keep it quite small. Also, as a new crocheter I have a limited supply of random yarn ends!

I have to say I found it thoroughly enjoyable to just make it up as I went along and I definitely want to do a lot more scrumbling. To that end I visited all of the charity shops in town looking for odds and ends of wool. I didn’t find nearly as much as I expected – I seem to remember that charity shops always used to have wool but when I looked I found so little. I realised the reason for this when I went on eBay – these days so many people can sell it on the internet when in the past they would have given it away when they had no use for it. So I bid on some mixed batches perfect for scrumbling and will not bother with the charity shops again.

Mini-project 2

To be honest this barely deserves to be called a mini-project, but it made the post title easier.

The biggest thing I felt my scrumble skills lacked was some ruffle techniques. At the time I didn’t manage to find any free instructions for the kind of ruffles I wanted, so I just decided to experiment. The plan was to make a one-piece ruffle, worked in the round, that would take me towards a the fullness of a sphere-like shape.

I managed this:

early crochet projects 014I don’t think it’s bad considering it was all experimentation and no knowledge! I began by chaining 6, making a loop and filling it with as many single crochets as possible. In hindsight a smaller loop might have been advisable. Then in the next round I increased once in each stitch. Then I got impatient and increased twice in each stitch in the next round, making my ruffle mathematically inelegant. I now know I should have stuck with the same factor of increase throughout. But by that point I had this much rufflyness, which was, after all the point of the exercise, so I changed colour and added a single crochet in each stitch for the final (now very wiggly) round.

You can squash it about so you can see the initial loop like this, or leave it “bouffant” as in the first image. I think it’s interesting, although ultimately useless. Still, now I have the skills and experience to try ruffling again in a scrumble or just for its own sake.early crochet projects 017

It turns out that what I was attempting to do was hyperbolic crochet. Mathematicians were all tied up in knots by trying to physically create models of hyperbolic planes, when in the late 1990s one mathematician who could crochet realised crochet was the solution.

If you want to learn more, try http://mathandfiber.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/introduction-to-crocheting-hyperbolic-planes/ You can also find instructions there.

Another term worth image-searching is the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project. That is some seriously impressive crochet!

I will definitely try some hyperbolic crochet at some point because the end results are fascinating. Maths+crochet = far cooler than the sum of its parts!

 Mini-project 3

I’ve recently started following http://elvirajane.wordpress.com/. Her sculptural crochet patterns have been intriguing me since I stumbled across her fairy mushroom pots patterns. She recommends her sculptural pot as a good starting point so I gave it a go. As usual I didn’t have exactly the right yarn or hook to hand, so I improvised. I used an 8 ply cotton yarn (originally bought for a pony-hat before I decided I didn’t want a cream ear-bonnet on a horse with a black and white face) and picked a small hook to make it easier to keep the tension tight. Having begun with the wrong tools, I then made copious counting mistakes! It being the first time I’d worked in continuous rounds, it was somewhat of a learning curve. It wasn’t until I got to the final couple of rows that I realised how much accuracy was important in the early rows! I also have a feeling I threw in a whole extra row at one point… probably not advisable! Anyway I have to say considering everything I think it’s OK for a first attempt.

early crochet projects 035Although the shape is not perfect I find the texture and stiffness fascinating. Perhaps because I used cotton not wool/acrylic, it feels and sounds somewhat like papier-mache and I find I can’t stop handling it. Turning it over and tapping the bottom it’s like a tiny tactile drum.

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It seems so opaque but when you hold it to the light…

early crochet projects 039 I’m fascinated by it, despite my inability to follow a pattern correctly. Mr S also seems to find it oddly alluring.

On the other hand I’m not sure I want to make another one. Keeping the tension this tight is physically stressful and I actually have a crochet blister from making it! Also I suspect that patterns which require lots of counting might not be my strong point.

I have begun a couple of larger projects, but it may be some time before I have pictures to share of either of those, particularly if I keep getting distracted by mini-projects!

 

New pony ear hat, Old pony ear hat

My next attempt at a home-made crocheted fly bonnet is finished!

 

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Based on the pattern I bought from Etsy, I had to work out how to make all of the head dimensions quite a lot bigger while barely increasing the ears. During this process I realised that he actually has a really big forehead. Looking around the yard I found that most horse foreheads seem to be flat, while his bulges out more like a human forehead. I’ve tried to find a picture that shows it, but it doesn’t show well in pictures. Maybe you can see it a bit in this one.

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Anyway, it makes his head rather hard to fit ear-cozies to.

One of his two shop-bought ear bonnets, the bright red one, does actually fit his large head well. The other one was always a bit small, although as it was particularly soft it was just about OK to use when I didn’t have much choice.

However, this is now what the red ones look like:

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It was a lucky escape for his head, but the bonnet took one for the team.

We were walking to the schools with him clipped to a lunge line. Although he didn’t have much line, it did give him more freedom than when I’m leading him from reins. He took advantage of it by suddenly sticking his head down to grab a mouthful from a long patch of grass growing to the side of the path, tucked behind the corner of the building. I tugged to remind him that was not what he was supposed to be doing. He moved forward but not paying attention; as he lifted his head from the ground, still moving forward, he caught it on the corner of the building where a piece of corrugated iron was sticking out.

I calmed him down and had a look and I thought at first that he might have cut himself, but no, it was just that the shreds of red cotton were masquerading as blood. The hat and his ample forelock had protected his head completely.

Before I knew my husband I didn’t believe in lucky people, but he has made me more open to the idea and now I wonder if I might have a lucky horse. You hear so much about horses who get a fresh injury only days after they recovered from the last. This was one of those moments where an unlucky horse would have laid himself open to the scalp, or maybe even damaged an eye, necessitating much worry and vet treatment, but we got away with just a shredded bit of fabric.

On the other hand, it might not be that I have a lucky horse, but very bad luck with fly-ears!

Here he is modelling the new pair, that I finished less than 24 hours before he killed the red ones. It occurs to me that perhaps we are not fated to have more than 1 pair that fits him at any one time. However, I will be working on a white pair in this pattern, and see if we can manage to break that trend.

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Dressage, crochet and no jumping, thank you very much

Considering that it was only in the early hours of Friday morning that I made the decision not to jump today (Sunday) I found that I had completely failed to worry about the dressage. This had pros and cons. On the one hand I wasn’t feeling pressured about it. On the other hand I realised I couldn’t remember the walk-trot test at all. Oh. But I’d asked for a caller on my entry form, so it would all be fine. I continued not to worry.

I was rather preoccupied with getting good plaits, having asked for advice on the matter following the last dressage test in which a staff member put some stunning plaits in for someone (at a fee of course). I was also preoccupied with fly bonnets.

All I wanted was a white fly bonnet. I prefer to buy my horse supplies from local businesses where possible, so although I could have bought some on the internet, I tried to buy them from shops. Ever since I got him, every time I went to a horse shop I looked for a pair of white ears… and came back not having found any (or none in full size, anyway).

We do have a red pair with gold trim, which are gaudy but fun, and a basic black pair with tassels. In previous outdoor dressage tests we’ve worn the black ones but I really did want some white ones. One day I looked at the red ears and thought, “These are really not a complex shape. How hard can it be to crochet my own?”

Well… harder than I hoped… but manageable.

First I got the internet to teach me the basic stitches, and had a go at producing basic squares and triangles. That achieved, I trawled the internet for a pattern I wouldn’t have to pay for. I found one… but I didn’t really like it. So I tried customising it. The end result was … wearable… and Drifter seemed to find them very comfortable, but the ears came out rather too long and floppy. But not bad for a first attempt. I’m afraid I don’t seem to have a picture (although I was sure I took one) and I’ve left it at the stables.

So after that I’d been browsing the internet, as one does, and came across a pattern on Etsy (by popelkaLida) that looked beautiful. I had to buy it.

Fast-forward to last night, and I was crocheting as fast as my hands could go. How much nicer would it be to wear the pretty ears rather than the design-as-you-go-too-big-in-the-ears ones? But could I finish in time? Last night I finished all the structure, but there was a line of embellishment all round the outside that was not done. They were wearable without it – should I try to finish that too or not? I decided it was doable, and in the morning sped round it as best I could between mouthfuls of breakfast. About 2/3 of the way round I had to stuff it in my bag and go. If I got a chance to finish at the yard, so be it. If not, we’d wear the too long ones.

I arrived on the yard. I had bathed him the day before, and as it’s still only 5 days since he was clipped I knew grooming the body was not going to be time-consuming. I plaited the mane before even brushing anything else. For the first time I used a sectioning clip to keep the unwanted mane out of the way, and tried to space as evenly as possible.

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I was quite pleased with them… until I went out and saw some professionally done ones. Sigh. I need to watch someone very good to see how they fold them and get them tied in so close to the neck. Still, I think they were the best neck of plaits I’ve done so far.

Plaits done, I dived into the cool of the tack room and seized my crochet needle!

With almost an hour left before my first test, I completed the bonnet. This photo was taken with laying them on my legs as I sat on the tack room floor – the cleanest place I could find!DSCN4800

The ears are actually same size as each other, but it’s hard to quickly take a picture of something laying on your legs while at the same time sympathetically listening to someone telling you about their lame horse, so please make allowances. In real life they look much better than this picture, if I do say so myself.

So I ran a brush over the horse, plaited the tail (badly, because for the first time ever I’d got the tail really clean, so it was very slippery and the top of the plait went off centre) and started tacking up. And discovered that the ear bonnet was rather small for him. I thought it would do, so I popped everything on and went off to warm up.

We had a reasonable warmup, but even then, at about 10.10, it was hot hot hot. My jacket and tie were not my friends!

There didn’t seem to be anyone to take us round, so a few minutes before our time I went round to the school. Unfortunately, the judge had decided that C wasn’t central and was moving it. We waited outside for some time while they got C in a place everyone agreed on. I was pleased to notice that they’d covered the “wrong” dressage letters, so only the movable ones that related to the test were showing.

Eventually we were asked to go into the arena. On our first little foray down to the A end, BANG, FLAP, PANIC, SPOOK, WHOOSH.

Oh, I’m still on board. We’re on the other side of the school but I’m still on board. That’s handy. Nothing to see here, people, move along please.

We’re used to hearing shooting on Sundays, so few horses at our yard do more than flick an ear at the shots. But when there’s a gun shot about the same time as a piece of paper flaps at him… that’s scary stuff. The tape holding the paper over the incorrect letter F, visible in the far left of this photo, had partially given up, and in the wind, just as we were about to go past it, it tried to attack us.

 

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So we spent a minute or two looking at it, going past it one way then the other, and establishing that it was not going to do it again.

Then I twigged… there was no caller in the school. My turn to spook and panic! Handily there was another livery watching and I yelled for them to get my caller. Not very “dressage” of me to yell, perhaps, but not only had I asked for (and paid for) a caller on my entry, I’d double checked that morning that people knew I’d need a caller. I realised at this point that I could remember nothing of the test beyond entering at A in working trot. Luckily I’d yelled before they’d signalled me to start.

My caller arrived … without a copy of the test. The test was located, and eventually the car horn sounded for me to start. Enter at A in working trot… things were going OK despite our less than ideal beginning … circle here … well not too bad … turn right at E , 3-4 steps of walk across X, ooh that was quite nice and accurate, relax a bit … why did the car horn beep? I guess they leant on it by accident.

Nope. Caller is waving at me. Instead of tracking left when I reached B I’d tracked right. Oh. I was right about not knowing this test, wasn’t I?!

To quote my sat nav, “Make a u-turn, where possible.”

Ah well, might as well enjoy it now! We finished the test with no more incidents and gladly left the arena on a long rein. I left feeling that it might be the worst test we’d ever done, but I was proud not to have fallen off, and I could be happy with that.

Throughout the test and warmup I’d been aware his ear bonnet was too small. I wasn’t going to make him wear it for the second test. As if to confirm this, when we were walking to cool down back in the warmup arena, he managed to shake them off despite his bridle over the top of them. He has spoken. The ears do not fit.

I need to adapt the pattern to accommodate that Drifter is quite large at the base of the ear and his ears are quite long. I put them back on him long enough to make some notes about where I need extra rows and I’ll have another go. But what to do with these? Easy. While I’d been frantically finishing them in the tack room a girl had been admiring them very much. Her little horse is a bit finer boned and has smaller ears than Drifter. I would see if they’d fit her horse. She came out of her dressage test very down, so I followed her back to her stable and offered them to her. Her verge-of-tears face was transformed to smiles by the gift and I could not have been happier to present them to her. None of the work was wasted because they went to a horse they fitted and a rider who really appreciated them.

I had about an hour between my two tests. I had time for a drink and a cool down and to go and look at the scores so far. I was flabbergasted to see that despite my foray to the wrong end of the school, I was not quite in last place! Hurray!

And all too soon it was time to put the tack and jacket back on and warm up again. My second test was at 12 so it was really hot by now. I put the too-big ears on him and although they did look silly he was more comfortable and they would keep the flies out of his ears, so we went with it.

I started my warmup a few minutes later than I wished, and was told when I got there that we were running early! When the next rider came in she told me it is our right not to enter any earlier than our published time, but I knew I’d get more stressed if I tried to assert myself over that than just going in a bit earlier. The warmup had nice moments, but wasn’t awesome.

We were asked to go round and I could tell Drifter had had enough of the sun and the heat. He was sluggish and even getting him to the school took a lot of leg.

In we go. Try to get him moving. Energy energy energy. It was hot. And I haven’t needed to put that much effort into going forwards since I last rode I riding school horse. They took AGES to sound the horn for us to start. And we began.

To be honest I don’t remember much about the test except the unbearable heat and the extreme effort I needed to keep him going forwards. This might be working trot but I’m working far too hard here! We went the right way and we kept going. The canters were … well, not too bad for us. The second circle fell in, but we cantered in the right place and trotted in the right place and it was all satisfactory, although I feel that I did all the work for both of us. I really had to ride to get that test out of him so I’m proud of that. And of keeping going through the heat!

And oh, blessing of blessings we were finished! I would not be jumping! What a great pleasure it was to take jacket and tie off and know we were done!

So what did the scores say?

Walk-trot: 63.75 – 4th place (of 5)

Preliminary (i.e. w/t/c): 62.69 – 2nd place (of 3)

Notable marks and notes:

W/T: Well the going the wrong way produced my first 4, but to be honest I’ve had 5s before going the right way, so that could have been worse!

But some nice 7s for both centre lines and the halt, all of which can be problems for us. Considering how much went wrong at the start of this test (the direction problem was only the third movement of the test) I think I recovered very well and can be proud of this.

Prelim: For the canters, a 6 and a 6.5, each with the comment “active.” We seem to have turned last month’s “wayward” into “active.”  🙂 That can’t be bad. Although of course he was in a very lazy mood by that point! Again we have a 7 for the halt – we really seem to have done good things there – but my favourite comment, for a 20m circle in trot was “outline starting to show.” Hell yes. That’s what we’ve been waiting for. In the free comments section on both tests, among other comments, I got “lovely test”. Aw thanks!

Of course I took his plaits out, and here is the result. Who needs a perm, anyway!

DSCN4811All of the pictures below are from the walk trot test, as the heat, my red face, the floppy too-big ears and the massive effort I was putting in to keep him going all made the pictures from the second test somewhat less attractive than they might have been. So these are all pictures with the too small ears – I think they look pretty good in the pictures!

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