I woke up this morning to the sound of silence. No wind, no rain. I leapt out of bed, threw on some jods and flung open the back door. Wam, bam, pea souper. No riding for me, then. Head hung low, I turned the horses out.
Pongo and Missis have gone away for the weekend, so we are holding the fort. This involves me letting their dogs out and feeding them, too. The high risk moment comes when I open the door to their day room, to be greeted by Lexus, the black lab, hurling herself at me. It's a bit like fending off a tackle from Jonah Lomu. The worst bit comes when I let her back in and have to hold her in an armlock while I dry her paws. The trouble is, of course, I have to bend down to reach, which means she can lick me. Marvellous. I am exhausted by the time I leave.
I let the chickens out this morning, and went to do some hay nets, then went back to clean the chicken coop. I always feel I should tap on the door and shout "Room service!" before I go in. Sure enough, there was a chicken still in there, already in mid-lay. Laying an egg appears to be a private and intimate moment, and I was loath to interrupt it. The chicken gave me a hard stare as if to say, "Do you mind?" I quietly closed the door and tiptoed away.
Once they have laid, a chicken will squawk very loudly to 'announce' this achievement. Many visitors have commented on this. If you had an oviduct the size of a chicken's and had to pass their size of egg through it, believe me, you'd squawk, too!
When we first got the 'ladies who lunch', I gave them names like Valma Kelly, Roxy, Mama Morton and so on, but now I have got to know them better, I have re-christened them. Only Roxy has remained. The speckled Sussex is Henny Penny, the two Welsummers are Peggy and Betty, (who lay beautiful pale blue eggs) and the two marans are Marjory and Dorothy. They always go round in pairs, and examine things and discuss them as if they are looking at a particulary good entry in the cake competition at the village show.
I have noticed on previous occasions, and again today, that Mr O lives life at a completely different speed to me. Everything has to be rushed through as quickly as possible. He isn't one to stop and enjoy the view, which seems a pity to me when we live in such a beautiful place. The last time we did a pleasure ride he did ten miles in an hour and ten minutes. I did it in two hours and twenty minutes, and I wasn't slow. To go any faster would, to me, take the 'pleasure' out of 'pleasure ride'.
Today this meant he had mucked out all three stables in the time it took me to do two. I decided not to be flummoxed by this. He had to wait for me anyway, and I took my time so I could do a good job.
Afterwards we drove to a nearby park, with Tessa, so we could check it out and see if it would be safe and suitable to ride the horses round it. It certainly looks do-able, and at the very end there were clear hoof prints in the grass, so other people have obviously done it. Hopefully we'll be able to take the horses there tomorrow.
We whizzed back home and I got Max in to give him a chance to dry off, while Mr O rode Barnaby. It was pouring with rain by the time he got back, but I was committed. Max was in his witney blanket and hi-viz sheet, and I had my hi-viz jacket on. We were probably clearly visible in the next county.
Next Mr O rode Zak and we set off together to post a letter. For some reason it thrills me to do this on a horse, although I have never yet got Max close enough to let me post the letter while I'm still on him, gymkhana style, and today was no exception, so I had to get off, post the letter and hop back on again. By then we were on the road that we normally trot along, so we set off, but Zak kept cantering. Mr O managed to pull him up and we went back to walk. I am not averse to the occasional stride of canter on a road myself, but only in a controlled way. We got to the junction and turned right, to come up the steep hill and past the riding school on the way home. I have always wanted to ride past, looking rather impressive, as all the children come out from their riding lesson. Today, as we went past, Zak was having an absolute dicky fit, legs all over the place, trying to gallop off, and it was obvious Mr O was struggling to hold him. Max was desperate to keep up, and I was worried he was going to bolt after him, but actually he really listened to me. We must have been quite a sight, the skinny ex-racehorse dashing up the road, followed by the filthy cob with the flying mane. They probably thought we were rejects from Appleby Fair.
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