I managed to ride yesterday, just round Hilltop, with Mr O, and actually Max was very well behaved. I tried a little canter on the verge, but Max went a bit overboard there, so I brought him back to walk. I was very nervous at the outset, but it went very well, which has done wonders for my confidence. We saw a fox running across Jolly Farmer's field when we got back. Mr O did a hunting horn noise, and Max's ears pricked up and he trotted home. Oh well...
We babysat for Seven and Nine last night so Pongo and Missis could go out for the evening. In fact we looked after the dogs more than the boys, which is thoroughly enjoyable. I can't let the dogs out until the boys go to bed, as Piper growls at Seven for some inexplicable reason. He isn't provoked in any way, Seven just needs to be in the same room. I've actually had Piper on my lap, and he's been growling in his sleep, because he knows Seven is in the room.
That's the thing, you see, Piper will bite people (not the children, though) but seems to really like me. I am honoured. He jumps up on my lap for a cuddle. He is a sheltie, and he leans up against me, and it is fascinating to bury your hands in his fur, and find a small, chunky body underneath. He seems to be wearing a ruff, like Sir Walter Raleigh, and looks down his long, thin nose at you. His fur colouring is amazing, especially when he was out in the snow. He is about nine, the same age as Tessa.
Lexus is a different matter. She is a two year old black lab, and just flings herself on you, and sits on your lap, so you can't see, or breathe. Then she starts licking you, for no apparent reason. She is adorable, though, but she takes up the whole of the sofa. She gets annoyed if Piper sits on my lap for too long, so she runs to the window and barks excitedly. Piper runs over to investigate, and Lexus quickly dives into the vacant place on the sofa. She is very pleased at the success of this trick. We had all fallen asleep in a furry heap by the time Pongo and Missis came home.
I am the one who got out of bed this morning to feed the horses and put hay nets up. It was a beautiful, bright morning, far too good to stay in bed, so time for a ride. I got Mr O up and we gave each other our Valentine's cards. The one he gave me is lovely, with a Tatty Teddy on it, and it was decoupage. He said he was quite chuffed looking at it, knowing all the technicality of how it was made. He got me a box of Milk Tray as well. He knows the way to my heart!
We tacked Max and Barnaby up, and set off down Press Lane. There was a man riding towards us, and I called out, "Is that Olly?" which it was, and we had a really good talk. The horse is only six, part Belgian Warmblood, part Irish Sports Horse, part Thoroughbred, which is quite a combination, isn't it? This is the one that got its feet caught in the stable bars. It's not often you see another man riding round here.
A lot of cars had overtaken us, which is very strange early on a Sunday morning. I had planned on riding through to the Manor, then back up on the road, but we realised all the cars were parking, and men were getting out with guns and gundogs. Oh dear. I asked where they would actually be shooting, and it turned out they would be right where we wanted to go, so we had a rapid change of plan, and went down into Bateman's Mill, a tiny hamlet between us and Clay Cross. I had started off feeling quite sick with nerves, and rigid, but by the time we got to the bottom of the lane, I didn't have the strength to stay uptight, and really started to relax. We passed lots of horses, men playing football, dogs, children, bikes etc, and Max didn't spook at any of it. It was a fantastic ride, and I felt totally relaxed and confident, as if it's always been like this, but I must say, Max was immaculately behaved, Barnaby actually spooked more than he did. It was wonderful. I feel as if I've never been away, a fantastic feeling, I could have ridden anything by the time we got back!
Two bits of exciting news. One is that Pongo and Missis have decided we will have cade lambs this year. I am quite happy for you to correct my spelling here. It just means orphan lambs, but is it cade or caid? I have never heard the word before. We'll have a couple, at the end of March. They will need to be bottle fed in the beginning, and will have to sleep in the kitchen (Tessa will be thrilled!) but it would be lovely. I would love a couple of goats, but sheep would be perfectly acceptable.
The second thing is that the menage should be built very soon, maybe even in March, which would be utterly fantastic.
We have traumatised the cats this morning, as we have changed their flea collars. This involves one of us catching them and pinning them to the floor, while the other person takes the old collar off and replaces it with the new one. The second we release them, they sprint out of the door like Gollom, screaming, "It burns us!" They were hiding in the tack room, the last time I saw them. Bless.