Friday, 30 April 2010

Politics - the Art of the Possible!

Unless you've been living in a box in a field for the last six weeks, it can't have escaped your notice that we are in a countdown to an election.
In days gone by I have been very politically active. When I lived in London I lived in the house of the Conservative Sub-Agent for Putney. I put leaflets through letterboxes and canvassed people on their opinions and which way they were likely to vote. It was very interesting and you had to be quite brave, even in a Tory stronghold, but I found more and more that I wanted to say to people, "Vote for Jesus, it's the only way we're ever going to make the slightest bit of difference." I've met quite a few MP's and on the day of the election, the house was used as a headquaters for people to drop in during the day. I was there doing some calculations when suddenly the light was blocked from the doorway. I looked up and realised I was in the hallowed presence of... Jeffrey Archer. He'd just dropped by to rally the troops. A hush fell on the company present. He was a really nice bloke, actually.
Some years later, when Mr O and I had met and married, daughter 1 rushed in from school one day and declared that we must all 'vote for a conservatory.' Mr O and I heartily endorsed this and were disappointed that the election came and went, but no conservatory was forthcoming.
The same daughter also came in one day singing, 'Golden Brown' by the Stranglers, but she'd misheard and thought it was 'Gordon Brown, texture like sun...' I wish I'd trained my children to listen better.
They obviously get it from me. A while back I was listening to the radio when the newsreader declared that Dale Winton was going into hospital for a heart operation. It was only when they described him as the former president of America I realised she had actually said it was Bill Clinton.
All I really want to know is, will the Conservatives repeal the Hunting Ban? Yes there are more important issues afoot, but as a country loving girl, this question is close to my heart. I read on another blog that the Tories don't consider this a vital issue, but to many in rural areas, it certainly is. I can't find anything on the Conservative Manifesto, (a bit wishy-washy all round, really) nor any update on the Countryside Alliance website, so I am in limbo. It's easy for anyone in opposition to make promises, isn't it? None of the debate clips I've seen, or interviews I've heard on the radio show any of the 'Big Three' committing themselves to anything definite or explaining how they're going to pay for the changes they're going to make. Roll on next Thursday, I'll be glad when it's all over.

It's been a strange week on the domestic front. With no horses to muck out, I feel the rug has been pulled from under me, a bit of a limbo there, too. I decided by Tuesday that my day must still have some structure to it, so I have made a rule that I have to be out of the house by 8am to let the chickens out.
I must digress here to tell you that I have no idea at what age a cockerel reaches the age of sexual maturity, but all I can say for certain is that it's around six months of age. The poor girls only come out for breakfast and George is haranguing them. They get to swallow two pieces of corn, and then they are launched at. George's idea of romantic courtship goes along the lines of, "Brace yourself, darlin'!" and the job is done. Although his actual performance in this area requires a bit of polish, I believe I am to assume that we are now the proud possessor of fertilized eggs. Pongo and Missis are picking up an incubator (for a mere one hundred and twenty pounds) tomorrow.

My next job is to skip out all the stables, and make night feeds up, as the horses still seem in need of a little night-time sustenance. Unfortunately, no sooner does the job of mucking out cease, when the job of poo-picking the field begins. I have taken charge of field maintenance this year, and have said that for now the horses can have use of the entire second field, but once the haylage has been cut, they can go on the third field, but the second field must be blocked off, thoroughly poo-picked and left to recover for a few weeks before they have it back again.
I go out at 4pm and get the horses in, and go and poo-pick again while they have tea. I'd much rather poo-pick than muck out. Tessa comes with me, and usually one or other of the cats. They lay in the sun and supervise the work. Cats are good at that.
On Wednesday I went to get the horses in and Fudge was waiting for me at the gate. Barnaby was strolling down. I got Fudge in and came back to the field to see Barnaby trotting up and down the fence line looking agitated. When I looked across I could see why. Lindy had decided to take a short cut and had jumped the dry stone wall. Unfortunately he'd jumped into the wrong part of the bottom field and was separated from the others by the electric fence. I decided I'd have to undo the fence to let him through, but if he came too far down he'd realise he could just walk round the manege and escape to freedom. Barnaby was still running up and down. Fortunately for me, Lindy was so confused he decided to jump back over the wall into the middle field from whence he'd come, and run round to the gate with the others. Crisis over.
I am going to ride in the mornings, which will give me a chance to put suncream on Barnaby's nose before putting him back out in the field. Then I'm going to do the (dreaded) housework for the rest of the morning, and hopefully get some crafting done in the afternoons. It should work out quite well.
There has been a hold-up on the manege because the fibre that has to be rotovated into the sand hasn't arrived, and of course they can't put the rubber on top until that's done, so none of us can ride in it yet. I know Missis was really looking forward to it, so she'll be gutted, and I wanted to have my first go at jumping Barnaby this weekend, so that won't happen either. Never mind, can't have everything.

Oh, and before I forget, this is my latest little cross stitch effort. Only one more to go.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Decoupage Days

I have woken up for the past two mornings and a beautiful feeling has enveloped me - the wonderful realisation that I don't have to get up and muck out. The annoying thing is that so far I've still woken up around ten to seven, which isn't ideal, but I'm sure I can stretch that out with a bit of practise!

The second thing I noticed yesterday was that I didn't particularly ache, which is fantastic. I am gradually recovering from some physical effects of selling Max, namely stomach aches and an ear ache, but I can feel myself getting better.
I got dressed and after I'd done a few chores I decided it was time to walk down to the village to post some letters and buy some stamps. Tessa said she'd like to come too, so we set off. The good thing about walking to the village is that it's all downhill. The problem comes when it's time to go home, and it's all, very strenuously, uphill. I thought I might use Tessa as a sort of sled dog, to pull me up, but in fact she stuck to my ankles and nearly tripped me up and was no use at all. In the end I gave up and decided it was safe enough to let her off the lead, where she trotted on enthusiastically, always about four feet in front of me, all the way up the hill. Hmmm. If there was somewhere to tie a horse up outside the post office I'd ride Barnaby down every time. You don't buy a dog and bark yourself, do you?
To be honest, that was the sum total of my energy expended for the day and I just wanted to collapse when I got home. Instead I had to clean up and put loads of washing on. Hopefully, over the summer there won't be piles of laundry to wade through. Surely with all this extra time on my hands I'll be able to get it all done? I did last year. My hopes are high.
Do you have separate summer and winter clothes? I do, but Mr O thinks I'm mad. All my summer clothes are stored in a huge suitcase, but I think the time has come to get them out and put my winter clothes away. This is normally a mammoth task as I wash all my winter clothes, iron them and store them away, but it's too warm now to be in polo necks and sweatshirts. Time to bring out the T shirts and cool tops. Summer is here.
I wanted to sit and do some crafting, but decided I need a clean and tidy environment to do it in, so had a good clean up. I don't think it's fair for Mr O to work so hard every day and come home to a complete shambles, so I blitzed the kitchen and it is quite transformed. The other biggie was my desk as I did lots of card making over the weekend and didn't really tidy up. I do like my desk to be organised, so I can just lay my hands on things as I need them, so now everything is back in its place.
I had Seven and Ten after school until Pongo got home yesterday. Ten has no spellings, no homework sheet and no reading book. I got him a book of my own down from the bookcase and asked him to read that instead, which he did.
Each day ends with a look at the manege, which is coming along nicely, but I'll save the photos until it's finished, which should be Wednesday or Thursday this week.

I made some cards at the weekend, which I'm very pleased with, so here they are:

This was my first ever attempt with decoupage, which I did ages ago. I literally went into the craft shop and said, "Give me some decoupage!" as I didn't really have a clue how to do it. For some reason I made the labrador up and just stuck it straight onto a card, for the life of me I can't think why. So this weekend I added a few bits to it to try to make it usable, and I think it just about passes muster.

I had more of an idea of what I was doing by the time I got to this one and used some glossy paper left over from when I made Mr O's anniversary card. I have been wanting to make a card on an angle for ages, so this is how it came out. I think the photo is clear enough to see that the dog is decoupaged. Originally I was going to make this for Pongo, as it looks like Piper, but it's still in my possession for the time being.

And this one, I have to say, is my favourite card that I've made so far. I love the subject (we used to puppy walk for the Readyfield Bloodhounds!) and the backing paper was beautiful. The butterfly is on it because I splodged ink on the card when I stamped the sentiment, and needed to cover it up. The butterfly worked perfectly.
On Friday I ordered a CD Rom for card making from a woman/company called Joanna Sheen. I think anyone who makes cards in England will have heard of her as she is 'big' in crafting, is in all the card making magazines, and is regularly on Create and Craft TV. I was watching a couple of weeks ago, and she was demonstrating her new CD with designs by a woman called Jayne Netley Mayhew. The cards she made were stunning, with beautiful wildlife drawings by Jayne NM, things like leopards, lions and rhinos. I was so inspired I decided then and there that I was going to buy this CD. The next thing I knew, it was advertised in one of my magazines. I knew it was a sign! I ordered it on Friday and to my delight it was in my postbox by Saturday. I couldn't wait to sit down and see what was on it. There are so many pictures to use as toppers and hundreds of backing papers. I will be able to make a lot of cards for men with this, and the quality is outstanding. It also shows you how to make bookmarks and stationery, so I am going to be busy. I can't wait to get started. Obviously I'll show you the results as soon as I can.

I have noticed that on a few occasions when I've made cards in the evenings, I can't get to sleep at night. It's as though a creative part of my brain has been stimulated and goes into overdrive. I lay in bed at night full of ideas and could quite easily get up and make some more things. Over the summer I'd better stick to doing it in the afternoons, so I can get it out of my system. I am quite surprised by this, as you can imagine. Does it have this effect on anyone else?

Happy Tuesday everyone, wherever you are, and whatever you're doing today.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Pleasure Ride

I don't want you to think I am cocooned in my own little world of horses and chickens and building maneges, I am aware that there is a world out there. I am, for instance, aware that I am the only person in Britain who benefitted from the volcanic ash spewing out of somewhere unpronouncable in Iceland (and I don't mean the frozen chicken section). This is because Missis was unable to fly to Dublin, so I didn't have to muck her horses out all week.
I am gathering snippets of information regarding our own forthcoming election, but I'm afraid that on that score, things at home are at least temporarily more important.

And so this morning we cranked up the lorry and got the horses in. Today was the first ride put on by the Amber Valley Riding Club. I love this club, because they put on brilliant rides which are very well organised (you follow the arrows and can't really get lost) and they only cost about eight pounds a ride, and you always get free refreshments and a rosette when you get back. If you do a ride with Sport Endurance or Endurance GB you pay about eighteen pounds a go, and with Endurance GB you are practically guaranteed to get lost. They know how to put the 'endurance' into 'endurance ride.'
We did this ride last year, and it's fourteen miles, which is a heck of a lot this early in the season. The difference this year is that I was on Barnaby and Mr O was on Zak. They came out of the lorry and Barnaby was actually quite calm and let me tack him up without stressing. This time last year he'd only just finished hunting and was a bit hyper. He broke his lead rope and gave Mr O a massive rope burn on his arm, before we'd even set off.
We rode down the road and both horses were fine, but when we came to riders ahead of us, Barnaby just wanted to go until he'd overtaken them. I really struggled to keep him in walk, and really thought he was going to get the better of me. I thought I might have to cop out and do the seven mile ride instead, but I wouldn't have been able to separate him off from Zak by then anyway, so I decided to grit my teeth and keep going.
We got onto the Stockley Trail and had a good trot, but when we came to the next group of riders I had to make him walk before asking if it was okay to overtake, before trotting on again. I had him in a Dutch gag, which was just about strong enough. We trotted up a road, then turned up a farm driveway, through a little gate on the right, then we were straight onto a canter track. I had no choice but to canter along it, but actually Barnaby was stunning and just bowled along, and pulled up exactly when I asked him to. He was curious when we went round the curves and was listening to me for instructions, not just tanking along. It was lovely. After that he relaxed and so did I and the rest of the ride was wonderful.
It's just so blissful to ride a horse that looks ahead and trundles along, not spooking at every single thing which puts me totally on edge.
We passed Scarcliffe Hall, an old ruined house, staring out at us through empty eyes, down the grass track and onto a bridge that spans the motorway. I don't like going over here, but it's very wide. I find the roar of the traffic below very offputting, but Barnaby didn't take any notice and neither did Zak.
Both horses picked up then, as Barnaby did the ride last year and knew he was nearly home. They trotted boldly up the hill and back to the lorry park. Barnaby was tired, but I was so proud of him. This is the rosette they really earn. I have to say, to give him his due, Zak looked as if he could go round again. The difference between a cob and a thoroughbred I suppose. We washed the horses down. Barnaby was very warm but not really dripping with sweat. Zak said, "Look Father, I've perspired, just there look, on my shoulder." Amazing animals, both.
There is an official photographer, and we'll probably buy the pictures as it's the first time for both of us on our new horses. I dare say my face will look pretty grim in the picture as I was struggling to hold Barnaby at the time, and trying to look jolly, make sure my feet are turned in and smiling all at the same time was a bit of a challenge, so we'll see.
We drove home and turned them out for a well deserved roll and graze. They ran off to meet the others and discuss the day's events, as Pongo and Missis had also been, but they did the seven mile circuit.
None of us will be able to walk tomorrow, but this is where I start to appreciate that the horses are out all day and all night now, so I don't need to muck out. This is where my summer truly begins, and the real benefit of living here comes to the fore.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Introducing George

I came out yesterday morning and Lindy whinnied as usual, but of course there was no echo from Max and no one to nuzzle me as I came round the corner. A very peculiar sensation, but I'll have to get used to it. I decided to do what any decent girl would do - I rode Barnaby. Thank the Lord for him, otherwise I don't know what I'd do.
But I would be lying if I didn't tell you that only having two stables to do instead of three isn't a blessing. And only two (huge) haynets to do, instead of four.
We had re-arranged the electric fencing on Wednesday night so that the horses could go up out of the winter paddock and onto the first of the summer fields. Missis let her horses out (and Zak) while I took Barnaby down to Jolly Farmer's for a schooling session. He was extremely good, and is quickly getting used to what I require of him, which isn't much at this stage. We just did lots of circle work to bend and stretch him and have increased our canter work. His balance is improving all the time, I didn't feel like he could topple over doing the corners like last week. We had what turned out to be a gallop on the way home, but it was lovely. I washed him down, then turned him out. He walked slowly up the field, trying to figure out where the others were, then got faster and faster as he realised the gate was open and he shot through into the other field. I thought there would be lots of galloping about, but he just got on with the important business in hand - eating as much grass as he can manage in the shortest possible time. Fortunately there isn't too much at the moment, but they are enjoying the bliss of it.
Well I think it's time to introduce you to our new arrival. One of the guys building the manege has a brother who lives in town (Alfreton, I think) and he has a cockerel. As you can imagine, the neighbours have complained. He saw our chickens and asked if we would like the cockerel. We ummed and ah'hed about it for a day then decided to go for it. He brought him in a huge cardboard box yesterday, which I opened and saw the most gorgeous and enormous bird. Here he is:

He has been strutting up and down all day. The Ladies Who Lunch were startled, to say the least, but later I saw him on one of the nesting boxes and Roxy on the other, exchanging pleasantries. He is only seven months old, so I don't quite know when he'll begin to work his charms on the WI, but I'd like to wish him all the very best.
Having considered names that might be suitable, such as Arthur, Uther Pendragon, Henry etc I decided to call him George. Then later on when I was brushing my teeth getting ready for bed I suddenly thought, 'Oh, that makes him Chicken George!' Oh well.
The same man has also given us some duck eggs that have been fertilized. We are hoping Henny Penny, who has been very broody, will sit on them, but I think she gave up the idea of starting a family yesterday, so we'll have to see. If not, they'll have to go under a lamp. Why a chicken would want to bring up a clutch of ducks is frankly beyond me. She's hardly going to take them to the pond and say, "There we are little darlings, jump in!" is she? Although if she's sick of parenting by then, she may consider it as an option. I will keep you posted.
I am having a lot of fun making cards, using up odds and ends, like this one:

This is for Pongo. I don't get to make many 'man-cards' so this made a nice change and was a doddle to make. If you look closely you can see all the different layers.

I made this one quickly yesterday to take to Priscilla for her birthday. I liked it so much I am going to make another one for my portfolio.

This one was made to use up a set of toppers, but any excuse to use up some ribbon, and I used my new flower punch for the first time, to punch out the three green flowers which I then decided to use in the top corner.

I made this one because I am dying to use some green and yellow together, my favourite colour combination. I used three of my new pretty polka dot buttons at the bottom. They are so sweet.

I have several more birthdays coming up, so I have plenty to keep me busy.
Have a good weekend, everyone, and I hope the sun shines for you.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Farewell, Darling Boy

I can't embellish this, it will just be the raw facts, and I'm only writing it down because I'll probably regret it later if I don't.
Basically yesterday turned out to be roughly as hellish as I'd expected. I got up, and to my surprise, all the horses were out, so I didn't get to give Max his last breakfast. Things like that can play on my mind later on and upset me. I'll explain a bit more in a minute.
I mucked out, and it was very much business as usual, except I knew it would be the last time I'd muck out Max's stable, but when I went to do the feeds and realised I didn't need to make any more for Max I began to cry and the tears would not stop. In the end I decided to make a bowl with just chop and carrots to give him something when he came in, to prevent me having regrets later on that would upset me. What I mean is, when I am feeling emotional later on, I won't have to cry about, "I didn't even give him his last meal!"
I got him in at twelve o'clock and made him go to Barnaby and say goodbye. They knew perfectly well what was happening. I led him to Lindy, Polo and Zak in turn, to say his farewells. They all sniffed a goodbye. I led him to the gate and he looked back, just saying, "So long," to his brother and his buddies.
I had every intention of grooming him, but found I couldn't do it. I knew I couldn't keep it from him and would only cry and cry, so I came in and cleaned his tack instead. Then Mr O came home and I cried some more. I couldn't eat any lunch. Mr O made me a sandwich, but eating between sobs really hurts, so I gave up.
They finally arrived at 2pm with a tiny lorry. Max had to go in and face the back. I'd originally said I wouldn't be able to do it, and Mr O would have to load him, but Max just stood there and refused to go in, so in the end I had to do it. I could see his dilemma, 'I don't want to disobey mum, but if I obey her and go in here, I'll never see her again.' It was the most awful thing I've ever had to do. In the end he gave in and walked up the ramp. They quickly put the partitions up but as they turned the lorry round I could see him out of the back window and he whinnied. I just blew him kisses and waved and they pulled away.
Goodbye, my Darling Boy. We had some fun, didn't we, you and I? Thankyou for teaching me to jump and run and fly, thankyou for being such fun to own, and such a character. I hope your new friends like your bedtime stories and your lectures, and that you have lots and lots of grass to eat, because you deserve it. I hope you show your new mummy what a clever boy you are and that you have field after field to gallop on, because I know how much you love it. I hope they remember to put your suncream on and brush the mites out of your leg hair, and give you mints when you've been a good boy. And I hope in your heart you will always remember me, because I will certainly never forget you and your flowing mane and your blue eyes and the good times we shared.
Farewell my love.
Mummy xx

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

All Done and Dusted

It's so difficult to write this without getting in a muddle. This is actually my third attempt.
I had turned Zak and Barnaby out and was nearly finished in the mucking out department, when my vet rang to say she'd be with me in half an hour, and Leigh (potential buyer) rang immediately afterwards to say she was on her way as well.
I decided to take Max for a little walk to make sure he wasn't stiff from standing in the stable all morning, then gave him a bit of a groom, and before I knew it, the vet had arrived.
It turned out Leigh had requested a five stage vetting (to my surprise). The vet needed to look into Max's eyes, but it's quite bright in our stables, so I got a stable rug and put it on him, and gradually worked it up his neck, which he thought was fine, then lifted it over his head and the vet got underneath it with him, as obviously it was quite dark under there. Max wasn't sure he wanted to get that intimate with a stranger, but he was very good and just stood and let her check him. He looked so sweet standing there with a blanket over his head.
She checked his teeth (not his favourite thing) and his muscles on his back and stomach, then it was time to take him out. She looked at him from behind to make sure he is level, then I had to do the flexion tests. They lift each leg up in turn, as high as possible, for 45 seconds. As soon as they put the foot down you must go into trot and trot away from the vet. They are checking for arthritis, which I didn't know before. The vet said 13 is a very common age to start the beginnings of arthritis, but she said his recovery from the flexion was excellent for a horse of his age, which cheered me up no end, as the flexion test is the most common thing to be failed on. My old mare, Penny, failed on this. I was livid at the time, as there was nothing wrong with her at all, and it was the same vets doing the test today, which is why I had been dreading it.
She tested all four legs, then I had to put him back in the stable and tack him up so I could ride him. I had to ask Missis if I could ride in our field over the road, as we normally use it for haylage, but she said it would be fine and unlocked the gate for me.
At first I was quite nervous, as Max hasn't put a hoof on grass this year, so I thought he might be really strong, but he had a good look round and did exactly as I asked. I had to trot and then canter him to bring his heart rate up. We went round and round in circles, and we were both really enjoying it. It was at this point that Leigh and her mum turned up so they could see me belting round and having a good time. I really wanted Leigh to see that he is more forward going than he was when they came on Saturday, as I want Leigh to know she will have a good time on him as well, not just her mum being able to plod round.
Finally the vet said we could stop and she checked his heart, then we went back onto the yard. He had to have the flexion test again in his back legs, and he was a bit slower to move off this time, but still fine. The vet called me back and I put Max back in his stable and untacked him. Then the vet took a blood sample. They keep this in storage for six months, so if the new owners suspect, for instance, that he was on bute or some sort of sedative today, they can request a test on the blood sample and it would show he had some foreign substance in his blood on the day of the test (which of course, he hasn't).
The vet just said, "Thankyou very much, you can turn him out now if you want to," and put her gear away. I thought, 'Who tells me the outcome then?' She then said to Leigh, "If you'd like to come to the car, I can discuss a few things with you." I thought, 'A few things? What things?' Surely if he'd failed the test, it would only be on one thing? I know he doesn't have splints, bone spavin, sarcoids, a cough or anything, so I'd love to know what it was.
They went outside for quite a while, and I got fed up, so I prayed like mad then decided to turn Max out. I had to go past them, but couldn't hear what they were saying. I loitered at the field gate for a while, and when I came back the vet was just getting in her car to go.
Leigh turned to me and I realised she was beaming. She just said, "Job's a goodun'" and I realised she meant Max had passed. I was so relieved I hugged her and her mum. I said, "Was that as stressful for you as it was for me?" and they said it was. It must be just as nerve wracking for the buyer, mustn't it? It costs a couple of hundred pounds, so it's not cheap for them either, they must be desperate for the horse to pass. I have never had any of my horses vetted, so I don't know how it feels.
So then it got down to me asking when they wanted to collect him, and to my shock, Leigh said, "Either tomorrow or Thursday." I was expecting them to say Saturday, so I was very taken aback. When I thought about it though, I thought, 'Why prolong the agony?' and agreed he could go tomorrow.
So I have given him his last tea, and tomorrow he will have his last breakfast. They will come about 1.30pm so I will turn him out in the morning, then get him in at lunch time and give him his last groom. I will probably cry and cry. It is the end of an era. This horse has taught me so much and given me so much. We have had a lot of fun, and a lot of adventures together. I really did think I'd have him for ever. Such a strange feeling.
Mr O rang and I told him all about it. He is getting a half day off work to be with me, and I am going to need him to be there. I am just so sad that he hasn't got a clue what's going on and he needs to say goodbye to Barnaby. That's what upsets me the most. They've been like brothers for five years and tomorrow is their last morning together. I am so sorry, my darlings. I love you both very much.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Show and Tell!

I put the horses out on Friday and mucked out. After a while I realised how warm it was and that Max was probably too warm in his rug, and thought I'd better go into the field and take it off him. I clambered over the fence, and he was very near, in fact they all were, in a cluster around Max. I undid his rug and took it off, but as I looked down at his tail and back leg I could see what I thought was a big bramble or something with thorns on it, caught in his tail and leg hair. Then as I got closer I realised it was barbed wire, and he was trapped in it.
I took some deep breaths and decided not to panic. I left him standing there and went in to find something to cut the barbed wire off with, but couldn't find anything. I rang Missis and asked if she could come and help. She held onto Max while I tried to find some cutters, but he didn't want to stand with her and ran off.
I came back into the field and held him while Missis used scissors to cut all the barbed wire out of his tail and leg hair. It took quite a while, but she got it all out in the end. The sweetest thing was that Max cuddled into me, to say thankyou, then went running round the field to show everybody he was fine. Fortunately none of the barbs had dug into his skin. It is a mystery as to where the barbed wire has come from as we never use it here, it's all dry stone walls and electric fencing as a back-up. Very strange, but thank goodness he wasn't harmed. Barbed wire is lethal with horses.
And this is significant, because...
On Friday afternoon another woman rang to ask if Max was still for sale. She said it was for a mother and daughter, but to make it clear, she is the daughter, and she is 27! She said she has been riding for some years, and had a thoroughbred that she put on loan while she was pregnant, but has now allowed the loanee to buy the horse off her. She had her baby 14 months ago and desperately wants another horse now, but in the meantime, her mother (47) has also started to ride, so they were looking for something that both of them could share. She said she just wanted a horse that would hack out behind another horse, and as soon as she said that, I thought, 'You are the one.'
So they came to see him on Saturday, and we did our usual scenario. Fortunately there was no one in the manege at Jolly Farmer's. I rode Max around for a few minutes and knew he would be fine. Then the daughter got on and she rode just like me. I knew Max would be good for her. She cantered him as well, which neither of the other girls did.
Then mum got on and it became obvious she's had very few lessons. She was a bag of nerves, and was asking Max to go forwards with her legs while pulling with her hands, which obviously confused him. I talked her through it, and very soon she was trotting him round the school, and looked fine. Mr O suggested to the daughter that she might like to ride Max back up the road. I gave him a daggers look, but as it happened, Max was immaculate, and she even cantered him on the verge, the first one to do that, too. He pulled up as soon as requested, and she seemed very pleased, and rode him the rest of the way back to the yard.
I said they should go away and think about it, but by 2pm the daughter had phoned me back and said they would have him. I knew it. They asked if they could bring a deposit over, and came back just after 4pm. I wrote out a receipt. They asked if they could have him vetted, which is no problem as far as I'm concerned, as he's never been ill, and certainly doesn't have anything wrong with his legs or spine or anything like that, so I don't see how he could fail.
I showed them his passport, which obviously I will hand over on completion. I showed them what he eats, and said his vaccinations and worming are all up to date. He needs to see a dentist in July, and has brand new shoes on, so that's good.
So, obviously I have felt physically sick ever since. The daughter has just rung me to say the vet will be coming tomorrow. It is actually our own vet as well, so that should be okay. I know that at some stage I am going to bawl my head off, but I'm not sure when. I told them if they can't get transport, we will be able to take him over on Saturday, but please don't think I'm being funny if I don't go, but I can't put him in somebody else's stable and walk away and leave him, especially if he whinnies at me. I feel so sick, just thinking about it. I have had enough separations since we moved here, I can't do another one.
My whole life has revolved around this horse, for the past six years, my home life, my job, my free time, have all been based on his needs and requirements, so it feels very strange to think he won't be there. I've told Mr O to take his name plate off his stable door, because it confronts me every time I go into the stables. I have photos of him around the house and on my computer, everything is based on him. What a gap there will be.

And now to briefly describe the antics of Sunday as Mr O and I took Barnaby and Zak to a show. It was a beautifully warm day, and the horses were very clean in the morning after their bath the night before. Missis had plaited Zak and he looked fabulous. She'd done his tail as well. We've never seen him plaited before. It felt very peculiar not to be taking Max, though. We loaded up and set off. The showground is only about 20 minutes away, so it wasn't long before we were pulling onto the field and unloading. I must admit, I was very proud to be unloading this gleaming white horse.
We had a look round the showground, to see which ring was which, as we've never been to Wingerworth show before. We signed in at the secretary's tent, and I put Barnaby down for Cob/Hunter, Most Handsome Horse and Ridden Cob/Hunter. We decided to have a go at the minimus (clear round jumping) as well as it looked really easy.
We watched several of the classes, then went to put the horse's bridles on, as we were doing an in-hand class first. Missis turned up by then, with Seven and Ten. We were standing chatting, when Zak, unbeknown to Mr O, stood on his reins. Mr O pushed him gently backwards, Zak turned his head and half his bridle snapped and fell onto the floor. Mr O was very swift, and caught him by the remaining bit of bridle. Now it was panic stations as we didn't have any spare tack. Even his bit had fallen onto the floor. With great presence of mind, Missis dashed over to the sale stall and bought a new bridle. We had to carefully lead Zak back to the lorry, tie him up and quickly take off the old bridle, attach his bit to the new one and put it on quick! By the time we'd done it and gone back up it was time to go in the ring.
This is where the fun started really, as Barnaby didn't want to be separated from Zak. It was a nightmare. It took all my strength to hold onto him. In the end I managed to circle away and come in behind Zak so Barnaby knew where he was, but when we had to come out individually and run our horses up in front of the judge, Barnaby just tanked up the field with me holding on for dear life. He nearly wrenched my arm off, and he was in a double bridle, so I couldn't do much else anyway. If that doesn't stop him, nothing will.
I found it very odd, because I had Barnaby on my right, which is correct, but I couldn't see over him or past him to the judge. I am so used to Max being small that I can see over him to what the judge is directing us to do. She didn't say anything out loud either, so it was quite disorienting, knowing when to stop, go, start trotting etc.
Then of course Mr O had to take Zak out of the line to the judge and run him up and Barnaby was desperate to go with him, so I had to cling on and make him stand. By the time we got out I thought my arm was going to drop off. Neither of us got placed, which I can understand about Barnaby, because of his behaviour, but Zak looked fabulous and was impeccably behaved throughout. Showing is a funny game, though. It's all down to what the judge likes, which is why Mr O got fed up with it before.
When he said that I actually realised that Barnaby hasn't been to a show since 2007, because of his injury, and when Mr O did show him he did things like show jumping and Working Hunter, which Barnaby did really well in, so that may be the way forward for me.
BUT Mr O decided to go and jump Zak and Barnaby went ballistic left by himself at the lorry. He was pawing the floor, leaning on the lorry, trying to pull away and break the lead rope, then started rearing. At the really big one, I could see his tummy button, so you can imagine how high he was. I put some gloves on so that if he got free I could grab the lead rope without burning my hands, although I had visions of being carted across the showground, being dragged along on the grass, in true James Herriot style. Fortunately Mr O could see what was happening and came back. The queue at the clear round was really long, anyway.
So a bit of a disaster, really. I decided to withdraw from my other classes and we came home. I had suggested we take Max with us so there would always be company for the horse left at the lorry, and really that would have been a very good idea, but if Max is sold, we won't be able to do that at future shows anyway (unless we borrow Fudge?) so we need to think what to do next time. Part of the reason for selling Max is that he and Barnaby are too attached to each other, but if Barnaby is going to attach himself to Zak instead, it won't have made any difference, will it? I think I am so amazed, because Barnaby is such a strong, bold horse, I can't believe he gets into such a state by being left on his own. I could go on about this, but I think I'll leave it there, and we'll see what happens at the next show in May. If not, it's pleasure rides for us, or we'll have to take one horse and leave the other one at home, but that's such a shame for the one who can't bring their horse. I'm sure a solution will present itself in time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Suddenly it is like Piccadilly Circus around here. Men are everywhere. I rode Barnaby this morning and by the time I came back half the field fence was down and a ditch was being dug in the field. By tea time it looked like this:

And apparently it's going to stay that way, for the water to drain off the field. There will be a field fence to the right of this picture, then the manege fence on the left.
We turned the horses out and they weren't bothered by all the machinery, in fact it was like daytime TV to them, it gave them something to discuss.
After lunch we got the horses in as Missis' dad had turned up with his little Massey Ferguson, with the trailer on the back, containing the hopper for the fertilizer and the chain harrow. We do have a tractor, but it's too big and will sink in the field, whereas the Massey is tiny and floats over the top of the field ruts.
Our tractor is a John Deere. I feel it should have a trailer on the back, which would be called a Jane Darling, and would presumably follow on behind the John Deere, picking up all the rubbish it leaves lying all over the place.
Anyway, Missis, Grandpa and I struggled to lift the hopper off the trailer and attach it to the back of the tractor, then lift twelve bags of fertilizer, each weighing 25kg, and tip them into the hopper. I thought my right arm was going to drop off. Where are the men when you need them? Grandpa is 64, so shouldn't be doing this either, let alone us girlies. Landgirls, we are.
Then it was time to connect the chain harrow, which comes in two parts, each part weighing roughly the size of a sumo wrestler, and just as tricky to lay out flat. Once both parts are connected, they have to be attached to the bar, then the hook on the bar is connected to the back of the tractor. Bearing in mind I'd already ridden Barnaby, mucked out three stables and done a load of ironing, I felt I'd done my duty for the day, really, but there I was, hauling for Queen and Country. (Is the country grateful, I asks meself).
I actually managed to sit down for five minutes before giving the horses their tea and filling their haynets for the night. I am so tired now, if somebody blew on me, I'd probably fall over. I used to work in an office, you know.

But, as regards riding Barnaby, always the highlight of my day, I decided to challenge myself and ride him down to the village and back up again. I've never done it on Max on my own. The only thing that worried me was that I knew he'd have a paddy when we came to the livery yard (the quick way home) where I would want him to stay on the road and not turn left. Sure enough, when we got there, he did try to go left, up the side road, because he likes having a canter on the verge up there, but I just stayed firm, kept my leg on, and rode him forwards, and after a little while he realised I meant business, and gave in with good grace.
We rode further down into the village where a large extension to the nursing home is being built. There was a fire burning, a man in a digger and a man on the garage roof, shaking out an enormous dust sheet. Max would have had a fit and run home. Barnaby didn't even bother to look at any of it, he just marched purposefully on (once more into the breach, dear friends...)
We got to the Post Office and I managed to get Barnaby onto the pavement, so I could post a letter in the post box. The slot turned out to be considerably lower than I was, but I was determined to do it without getting off, and leant right over and put the card in. I gave him a big pat and shouted, "Yes!" then looked up and realised I had an audience. Oh well, it'll give them something to talk about in the pub later.
We carried on, past the Black Swan and trotted all the way up the road, past the village hall, then up the steep hill. He isn't as fit as Mr O would have us believe, as we had to stop for a breather half way up (my need was at least as great as his) before ploughing bravely on to the summit. Then I plucked up the courage to canter along the verge. At first I thought, "Hello, he's off!" but he pulled up beautifully at the end. My wonderful boy.
I am making lots of cards and having a great time, glueing and sticking, happy as a hippo in mud. I'll show you them as soon as I can, but for now, I'm off for a second helping of home-made trifle and an early night. Blessings, everyone.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Well, it's a little bit frustrating. A company called Maple Arenas have been booked to put a manege in for us. This is a big (40mx20m) rectangular area with a fence round it, that will have a special sand surface with rubber on the top, that we can ride the horses in to do their 'schooling'.
Now in order to put the manege in, the field in front of it has to be drained, which involves digging lots of it up, to put pipes in that will drain the water away. Maple Arenas can do that. They can also landscape the whole area, as we are keeping the pond at the road end. All the soil they dig up will be transported to make a bigger garden for us. The post and rail fencing has to be moved eight metres further into the field to leave a space big enough for the manege. The company will do all of that. They will also put in a roadway down to the second gate, and some other guys are coming to restructure the entrance so that we can get in and out with the lorry.
A guy came on Thursday and said work would commence on Monday (ie, yesterday) and to get the stone ordered for the roadway, which Pongo did. Missis and I did our thing yesterday, and waited and waited, and nobody came. In the end Missis rang up and spoke to someone else, who said, "I do the scheduling, and you're not down 'til Thursday."


And Travis Perkins were due to deliver some concrete pipe today, and that hasn't come, either! Honestly, workmen, eh? It's nearly six o'clock, so it's not likely to turn up now, is it?
Missis and I are so excited about everything being done, it's such a let-down. It had better come soon, that's all I can say...

I had a very nice afternoon yesterday, putting lots of my plants into their new homes. I have two big stone pots near the back door, that both contained a very nice cordyline australis, but both have snuffed it over the winter. RIP little plants. I have been ruthless and pulled them out and replaced them with the busy lizzies and the lobelia (I am struggling to decide whether busy lizzie should begin with capital letters, but then I feel sorry for lobelia, which doesn't, as I'm sure it will work just as hard, but doesn't deserve a capital letter, for some reason. It's not fair, is it?) It will all be pink and lilac one day, which will be lovely.
I have thrown away the opened grow-bag that the cats have used as a litter tray over the winter, bless 'em. I don't think I'll be discussing that any further, in case you're eating while you read this.
I got carried away and dug loads of moss out of the cracks in the stone work, pulled lots of weeds out and swept up loads of leaves and general garden debris. I am very pleased with the result, and my teeny-tiny greenhouse looks very smart. There will be a competition between the cucumbers and the courgettes now, I can see. The courgettes have a smug air about them.

I have ridden Barnaby today, and he was extremely good. I rode him in a double bridle for the first time. It strikes me that if you ride Western, you might not have seen one, and I meant to take a photo of him in it, so you can see. Basically, it has two bits and two reins. This picture of Max will have to suffice.

The knack is in knowing how to hold the reins, and Barnaby's are a lot thicker than Max's. One of the reins is plaited, too. Our saga is that we are going to a show on Sunday and at the moment, Barnaby has a black double bride and a brown saddle. This is because his black saddle is now on Zak (it's adjustable). We have ordered a brown bridle, but if it doesn't come in time I don't know what we're going to do. I tried Max's (black) saddle on him today, but it's too small. I don't want to risk riding him in it even for one class, in case it hurts him.
Normally I ride Barnaby and Max in a martingale. It helps to keep their head down, but also means you get a leather strap around their neck and chest, which is useful for getting on the horse. When you have a double bridle, there is no neck strap, plus, of course, Barnaby doesn't have a mane (we shave it off, or 'hog' him) so I felt a bit peculiar when I got on him, but he was wonderful in the bridle, very responsive.
I took him down to the school, and he worked very well. The idea is that the horse uses their powerful back end to propel them along, and they work 'up into the bridle', which gives them the lovely shape you see, when the horse's neck is arched. This is known as 'coming on the bit.' It makes them look like a chess piece. Barnaby did it very quickly and felt beautifully light in my hands, not leaning on me like I said last week. His cantering is a bit 'rough' but we can work on that. We had a beautiful canter on the way home again. I am loving this horse more and more each time I ride him. I think we'll go for a hack tomorrow...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Big Cob, Little Cob

Where do I start? Oh yes, the woman who came to try Max out with her daughter rang to say she thought it would be better if her daughter had some more lessons, as she was still very nervous, and not ready to take on a horse of her own yet. Actually I'm inclined to agree. She said Max was a lovely horse and she had passed my number onto a friend who was looking for a horse, but in the meantime it still leaves me the 'proud' owner of two horses. Hmmm.

She actually said quite a few nice things about Max, and about my riding, and it must have lulled me into a false sense of security, as I decided to ride him yesterday, with Mr O on Zak. It all began well, Max was actually sort of sleepwalking, but suddenly woke up when he saw a man with two dogs in a field, that had no right to be there as far as he was concerned, and was a bit scatty after that. We carried on into the village and he wasn't too bad, past the mad dog at the pub etc, but when we got past the village hall, he suddenly decided it was time to canter up the road and went off like a rocket. I shouted to Mr O to block the road, but it was too late, and Max carried on past him until I could pull him up. After that I decided if he had that much energy he could jolly well trot all the way up the hill, so he did. Silly horse. I was totally fed up when we got home. At least I'm reminded why I'm selling him.

But I decided not to let that spoil what was actually a beautiful day. We have bought some cucumber and courgette plants, a butternut squash and a pepper. I have bought one of those 'put-you-up' greenhouses, which I've always wanted. I think it could be a great success, and if it is I'll buy another one. I need something to protect my plants from the chickens and the cats, so the cover on it is perfect. I've also bought some Busy Lizzies and lobelia's, so I'm going to have a lot to do over the next few days.

I managed to get into Arcade Crafts too. I could spend hours in there, just browsing. I bought some beautiful, tiny, polkadot buttons, which I am dying to use, plus some more brads, some tall slim card blanks, to make a change from square ones. I also bought some card sentiments, that looked smarter than ones I can print off on the computer. I've bought something to use as a card for Pongo, whose birthday is in May, so I'll show you that as soon as I've made it.

Don't forget, I also had my first lay-in yesterday. It was bliss. I came out and Mr O had done all the stables. What a fabulous feeling. I am so blessed. To my surprise, by the time I got up this morning, Mr O had done all the stables again. I don't know why anyone wants to get up as early as he does at the weekend, but who am I to intervene? Why stand in his way?

And so to this afternoon, the highlight of my entire weekend. Mr O rode Zak and I rode Barnaby, and we rode down to the lake at a very picturesque place called Stubbing Court. Lots of people were out for a stroll, and I felt very proud to be seen on such a fabulous horse. Barnaby was impeccably behaved all the way round, and I had my first proper canter on him with another horse. His canter is quite different to Max's. For a big horse, he doesn't cover a lot of ground with each stride, and he pulled up exactly when I told him to.
We had another canter on a verge next to the road on the way home, and I opened him up and let him extend himself, and he was fantastic. This is what riding is all about.
I had had the idea that I would take Barnaby to the show next weekend and ride Max on the pleasure ride the weekend after, as I could still be too nervous to do it on Barnaby by then. But today has convinced me to do both events on Barnaby. If I'm going to put the 'pleasure' into 'pleasure ride' I need to have a horse I can trust, don't I? Otherwise, where is the enjoyment in it? So my focus is to fitten Barnaby as the first pleasure ride is fourteen miles, and I'm going to school him twice this week as I need to be able to ride him in a double bridle next week at the show.
But the best thing is that I have woken up in the morning and thought, 'I'm going to ride!' and been really excited. To be honest, I can't remember the last time I felt like that, and it's wonderful.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


I am so busy at the moment, soon I am going to meet myself coming back the other way!
Another woman came with her daughter to view Max yesterday. She said she couldn't come until 2pm, so I took the executive decision to turn Max out for the morning. In fact, I put all the horses out, and then it rained...and rained...and rained.
Then suddenly, at about 12 o'clock, the sun came out. I got Max in and washed his legs and tail, and I have to say, he looked pretty darned good. I got all of his tack ready, and made sure I had all my gear, then grabbed a quick lunch.
They came on the dot of 2 o'clock, just as Max decided it was time for his afternoon siesta, so when they arrived he had his back to them and was dozing in the corner, but it all added to the cute Eeyore persona we are trying to create.
It was obvious the daughter liked him on sight, and I went in and tacked him up. He was very co-operative, and of course Barnaby was in the field, so he couldn't run to him for protection like he usually does. I got on and rode down to Jolly Farmer's and rode him in the school, then the mother got on, then the daughter (who had already said, "Look at his tail," in reverent tones that girls seem to use on these occasions).
The mum asked if her daughter could stay on him and ride him part of the way home, then I could do my party piece and canter him on the verge. She drove off in her car to the top of the lane, and we set off. We hadn't got far when about six horses from the riding school suddenly appeared from round the corner, but Max didn't bat an eyelid, didn't express a desire to go with them or anything. We continued our journey home, then the girl got off and I got on and whizzed along on the verge and pulled him up perfectly.
We got back home and the mother had a good look all round him. She ended by saying she'd like to come again and maybe the daughter could hack out on Max with me on another horse. For some reason I readily agreed. It was only afterwards I considered the logistics of this. It wouldn't be Max that I would worry about, it would be whichever horse I lead on. If I took Barnaby he'd leave Max standing. I keep up because I can let Max really trot out, but a novice/nervous child isn't going to have the confidence. If I take Lindy, he and Max will scare each other to death. Missis and I have the know-how to keep our leg on and make them go forwards, but again, a novice child isn't going to be able to do it. I will make a decision when the time comes.
When I got back in, another woman rang to say she'd seen the advert in Parklands and would I mind emailing her some pictures, so I did, and she hasn't rung back! What was the point of that, then?
The trouble is, Max has been so well behaved I'm tempted to keep him. If he wasn't my main horse and I could still have Barnaby, I might consider it, but there is still the mucking out to think of, plus the cost of shoes etc. It's in the Lord's hands now, and I trust Him completely. This is because I've been so sick with nerves when I've had to ride Max for other people, in the same way as I am nervous before a Hunter Trials, but as soon as I get on him I know it's going to be fine, and I am filled with peace. I feel at peace about selling him, too, which was very strange at first, as he has been the love of my life, and it's a bit like trying to sell your child (never an easy thing to do!)

We went to our 'Connect Group' last night (trendy name for Bible Study group). It was really good. I am getting to know a girl called Priscilla, and really like her, but she is moving to Hong Kong later in the year. Hope she doesn't go, really...
Anyway, we got onto the subject of missionaries, and I explained that I make cards and how I was affected by the testimonies of the group that had gone to India, and that I'd like to be able to sell my cards in church and give the proceeds to the missionary work. To my surprise, our group leader, who is also an elder, said to give him a couple of samples and he'd bring it up at the next leader's meeting. Blimey O'Reilly! I'd better get a few more made by Sunday, then. Afterwards I was panicing, 'what if they're not really good enough and I've just been kidding myself?' etc. That, also, is firmly in the Lord's hands, then. I would just like to be able to bless some people, that's all.

I have joined a cross stitch group on Facebook, who did a card exchange last month, and I just missed it. The latest thing is a bookmark swap, and I have been included. I have to cross stitch a book mark and swap it with a woman in America. We had to email each other and say what sort of things we liked and didn't like, and we've both put farm animals on ours, and she has put anything to do with the tudors, and scottish things, so I think I have a plan. I'll keep you posted.

And today, I have ridden Barnaby, and it was utterly fabulous. I am so bonding with this horse. Don't forget, when we very first went to see him, all those years ago, I was so jealous that we were getting him for Mr O, but I had my mare Penny as well as Max and had no reason to have another horse. It was for Mr O that we had gone horsey shopping. Over the years I've ridden him a few times and loved him every time, and now, finally, he is mine. I still can't believe it.
I rode him down to Jolly Farmer's and he was there in his tractor, so I rode up to the tractor and gave him his money in an envelope. Barnaby didn't flinch. I'd never be able to do that with Max.
Then we went in the school, and he worked beautifully. He isn't perfect, but he really understood what I was asking him to do, and I actually looked like a rider for once. He knows he's got to balance himself and not lean on me, and make a good 'shape' going round corners, by bending his body properly. Considering he's had no schooling all winter, he did really well. I am going to have a heck of a summer on this horse.
If I've been in the school, we go straight home afterwards, but today I needed to go to the post box to post a card, so we turned left instead of right. Barnaby wasn't happy about this at all, and kept saying, "Silly woman, home's this way!" and stumbling about and generally trying to see what he could get away with. I just kept my leg on, and made him go down the hill, until he gave in and went perfectly willingly. We got down to the post box, which is on a wall next to a house, under a tree. I have never been able to get Max to go near it, ("Red is scary!") but I showed Barnaby what I intended, and he lined himself up smartly next to the box, and I bent down and put the card in. Now you are probably thinking, "What's the big deal?" but I was absolutely elated, and rightly so. I am falling head over heels in love with this horse. We had a gallop on the way home, and the thundering of his hooves woke the man up who was asleep in the Severn Trent Water van at the top of the rise. Serves you right for being asleep when you should be at work, my friend.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Time Wasters

A woman came to view Max yesterday. Mr O rode him round the village and through the river the day before so he came back with pure white legs. He seems to be saying, "I'll do anything you want, just don't let dad ride me!" Can't think why.
I trimmed about eight inches off the end of his tail, as I'd come to put his rug on in the evening and he couldn't move forward as he was treading on the end of his tail and got stuck. As I may not be showing him this year, I decided to trim it, so now it's considerably shorter, but looks rather smart, and won't drag in the mud. I did a bit of discreet face trimming, too, which made him look quite good.
The woman arrived with her daughter at about 10am. Max was a bit miffed about being the only one in for so long and tried to get out, but nothing too naughty. He was fine with being tacked up, so I explained to them that they needed to drive up the road and turn left and I would ride Max up the road. They actually parked on the main road and watched me ride along, which is fair enough. I felt physically sick and nearly asked Mr O to ride him, but thought that would look rather suspicious, and had to get on with it. It was very windy, too, but suddenly the wind dropped and Max was remarkably well behaved. We turned down the lane, and I stopped where Ben the dog was barking his head off at him. Max was just looking about him, wondering why we'd stopped, and not taking a blind bit of notice of the dog.
I asked the woman to park on the verge, and we walked up to Jolly Farmer's with the geese honking and the cows moving about and Max ignorning it all. I got Mr O to open the manege gate so I didn't have to get off, and I rode Max in the school, just doing a couple of circles to see if he was going to spook at anything. He was very laid back, so I quit my stirrups, let go of the reins and rode him round the school with my hands on my hips.
I said he seemed fine, so the mother got on and rode him round. She said she hadn't ridden for ages, but seemed okay to me, but Max wasn't very active, but I think that was down to her riding. Then the daughter got on and rode him for a few minutes, doing a bit of walk and trot. She rode better than the mother and Max was more responsive.
Then I got back on and rode him home. I'd told them to drive up to the verge and park and I would canter past them on the left, which I did. Max was actually impeccable, as I stopped and started him twice, and he went straight from canter to trot, the second I requested it. I couldn't have asked for more.
They drove back to the farm and I rode back, and dismounted. I asked them if they were interested and the woman said he was stockier than she was looking for, and they had another horse to go and look at, and she would be in touch. I felt quite deflated. What a waste of time. I'd have thought his size was obvious from the photos in the advert, but maybe not.
As I was riding Max back, and he was being beautiful, I thought, 'why am I selling you?' but today it's been windy and he's been in a very silly mood. I thought, 'Oh yes, that's why!' I may need to be reminded from time to time.
Another woman is coming on Wednesday. She has a horse, but her daughter is looking for something to ride. They've had a loan horse who's been a bit of a disaster, so we'll see what happens there.
I decided to ride Barnaby to cheer myself up. Mr O came too, on Zak. Barnaby was quite full of himself, and I had to get off at one point to open a gate. The ground on the other side was really muddy and Barnaby was trying to run through it, and so was Zak. In the end I got off and ended up walking the entire length of the bridleway, as there is another gate at the other end. We got out onto the road, and I got on, but there is no way I'm going to be able to do that too many times on a ride, as he is higher up than Max, and I just don't have the strength. I need to look for rocks and things to use as a mounting block.
We rode up the road in high winds, and Barnaby was fabulous. At one point Mr O was cantering on the verge next to me (wish I'd thought of that!) and Barnaby wasn't bothered. I thought it would make him want to race, but it didn't. We did have a canter on one verge, though and they were fine, which is brilliant. I don't feel ready to canter them in open country yet, but it's only a matter of time.
When you ride Barnaby, the whole of his life is focused on going forwards, so all his energy is channelled into that. With Max, 80% of his energy is focused on looking from side to side, to see what's out to get him, and it makes a big difference. Give me a bold, brave horse any day. I think I will really grow to love Barnaby, but he needs to get some of his balance onto his back end. For those of you who don't know, lots of horses lean on their front end, which means they lean on your arms when you're riding, expecting you to hold them up, and Barnaby is like this, whereas Max is very well balanced and carries himself.
Mr O says, 'Barnaby likes to run,' which he does, but it doesn't mean he should all the time. He's got to listen to, and respect the requests of his rider. Lots of children like to crayon on your sofa, but it doesn't mean you let them, does it? This is why I need Mr O to stop riding him, so that I can put the work in to help Barnaby balance himself and 'get off the fore-hand,' which I will. Lots of schooling, that's the thing.
Mr O seems to have had a bit of a revelation while mucking out yesterday. He did all three horses and let me sleep, which was fantastic. He said he's realised that I do it seven days a week and never get a break, and that from now on I can have a lay-in on Saturday mornings! I can't believe it. It's only taken him until April to realise. I don't know why this has occured to him now, but I am eternally grateful. What actually happens is that he gets up at, say 6.50am on a Saturday, goes and feeds the horses, then makes a cup of tea and brings it up, sits on the bed with me and puts the television on! I end up getting up earlier at the weekend than I do during the week. I am like a zombie for the rest of the day, and Mr O wonders why I'm going off riding. It's because I am so tired I am actually falling over and falling into things, but I am expected to get a very strong horse in and ride him. Once I go out and feed the horses, I don't come back in again, so I don't understand it. I go and put haylage in the field, and by the time I've finished, Barnaby is ready to go out, so I rug him up, put him out and start mucking out. Mr O has just realised that this is the way forward. Allelujah! Maybe now I can get some of my energy back and enjoy riding again.

Post script: While writing this, the woman that came to try Max out has just rung to say she won't be pursuing the sale, as Max isn't quite what she's looking for. Right-o, then.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

He Is Risen!

It's all happening here. This is the best Easter I've known in years, more exciting than Christmas. A wonderful blog has really inspired me this year, see what Floss has written here
Church was fantastic this morning, and packed to the rafters. A chap called Matt got baptized. He spoke very well about why he felt his life would be better if he told Jesus he had reached rock bottom and was willing to let Jesus take over the reins. The preaching was spot on, too, obviously about the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and is alive for evermore. How amazing is that, really? I have been a Christian for 25 years, and have never doubted once that Jesus is alive. Before I became a Christian, (I was 17) I used to have terrible panic attacks about dying. Mum said she could hear me crying in bed at night, and didn't know what to do, or how to comfort me. It was in the '80's and nuclear war was still a big threat, much more than it is now. After I gave my life over to Jesus, I was invited to a Bible Study group, and they were looking at the whole concept of heaven. I can remember praying with them and never having a panic attack again.
About four years ago, I still had my old pony, Crispin. I can remember riding around a place called Lindrick, still my all-time favourite place to ride. It was summer, the poppies were startling against the wheat, the birds were singing, I was on my favourite horse, strolling along. I thought, 'This is stunning.' The Lord said, "Heaven is more beautiful than this." I began to cry, and bawled most of the way home. Crispin just rolled his eyes, 'she's off again.'
So yes, death has lost its sting, and all because Jesus died on the cross for me. What an honour, what a privilege.
Finally, our Lenten fast is over, and I am scoffing quite a bit of chocolate. Missis bought us an Easter egg as well, so we have quite a bit to get through. It is a challenge I am prepared to accept wholeheartedly.

We drove to a couple of different tack shops yesterday, to put the advert up and also look for green jods, of which there were none, unless I want to pay ninety pounds (for a pair of jods, for goodness sake!)
I forgot to take my phone with me, but when we came back I found it and it rang in my hand. A woman has seen the advert in Parklands and asked me loads of questions and has arranged to come and see Max tomorrow. Then today another woman has rung and asked if she could come and see him this afternoon. I was tempted to say yes, but I must give the first woman the chance to see him first. They are both women with daughters who ride, and they think Max sounds suitable, so we'll see. I'll have to ride him up the road to the manege, so they can see he's sound in traffic, ride him in the school for a bit, then let them have a go, and canter him on the verge on the way home, so they can see he pulls up well and doesn't try to tank off with me. I just hope he doesn't spook at anything on the way there. Mr O has ridden him today, and he was very silly, but Mr O is obviously stronger than me, and kept his leg on and made him behave himself.
Max knows something is going on. I have to say, I have quite a peace about selling him now, and don't have a massive urge to ride him any more. It's very strange, I thought he would be mine for ever. I've got to admit, though, I felt physically sick after these phone conversations. I have had Max for such a long time, I never thought I'd have to tell a prospective buyer about him. As I described him on the phone, I thought, 'He sounds lovely, why on earth are you selling him?' But I know I'm doing the right thing.
Barnaby knows the situation is changing, too. I have explained to Mr O that I want to ride him a lot on my own, and really get to know him before I ride him out with someone else, so I rode him yesterday. He seemed to say, 'Right, if you're going to be riding me a lot, you need to know that this is how it's going to be,' and off we went. It was a fabulous ride, but he needs to know he can go more slowly. He will get the hang of it, though. He looks at the odd thing, but doesn't spook at anything.
When I am at my happiest out riding, I have been known to burst into song. Max usually walks faster, trying to get away from the hideous noise. Barnaby seemed to know I was singing about him, and let me trill along harmlessly. I either sing, "O'er the hills and o'er the vales, in Flanders, Portugal and Spain, the King commmands and we obey, over the hills and far away...' but yesterday it was my favourite song. Do you know it, or maybe remember it from school?

When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold
With a shield on his arm, and a lance in his hand
For God and for valour, he rode through the land.
I hope you've all had a wonderful, blessed Easter and feel rested and refreshed.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Words, Words, Words

This is my 100th post! I can't believe it. I started blogging in October, and absolutely love it. I have met so many wonderful people, and been inspired by so many. I've been ranging far and wide over people's blogs today, and am so impressed at people's talents and capabilities. I am fascinated reading how people look after and ride their horses in other countries, all the amazing crafts that people are involved in, but most of all, I am inspired by people's faith in the Lord, which in turn deepens my relationship with him. I love to know I am part of something vast, and that the same God who watches over me, is blessing you, too. Isn't it fantastic, really?
I've been praying today, actually, as when Missis came out to do the horses she still looked really rough. She was worried, as she thinks it's a grumbling appendix. She went indoors, and the next thing I knew, Pongo had come home and was taking her to the doctor's. He asked if I would have the boys after school if he wasn't back, and of course, I agreed.
It transpired that Missis was packed off to hospital, and Pongo came back at sixish, picked the boys up and went off again. It sounds like they might operate either tonight or tomorrow morning, so if you are of the praying ilk, please lift her to the Lord when you can.
Obviously this means I will be mucking out over Easter after all, but Mr O is home and will help.
There was snow on the ground when I got up this morning. I was astonished. Missis had decided to keep her horses in, but Barnaby was pretty insistent that he'd be going out, so I swapped his, Max's and Zak's rugs, and put them in the field, then got their beds done. The wind was whistling round the house, so I went out at 12.30 to see if the horses wanted to come back in, which they did. But suddenly, around 4pm, the wind dropped. It would have been the perfect time to ride, but of course I had the boys by then.
But when Mr O got home, his first question was, "Are we going to ride?" and the answer was, "Yes!" so he got changed quickly and we went to tack up. I was a bit nervous, as this was the first time we've ridden Barnaby and Zak together, and I really wasn't sure what they'd be like. The wind had picked up a little again by then, but I got Barnaby ready, and we set off.
I have said that I want to use a mounting block when I get on Barnaby, as he is bigger than Max, and although I can get on from the ground, I don't think it's fair on either of us really.
We set off, and I said that I had to be in front. Barnaby was walking phenomenally fast. He didn't spook at anything, though. We decided to do the ride that we did on Saturday, but in reverse. We rode down past the riding school, where a woman in riding gear was just getting into her car. She actually paused and said, "What a lovely horse!" as we rode past. I was grinning from ear to ear. I may as well tell you why... Normally when I'm on Max and Mr O is on Barnaby, people stop to admire Max. Now I am on Barnaby, people admire him and not Zak. I'm just going to pause for a private, internal moment of smugness....
Now, where was I? Oh yes, I decided to go this way round as most of it would be uphill. As we got to the steep bit I just let Barnaby get on with it, and he was amazing. I could hear Zak gangling along behind us, wanting to canter to keep up, but Mr O made him walk. That is a major difference between Barnaby and Max/Zak. Barnaby would much rather trot everywhere whereas both Zak and Max would rather either walk or canter. Does your horse prefer one particular pace?
I don't think Barnaby was too keen on having Zak so close behind him, but altogether it was a brilliant ride. It's lovely to ride a horse that doesn't spook as we go past dustbins. Also, my legs are perfectly still on his sides, which makes a big difference.
We have had the entry forms through for the first Amber Valley Riding Club ride, which is on April 25th. I can't wait.
Just a note, though. When we got back, Max kept looking at me as if to say, "What are you riding him for?" and looked quite sad. Oh dear.