I've been meaning to show you this all week:
It's the apple blossom on the driveway. I'm so pleased it's here at last.
We spent all day on Sunday at Holme House Farm, fence judging for the showcross competition. Tessa came with us. She classes herself as an official. It was incredibly windy all day, so I was holding my binoculars and clutching my hat at the same time. We worked with two new liveries for the Pairs and Novice round. Basically, we watch what's going on on the cross country course and dictate the scores to them and they write eveything on the score sheet. They've never done it before and worked really well. The Pairs class is fairly slow, as both competitors have to jump the showjumps, then come down onto the cross country course, but when the individual classes start, the competitors come thick and fast, so as soon as you've seen one horse get home you start on the next horse going out. We can see most of the course, spread out below us, but then the competitors go into the next field and the judges in there relay information back to us on the walkie-talkie.
We fence judged last year, and I had no urge to jump the fences whatsoever, but this time I realised I really fancied having a go. They have put a water complex in, which looked really good, and extra jumps in the far field, plus a gate that you have to open and close. We might have to go over for a bit of a session. Lorna lets us have a go as a thankyou for fence judging. Zak would love it and it would be very familiar territory for Barnaby, so we'll see.
It was lovely to see old faces again, we had a good chat with Sue and Nigel who came to write for us for the Intermediate and Open classes. It was great to see Morag and John and Lesley, Sue and Lorraine and Clair and Paul. It's great to see how much some people are progressing with their riding, too.
There are some sad things going on, though, like Bill's Henry being put to sleep, and John's lovely mare, Snip. You could see he was still distraught, poor man. I do hope he finds something else to ride, but it's difficult when you've had a relationship with a horse like that. He said he has gone back to playing golf. I can imagine people at the golf club asking him where he's been, and him wanting to say, "I was having an adventure back there for a while..."
I am sad about Henry, too, he was a magnificent horse. It was him and Harry that guarded Barnaby when we turned him out with his broken pedal bone. When we put Barnaby in the bottom field for a few months, it was Henry who greeted him when he came back, "Oh it's you, where've you been, you scruff?" Two bluff old coves together.
We got home earlier than usual, as normally we pop in to see Daughter 2 on the way home, but the Flower Fairy has got chicken pox, so we thought we'd better give it a miss. The poor little mite sounds as if she's covered in spots from head to toe. Good job it's half term now. When we did get home I looked in the mirror and my face is bright red from windburn. Good grief.
And so to today. We woke up at 7.50am, which for Mr O is his first and only lay-in of the
year. We got Zak and Barnaby in and tacked up, then set off on a mega-hack. I had to ride Barnaby in his double bridle, as he's made it clear he doesn't like the pelham and my new dutch gag hasn't arrived yet. I have to say, this is the best ride I've had on Barnaby so far. I don't know if it was the double bridle or just his good mood, but he was very responsive and very well behaved. I soon got used to two reins (I have used a double bridle before) even though one is plaited and quite chunky. I wouldn't want to do it without gloves on.
We rode down to the park and had a canter across the grass, slipped out through a gap in the wall and cantered across the field, then a bit of a mystery tour to me, as I've not been this way before. We found a new bridleway that led through some trees with fields on the right (with lots of horses that decided to follow us) and a river on the left. I was impressed.
Then we got to Ogston Reservoir from a completely different direction to last time. It was brilliant. We went off to search for the third bridleway and couldn't find it. We ended up riding through a village where they were just getting ready for their Well Dressing festival. I have always wanted to go to one of these. The horses weren't frightened by any of the goings-on, the ice cream van or the bouncy castle. I wish we'd brought some money. I was really thirsty by then, but an ice cream would have done just as well.
We rode on and on (and on) until I stopped a couple of women and asked for the quickest way back. They gave us directions and on we trundled. We weren't lost, but goodness knows where this bridleway was. We never found it and must have added five miles onto our already long journey. It was a relief to get back out onto the main road and turn down to Ashover. I think we must have done between fifteen and seventeen miles all told, but it was a good ride and very warm. We'd worn our jackets as it looked like it was going to rain when we set off, but I was hot by the end of it.
We got back and washed the horses down and turned them back out. They only took a few strides before they started pawing the ground. Their knees buckled and they hit the dirt and went down for a roll in the dust. By the time Barnaby stood up, he was black. Marvellous.
And since then, frankly, I am prepared to spend the rest of the day relaxing. I have done quite enough for one weekend. Actually, I am half way through a cross stitch for Daughter 2's wedding. I have bought an embroidery hoop, which is making my life a lot easier. I have bought a kit in Hobbycraft, and I have to say, the threads are very cheap and keep knotting all the time. This is the last time I'll buy a kit, I'd rather find a picture in a magazine or book and buy the threads myself. I'm constantly panicking that I'll run out of thread and not find a perfect match for it to finish off the design. I have until the end of June to get it finished, so I should have it done in time. I will show you as soon as I can.