Friday, 30 July 2010

Horse in the House

Looking around Tiny Cottage the other day,
I began to wonder...

If I invited you to my house...

And didn't tell you we had horses...

Would you work it out for yourself?!

I think so too!

Let's just say, these aren't for human consumption!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Love In The Time Of Cholera (and other things)

I have finally finished reading 'Love In The Time Of Cholera'. It's an extraordinary book, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It's a love story, set during the last century, possibly in Columbia (although I'm not convinced). You can feel the heat, the Catholicism, the oppression. Think 'Evita' in the opening scenes when it's her father's funeral and she isn't acknowledged as one of his children. It's the story of a young man, Florentino Ariza, who meets a young girl, Fermina Daza, and they fall in love, through their letters, which they exchange for two years, but as soon as they meet again Fermina breaks it off, and not long after, marries Dr Juvenal Urbino. (The author uses the characters' full names every time they are mentioned, which adds to the formality and strangeness of the atmosphere). They are married for fifty odd years, and during that time Ariza never forgets her. (The whole point of the book is that it's saying love sickness is a disease like cholera.) After that time, the doctor dies, and Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza get back together. The annoying thing about it, is that the author lists all of the people Florentino Ariza has affairs with (graphically described) over those years, while in his own head, he has kept himself pure for Fermina Daza, because he hasn't got married. One definitely gets the impression that Marquez sees no problem with this, although, I'm sure if it had been Fermina that had had lots of affairs, it would have been considered scandalous.
This book does deal with death, decay and old age, which was a bit too much for me last week when Mr O had gone to Germany to see his dying brother for the last time. I could have thrown the book at the wall (haven't done that since 'Flowers In The Attic'). It is a strangely compelling book, and quite beautifully written. I had to know what happened at the end, and that's got to be the sign of a good book, hasn't it?
So I'd give it eight out of ten, and would tentatively recommend it, but you've got to really want to read it. (ie, I accept no responsibility if you get half way through and think, 'This is total tosh!') As I say, I saw the trailer for the film and was intrigued, but I would find it incredibly hard to turn this book into a film. I am going to watch it one day (alone, during the day!) just out of curiosity.

So, I have finally finished my last little cottage cross stitch. Here it is:

Just to remind you, here are the other two:

I love the fact that they are all slightly different, not just the roofs and walls, but each garden fence is different, too. As you can see, they are all slotted into the sides of my pen pot, and look very cute. I would have liked a long, narrow picture frame, so I could sew all three side by side, to make a little street scene, but I can't find the sort of frame I'm looking for. If you see one anywhere, please let me know.

These are the cards I've made recently. I kept this one simple:

But like this one very much, too.

But I've got to be honest and say the most fun I'm having at the moment is with scrapbooking. Whereas with card making, I still need training in certain techniques, and make the best cards when I copy other people's, somehow with scrapbooking, although I play about with bits of paper for hours, I find it so much easier to put together. There's something about knowing the end result is for you to keep, too. Imagine being able to stroke those beautiful papers for ever! The only limit with this is your own imagination.

I am aware that I am just starting out with this new craft, but some of the pages I've seen in books are nothing short of art. I would love to get that good, one day.

I am learning that good scrapbooking starts with a good, clear photograph, and the challenge is to keep that as the main focus of the scrapbook page, no matter what else you put with it. That is where the skill lies, I think. I'll show you some more as soon as I can, but I'm waiting for some photos to arrive, so I can use those, too.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Pleasure Ride: Newhaven

Well, what I'd termed 'the hack from hell' on facebook turned out to be okay after all!
The journey there and back was pretty harrowing. I don't think we've ever driven the lorry through such narrow streets with houses on either side. At one point I thought Mr O was going to put the corner of the lorry through someone's sitting room window, but he missed it by inches. For some reason, when we get close to things I find myself breathing in and holding my breath, as if that will somehow make the lorry breath in too, and squeeze through the gap!
We drove onto the field at the venue, parked the lorry and got the horses out, Barnaby, Lindy and Zak. We put Barnaby and Lindy together on one side of the lorry and Zak on the other side on his own, as we'd planned that Mr O would set off first, as he was doing the fourteen mile route and we were only doing seven.
We got on with the business of tacking up. I'd taken the decision to bring Barnaby's double bridle, which turned out to be totally the right thing to do. Mr O was soon ready to get going, so I helped him mount up and away he went. Zak and Barnaby had been whinnying to each other from opposite sides of the lorry (Barnaby wasn't the least bit interested in Lindy. They don't really get on, and today was no exception!) Unfortunately Mr O had to come out onto the road and rode past us. Barnaby saw Zak as plain as day, and then started stressing. He builds up slowly, first pawing the ground, then trying to break the string that's securing him to the lorry. Given more time, he progresses to rearing up bodily, and typing his name in the side of the lorry with his front hooves. I had to give Mr O time to get away, so that if Barnaby whinnied, he and Zak wouldn't be able to hear each other, but didn't want to leave it too long in case he became totally unmanageable.
I was struggling to do up the chain that goes under his chin, as he'd eaten loads of grass. By the time I'd pulled it all out of his mouth, my hands were too slippery to manage the chain and then do up the tiny leather lip strap. In the end, Pongo asked the woman at the next trailer for help, and she was brilliant - clearly an experienced horsewoman, which turned out to be a blessing, as once I'd got on, it became evident that the bits were too low in Barnaby's mouth and she managed to hold him and put the straps up at the same time - I am eternally grateful.
I was actually dreading setting off and said to Pongo that if Barnaby got too stupid and unmanageable, we'd have to come back, but we were both now in the saddle, so I decided to risk it.
We set off, and Barnaby did whinny a few times, the effort making his body quiver all over and send shudders into me. We kept walking down the road, and I knew Mr O would be beyond sight and sound and Barnaby began to settle. He knew he couldn't run off with the double bridle on, and instantly, to my relief, gave up trying.
And after that it turned out to be one of the best rides I've ever been on. A woman overtook us on her little mare. Normally Barnaby would pull and try to overtake again, but he didn't even attempt it. My confidence took a little leap.
We went up a rocky bridleway and came out onto a field. I asked Pongo to shorten up his reins and make sure Lindy didn't overtake and we set off into what turned out to be a beautiful trot, with Lindy way behind and no problem at all, and Barnaby not at all strong, but actually quite cautious and thinking about where he was going. I asked Pongo if he wanted to have a little canter and he agreed, and we set off in a sedate way, much to my astonishment, and it was superb. We pulled up nicely, gave our numbers to the waiting marshall, and continued along the next field in walk, not wishing to upset the cattle.
Then we went through a gate, and onto 'the fast bit' as it had been termed on the info board at the start. I asked Pongo if he wanted to canter again, and he agreed, so off we went. This time it gradually developed into a gallop, and it was superb. I kept looking back to make sure Pongo was still on board, and he seemed to be doing fine, so we flew along the straight track. Up ahead was a sign saying 'photographer' so I thought we'd better slow down, but Pongo still seemed fine so I thought, 'Oh knickers, let's get on with it' and we went charging up the grass, two war horses steaming along, hooves thudding on the grass. It was absolutely fabulous. We got to the end and pulled up beautifully, both grinning like idiots.
I said, "Did you enjoy that?" and Pongo said, "Yes!'
I said, "Good. You've just had your first gallop."
Pongo looked thoroughly astonished and asked, "Have I?!"
And after that it was just a cruise, really. We continued up the road, under a little bridge and then we were on The White Peak Trail. We trotted along for quite a while, then turned onto a track that was very stony. Barnaby did stumble actually, but he was fine. I then said, "I think we're nearly home," feeling inside myself that we had about two miles to go. The next thing, Pongo said, "I can see the lorry!" and sure enough, there it was, about half a mile away. We continued along the track, turned left onto the road and back to the start.
We rode past our lorry, and there was Zak, sunning himself and eating grass. I called to him and he whinnied hysterically. This means Mr O had done fourteen miles in less time than it took us to do seven! How on earth?!
We found Mr O and he said he'd been back for about twenty minutes, but that Zak had lost a shoe on the last bit of track and he'd had to get off and walk back. Good grief. He needs to take up endurance.
He'd also loved the gallop past the photographer and said Zak had gone like the wind. I have been on the photographer's website today and couldn't find any photos of him. For a while I wondered if he'd gone so fast he'd been just a blur and the photographer had missed him! But no, there he was, looking rather good. I do like the photos of Barnaby, too, so we'll buy them and then I'll show you.
So considering I'd woken up feeling physically sick, initially over Pongo's lack of experience, then once we got there my fears transferred to concern over Barnaby who looked as though he was going to be a bit of a prat, but thanks to a wonderful invention (the double bridle!) we had a truly fantastic ride. I look forward to doing it again next year.
It was worth it all when we got back, and as we unloaded the horses, Pongo's first words to Missis were, "I've been galloping!" and the look on his face said it all. And to you, Barnaby, my Lionheart, a big thankyou for being so trustworthy and reliable, and giving me so much confidence. You are one in a million, my man.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Seize The Day

I am grateful for the small things,
like hubby being home, thank goodness.
I honestly don't know how other women (like The Oracle) cope
when their husbands go away on a regular basis.
Mr O won't be going away again for a very long time.
I am grateful for life and love, and family and everything around me.
And I would say, make the most of every moment.
Who knows what's round the corner?
Carpe Deum.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Thank Goodness It's Friday

It's been a strange and peculiar week, and I could do without too many like this, thankyou very much.
It started on Monday when my riding instructor rang to say she couldn't come on Tuesday because someone had stolen her car. She found it not very far away, burnt to a cinder. She'd arranged to get another car but wasn't sure when she could come. "Come any time!" I said, and I meant it. So I waited all day Tuesday and Wednesday and she didn't ring me. I didn't want to ride Barnaby in the morning in case she rang at lunch time and said she could give me a lesson in the afternoon. In the end I lunged him Tuesday evening and hacked him out Wednesday evening.
By which time Mr O had buzzed off to Germany. The bed is cold without him. 'Er Indoors takes up too much space and snores even more than he does, so that didn't work. She's pining for him, too, nearly as much as me.
Then my instructor rang to say she could come on Thursday morning, by which time I had to turn her down as I knew I'd be riding Thursday evening, and I don't think even Barnaby would tolerate being ridden twice in one day (though goodness knows, he could do with it).
Then the kind, but confusing bit. There is a pleasure ride on Sunday, which I am really looking forward to. Missis said that as she is flying back from America on Saturday she probably won't have the energy to do it, but thinking she was doing me a favour, said that Pongo would go, and take me in their lorry as well (at the time assuming Mr O would still be in Germany) so I was grateful, as you can imagine.
This has involved taking Pongo out for a hack last night, as he very rarely rides. Personally I wouldn't wake up one morning and think, "I know, I'll go for a seven mile hack!" if I only rode once every two months, but each to his own.
But the thing is, Mr O will be back tonight, and more than able to ride on Sunday. He will want to do the fourteen mile route, which leaves me trailing round with Pongo for seven miles, on a horse he can't control, which will wind up the horse I'm trying to control. Lord help us if there are lots of cantering places.
So I got his horse in, and Barnaby, and groomed them and had them tacked up and ready to go by the time Pongo got in from work. Barnaby was a bit miffed, as I usually ride him in the mornings, and evenings are strictly only for tea in his book, but he did let me tack him up without throwing me round the stable like a ragdoll, so I was grateful.
We set off, on the route I'd planned, and wallked straight down the hill, me stopping every few yards for Pongo's horse to catch up. He always crawls along going away from home, but has a total change of heart when he realises he's heading towards home, and his internal compass tells him exactly when this is, and it can take you by surprise if you're not ready for it.
We got so far and then had to stop, as the cows were coming up the road and turning off where we wanted to go. Some of them were going the wrong way (no internal compass in a cow, obviously!) so I took Barnaby down to block the road. He stood there, bold as brass, chest out, defying any of these loose women to try to go past him. They took the hint and trundled home.
As soon as the road was clear, we carried on our way, with a girl on another horse, who'd joined us. I decided we'd better be careful, as she was bareback, riding her horse down to the field to turn it out. Fortunately she wasn't going the same way as us as I had visions of Barnaby trotting up the road, her horse deciding it wanted to come with us and the rider falling off on the tarmac.
But no worries. We continued on our way. I explained to Pongo that we would trot along this road and that Barnaby would go like the clappers and not to push his horse to keep up, and I would stop as soon as I could for him to catch up.
It was all fine actually, down onto the main road, then turn right and go steaming up the hill. Both of them were trying to canter. Barnaby has been like this a couple of times recently, so I think a spell in a double bridle might be a good idea.
Then we came to the road where we normally go steaming along and have a canter on the verge, but unfortunately I could see a woman ahead on a warmblood type who seemed to be struggling. It would be very bad form for us to go crashing up behind her, so I had to make Barnaby walk. The effort nearly killed him (and me) but I'm quite pleased because he listened. We ended up walking nearly all the way home, as we approached this woman who explained that her horse was only allowed to walk. It was jigging about in the road a bit, and there was a car behind us. Pongo kept saying, "Car behind!" as if I could do something about it. I decided the car would have to wait. I can only cope with so many things at once, and horses come first.
Eventually the car was able to overtake, with a girl in the passenger seat pulling faces at me, as if it's my fault. Perhaps she'd like to get out and lead one of these horses home? She'd be very welcome.
The other woman continued on her way, and we turned right to continue home, and finally Barnaby got the trotting session he'd been itching for, and settled down. I'd had to ask Pongo a few times to keep his horse behind Barnaby, as otherwise they'd start racing and we'd be home a lot quicker than we'd intended. As it was, we were home in time for tea and medals, the whole ride only having taken half an hour, including standing to let the cows go past, and us walking most of the way home instead of trotting. Things tend to be a bit like that when Barnaby goes out.
So goodness knows what Sunday will be like, as I'm taking a man who can only just canter, and there will be loads of wide open spaces where the horses will expect to be allowed to go. As long as I remember to smile for the photographer...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


I know many of my readers could easily come to the conclusion that I'm living the life of Riley here (whoever he is!) and that nothing ever goes wrong. And I have to admit, that from my own perspective, things are, indeed, pretty good.
Unfortunately this laissez-faire does not, for some reason, extend to Mr O. As you know, he still goes out to work every day and when we moved here they made redundancies within the company. He survived those, but they've recently had another round of redundancies, and this time Mr O's job was just as vulnerable as everyone else's. We prayed and prayed, and Mr O's job is safe (for the time-being) but as Work's Manager, he still had the unpleasant task of telling certain people that they no longer had a job, not exactly thrilling.
Then it transpired that one of the guys they'd kept on was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. Mr O has been struggling to come to terms with this, plus the whole saga of Zak's gastroscopy, don't forget, when I received an email via facebook from Mr O's niece saying that her dad, Mr O's brother, was very ill in hospital.
Mr O has rung him and it transpires that he, too, has cancer, and only has a couple of month's left. We knew he had bowel cancer a couple of years ago, but thought everything was fine. It turns out it sent spores into his spine before they detected it, and now he is paralysed from the waist down.
The biggest problem of all this is that Mr O's brother lives in Germany. We have been running round trying to find a flight that a) we could afford, as most of them cost around five hundred pounds and b) that goes to an airport near where he lives. You'd be amazed at what a task this has been, as Mr O wants to drive to Manchester, pick his eldest brother up and fly from Manchester airport.
Then, to cap it all, Mr O's youngest brother, who was supposed to be going with them, had a heart attack at work yesterday.
Honestly, can anything else go wrong? I don't know how Mr O is bearing up under the strain. When he told his boss he would like some time off to fly to Germany, his boss said, "Well, I'm off Friday and Monday - work round that!" Marvellous.
So now Mr O is driving to his brother's house and they will catch a plane at 8pm. They are flying to Paderborn, which is quite near to where his brother lives. They are being met by Mr O's youngest niece, who doesn't speak any english. The irony of this is that I speak fluent German, but can't go because I am holding the fort here while Missis is in America. Good grief.
So I am going to think calming thoughts for a while, so that it doesn't all get on top of me. Look on the bright side - I can craft to my heart's content and let 'Er Indoors sleep on the bed (something I'll probably regret later) but it's not the same, is it? If you are of the praying persuasion, please say one for Mr O, he needs all the help he can get right now.

I have been doing a fair bit of crafting this week. These are the cards I made:

These papers were free with my magazine, and they're absolutely beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed making this one.

I made this one to use up some 'new baby' toppers I've had for ages. I loved using my 'deckle edged' scissors on the white paper (didn't realise that's what they were!) and inking the edges before layering this up.
I'm getting loads of inspiration from library books I picked up on Saturday, some on card making and some on scrapbooking. I should finish a little cross stitch any time soon, too, so there's plenty more where this came from.
Well I think I'll go for a ride, to cheer myself up and blow the cobwebs away.
Speak soon everyone
Mrs O (the one putting the brave face on it!)

Monday, 19 July 2010


I am sitting writing this full of gratitude that I don't have to go 'out' to work today, because I am exhausted. This is the result of all the fun and games yesterday.
El Husbando and I set off to do a local TREC competition. I would just like to say a big thankyou to Pongo and Missis for lending us their lorry for the day, otherwise we couldn't have gone. It was quite funny though, because Zak only just fitted in, and kept his head down, as if we'd folded him up slightly, and Barnaby kept looking out the back, which made it difficult to close the back ramp up.
We did get there, though, with a few interesting gear changes, and me fearing for our lives going down some steep hills, but found the field okay. Zak expanded rapidly as he came down the ramp.
We went to sign in, and then the fun and games commenced. I had assigned the job of copying the route onto our map to Mr O, as he is very good at that sort of thing. Last year when I did it with Missis, we got completely lost! You have ten minutes to copy the route from a very big map onto your little one, then you have a tack check, and then set off on the orienteering phase of the competition.
We rode across a couple of fields, and there before us was the first obstacle. Last year we had to ride up a really steep slope, between the flags. This year we had to lead them up, turn round at the top and lead them back down again. It was a really slippery, bumpy grass area, and I was worried I'd fall over and Barnaby would tread on me. I was also worried he wouldn't want to leave Zak, and he didn't, but he was still obedient and we made it there and back in one piece. When it was Mr O's turn, Zak just followed him along like a pack animal, beautifully done.
Then on the flat field at the top we had the 'Remounting' obstacle. We had to lead them up to a mounting block and get on, on the offside of the horse, in less than fifteen seconds. I failed this last year, even with getting on on the correct side. This time I whipped in, got on the block and leapt on in nine seconds! I couldn't believe it. Well done, Barnaby.
The next obstacle was a double of cross country fences, a log followed by a brush fence, but only small. I could have jumped either of them separately, but just couldn't cope with the prospect of a double. I decided to pass, even though I probably should have had a go. They tried to persuade me, but I said no.
Mr O went for it, and Zak ran out. We were astonished. Zak has never refused a fence in his entire life. I don't know what the matter was. So then, Mr O took him up to the brush fence, just to have a look, when Zak suddenly shot out a front foot and stuck it straight through the fence! Then he stepped backwards and found the fence was stuck to him and went straight up in the air, trying to shake himself free, and eventually it fell off his foot, scattering twigs and bits of wood all over the place. Mr O was lucky to stay on, I can tell you. Personally, I'd have left well alone, and I think maybe Mr O will think twice before trying something like that again. Zak was fine, thankfully, as he had boots on. Hmmm.
After apologising profusely, we set off on the rest of the orienteering route. We got a little bit lost at one point, quite near Ogston Reservoir, but re-traced our steps and found the bridleway we should have been on. We thought we were lost before that though, as we rode towards what we thought was just a junk yard, but found the way through and it turned out to be correct. There were guns going off nearby at this point, not Barnaby's favourite thing, and it was windy and raining, so I was thrilled at how good Barnaby was, especially when we went along the road and Zak was spooking at the sign saying 'Slow' painted in the road and Barnaby didn't even look at it. The boot, as they say, is very firmly on the other foot.
We also had to ride over a piece of wood laid over a cattle grid, and a few other peculiar sights, and Barnaby wasn't phased by any of it.
We got back and signed in, me totally thrilled with what we'd done, as it was so much better than last year, and went off to do our Control of Paces in the field back at the start.
I decided to go first, and Barnaby walked down the narrow column, staying between the flags an did it quite well. He has a naturally fast walk, so I decided not to push him in case he trotted. I knew he didn't want to leave Zak, who was waiting at the top, and sure enough, we turned round to do what should be a sedate canter back up, and Barnaby went into a flat out gallop and I couldn't stop him! I tried to keep him between the markers for as long as I could, as my score would still count even if it was too fast, but he was determined to get to Zak, who was off to one side, and I had visions of him impaling himself on a spike, so I let him go outside and go back to Zak, so I forfeited all my marks, which was a shame as it turned out.
Mr O set off with Zak and did a lovely walk down, turned round and did a beautifully slow, measured canter back up, bobbing along, hardly covering any ground. I shouted, "Keep going, keep going!" as it was so perfect. Then afterwards Mr O said he thought, 'Oh I'm nearly home,' and Zak must have felt him relax and stopped dead for a couple of seconds before Mr O got him going again, but that was enough to throw all the points away! There were gasps all round, as they'd been cheering him on from around the field as it happened. Such a shame as it was by far the best canter of the day.
So then it was onto the obstacle course, the third phase of the competition. The first one was a rein back (where you make your horse walk backwards) between two trotting poles on the ground. I knew Barnaby wouldn't be able to do this, but had a go anyway, but ended up with a zero score. This is the only thing I need to work on at home, really.
But Zak did an impeccable rein back, right back through the poles and out through the flags, for maximum points. Well done, boy.
Then we had the wooden bridge to cross. Bearing in mind I've seen Mr O do this twice on Barnaby in competitions, I went up to it in complete faith in his capabilities. He moved a shoulder out as if to say, "I don't think I'll do this," and I very firmly said with my leg, "I think you will, my friend!" and over he went. It was fantastic, I was so pleaased with him, especially as when it was Zak's turn, he was having none of it, like Max last year.
Then we had to ride through a narrow corridor with loads of objects on each side, a thing that was spinning, a tractor, just junk everywhere with a sack tied to a post that was flapping in the wind. You got more points if you did it in trot or canter, so I decided we would trot it and Barnaby went straight through. Mr O decided to do it in canter, and Zak was perfect, so we racked up some more points there.
Then came 'The Maypole'. You have to go up to a post, take off the rope loop and carry it all the way round in a circle and hook it back on. This is the hardest obstacle ever, as when you pick it up the vast majority of horses think it's an electric fence and won't go near it. Max was terrified of it and I had to forfeit my points last year. He wouldn't even let me pick it up. So this was the moment I'd been waiting for. I rode through the start gate and got Barnaby in position, leaned over and picked up the rope. He didn't flinch. We walked round the circle, me clutching the rope and holding his reins, and keeping him in on the circle, but not too far in so we didn't cross the yellow line and round we strode and I popped it back on at the end. I know it sounds simple put like that, but it so isn't.
I was absolutely elated that I'd done it, and gave Barnaby a big hug, who thought I was completely mad, being so OTT about such a simple thing, bless him. To give him his due, Zak did it as well, all credit to Mr O's good riding, as it is extremely difficult. More points for us, then.
Then we came to the final obstacle. We'd seen several people attempt this and fail. In fact, hardly anybody completed it. We had to ride up to a cone, that had a cane in it, with a hook on the end, take it out and ride with it up to a bright red childs paddling pool, filled with water, with plastic ducks floating in it, each with string tied to them. We had to hook out a duck, take it to a blue container and drop it in, ride back to the cone and put the rod back in, then leave the arena, all within three minutes. We'd laughed like a drain when we'd seen it, and now it was our turn.
So the clock started, I rode into the arena, I took the rod out of the cone holder, rode to the pond, halted Barnaby, hooked out a duck, put it in the blue container, rode over and put the rod back and rode out. They stopped the clock - fifty seconds - the fastest of the day. It was the smoothest bit of riding I've ever done. Even the judge said, "Solid as a rock, that one!" about Barnaby and I thought, 'You don't know how right you are,' as I stood watching Mr O. He did manage it, too, although Zak wasn't keen on the paddling pool, and came out grinning from ear to ear.
So we took the horses back to the lorry and untacked them. They knew their job was done. Mints all round. We stayed for quite a while so we could get our score sheet. Unfortunately we didn't get placed because we lost so many points by fluffing the Control of Paces. Note for next time!
But all in all, I had a fantastic time. Barnaby is a true contender as a TREC horse, because the obstacles just do not phase him. I just need to work on my map reading and jumping and they'll be no stopping us. But today was just for fun, and it really was. I was thrilled to be riding him and so proud of his attitude and capabilities. I have always slated TREC and said it's a very wimpy sport, and I'll do it when I'm fifty and too old for anything else. But I can tell you today's competition was a true test of horsemanship, and of partnership between horse and rider and I thoroughly enjoyed it. All I would say is, don't knock it until you've tried it.
So, thankyou, Barnaby, you are the stuff of dreams, my man.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Horsing Around

I've been a bit busy, and I'm popping off as soon as I've written this, as I've quite a bit still to do.
But first things, first.
You may recall that when Peggy the chicken flaunted her new family in front of Penny, Penny got her own back by standing up and revealing that she too, was 'in the family way.' On Thursday morning I let Peggy out for her usual morning constitutional, and as usual, she began strutting up and down outside Penny's hutch. Penny began to rise laboriously to her feet, and I thought, 'Oh, I know what's coming,' and sure enough, out popped her new chick. Then, to my astonishment, another chick fell out from under her other wing. The egg that she was left with obviously hatched out in the middle of the night, and she's looked after it and helped it all by herself. I am absolutely delighted. I will take a photo of them as soon as I can, but they scuttle under mum as soon as anyone approaches. They are very sweet, though, one is yellow and the other one is grey. Penny's eyes are as bright as jewels and her pride in her new clutch is blatantly evident. Good on you, girl, I'm so proud.
I spent the whole of yesterday in Worksop. I had to go up with Mr O in the morning, so got up at silly o'clock, sipped some tea and got straight in the car. Mr O dropped me off at The Cafe where I took my cards in. I must tell you that when I rang up and spoke to the manageress, and said I was going to give them some of my cards to sell, she said, "And what do you want us to do for you?" I said, "No, I don't want any money for them, I'm donating them, so you can sell them," and she was astonished.
So she was really pleased to see me when I dropped them off. They'd arranged a space for them on the table with the books. She asked me how much I thought they ought to sell them for, so I said a pound each, as it's an easy coin for customers to hand over. I said not to worry if they didn't sell, and she said, "Oh, they'll sell!" I was really surprised, but pleased. It is a strange feeling, handing over my creations to someone else, and knowing I won't see them again. Is that how an artist feels when she hands over a painting to be sold? As if you're giving part of yourself away. But then, doesn't an artist then have the satisfaction of knowing that her creation will be hanging on someone's sitting room wall soon, which makes it all worthwhile? Who knows?
I went up to Costa Coffee and had a latte, then spent some time going through my favourite charity shops. I was thrilled to find two John Francome books for 99p each, and then in the Heart Foundation shop, 'Lots of Love' by Fiona Walker. Her books were recommended to me by Frecklepuss recently, so I was very pleased to find one for two pounds. It looks like a really good read, actually, can't wait to get stuck in.
Then I had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time in the library. It's such bliss to spend as long as I like without Mr O breathing down my neck. I found some beautiful, inspirational books on card making and scrapbooking. They make my efforts look positively paltry, but I've got to start somewhere.
Soon it was time to wander up to Daughter 2's house and spend some time with her and The Flower Fairy. She was so chatty, it was lovely to have her to myself for a while. I ended up walking up to nursery with her, which was so sweet. Suddenly I was in the land of the little people. On the way out, a woman came rushing up to me and I realised it was one of the girls who'd helped us fence judge last time we went to the showcross. She told me all about her new mare. I've said I'll come and have a look at her after the next competition.
My next stop was at my old friend Caroline's house. We were good friends when we still lived in Worksop, having been at the same church for several years. Her two children, Heather and Anthony are a similar age to our children. Heather started having riding lessons around the time I first bought Max, and then Caroline started home educating them both, so we had quite a lot in common. Heather's become one of my facebook friends recently, as she has a very pretty little Hafflinger mare called Honey. I've been dying to meet her and never thought I'd have the opportunity.
We had a really good catching up chat, and then set off to their yard. They brought Honey up from her field. She is an absolute sweetheart, probably about 14 hands, maybe 14.1. She reminded me of Crispin a bit, with her gorgeous deep golden coat and flaxen mane. They tacked up and Heather rode. I gave her a bit of a lesson, as she's got into a couple of bad habits (rather similar to my own!) and then they asked if I was going to have a ride. I hadn't intended to at all, and only had jeans and normal boots on, but Anthony gave me a hat, and the next thing I knew, I was in the saddle. She was very sweet, and poodled about with me. She is quite dinky, and I felt as if there was no neck in front of me at all.
While I was riding round, a lad came into the school on his horse, rode it round with its head in the air, and came out two minutes after me. I wonder what the point of that was? It reminded me of all the reasons I'm not on a livery yard any more.
I'm also quite curious as my friend Morag, who used to be at our old yard, is also there. What's happened there, then?
I had a lovely time and have invited them to come to us some time, hopefully in August. Caroline dropped me back at Daughter 2's by which time Mr O had arrived from work so we set off home together (with a huge chunk of wedding cake sitting on my lap!)
The day was rounded off nicely by the sight of a parcel on my kitchen table when we got in. Inside, to my delight, was my Sizzix boutique machine.

Isn't she a cutie?

This is an embossing machine, and it's my free gift for subscribing to Cardmaking and Papercraft magazine. I have had a little play with it this afternoon and can see already that this will take my card making to a new level. Check these out:

This is just me footling around to see how everything works, but I am going to have a lot of fun with this, I can tell.
But as I said, I am very, very busy, making plans for tomorrow. All will be revealed, soon enough.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Mother's Pride

I've been a bit down in the dumps and I don't really know why, I think it's a combination of things, e.g. the quad incident, the loss of the chick, and then, primarily that I had a riding lesson again yesterday with Nicky Hunt. It has to be said that Barnaby has improved greatly and is much straighter in himself, which is wonderful. It's just that when I get on him I feel like my riding is really bad. I have, without doubt, picked up some bad habits from riding Max for six years, but my one bugbear is that I still can't keep my legs still when I trot, and I've been working on it for a year. The trouble now is that people think I'm continually legging the horse on, but actually I'm trying frantically to keep my legs still and nothing works.
I have also seen several pictures of myself where my toes are turned out. I know why this is, though, and that I keep on riding with my heel, so I'm working on keeping my toes turned in, but it hurts! I've also had the feeling that in order to make Max move, especially on a circle, I must tap him with my ankle, so I keep on lifting my heels up when I ride. I've seen myself doing this, too, and am trying to train myself out of it, and to use my calf muscles instead, and again, this relies on me keeping my toes in. I'll be walking like a bowlegged chicken before you know it. You'll recognise me in Chesterfield High Street, anyway.
Mr O said I had a 'very defeatist attitude' and proceeded to depress me even more by telling me how well he rides. Well, that's nice. I resisted the temptation to tell him that it's his fault Barnaby is in such a state, because that won't achieve anything, will it?
But it is far from all bad, and I am determined to look on the bright side. The best thing is that after losing the little chick in the morning, one of the ones in the incubator hatched out at tea time. I quickly scooped it up and ran outside with it and popped it underneath Penny. She looked mildly surprised, but tucked the little thing underneath her and started cooing at it. I went out again an hour later and managed to hoist her skirts up and peek at the little thing and it had dried out and was cheeping, which I took to be a good sign. Penny pecked at me mercilessly.
I've been out this morning and let Peggy and her babies out for their morning exercise. Peggy began parading outside Penny's hutch, as usual, when Penny drew herself up to her full height (rather than her usual convincing impression of a whopee cushion) and her little baby plopped out from underneath her and began cheeping. Penny wore a smug, "In your face!" expression and continued cooing to the love of her life.
Peggy was distraught and began pecking at the cage. "I am the only mother here!" but her babies were jumping up and down, trying to get a better view of their new cousin. One of them even jumped on Peggy's back to have a better look, but Peggy shook it off and stalked away. Penny just smiled contentedly to herself, and so did I.
I took Barnaby out for a hack this morning, and now all is well with the world. It must be quite confusing for him, as he is now mine, but it's not like he's gone to a new home, is it? His dad is still there in the background, but now taking much more notice of Zak, obviously. He came in with me this morning and I felt that he was totally mine. He has trained me to scratch him in all the right places before I tack him up. Usually it's on his belly and around the top of his front left leg, but today he wanted me to scratch his ears and his top knot. His bottom lip was quivering in ecstasy. I swear to you that if you take the time to do this, he is much more co-operative and agreeable. It's easy to think, 'I don't have time to do this,' but what else have I got besides time? If you take the time he is a doddle to tack up and be ridden.
I have spent some time recently reading some of my old posts about being very nervous about riding Max, and I could hardly believe it was me. I am a million miles from that now, and riding Barnaby is my utmost joy. He is so bold and beautiful, I do wonder what it's like when people see him in the street. There was a man building a stone wall near Jolly Farmer's this morning, who stopped to watch as we went past. Is he thinking, 'Don't that woman's legs jig about when she trots?' I don't think so. The old gentleman further down stopped his conversation to wave at me as I went past. A true horseman, if ever there was. We turned round at the bottom of the lane and steamed home. There's nothing like it for lifting the spirits, is there?
And I've been fine ever since, really.
Last Tuesday I went to my card making class, and didn't really like what we did, as we used 'Dreamweaver' stencils, and I was hopeless at it! I did manage to make a few things to use, like this glitter flower card:

However, I went again last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The theme was 'Patchwork' and these are the the two I made. The funny thing is, I am getting the urge to do things with paper, that you would normally do with fabric, and then these came along. The stitching is a stamp, which I will definitely be buying (in August!) as these were really easy to make, and are a brilliant way of using up your scraps.

I am reading 'Love In The Time of Cholera' now, and really enjoying it. It bears no resemblance to the film clips I saw, which is interesting. This means if I get it out on DVD I'd better not inflict it on Mr O. It was bad enough sitting through 'Babel' and 'Revolutionary Road', I don't think we'll survive another pointless melodrama (we have enough of those in real life, without watching them on TV as well!)
And, as everything comes to him who waits, it is, of course, pouring with rain, and I am loving it!
Happy Times!
Mrs O.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Triumph and Disaster

I let the ducks and chickens out this morning and decided to let Penny out as well. There was something next to her, as if it was an extension of her, but when I looked more closely, it was a chick, and it was motionless. I picked it up and it was cold, so I decided to take it indoors and see if I could revive the poor little thing. I spent about half an hour trying to warm it and get it to drink, but in the end it decided it wasn't worth it and gave up. I am so sad for it, and sad for Penny, too. She's not having much luck, is she?
The other bit of bad news is that our lorry failed its MOT. I am not impressed. What was the point of having it inspected first? Mr O has taken it all the way to Mansfield, where he should have taken it in the first place, and goodness knows how long it's going to be there. Because he didn't have the car, he's ended up walking most of the way home, along the bypass, until he finally managed to hail a taxi. I can't help feeling that praying together more might help us avoid these total lapses of wisdom. There's nothing to lose, is there?
The good news is that we've decided now we won't be paying out vast sums of money for Zak's medication, we can afford a little holiday, so I have been in touch with the owners of Field Farm to see if we can get our holiday reinstated. They are more than happy to have us along, so I have sent off a deposit. We'll be going in the second week of August. I am so looking forward to it. They have a cross country course, and we can ride from the farm straight to the beach. 'Er Indoors is coming too.
I have finally succumbed and moved a lot of my crafting stuff from my (tiny) desk to the kitchen table. It is bliss to have everything I need spread out in front of me and not to have to keep searching through drawers to find everything. I thought Mr O would be annoyed, but actually he's more than happy about it. I am determined for it not to take up residence there permanently, (yeah, right!) but it's great for the time being.
One of my challenges this month is to make a card for my granddaughter, The Flower Fairy. She will be three. My brief was (from the girl herself) that it has to be pink and have Peppa Pig on it, so this is what I've come up with:

Hope she likes it.
The other issue is that I've been exploring the idea of some sort of logo for my cards. I came up with a 'Muddy Puddles' design, but I've decided to use this for the time being:

'Squigglypigs' is part of my email address. I needed something urgently when I set up facebook last year, and the word 'squigglypigs' popped into my head. I've become rather fond of it since then, so I'm sticking with that for now. I know nothing about the legality of these things, so I'd better investigate.
And finally, I'd better 'Fess up' (I'm having a love/hate relationship with that phrase at the moment) and tell you that I had a teeny tiny accident on the quad. I was trying to turn it, when I put my hand on the break but didn't realise my thumb was still on the throttle when the quad shot across the ditch and I managed to stop it just as it touched the electric fence. My leg got stuck under the gear stick and pushed it up to second gear, which is why it went so fast. It gave me quite a fright, I can tell you. Note to self: Do not drive the quad when you're tired!

Chick Flick

On the Friday before the wedding, there were a couple of important developments round here that made me almost want to stay home!
The first one was that the little ducks went out onto the pond with the big ducks. Suddenly they have feathers, and don't look very different from the older ducks, just a little bit smaller. Firstly we introduced all six ducks together, then the little ones followed the older ones down to the pond, the older ones almost flying, and the little ones running like the clappers, trying to keep up. Then they met fairly large scale water for the first time, and decided they didn't like it. In the end, it was one of the older ducks that came up and encouraged the little ones to try it. It was very sweet. And of course they took to it 'like a duck to water' (so sorry, it's the best I could do at short notice).
Secondly, Mr O let Penny out, one of the broody chickens, and off she went to get some fresh air and sunshine, when the next thing he knew, one of the cats had dived in and attacked a chick. None of us even had a clue one of the eggs had hatched, and Penny certainly didn't, as she'd gone off for lunch and left it there.
In his haste, Mr O picked it up and tucked it in with Peggy, who prompty and unswervingly adopted it. As he picked her up to pop the chick in, another chick fell out from under her wing and fell in the water pot. Mr O quickly retrieved it and put it back under his (or her) mother.
This is the best I can do for a photograph, at the moment:

as they are very small, run round a lot and keep hiding under mum. They were about the size of sparrows when they were born. I'm not sure what's the cutest, chicks or ducklings.
Penny has been a bit depressed, though, and when we let her out with Peggy (who strutted up and down proudly showing off her babies) she just stood staring at the wall for twenty minutes, but then went over to Peggy, as if to say, "One of those was mine, you know." She reminded me alarmingly of my maternal grandmother. I do feel sorry for her, but she is still brooding, so let's hope to goodness at least one of them, or one from the incubator, actually hatches, so we can give it to her.
Then the next, unrelated thing. We went in a cafe for breakfast while we were in Worksop, and there was a little second hand bookstall. Money from the book sales goes to 'Help for Heroes' and there was a chart on the wall, showing how much money they'd raised (six hundred pounds, I think). I asked them if they would like some cards to sell, and they said they'd really like some, so I am going up on Friday to drop some off. How exciting. I said just to see how it goes, and if they don't sell, not to worry, I'll take them back, but if they do sell, I'll make some more. These are some of the cards that will be going:

Not very difficult to make, but I spent a pleasant enough hour yesterday putting them together.
Sorry, I put them in their cellophane bags before I remembered to take a photo. Thanks to Margaret at Christian Chick Crafts for recommending a supplier to me. She is a total inspiration and mine of information. Her cards are so professional, I hope mine end up as good as hers (anytime soon, would be nice!) I am rising to the challenge of not buying any crafty stuff for the whole of July (in other words, 'It's nearly killing me!') Actually it's really making me think, especially for the scrapbooking.

I must add, that it's all too easy, come the winter, to say, "Oh, we had a rubbish summer!" so I just want it on record that it has been hot here every day for several weeks, at least since before Wimbledon Tennis started. We've had no rain for three or four weeks, and will probably have a hosepipe ban if it carries on much longer. It's driving me bonkers, I've actually been driven to wearing skirts, a rarity indeed. I've taken the horses off the second field to let it grow before putting them back on it, but it isn't growing because there's no rain. The horses hate the heat, and the flies are driving them bonkers. I have to put suncream and fly gel on Barnaby and Lindy every day, poor things. And if I don't ride by 8.30am, it's pointless riding until about 8pm, but I have run out of energy by then. Am I the only person praying for rain?

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Zak Report

(Cheyenne, you may find the following very interesting!)

We got up early yesterday morning, and loaded a hungry Zak into the lorry. We'd kept him in overnight so he could be nil by mouth from 4am (Mr O got up to take his haynet down). We kept Fudge in to keep him company, but all the horses had slept in the bottom field, to be as close as possible, wondering what was going on.
Of course, Zak wasn't allowed a haynet in the lorry either, which didn't impress him. We had a good journey though, and were actually early when we got there. We hung around for a while, waiting to be seen to, while Zak whinnied at a horse through the lorry window.
Eventually the vet came out, a young chap from New Zealand, and we unloaded Zak and took his boots off. We led him into what must have once been a stable, but now looked more like a kitchen. He was very good and just stood while the vet assessed him. The first thing was, that he said Zak isn't that underweight! We were very surprised. He said they see horses a lot worse than him. I asked if he would ride him, and he said yes. You could have knocked me down with a feather. He took blood and sedated him. At first there were just the three of us, but gradually the room filled with students. An assistant put the brace on his head, that held his mouth open (the same as dentists use, I can't think of the name of it right now) and gradually they inserted the gastroscope (up his nose). It obviously has a camera on the end, so you can see everything on the screen. It turns out the inside of a horse looks much like the outside of an octopus, and I wasn't sick once, even when Zak made retching noises.
It took a long time to look round the inside of his stomach, but I am thrilled and delighted to report that there were no ulcers whatsoever. Eventually the scope was removed and Zak gradually stopped sweating. Next, the vet decided to do an ultrasound scan to check there were no tumors or lumps and bumps in the wrong places. Everything was fine, except he couldn't find his liver, as too much intestine was in the way. That would have provided the answer to everything, though, wouldn't it, if he didn't have a liver? We assume it's in there somewhere, doing what livers do.
In fact, it must have been, as while we were waiting, the blood tests came back and they too showed nothing unusual. No anaemia, no ragwort poisoning, no salmonella, nothing. He gave Zak a vitamin boost and said we could look at anabolic steroids or ventapulmin, but we decided against it.
So there was nothing to be done except load him up and bring him home. He was very glad to see his haynet, and started tucking in. It didn't take long to get back, where we unloaded him and turned him out. He went belting up the field, whinnying to the others.
So like I have said before, he is one of life's whippets, and always will be. He just has a very fast metabolism. The vet recommended some feeds and said we should give him corn oil, so we will. I am very pleased really, as it means we can ride him, and he has good quality of life, I'd just got used to the idea of him having ulcers, and that we'd have a cure. But think of the money we've saved, as Gastrogard is two hundred pounds for a week's supply, and he'd have needed a month's worth. Allelujah, then.

I have had a couple of opportunities to scrapbook this week, and am utterly enjoying it. I am doing a page for each month of 2010, so I am doing January to June, to catch up, then I'll do a page a month after that. So here, without further ado, are February and March:

I was seeing spots before my eyes with this one, but I'm really pleased with it. The decoupage flower is very unusual. I've had a break from cardmaking this week, I think it's because I've been so busy in the run-up to the wedding, but I'm ready to do some more now (I'll tell you why tomorrow, plus there should be one or two other surprises).
Have a good weekend everyone.
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Lesson Time

My thoughts are still a bit jumbled as I try to write this.
The long awaited day has finally dawned, and I have had my first lesson on Barnaby with an instructor I've never met before, called Nicky Hunt. And I'm so glad I did.
I rode Barnaby first so she could see what he's like, and what problems I have when I ride him, ie bending his head to the left all the time.
Then after a while she got on him, to see what it is I'm experiencing. At first I wasn't very impressed with her riding style. She really seemed to lean back to stop him, and played with his bit to get him to go down while standing still, which really irritates me. She also said I needed to bring him into his stable and make him stand for fifteen minutes a day with side reins on, only loosly, but side reins nevertheless, in order for him to understand that he can bend round and forwards. I nearly laughed. I nearly ordered her off my property.
But I let her continue, and gradually, gradually, Barnaby began to make a decent shape. My frustration has always been that I need someone to teach my horse what I want him to do, then teach me how to show the horse what I want him to do, then to put the combination together, and this has never been possible until now, so I'm thrilled that finally someone can help us (because, to be fair, I've slipped into a lot of bad habits that need to be corrected, too).
The person I used to take Max to totally overfaced him and it was all about agression, which really put me off. Today's session was just forty minutes and it did wonders for Barnaby. Nicky was impressed when she got off, too, and said he hadn't been half as bad as she'd expected.
At the end of the day, I could decide that Barnaby is just a hack and doesn't need any schooling for that, but I just can't do it. For his own sake, he needs to be using his muscles properly and working well, not just for fitness but suppleness as well. And for some reason, sitting here now, I could cry because she didn't overface me or him, cantering was out of the question, let alone jumping.
I think at the previous yard I was on, although the teaching was excellent, the focus is very much on jumping. Now I'll let you into a little secret. When I bought Max, I actually wanted to concentrate on, and maybe even get good at, dressage, (don't laugh!) but Max was so designed for jumping, and loved it so much, that that's what we went with. I'm not saying I'll never jump again, but I really do believe that jumping is 'dressage with fences in the way' and we need to get our flatwork right first.
Finally, after all these years, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Writing this has made me realise that writing a blog is very different to writing a diary. When you write a diary, the secret is safe with you until your dying day, but when you blog, everything is instantly public. When you know who your readers are (or could be) it is tempting to write what you think they'd like to hear, but at the end of the day, this is my diary for me to plot my progress with The Bard amongst other things so if you disagree with what's going on, or my opinion on things, feel free to comment, but at the end of the day, this is my blog, and I stand by my thoughts, feelings, or opinions as they are now. I do want to make it clear, though, that I am not here to criticize anyone else's teaching methods or how they deal with their horses, it's just that I now have a wonderful opportunity to progress with my horse, in the way that I know we need to, and I am going to grab it with both hands.
I think we should leave the last word to the man himself, don't you?

He says, "Bleh!"

Monday, 5 July 2010

Confetti and Commitment

A proud moment

I have come back totally exhausted from having such a fantastic time. It was all slightly surreal, partly from staying in a hotel where we used to live, the heat, the crying, the tissues, realising that my youngest daughter is now finally married.

Such a stupendous day. There were no hitches, it was all beautiful. It was a civil wedding, and The Oracle and I commented in the car afterwards that the words were just as moving and meaningful as a church ceremony (and just as nerve wracking for the bride and groom!) Actually it was Duane that brought more tears to my eyes than Abby, as his love for her was so evident as he spoke his lines.

The reception was wonderful, everyone was very relaxed, with good conversations between both sides of the family. It was lovely to have so many family members together, to laugh and catch up. The grandchildren nearly stole the show.

And I must tell you, that my youngest son moved down to live with The Oracle in October last year, but decided he didn't like it and came back up with them. He is going to live with some mates in Worksop. I have got my darling boy back, and I am soooooo happy.
I couldn't have had a nicer weekend. A time of total blessing. And that's exactly what I wish the happy couple, all the years of blessing they are entitled to.