Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Monday, 29 March 2010
Then last Tuesday, knowing I had my lesson on Wednesday, I decided to take Max for a hack. He was what we call 'on his toes' all the way round. It's a euphemism for 'complete lunatic'. He just kept spooking all the time, but not at the things I was expecting him to spook at, which adds a little spice to the ride, as you can imagine.
We carried on down the lane, and met two men, one on the road, and one the other side of the dry stone wall in the field (repairing the wall actually). Max could see both men clearly. As we got closer the man on the road said, "That's a nice cob," and I said, "Yes he is, but he's very spooky." Then the man in the field stood up and Max whipped round so fast I don't know how I managed to stay on. I said, "Do you see what I mean?" and the man looked quite concerned. He said, "I wouldn't take him onto the main road if he's like that," and I wanted to say, "Oh he won't do anything up there," but decided to leave it, as the man had a point.
On Saturday we were supposed to take Zak and Barnaby to Osberton for a bit of a blast, but also to see how they'd get on together, as they've only ever hacked out once or twice, and we know both of them like to be in front, so it would have been very interesting, but... Mr O groomed Zak, then picked his feet up and found he'd lost a shoe again on the front. That meant we couldn't take him, so I suggested taking Barnaby and Max and Mr O said no, very firmly, very firmly indeed.
So my whole day was in a bit of a turmoil really, as I am going to have to tell you the next thing. Having given a great deal of thought and consideration to this issue, I then turned to prayer, as I am sick of dithering. And as soon as I prayed I got my answer. I begged God to tell me whether it was the right thing to sell Max or not. And the Lord said he was surprised I've waited this long. So on Thursday last week I drew up an advert, with a couple of very nice pictures and all Max's details, and on Friday Mr O took one to Parklands, a tack shop near where he works. On Saturday we took one to Stablemates, but after that I started crying and when we got to Thomas Irving I couldn't go in, so I gave Mr O the advert and asked him to do it.
You may remember a couple of weeks ago I had my wisdom tooth out. This is very similar. I know it's going to be agony, but I know I've got to do it for my own good.
When we came back we decided to ride Max and Barnaby after all, but just locally. I picked a route we've never done before, and we set off. Max was very spooky all the way round. Mr O just rides along, very often oblivious to the struggle I am having behind him. Then on the way home, Max suddenly put in a huge buck and went carting up the road. I shouted to Mr O to block me, and fortunately he had the wit to turn Barnaby to the right and block the road, and Max crashed into him and stopped. I have to tell you I was pretty angry, and I'm afraid that's the last straw. I am sick of putting up with his antics, and making excuses for his behaviour ("Well it was windy!") In the end I was so cross I got off and gave Mr O the reins and told him to take him home as I didn't care if I never saw him again! (Bit of a paddy from Jane, there, then!)
The thing is, riding is the greatest pleasure of my entire life and if I go on riding Max pretty soon I am never going to want to ride again. I can't let him do that to me.
So by the time I'd stumped off up the steepest hill in Christendom in order to get home, I was exceedingly glad that I'd put the adverts up, so we'll see what happens.
At the bottom of this is the fact that Mr O says I can have Barnaby. I have to tell you that if the boot was on the other foot, I would not be offering a stunning horse like Barnaby to him! So I decided to take Bard to my lesson today instead of Max. The lesson went very well, but Barnaby isn't half as supple as Max and will need some work before I jump him, but I don't really need lessons to do that, so I think next week will be my last lesson.
But the best bit was that I rode to the school, and rode all the way home, and it was bliss. When I take Max I lead him down to the school, but Barnaby fills me with so much confidence. I don't know if it's because I know he won't spook, or because he's never bolted in his life, or what, but I sailed home. I managed not to slaughter any eengleesh, but still had a big grin on my face. I wish Jean d'Arc had been on our side. Slaughtering the french would be much more satisfying.
I have been very busy on the card making front, after a slow start where I've been a bit disorganised on the Easter card situation. I've picked up my favourite magazines, Papercraft Inspirations and Cardmaking and was totally inspired. I've realised part of the problem is that I love the various papers so much I don't want to make them into cards, give them away, and never see them again. (Note to self: Must work on generosity, see note re: Barnaby, above!) Once I started I was like a little factory, glueing and sticking with a passion. I just love creating something.
I didn't make this one, but I have to show you, as it's for Missis' birthday, and I couldn't resist it. This is so like her horse Polo:
I am missing baking, which, as you know, I have given up for Lent. I thought I baked out of necessity, but it turns out I really love to do it, and can't wait to get my mixing bowl out again and whip something up. Are any of you making anything special for Easter?
Friday, 26 March 2010
We looked up our start times on Saturday, and I was delighted to see we weren't on until twenty past one. This meant I could have a lay-in, actually eat some breakfast (not nervous for once - if only I'd known!) and bath me 'orse before we set off.
The nights are a lot warmer now and the horses are too hot with rugs on, so Max slept naked on Saturday night. I'm not sure what he slept in (and I don't mean pyjamas) but it made very unattractive brown stains on his white bits, so I took him outside for a bit of a scrub down. I also washed his tail. Let's just say it took a while for the water to run clear.
We loaded the boys into the lorry and set off to Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire. We were going to Brooksby College, and it was quite a distance. We put the postcode into the Satnav and set off in good faith. All was going swimmingly until we got into Melton when my written instructions started to differ from the Satnav's instructions to Mr O. Then we turned off the road, onto a tiny lane, which led to a field, and the Satnav announced smugly, 'Destination.'
We were stuck. In the end we managed to drive over a little bridge, and up a track full of pot-holes, with the horses shouting, "Steady on!" from the back. We stopped a jogger and asked him if we were anywhere near Brooksby College. "Oh no," he said, "That's miles away," but thankfully gave us quite good directions, and we set off again, full of hope, but slightly mystified by the Satnav's blatant treachery.
After a while, we'd followed all the jogger's directions, and the college was still nowhere in sight. We asked another passer-by who said it was another three miles and we couldn't miss it. Fortunately he was as good as his word, and soon we were chugging up the long, winding drive to the college buildings.
We were pretty relieved to find we were in plenty of time, so we went in to register and decided to walk the course. We'd learned a great deal from our previous attempt at this intriguing sport (intriguing because it looks a doddle and plainly isn't). I'd had the idea of bringing a pen and writing each obstacle with its corresponding number on my hand, as once you set off you've got to know where you're going, as you have five and a half minutes to complete all ten obstacles, and in Doncaster I ran out of time. This turned out to be a master stroke, as we will see.
We went and tacked the horses up and brought them into a little warm-up arena. Max was amazingly calm. The holes in the walls didn't bother him, he wasn't desperate to be with Barnaby, and worked in very well, really listening to me and responding well.
Mr O was number 29 and I was 30, so obviously he was called in before me. I waited quite a while, and then took Max out to see how Mr O was getting on in the main arena.
Barnaby was being very well behaved, and did most of the obstacles. Mr O went a bit fast under the low branches, but you get more points if you do it in canter. Afterwards he said instead of keeping his head down, he looked up to see if he'd missed the branches, and then knocked them all off!
So this is the course we had to do:
- Control of paces: canter round the outside of the arena, as slowly as possible, without going back to trot and without stopping until you reach the cones at the end.
- Four strides later there was a small jump.
- Ride on round to the low branches, and ride underneath them (which involves laying down on your horse as the branches are very low). More points if you trot, most points if you canter.
- Ride between two poles (with pigs at the front to scare your horse).
- Dismount and lead your horse through an S bend of wooden poles on the floor (I've only ever ridden this before).
- Dismount, run stirrups up and walk horse into circle. Horse must halt in the circle.
- Lead your horse over to the mounting block in the corner. Time starts when you walk inside the white painted circle. You must walk in, put stirrups down and mount from the offside in under 15 seconds.
- Ride up to, and along the wooden bridge.
- Ride through the weaving poles. Cantering gets most points, then trotting, then walking. Nobody told us this last time, so we walked.
- Walk between two poles. Halt level with the cones, and rein back, without touching, knocking or stepping outside them.
- Go forwards between the poles, turn and jump the blue water tray and the brush fence.
- Finish by doing the fastest walk you can manage, without trotting, round the edge of the arena in the same place you did the canter test.
(Mr O showing us how to do the jump properly.)
Anyway, I got back on and this is where I was glad I'd written the course down, so I could gather myself and ride round to the next obstacle, as I was quite disoriented, as you can imagine.
I rode round to the 'low branches' (really some canes on very high jump wings). I laid down on Max and tried with all my might to get him to go underneath, but he was having none of it. He nearly went in sideways, but soon backed out again. I passed on that obstacle in the end (which gives me zero points, you can't be eliminated in TREC) and went on to the straight poles on the floor. Max had a good look at the pigs, but I'd had enough by then, and kicked him on. He realised I meant business and set off in a good trot. Nobody told us last time that you could trot or canter along this, so I got minimum points. This time we trotted and Max was fine.
I hopped off quick, ran Max's stirrups up and took his reins over his head. I lead him into the S bend poles, and he followed me quite happily. He did it perfectly, so that clocked up a few points.
Next was the stand still in the circle. Max stood still for quite a while before very slowly making his way towards me, but he was much better than last time.
I led him over to the mounting block, put his stirrups down and tried to mount, but he kept swinging away from the block. He kept looking at me as if to say, "What are you doing?" as I never normally get on from the off-side. Barnaby had done it perfectly, but afterwards I was surprised at how many horses didn't like it. It's not Max's fault at all that I can't get on from the off-side (duffer!) but he could have stood still for me.
Then came the bridge. There wasn't anything spooky in front of it like last time. Instead, there was a set of teddies on a blanket on the left hand side. Max looked as if to say, "Do you want me to...er... rub them out?" There were children present. I couldn't let it get ugly. Max wouldn't go near the bridge and I moved on, but at least no soft toys were maimed in the process.
(Barnaby doing the bridge, without hesitation. Can you see the innocent bystanders?)
Next came the weaving poles, which I decided to do in trot, and Max was perfect. We only walked last time, so I was very pleased. Then it was the rein back. Max started off okay, but then his back end swung out until he'd gone right outside the poles. Oh well. Number 10 was the water jump and the brush fence, and I decided to pass, as I didn't trust Max after the fiasco at the first fence. He is so reliable at jumping normally, I'm quite phased by this.
All in all, though, Max was much better behaved than last time and I enjoyed it a lot more. It wasn't as formal as the one in Doncaster, and I do like the photos. TREC is unlike any other horse sport. We decided it was too far to travel just to do some obstacles, but we will do some more outdoor TREC in the summer, which will involve the orienteering phase as well.
It was a beautifully sunny day, so when we got back we turned the horses out so they could run round and roll and have a drink. Zak came dashing up to report in. "I've been in charge while you've been away Sir Barnaby, and it's been absolute chaos!" I'm glad I wasn't the only one who'd had a challenging day.
Thursday, 25 March 2010
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
In the meantime, Mr O and I decided to go on a hack on Saturday morning. He rode Barnaby and I rode Maximus. I asked Mr O where he wanted to go, and he said, "Ashover," and my heart sank.
This ride involves going up and down some very steep and bumpy bridleways, which I'm not very keen on at all. We rode down towards the village and met a man coming the other way (As I was going to St Ives...) leading a donkey. Now Max is scared of many things: rocks, flowers, cows, to name but a few, but most of all he is frightened of donkeys, and turned, without further ado, and fled up the road, with me hauling on the reins trying to stop him. We pulled up about 50 feet further on, before he realised he'd abandoned Barnaby in an 'every man for himself' moment and turned round to see how he was faring (but pretty certain Barney would have the upper hoof).
The donkey was small, dark brown and called Maud. I got off Max and led him up to say hello. Barnaby was already introducing himself, "Hello, pretty." Maud batted her eyelashes. Max insisted she wasn't pretty at all, and smelled funny, and could we get on, please?
I managed to get back on and we continued into the village, past the Post Office, round the corner to the pub, and then up the road into Milltown. This meant we avoided all the steep bits so I cheered up considerably. We rode down to the river, then through the ford. The water was up above Barnaby's knees, so as you can imgine, it was up to Max's stomach. I was quite pleased, as when we got home I discovered his feathers were really clean! If I'd known that I'd have stayed in it a little longer.
We followed the river bank round, then up a steep bit, and back onto the road, to make our way home. Deeply satisfying.
We had to go to the opticians and pick up our new glasses, and mine are... hideous! When I had my trying-on session I liked a different pair, but Mr O and the optician said they were too big for my face, and I let them talk me into getting this pair. I have such bad eyesight that if I take my specs off, I can't see what I look like in a different pair with no lenses in. Now the opticians have a machine which takes a photo of you in the trying-on pair, then you can put your own specs back on and see what you look like in the photo, which is a brilliant help to someone like me who is as blind as a bat.
So I put my new glasses on and part of me felt I looked about sixty and part of me looked as if I was six. I seriously hate them, and now I'm stuck with them. I always take time to adjust to a new pair, but these are a mistake. Next time I will trust my own instincts.
Then I had to have drops in my eyes, to dilate my pupils, then go in and have a retina check, as I am so short sighted, to make sure there are no tears in my retina. This involved the optician getting very, very close to me. I found it very invasive, and it went on for ages. I was very uncomfortable with it, and couldn't wait to get out. Not a great experience all round, really. There's nothing wrong with my eyes, anyway, apart from my blatant short-sightedness, thank goodness.
Friday, 19 March 2010
and this one for my lovely aunt:
And yes, I have finished the scarf for Hallington Fox. He is very proud of it.
I found the casting off very easy. Now I'm just going to knit some squares to practise knit and purl stitch. If I have enough I'll sew them together to make a blanket for Tessa. I'm not baking much at the moment as Mr O has given up all sweet things for Lent. It seems a bit mean to tuck into a giant sponge cake in front of him. I have bought some icing nozzles and bags which I'm dying to play with. I've given up chocolate, as you know. So far, Missis has brought us some back from America, I've had a box in my anniversary present, a box for Mother's Day and a box for my birthday. They've gone into storage (sob!) I don't think we'll be getting each other an Easter egg this year. And I was so looking forward to tucking into a chocolate bunny!
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Soon they will be clipped.
This garden is particularly well laid out. I love it.
On the way home we spot Goat and Goose. They are very good friends.
The goat was bought as a companion for the horse in this field, but then he got lonely,
so now the goose is his friend. She is a 'dry' goose. She won't go for a swim.
They've tried to get her into water, but she doesn't like it!
The collie is called Ben.
He sits on the wall and barks at you to let you know he's guarding his house.
Sometimes you think he isn't going to bark, as he saves it until you're nearly past,
The little Westie is called Tilly.
She doesn't belong to Ben's owner, she lives up the road.
But she and Ben are an item, and she comes up every day to spend some time with him.
She wasn't keen on Tessa, 'the other woman' and came out to see what was going on.
I think we'll go for a trot now and canter on the verge on the way home, so hold onto your hat! We'll have a nice cup of tea when we get in.
Monday, 15 March 2010
"Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall."
She was married four times!
And this painting of Elizabeth I was so beautiful, I nearly cried. The photograph doesn't do it justice. (Sorry it's so dark.) Obviously it should be on the wall, but the tapestry it hangs on has been taken to Belgium to be repaired and restored and it won't be back for a year, so the painting will stay here for the time being.
It's a picture full of meaning. Firstly carpets were so expensive and valuable in those days, you had them on the wall, or on the table if you really wanted to flaunt your wealth, but the queen is standing on a carpet, which is symbolic of her immense wealth. Her dress fabric is covered in sea creatures and other animals, which says she is queen of the land and the seas (The english had just beaten the spanish when this was painted). The dress is covered in pearls, to represent her purity. She is holding gloves in her right hand. Gloves were a symbol of love, and her hand is on the throne, to show she loves her country. It was an awe-inspiring thing to look at.
We moved through various bedrooms, all rather stunning.
I was very pleased with my camera as flash photography isn't allowed, and there are drapes at all the windows, to filter the light, because too much light will quickly fade the wonderful
I'm so glad we went, it was a fabulous experience. I've been meaning to go there for years, but never got round to it. We had tea in the restaurant, which was very busy, but nice, and I bought two poetry books in the gift shop, which I wasn't expecting. Expect to be regaled with verse on a regular basis from now on!
We came home and offloaded everything, then set off to Worksop to visit the children. They've given me some wonderful presents, a watch from Abby and lovely smellies from Lisa. The Flower Fairy had rung us and said, "Will Tessa be coming?" I hadn't planned to, but how could I disappoint her? When we got in the car to go, she waved frantically, and called out, "Bye, Tess!" no word about us at all. Oh well. I know my place.
It was lovely to see all the boys as well. They kept bringing all their toys out to show us. I have such a giggle with them. They are such characters. Being a granny is much more fun than being a mum was, and where I was fairly strict with my own children, I would willingly grant my grandchildren their every wish. Funny, isn't it? Something obviously switches over between Mummydom and Grannydom that I wasn't prepared for.
All in all a lovely day, but I was phenomenally tired when we got home. One of those days when I would sink into a hot bubble-bath, if only we had one!
Saturday, 13 March 2010
I soon realised I felt too sick to eat, because... in a rash moment last week I rang Hazelbarrow Cross Country course and booked us in.
Our plans were slightly re-arranged, though, as the whole point of going was to take Zak. Mr O picked his feet out and discovered a missing shoe on a front foot. How come we didn't notice yesterday?! So Mr O took Zak's tack out of the lorry and put Barnaby's in instead. Max was in denial, hiding at the back of the stable, hoping I might forget he was there. I went in with his travel boots, and he jumped. My goodness, I have a horse who is scared of his own travel boots. It's like a person being frightened of their own slippers.
I managed to get them on him, and put his travel rug on, and a red tail bandage. Barnaby was loaded up first, and went straight up the ramp, so I got Max out quickly, as Barnaby gets stressed in the lorry if he can't see Max straight away. Max went straight up, too, so we heaved the ramp up and away we went.
We did go a bit wrong on the way there. There were far too many roundabouts to go round. The satnav was confused, bless 'er. We pulled into a petrol station and asked the staff, who fortunately knew where we were trying to get to. We got back in the lorry, went round a few roundabouts until we all got dizzy, and we were there. The satnav has gone in for counselling.
It was quite a nice yard, nearly as muddy as ours, and full of 'stuff', bits of metal sheeting and tractor parts. There was a sign on the gate saying, 'No Tipping'. It was tempting to say, "You do have a problem with people dumping rubbish, don't you?" for the farmer to say, "Actually this is all ours." Good job I know when to keep my mouth shut. It gave Max lots to ogle at while I tacked him up, though.
The farmer was really nice, actually, and gave us directions down to the course. We each signed a disclamer - you know the sort of thing, doing a Girl Guide salute while reciting, 'I promise, if I die out here today, not to sue anyone or hold anyone else responsible, really the whole thing was entirely my fault, how was I to know that tree was there?' That sort of thing.
Barnaby was absolutely raring to go, and I was taking Max because I wanted to give him a run, but I don't believe in galloping when I don't know where I am (sure-fire way to gallop off a cliff). I felt so sick while we were tacking up I decided to tell myself I was just going for a hack and wasn't going to jump anything. I am amazed at my own ability to convince myself. Really - I'm so gullible. Then I saw the first fence, a little log and couldn't resist it. Max just flew over it and we carried on from there. We had a good old canter up the hill, then slowed down to check out the other obstacles.
It's a very low-key place, nothing fancy about the fences, but they'd used the terrain really well. We came to the water jump. I am very fortunate that Max likes water, and doesn't hesitate. The bottom looked quite solid. Mr O was trying to get Barnaby to jump in the highest bit. Barnaby said no. He also said, "Look I can run backwards, or sideways, I don't mind." Mr O saw the error of his ways, and followed me into the water from the low side. Barnaby was fine with this, so we went round again, then tried him from the higher side and he jumped straight in. It was good fun, actually, as I thought Max was going to surge up out of the water like this:
but he just seemed to do an energetic step and he was out. Bear in mind that we'd taken the decision not to wear body protectors and not to put boots on the horses, so neither of us wanted to fall off, but we were both totally confident.
We rode round and jumped some more logs, then went down a long field and into the woods. It was very muddy in places, so we sank a bit, but most of it was beautiful. Then to my dismay, there was a big ditch with a little bridge over it, about a foot wide (ie, tiny). Mr O (known as 'Gung-Ho' to his friends) went straight down, across and up the ditch. Problem for Mrs O: a sure and certain knowledge, based on six years experience, that Max will jump the ditch. I was not ready for this today, so I hopped off. Then I had a different problem. If I tried to lead Max over the ditch, he would probably still try to jump it, and either drag me across or land on me, thus killing me in the process. I took his reins over his head, and decided to walk over the bridge, and he could deal with the ditch as he saw fit. I can't describe my astonishment when I realised he had opted to follow me over the bridge. I could hear his little hooves clip-cloping on the stone. I didn't dare look behind me to put him off, and just kept walking. We have a TREC competition next week. If he doesn't ride over the bridge there, I will be having serious words with him, now he's proved he can do it. I was very proud of him, to be honest.
Not much further on from this there were two logs blocking the track. There was no option but to jump them. I asked Mr O if I could go in front. It makes Max listen to me and jump better than just blindly following Barnaby. I gave him a squeeze, and away he went, clearing them both beautifully, first a quite big one, two strides, then straight over the smaller one. I was grinning like an absolute idiot afterwards.
We came to a gate at the end, rode round some fields and then made our way back to the start, and jumped some more fences. I love cross country, I always have, and prefer it to showjumping. There's no logic to that. Any normal person would prefer showjumping, knowing that if you knock a fence, it will come down, whereas a rock-solid cross country fence is going to stay motionless, while the rider comes down, but I have a thing about Max getting his legs caught in loads of poles rolling about on the floor and falling over or something. Silly really.
I was quite content with all of this, as Max isn't particularly fit at the moment and we have our normal jumping lesson on Monday, so we decided to call it a day there and came home. I am totally impressed with Max's behaviour as he listened to me the whole time, had an absolute blasting gallop up the fields without getting silly and coped with lots of new sights. Going cross country on this horse is one of the greatest pleasures of my life, and it's thrilling to know I can still do it.
And now the adrenaline is slowly leaving my body, I think it's going to be a very early night for me. Busy day tomorrow...
Thursday, 11 March 2010
And my 'bone' of contention again this year (if you'll pardon the pun) is that the BBC has refused to show Crufts for the past two years. It's the biggest dog show in the world. A big case of 'cutting off your nose to spite your face' as my mother would say. A couple of years ago Panorama made a programme about the inbreeding of dogs, and some of it was pretty awful, it has to be said. As a result they had a serious fall-out with the Kennel Club and have refused to show Crufts since then. Crufts is the highlight of my television year (that and the tennis) and I'm sure it is for many other people, too, and I think the BBC are absolute fools for axing it. I was fortunate enough to be able to go last year, for the first time in 20 years, and had a fantastic time, even though I got lost, as the NEC is vast. Missis' mum breeds pomeranians and wanted someone to go with her to help out, so I volunteered. I thought I'd missed it this year, but found out through Busy Bee, that it's on this week. I was thrilled when Mr O turned on the TV tonight and found it on More 4. Clare Balding and Peter Purves are commentating, too, so a total mutiny, then. That's me happy for the next few days, though. Silly old BBC.
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
I spent all of last winter mucking the horses out and taking Zak for his daily walk. I tried to walk him round in the lunge ring, but he got a bit excited. Too much bucking and rearing for a horse that's supposed to be taking it steady. I plucked up the courage to start walking him up the road, and he was extremely good. I gradually increased it from the initial stages of a twenty minute walk up to an hour, and his tendon was doing fine. I always felt like the groom taking the horse round the parade ring before a race, I was so proud of this horse.
As you can see from yesterday's photo, he was very skinny when he came to us, and I have to say, feeding him to increase his weight has always been a challenge. He kept sticking his head in Missis' feed bins, and obviously liked the contents, so we gave him conditioning cubes, but it didn't do very much. This winter we've fed him on Allen and Page Weight Gain, and he's much better on it, but I'm afraid he will always be one of life's greyhounds!
After many months our vet came out to see Zak, scanned him, and said he was fine and could be turned out and gradually ridden, building up slowly to strengthen him, as we'd done with the walking in hand. We were thrilled. We turned him out, and he went berserk, cantering up and down. Max and Barnaby seemed pretty excited by it, and jumped the dry stone wall into the next field to celebrate! (They looked a bit confused once they'd done it and Mr O had to go up and catch them and bring them back down).
So Mr O started riding him, and doing really well. Soon the time came to jump him, which they did, and everything was fine. We decided to box the horses up and take them to Osberton. This is a beautiful place near where we used to live. There is a place called 'The Green Mile' which is exactly as it sounds. Missis and I decided to wait and let Mr O go off on Zak first, then we would go off and catch him up at the top. I watched him disappear into the distance, then we set off, but to my consternation, we hadn't gone far when I realised Mr O was walking back to us. Zak had gone lame again.
Once again we helped him back to the lorry and took him home. He was back on box rest. We were beginning to wonder what we'd got ourselves into. Would he ever be fully sound? This time though, he did seem to come sound more quickly. We have had our walks round the village to strengthen him, and Mr O has been riding him out at the weekends (bearing in mind we've had all the snow). This is partly why he's still skinny, as it's been impossible to build muscle on him, with the limited amount of work he's been able to do, but more work will improve his shape tremendously.
I came out and fed everybody one morning around this time last year, and changed their rugs. I had Barnaby's leadrope in one hand and Max's in the other but as I passed in front of Zak, he just exploded a load of muck at me. I know horses can't be sick, but don't let that fool you. The quantities of liquid and feed that can come down their nose is phenomenal. I didn't know what to do, but I knew it was choke.
I put the horses out and watched Zak in horror. His neck was convulsing. I knew what choke was, but I've never seen a horse with it in over twenty years of working with them. I ran in and read my wonderful book, 'First Aid for Horses'. It said choke is caused by a blockage, and normally it rights itself after twenty minutes. After twenty minutes he was worse. I rang the vet. She said she would come out if I thought it was bad. I thought it was horrific. I was so glad she trusted my judgement and didn't think I was just a hysterical owner. When she arrived, she thought it was bad, too. I had to walk him up and down the road, and loads more muck came out. I couldn't believe there was so much in relation to the size of his feed. But he came back into the stable and started retching again. It was awful.
The vet decided to 'tube' him. This involved putting a thick, clear tube up Zak's nose, the poor boy. It did seem to work, and the vet left, saying if he hadn't improved in the morning he would have to go into the hospital.
By the morning he was worse. We started up the lorry, and slowly and carefully managed to get this staggering, sweating horse up the ramp. I was crying. It took half an hour to drive there, and I didn't think he would survive the journey.
We arrived and managed to unload him, just talking calmly to him and wondering if we should say goodbye now, while we had the chance. He was absolutely dripping with sweat. The vet came out and greeted us and led us to the stable he would occupy, then said we could go home. Parting from him was absolutely dire. We both assumed we wouldn't see him again. I broke down in the lorry on the way home.
Three hours later the vet phoned to say they'd tubed him twice more, the blockage had dislodged itself and Zak had fully recovered. I cried again. We drove off in the lorry, rocking through the local villages in our haste to get to him. There he was in his stable looking a bit sheepish, but absolutely fine, no sweating or anything. I just buried my face in his neck and hugged him. We loaded up a healthy horse, and took him home.
When we bought Zak he was originally going to be a stop-gap, a project for Mr O, to bring on a bit and sell on, something to keep him occupied while Barnaby got better. I hope you can see from the above account why he has become a part of the family and is going absolutely nowhere. We adore this horse. How could you not?
He is a wonderful animal, an officer and a gentleman, and a pleasure to own. As my posts will show, he's always been very meek and mild, and adores Barnaby. He's done lots of sucking up, saving the best bits of haylage for him and so on, but in the last few weeks I've noticed a dramatic change in attitude, where he will actually chase Barnaby off and eat the haylage himself. He is learning to exert himself, and it's very surprising.
So really we have only scratched the surface with this amazing animal. Our hope is obviously, that he will stay sound and go from strength to strength. I think Mr O should do endurance rides on him, as he goes for ever and doesn't break into a sweat. But it seems a shame to waste that phenomenal jumping talent, doesn't it? All I can say is... watch this space.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
There we were, all happy and bright, Mr O riding Barnaby and me riding Max, then as you know, Barnaby sustained his awful injury.
We got stuck in to the joys of mucking out a horse on box rest every single day. (Mr O had been praying for patience. That'll teach him! The Lord promptly decided to give him something to be patient for. I promise you he will never do anything so silly again).
It wasn't long before Mr O got itchy feet, having no horse to ride. What is a man to do?
He does what any horse-obsessed man does. He goes on the Farmers Guardian website and starts looking at horses for sale. It doesn't take long before a Thoroughbred catches his eye. It's a gelding, and it's in Blencarn, which is near Carlisle. ('Up North' to those of you who don't live in England).
Mr O rang the owner and asked for some information. The owner was an older man, who said the horse was an ex point-to-pointer (amateur racing) but the man was retiring from racing 'to concentrate on me chickens'. Mr O asked the crucial question, "How much?" The man said he'd given another horse away and found out a few months later the new owners had sold it for meat money. He was appalled. He wanted at least more than meat money for this horse to make sure it didn't happen again. Mr O took his details, and that weekend we went up to have a look at this possible horse.
The owner (Roy) got on him and rode him round in a little paddock, with no hat on and a cigar dangling from his lower lip. Mr O rode him round the village, and I rode him up the road. We looked him all over. We were smitten. We agreed on a price and drove home.
Blencarn is a long way from our house. Mr O got up at 3am the next morning, got in the lorry and drove all the way back up there, handed over a good deal of cash and loaded this beautiful boy up and began the long journey home.
And so began the experience of getting to know a new horse. But not just any horse, this time it was an ex-racehorse. Mr O soon learned that any aid (instruction) he gave this horse would be interpreted as 'go'. And go he did. There's a cow field near Lorna's yard, with a bridleway across it, but if you're quick you can do a few laps of the field before anyone notices.
Now Max is a cob, not built for speed, but for a chubby little fellow, he goes like the clappers. Other people comment on it, so I know I'm not imagining it. We took Max and Zak to the cow field. In the time it took me to go round once on an inner track, Zak had been round three times on the outer track. It was worth it just to see the look on Mr O's face.
We bought him in early September, and all the fields surrounding the farm had been cut. It's our favourite time of year. It means there is field after field of stubble to gallop on. We took both horses out onto the fields, and Mr O gave me and my friend Janet a head start, then set off. I could see Zak out of the corner of my eye as he effortlessly cruised past. It was like being overtaken by Red Rum. Janet said his breathing didn't even change. What a stunning horse.
One night we decided to have a proper look at his passport. First of all, he had parents. We'd never had a horse with parents before! If you look on Max and Barnaby's passports it says, 'Sire: Unknown, Dam: Unknown'. Poor things.
But in Zak's passport it says his racing name is Just Enough. His dam is Mistress Ross and his sire is Alflora. After that it gets a tad more interesting, as it transpires his great grandfather is none other than
the most prolific winning racehorse of all time. Oh my goodness. That explains the turn of speed. And his ability to tuck his landing gear up and clear a four foot hedge with a ditch in front with no effort whatsoever.
Then came the day of the yard Treasure Hunt. Mr O had only had Zak for a week and so had decided not to take part, but changed his mind at the very last minute. My team was called 'Wild Wild West' and so, of course, the four of us were dressed as cowboys and indians. Mr O's team were Roman gods and goddesses and soon he appeared clad in a sheet over his white jods, and a wreath round his head, and frankly, not much else. The treasure hunt was a great success, everyone had loads of fun. At the end, Mr O decided to take Zak for a canter up the hill, when the wind took hold of the sheet and blew it off him. Zak didn't flinch as Mr O cantered, bare-chested, up the hill. Everyone screamed with laughter. Zak thought he'd been brought to a mad house, but it made a change from racing, so he was ready to go with the flow! What a beautiful boy.
Then we went on a sponsored ride with the Readyfield Bloodhounds, and everything had gone swimmingly. Mr O and Zak went leaping over hedges and ditches. They went back to walk, came to the edge of a field and Zak stumbled over a tractor rut in the mud and went totally lame. Mr O leaped off and helped Zak back to the lorry and we drove straight home.
Cue wonderful vet once again. She diagnosed a serious tendon injury, and suddenly we had two horses on box rest. It was an absolute nightmare. We'd turned Barnaby away by then and used his stable for Zak. Instead of the usual summer break, poor Mr O mucked out every single day for a year. But the story doesn't end there, so I think I'll tell you the rest tomorrow...!
Sunday, 7 March 2010
I had that panicky moment when we left, of, 'Have we got the camera/card/present/map?' and unusually for me, had remembered everything.
We were supposed to go and pick Daughter 2 up, but she isn't very well at all at the moment, so she'd rung to say she wouldn't be able to go, which is a shame, as I'd love the family to meet The Flower Fairy. Never mind.
It made the journey quicker for us as we could go straight across to Manchester without having to go north first, so we set off into Darley Dale and Bakewell, then on to Buxton. The scenery is stunning, it made me appreciate what a fabulous part of the country we live in, especially as it was fabulous sunshine all the way.
We drove on, but suddenly met a diversion, and it all went downhill (quite literally) from there. Mr O missed the exit to Manchester at the next roundabout, but we managed to right ourselves further on. That's what I like about England, you usually get a second chance, and it's actually very difficult to get lost. You are better off looking up and checking the signs than burying your head in a map the whole time.
Then we drove through Oldham, and suddenly it all went pear shaped. The whole road layout has been altered, and where there just used to be shops and houses, there is the most enormous retail park area I have ever seen. You know normally you drive into the entrance of a retail park, and all the shops are spread out in front of you? This one just went on for mile after mile up the road, with an Ikea and a Currys and a B & Q, but there were no signs to anywhere. Where was Bury? Rochdale? Nowhere to be seen. We drove up and down a few times, then guessed where to go. Eventually we made it onto the motorway, and from there made it into Middleton. Phew! The service was well underway by the time we got to the church. We opened the door and crept into the back row.
Afterwards there was a party and it was lovely to catch up with Mr O's brothers and sister. The last time we were all together was at their mum's funeral, which was held in the same church, so it was a bit of a strange feeling. The baby is lovely, much bigger than I'd expected, and chunky, especially compared to the Flower Fairy, who is very dinky. It was nice to catch up with my two nephews. I've always had a soft spot for them. My niece Sophia has always liked horses, so I've said to come over some time when the weather is nicer.
We decided to forego the beautiful scenery on the way home and use the motorway. It took us quite a distance out of our way, but we got home a lot quicker than we got there, so it was probably worth it. I had a lovely day, but I was so glad to be home. Tessa went crazy. It's a hard job holding the fort single handedly for a whole day. So much sleeping, so little time.
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Then at about 10am Mr O rang me and said he would take half a day at work. I can't tell you the joy that flooded over me. Mr O is my rock, never more so than at times like this. I mucked the horses out, then went in and tidied up as much as I could before Mr O arrived and it was time to leave for the dreaded appointment.
I let them know I'd arrived and was sent to the waiting room. After a while a dark haired woman came out and called me into the consulting room. I thought, "She looks kind, I'm sure she'll be nice to me." I walked confidently into the room, only to find she was the assistant, and the spanish woman I'd seen last time was still there. I never got a sighting of her name badge, so for arguement's sake, we'll call her Torquemada. I noticed she had a cap, mask and gown on. This is so that you can't recognise her in the street and leap on her.
I laid down in the chair, that most prone of positions, so that you only glimpse the needle briefly over your right shoulder, before she inserts it inside your left cheek. To be honest, I thought she was going to stick it into my gum, so I had two seconds of relief before the searing pain of having it in my cheek anyway.
I was praying my head off, which always works (useful for smear tests as well, or anytime you're worried you're going to swear, cry or slap someone) and she eventually pulled the needle out. I took a deep breath, but within seconds she was back with another loaded weapon. This hurt so much I was practically waving my arms about as I desperately wanted to stop her from doing it. She said, "Be careful, I could inject my own finger." I thought, 'Suits me, love,' but obviously couldn't say so, as my mouth was full of finger and needle. I was tempted to bite down hard on the finger.
In the end I had four injections. Was that absolutely necessary? By then I couldn't talk coherently, so when Torquemada asked, "Are you okay?" I could only humbly nod. I was sent back to the waiting room. It was then I was most glad Mr O had come with me, as I could snuggle into him and pull myself together. The only thing was, he said, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" in his best Monty Python voice, and it sent me off into a fit of hysterics. I don't know if it was the anaesthetic, or the shock, but I couldn't stop laughing. This joyous attitude was not the impression I wanted to give to the dentist, but there was nothing I could do about it.
The nice dark haired lady came out and called me back into the torture chamber. Once more I lay on the reclining chair.
Torquemada prodded and poked my wisdom tooth and asked me if half my tongue was numb. I nodded dumbly. She prodded and pressed down on the tooth, and I am thrilled to say, I couldn't feel a thing. I could vaguely feel her twist the tooth, and then it was out. I didn't feel a thing. She put the wadding in and I pressed down on it. I sat up and was fine, and she said I could go and pay. I was so relieved. Did I recant? By God I did not.
I went out and found Mr O, and mimed that I needed him to pay. Then I realised I was going to be suddenly and violently sick. I leapt up and pulled the front door open, and ran out onto the forecourt. I had a brief moment of 'Gosh, that's posh gravel!' before being sick all over it. All in all I think I may have made quite an impression. I don't have to go back again for six months. Hopefully my hair will have grown by then and they won't recognise me.
I had planned to go to the library, the bank and the craft shop afterwards, but all I did was stay in the car while Mr O went to the bank. I felt very queasy, which I hadn't expected at all. Last time I had my wisdom teeth out I had a general anaesthetic. Now I know why. We came home, I got on the sofa and slept and slept and ....zzz.
Friday, 5 March 2010
Why is it an offending article? One, because the ticking drives me crazy, so I have to leave it in my sock drawer, otherwise it's like Chinese water torture all night. So when it goes off in the mornings, crowing loudly, I have to leap out of bed, open the drawer, search around for a black clock in the dark, (it's always face down in the drawer) locate the little button on the back, and try and work out which way to push it to stop the dreadful racket. After that I slump back into bed, traumatized, but this is when the second, possibly more serious flaw in its workings becomes apparent. It has no snooze button. I could cry. I have to wake up and drink my hot tea and try desperately not to slide back under the covers, because if I do I won't wake up again until 8am, but it's extremely difficult when a: it's freezing cold outside and b: I have a medium sized dog slumbering on the bed. You feel my pain, I know.
I have read the riot act to the chickens this morning. In fact I gave them a disciplinary and read their job description to them again. "We feed you - you lay eggs. Nobody said anything about mucking out." They feel disgruntled that they are mucking out for free. Penny shook her Liberty print feathers at me. But who asked them to do it? Certainly not me. They walk behind me, gleaning enthusiastically, but I am hindered in my job as I am worried about stepping backwards and treading on them. Last week I accidentally donked Betty on the beak with my mucking out fork, but it's her own fault. They have a huge muck heap they can glean with impunity, what's so fascinating about stables?
They all left the stable I was working on in a huff, but unbeknown to me, Peggy must have taken my words to heart, as I looked round, and there she was, crouching in the corner, her body rippling with convulsions. She stood up, and there, behind her, nestling in the straw, was a pale blue egg. It was a beautiful moment, a moment to savour. Her eyes were jewel bright, and the pride in her expression was plainly evident. I had a moment of guilt, knowing that as soon as her back was turned I was going to have to pick up this precious item, that she would want to nurture and follow nature's instinct. She looked at me with one beady eye, as if to say, "Blow that for a game of soldiers!" and ran off to the other girls for some corn and a natter, never to return. I picked up the egg and held it against my cheek to feel the warmth, before placing it in the dish with the others. I am proud of it, anyway, even if she isn't.
(Ladies who Lunch, feeling the benefits of the sun, a good chinwag and some sleep.
It's a hard old life!)
Thursday, 4 March 2010
The water is completely different to Worksop water, too. My niece always used to complain about the taste of the water when she came to visit, and I didn't know what she was talking about until we moved here. The water here is beautiful, clean and pure. I've had cups of tea in Worksop and, to be honest, they are pretty disgusting compared to what we have here.
What other differences are there? Oh yes. I now have to walk down the drive to collect my post. Some of you may be thinking, "Wow, I wish I could do that," but believe me, it's a pain. Sometimes I even forget to do it. I have to take the dustbin all the way down the drive, too. Even when it's snowing and wet and muddy.
And don't forget
No, really. The bit we live in wasn't part of the original farmhouse, it was actually the pig pens. Then when it was refurbished it was included as part of the house. The walls are three feet thick. You can tell because the original stonework is still visible by the front door and all the window sills are like window seats. This makes the house beautifully cool in summer, but absolutely freezing in the winter, with one pathetic radiator by the window. It has been a work of sheer technical wizardry deciding where to put heaters to get some warmth in here. We've put a curtain across the stairs up to the kitchen recently, and it's made a huge difference, it's beautifully warm and cosy in the sitting room now. My only regret is that we haven't got an open fire. I'd absolutely love it, and so would the pets (and Mr O too, I dare say.) I've noticed a wood burning stove in the main house, but I don't think they ever use it, as the dining table is right next to it.
And the other big difference must be the absolute silence. Sometimes you can hear the wind, and the birds, and possibly a dog barking in the distance, or a tractor rumbling up the road, but mostly... mostly there is silence. No radio, no television, no children, just blissful silence, peace, quiet, and I love it. Quiet, in which to think, to pray, to daydream, to listen. On days like this, I know why we came here.
I have ridden The Boy today, and he was lovely. I've hacked out on my own for the first time since November. I'm sure, if we hadn't had all the snow over Christmas, I'd have carried on riding him without a break, but as it is, it took quite a bit of nerve, but Max was very good. I rode down to Jolly Farmer's. The manege was rock hard, and I wasn't sure whether to ride in it or not, but Max likes hard going, so I decided to risk it. He actually worked really well, but so likes the little palomino mare in the field adjacent to the arena. He was quite lively on the way home, itching to get a hoof on the grass verge, but if I'd let him I think we'd have been off.
I've groomed all three horses today. Max is losing loads of his winter coat. It's coming off in great white swathes onto the floor. I can't actually say Zak grew a noticeable winter coat, and Barnaby is clinging to his. His will actually come off some time in April, just as the showing season begins. I've hosed Zak's legs off tonight as Mr O is worried about mud fever. I am putting liquid paraffin on Zak and Barnaby's legs every few days, which is very water repellant. But Zak doesn't like having his legs brushed very much, so I am going to wash his legs off at night, then I can just re-apply the liquid paraffin in the mornings to clean legs. I put everyone in their stable rugs, and snuggled into Max's mane, trying to find somewhere without mud on, to breathe in his scent and give him a kiss goodnight.
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
The water went off again on Monday night, so I didn't have any for the horses yesterday. I decided to walk down to the pump to see if there was anything I could do, so took Tessa and set off down the lane. The pump is set in a big hole in the ground, and was whirring away, which it shouldn't be doing. Pongo thinks there may be air trapped in it. In the end there was nothing I could do, and had to wait for Pongo to come home and fix it.
I had Seven and Nine after school. They saw the two dishes on my table from their great aunt that passed away a few weeks ago. We got onto talking about grandparents. I told them I'd had wonderful grandparents. I asked them if they'd seen Pinocchio, and they said yes. I said, "My grandfather looked like Jiminy Cricket." They were silent for a while, then Seven piped up, "Was he green?" I was speechless.Pongo came home but went straight to the pump, and before long we had water coming out of the tap. I rang him to say it was working, but there was a knock on the door, so I assumed he was back and cut the phone off. I opened the door, and there, to my surprise, stood Pilot, from over the road. He said, "I've got a lorry stuck on my field, would Pongo be able to bring his tractor across and tow it off?"
"Certainly," I said.
Pongo was trying to drive back up the lane, but couldn't because not one, but two, JCB's had broken down on the road. "Could you give us a tow with your tractor?" they said. I love the countryside. Anything could happen here, and often does.
An extraordinary thing has happened today. A girl called Heather McGrath sent me a friend request on facebook. I am friends with her mum Caroline from our old church in Worksop. I willingly accepted her request, and sent her a message asking about the horse she was riding in her profile picture, and she emailed me back to say there is a video clip of Max being ridden by his previous owner on Youtube. I looked at the link, and sure enough, it's my darling boy in a lesson at Wallingwells. He is so lovely on it, I shed a tear or two. Have a look here if you like:
Anyway, just to show you I have been busy, here are a few of my latest card makes. I am still knitting. It occurs to me that I'd better learn to cast off, otherwise Hallington Fox is going to have a very long scarf indeed.