Monday, 19 December 2011

Catch Up

Hi guys, sorry I haven't posted for absolutely ages.  All is well here, but every spare moment is taken up with card making and Christmas shopping. 
I have been out last week for two Christmas lunches and two Christmas parties.  They were great fun, but it's nice to be back to normal this week.  The logistics of it were quite complicated, especially as we had bad weather.  In the end it was easier to leave the horses in for the day.
We took the decision to take Simon back, as it was becoming exhausting for me to muck out three stables every day (and time consuming!)  Now I'm done for 10am and have plenty of time to get all the other jobs done.
We are in a very good winter routine, actually.  The horses insist they go out, no matter what the weather, every morning.  Actually, surprisingly, it's Zak who is like this.  Barnaby would quite happily stay in and munch on haylage. 
I have decided to use things to my advantage, so the two big empty stables are being used as day stables for my two.  This makes it much easier for me to muck their stables out.  So they go out straight after breakfast, come in at 12.30 and stand in their day stables while they dry out and warm up, then go back into their night stables at 3.30pm to have their tea.  The day stables are pretty big, so they've got plenty of room to walk around.  They like it because they can touch each other and a certain amount of mutual grooming takes place.  I just skip these stables out each afternoon while they have their tea.
The new liveries are fine, but they're not turning their horses out at all while the weather's bad.  I know lots of people do this, and their horses are used to it, but I do feel sorry for them.  They only see daylight through the little barn door next to them.  Zak and Barnaby would go mad if I tried that with them.  Even when we had five foot of snow last year they still went out, even if it was only for an hour while I mucked out.
I want to nervously add at this stage, that Barnaby has been phenomenally well behaved so far this winter.  I feel that actually writing it down is going to tempt fate (something I don't even believe in, but you know what I mean!) and that he'll start tanking me all over the place as of today, but I am really thrilled that he's been so good.  I haven't had to use the Kemp Controller at all so far.
I don't know if it's because I've largely got the place to myself.  Sometimes Missis used to get up at 6.30 to muck out, so Barnaby would start banging his door by 7am as Hugo and Lyndy were put out.   We've actually put a carpet up on the inside of his stable door.  It didn't take long for him to realise that I couldn't hear him kicking and so he's given it up.  Oh boy, I wish I'd done that years ago!  The bliss of being able to wake up and drink a cup of tea in peace and quiet and have five minutes to get my head together before I go and deal with them is absolute bliss.
It's been so dark in the mornings for the past couple of weeks I've actually come down and found Barnaby still asleep, which is unheard of.  It must be nicer for him to be more relaxed, too, mustn't it?
Well, I'll pop off now, as I've loads to do, but I'll try to get on here again as soon as I can.  Hopefully normal service will be resumed straight after Christmas, though, so thanks for sticking with me.
Jane xx

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Crafty Boy!

The horses are coming in at night now, which means more work for me, of course.  Barnaby is notorious for door-banging in the mornings.  I don't need an alarm clock.  I noticed that Missis had thrown out the rugs she had in her kitchen, and an idea was born.  John nailed one of them to the inside of Barnaby's stable door on Sunday night.  What a brainwave.
So I woke up to peace and quiet on Monday morning and couldn't believe my luck.  If this is the shape of things to come, I'll be happy.
So imagine my shock when I went into the stables to find the light on and Barnaby in the feed room, head stuck into a sack of Hi-Fi Lite!  I was speechless, to be honest.  I stayed very calm and grabbed his headcollar.  He didn't object to me putting it on and leading him back into his own stable.  I then went back to the feed room to assess the damage.
Fortunately Barnaby hadn't been able to get any of the lids off the feedbins, but he had eaten his and Zak's breakfasts.  Marvellous.  I was more concerned about how he'd managed to unlock his own stable door and the feedroom door, but highly amused that Simon had been considerate enough to switch the light on, rather than let 'poor' Barnaby stumble about in the dark. 
I've used a leadrope clip to lock Barnaby in at night ever since, but then was worried sick that he'd try to jump out.  Thankfully he seems to have realised the game's up and has stayed put.  It's lucky he didn't get colic, too, isn't it?

I always wear hi-viz when I ride, but John and I have recently bought some new ones.  Check these out:
We have a hat band with the blue and grey check on as well.  When you're riding along, people definitely think it says Police, especially as my pony tail hangs down and covers the 'T' up.  My normal hi-viz says, 'Please pass wide and slow,' which is quite good, as it gives an instruction to the driver.  A vest saying, 'Caution Young Horse' is pointless as it has no significance to drivers.  They just think, 'You have a young horse, so what?'  At least 'Please pass wide and slow,' tells drivers what they should be doing.
But these vests are in a different league.  Motorists are frightened to overtake me from behind, whereas normally they just go past.  One woman was on her mobile phone, saw me and flung it onto the passenger seat!
It improves your riding, too.  Being seen as a possible member of the Met means you don't want to let the side down.  Barnaby could quite easily pass for a police horse, too, so I am thoroughly enjoying this new look. 
I'd better go and lunge Zak.
Have a great day, everyone.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook - October

Outside My Window: Barnaby has run down to the field shelter, which I can see clearly from my kitchen window.  He is standing there sniggering.  I am so curious that I go outside to see what's going on.   Simon is whinnying madly, wondering where Barnaby has gone.  Zak is only four feet behind him, but Simon doesn't care.  In the end Zak can't stand it and, rolling his eyes in disbelief, walks up to Simon, and takes him down to where Barnaby has been hiding. Silly horse.

I am thinking:  I must make a hair appointment for December 15th.  I am out to a Christmas lunch and an evening party on the same day.

I am thankful for: John's new job.  So far, so good.  And that the new liveries have settled in really well and seem really happy.

I am wearing: navy blue jods and a dark green Joules top.  Whenever I write this I am in jods.  It's not a coincidence, is it?

I am reading: 'The Red Queen' by Philippa Gregory.  I have already read The White Queen this year, and was thrilled to find The Red Queen existed.  It's about Margaret Stanley, who was the mother of the man who eventually becomes Henry VII.  It is gripping.  In fact, both books are.  More than that, I am thrilled that I own both books and can take my time as I don't have to get them back to the library. 

I am hoping/praying:  This is a bit difficult.  The woman who runs our craft group is lovely.  She is married.  Her husband went down to his daughter's house a few weeks ago.  They are building a house.  Her husband fell out of a second storey window into a well.  I am praying for him every day but we haven't had any more news, which I think is a bad sign.  I just hope to goodness he's okay.  She said he was conscious and hadn't broken anything, so I am hoping for the best, but who knows?

On my mind: Winter.  And snow.  Please could it not, just for one winter.  Please.

From the kitchen: I realised when we dieted this year that I really missed baking.  I didn't realise that I enjoy it so much.  This week I'm going to make a lemon drizzle cake.  Mmmm.

I am creating: lots of Christmas cards, but I'm stuck on one at the moment.  I am also back into cross stitch and really enjoying it.  I've just bought a new one so I can carry on during our get-togethers in the village on Thursday mornings.

I am hearing: 'You've Got Mail.'  Such a sweet film.

Around The House: I went on a bus trip to Derby a few week's ago and had a bit of a spree.  But ages ago one of my favourite shops, 'Past Times' closed down in Chesterfield.  I was very upset about it and thought they'd closed down everywhere, so I was delighted to see a shop open in Derby.  I've wanted one of these for so long, and knew they sold them in PT, so went in and grabbed one in seconds.  I came home a very happy bunny:

I got one, I got one!

One of my favourite things: has to be this beautiful lavender filled heart -

It hangs in my window with the cup and a few other things in red and black.  It's not my normal display for this time of year, but I really like it.

A Scripture Thought: 'Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26  (For a friend I am praying for that has cancer right now).

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Mucking out, mostly, as the horses are in at night now.  Pongo and Missis have a firework party next weekend.  I am dreading it, as they let off fireworks pretty close to the stables.  They have said it'll be the last time they'll do it, though, thank goodness.

A picture thought: 'Does my bum look big in this?'

There is a drainage ditch in the field and Barnaby spent a lot of time in it this summer.  Every time I passed the field, this is what I saw.  He's going in for the Rear of the Year award. 

Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Paradise Restored... Temporarily

Well I did confront Missis and put it as kindly as I could and said that if she wanted us to all use the (smallest) bottom field to graze on this winter, there was no way we could fit another three horses on it, even if one of them was a small pony.  She rattled on about using some of the grass next to the manege, which is ridiculous.  If she does that some people will be worse off than they were before.  She was very concerned about a little girl going into the field with Barnaby and Co. to bring her horse out, which was her excuse for giving them a little tiny paddock.  I said I would just have a rule that children are not allowed to go into the field, which threw her somewhat.
But in the end, to my absolute delight, she admitted she didn't really want more people to come just yet, which is exactly what I think.  It is actually working out very well with the liveries we've got.  They're quite happy to keep themselves to themselves and are delighted with everything we've given them.  They love the manege and went on a hack today for the first time in goodness knows how long, and came back with big grins on their faces (always a good sign!)
So I've cheered up quite considerably. 
Except... (there's always something, isn't there?!)
I went into the field yesterday to get Barnaby out to ride.  The horses were all sleeping in a group, ours on one side of the wall, the liveries the other side.  I put a headcollar on Barnaby and led him out of the field.  Suddenly Simon started whinnying and then Harley joined in and Barnaby took it as his cue to rear up, spin and run off.  I was not amused and trudged back up the field to try to catch him again.  Then Zak decided it was his cue to stir things up a bit and started to run round the field, making Barnaby run with him.  At first I didn't mind (it's free exercise, isn't it?) but Zak went on and on and on. Barnaby still had his leadrope attached to his headcollar so I was worried sick he'd tread on it and injure himself.   
They continued for about twenty minutes, just running and running.  They've carved the ground up as well, which isn't great.  In the end Barnaby got fed up with it and slowed down, but Zak kept going and didn't want me to take Barnaby in.  Finally Barnaby ground to a halt and I was able to catch him.  His chest was absolutely heaving and he was dripping with sweat.  I took his rug off as I decided it was warm enough for him to go without.  I was worried he'd get colic as he wanted to eat the grass, but I think even he realised he shouldn't do it and just spent some time getting his breath back. 
I went off and got the quad and decided to poo pick the field while everybody calmed down.  By then the liveries had arrived and got their horses in and then Barnaby was a bit more willing to come in but still stood flinging himself around his stable.
I managed to tack him up and we went for a hack.  He was absolutely fine while we were out.  When we got back I untacked him and gave him his tea while I went to get Zak and Simon in, but he stood there kicking the door until all the other horses were in.  It makes the whole issue of riding totally exhausting.
I've been out and got him today and he and Zak were quite willing to try it again.  I decided I wasn't going to stay as I didn't want them to get worked up like they had done on Tuesday, but suddenly Barnaby agreed to be caught. 
This time I'd come prepared and wore gloves and brought the Kemp Controller.  He stood while I put it on, then had no choice but to come with me.  Once again Simon whinnyed, which really doesn't help matters.  He came up and trotted past us.  Barnaby made to go off with him, but couldn't because of the Kemp Controller.  What an amazing device that is, what a life-saver.  Barnaby kept trotting in circles round me, trying to get away, but he had no choice but to come with me.  I did wonder if he might strike out at me, but he didn't, thank goodness.
Once I'd got him through the gate and past the barn, he walked in quite calmly, but wouldn't stand still in the stable.  It makes it virtually impossible to pick his feet out.  I just gave him a quick brush over and tacked him up. 
We actually went for a lovely ride.  I rode down to the village and managed to post a couple of letters in the post box, always deeply satisfying.  We came trundling up the hill in beautiful sunshine.  We are having unusually good weather for October.  It has rained at night, but the days have been lovely.  This is the last week John can ride after work, so I'm glad it's been nice for him.
The steep run up the hill seemed to take the wind out of Barnaby's sails.  He was a lot calmer while I washed him down and put his rug back on and turned him out.
So I don't know what's made him go like this for the last couple of days.  He must feel unsettled with the new horses here.  He expects to be in charge and must find it difficult with horses he can't actually reach.  Other horses are meant to bask in his presence as far as he's concerned.  It's as if Barnaby and Zak have had a delayed reaction to their arrival.  I hope to goodness they all settle down again soon.
So things are really good at the moment, but I hope Barnaby doesn't spend the whole winter in this mood.  I haven't even started mucking out yet and I'm worn out! 
Hope all is well with you.  Greetings to my two new followers as well.  It's an up and down journey around here, but I wouldn't swap it for the world and am always counting my blessings (sometimes you have to, don't you!)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Pleasure Ride - Shipley Country Park

It's been a very up-and-down weekend.
I got Barnaby in yesterday morning and spent an hour clipping him.  He wasn't very happy about being in and wouldn't stand still much.  It was as if he was saying, "If I'm in, everyone should be in."  I had a feeling I was making a really bad job of it, but when I finished and tacked him up, I realised he looked lovely.
Because he was in such an argy mood, I asked John if he would jump him before me, so he took him round and over the fences.  Barnaby was really good, so I decided I'd better get on, otherwise I'll only be jumping him once a fortnight, and the idea was really to be jumping him twice a week, so John got off and I got on.  This is what we jumped:

I know I get 3/10 for style, but I don't really care.  He was quite gung-ho compared to last time, because John had worked him quite a bit, but he was still really good and I loved doing it.  It'll be a shame if the weather gets really bad over the winter as I'd love to keep on with it now I've started.
 The liveries arrived not long after this.  They are Tim, his wife Belinda and their son Sean, who have a mare called Puzzle.  They've come with their friend Becky who has a gelding called Harley.  They brought them into the stables and settled them down for a while, then turned them out.  They couldn't believe how much space they had and were bucking and leaping.
Of course, ours came belting down to see who the new people were.  They just stayed on the other side of the wall and didn't come down to the bottom field where they could have said hello over the electric fence. Harley didn't want them to talk to Puzzle and kept blocking her off so she couldn't get to them. After about twenty minutes our horses just went back to eating. 
Apparently at their old yard each horse had about 1/3 of the grazing land we've given them.  Harley's stable was so small he couldn't turn round in it and had to stand diagonally across the stable to eat his hay.  How awful!  I think they're going to really like it here.
We went out to lunch with the family to celebrate my youngest daughter's birthday and then to drop my son back, so didn't get back until 7pm.
We got up this morning and got Zak and Barnaby in, and got them ready to go to Shipley for the last AVR ride of the year.  We left Simon in the field, who started whinnying.  To his surprise, Harley answered him, so they struck up a conversation together instead.  Such a weird feeling to have horses in the barn.

Some of you who have followed my blog for a while will know that we have had terrible problems travelling Zak.  You can read about it here.  Since then John has spent a lot of time and effort repairing and improving the lorry.  I had expected John to take Zak on a few short journeys over the past weeks, but he hasn't.  I think it's a bit of denial going on there.  I actually felt physically sick this morning at the prospect of going in the lorry with him again, but we loaded them and set off.  Zak had one little bang on the 35 minute journey but was quiet the rest of the way.
We arrived and lowered the ramp and couldn't understand why we could only just see Zak's head above the partition.  It turns out he'd sat down and got his leg trapped under the partition.  I was horrified.  John managed to kick at his hoof and luckily it went back in underneath where it should have been.  I was worried sick his leg was broken.  We opened the partition to have a look at him, but he seemed fine, so we brought him slowly and carefully down the ramp.  To my immense relief, he was fine.  He'd sweated up a lot as well, so John put a cooler rug on him and let him cool down for a while.  He wasn't lame, so we tacked up and set off on what turned out to be a fabulous ride. 
Last year when we did this ride they said it was ten miles, but we thought it was very quick, only about seven miles.  This year they'd said it was ten miles, but had added an extra loop on, so I think we were right.  This time, instead of going over the main bridge, we went down to the left on a bridleway.  There was a very narrow wooden bridge at the end of it, then a wider one which Barnaby trotted straight over, then shot up the hill.  There were little wooden slats across the track at set distances and Barnaby jumped over them.  It was fantastic actually.  Later on, we came back to the same place, and this time he was ready for it and shot up the hill, leaping over each of these wooden struts.  It was fabulous! 
He was very strong today, as if to say, 'Mum's not bothered by a bit of speed these days, let's crack on.'  It was so lovely, though.  There were some fabulous places to have canters, too, which we didn't do last year.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  We have basically said we probably won't do these again next year, so I wanted the last ride to be good, and I wasn't disappointed.  I've just seen the photos on the website, so I'll get one as soon as I can and put it on here.
I travelled in the back of the lorry with Zak on the way home and he was fine.  He really struggles to travel sideways though, and can't balance round corners.  He does fling himself against the partition for no apparent reason though, and when I said "No!" to him he didn't do it again, so I don't know what he does that for.  It was quite a relief to get home, I can tell you.  He'd hardly sweated up though, which is good.  We won't be going anywhere between now and next April, so it should give him plenty of time to recover, then we'll decide what to do next year.

We turned the horses out and went off to the shop.  When we came back there was a car blocking the drive so we had to drive through Pongo and Missis' gate.  When we got to the stables I could hear voices and wondered what was going on.  This woman was there and Missis said, "This is K---, she's come about liveries."  I was totally confused, thinking, my number is on the advert, but she hasn't rung me, how does she even know we are doing liveries?  I felt as if Pongo and Missis had set it up, it was a bit surreal.  I got my wits together and asked her how many horses she had and she said, "Three."  This was a bit of a shock, as I only really wanted one more horse. 
Then I did the really crucial thing, and this is the bit you need to know, to make the rest of it make sense.  We have 9 acres here that we can graze.  It's spread over 3 fields, so say it's 3 acres per field.  We always shut the furthest field off in the winter, as they take a crop of hay off it, which is fair enough.  So that leaves us with the middle field and the bottom field.  Missis promised me that she would leave the middle field open for this winter, that she 'was prepared to sacrifice it'.  It was on this basis that I agreed to have liveries.  Then the other day she said we'd have to shut the top field off soon (fair enough) and then the middle field when the time came.  I should have challenged her there and then, but I didn't.
If I'd known she was going to restrict us to the smallest bottom field I wouldn't have had liveries, I would have just kept our 3 horses on it for the winter and just about made it through.  Now I've already donated half of it to Puzzle and Harley, which leaves our three on the other half, which isn't ideal, but I'd just about cope.  Now Missis is suggesting we put 5 horses on half the field, which is ridiculous.
I am going to have to have it out with her and say that if she has her heart set on shutting the middle field off as well then we can't have another 3 horses on the bottom field, making it seven horses on three acres.  We've never had that many before, it was bad enough with six when Max and Fudge were still here.
I think I just thought I'd be happy as we are with us in our little stables with the new liveries in the barn and that would be fine.  We came here because this would be our home and it would be quiet and now there are going to be loads of people all over the place and people using the manege when I want to go in it.  Grrrr.  But the most important thing is that I am going to have to confront Missis tomorrow and  get her to make a basic decision for once.  It's not fair for her to say that I'm the yard manager one minute and pull the rug from under me the next.  How embarrassing is it going to be for me if one minute I say, "We've got all this grazing!" and the next minute, "Oh no we haven't!"  I'd feel such a prat.
So it was a good day, and now I'm quite annoyed. 
Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
Tune in for the next installment...
Jane (who is frustrated, can you tell?)

Monday, 17 October 2011

I am finally able to tell you what's been going on round here apart from everything else. The problem was, I got so used to being sworn to secrecy (not putting anything on facebook etc) that now I'm able to say something, I hardly know what to say.

Basically, after ten years of working at the same firm, and hating it, John has got a new job, and started there today. His last couple of weeks at the old place have been very stressful. They've divided John's job responsibilities between four different people, so you can imagine what his work-load has been like. John's ex-bosses have asked for a number where they could get in touch with him, in the hope that he could still go there and work for them at weekends. I don't think so, guys!
It was a very strange and difficult place to work. I worked there myself for three years, so I know what I'm talking about. Everything was a bit barmy. I worked in the sales office, and people used to make up prices as they went along. They also used to lie and then deny things. It made it so difficult to do my job properly. I don't know how John has coped for all these years, but I do know it's been hard work being a sounding board when he gets home.
So he's had his first day in the new place, and I think he's going to like it. There's lots to do, anyway. My main worry was that he'd get bored as he did so much problem-solving in his old place.

The new liveries are coming on Saturday. We've been frantically painting stables to get them ready. The thing that's really been worrying me is the weather forecast saying it could snow by the end of the month and us having very little straw in. The horses will come in if it snows, and I need something to bed them down with. It drives me mad when Missis says they'll go and get it on Saturday, and then they don't.
Fortunately, Missis' dad turned up today with 138 bales of straw on his trailer, which we've managed to reverse into the barn. This is a load off my mind.
The other thing that's cheered me up is that the new livery man came on Friday and put up electric fencing to give his horses the grazing I've allocated. I'm really glad no one argued with me about what I'd decided. I'm thrilled with the way John has altered the other fences so the horses have the maximum grazing, but we've also got a big holding pen. This is the area between the gates, so the horses can't go anywhere if they get away from me when I'm getting them in. It's finally all coming together.

And finally, the thing that's thrilled me no end is that I've started jumping Barnaby again. I have to do it at the weekend, as I need John here in case something happens. The first Saturday I did it, I went for a quick hack to take the edge off Barnaby's energy, then went in the manege and just jumped a cross pole. I felt physically sick all the way round the hack, and my brain was like spaghetti, but I still did it and really enjoyed it. Barnaby didn't try to tank me or anything, it was really good.
Then the following week I bottled out and said John could do it, so he took him round a whole course. The outcome of this is that I've said John can compete him next year, as he's only 14, in the prime of his life, and I don't see why he should miss out just because I can't do it.
The only thing that bugged me is that I've spent a year teaching Barnaby to go straight when he goes round the school, rather than going round with his head swinging to the outside. As soon as John got on, Barnaby started doing it, and John didn't do anything to correct it, which I found quite frustrating.
So this Saturday I decided I would have another go. I also decided just to go in and jump rather than go for a hack first, as all that happens is that I feel as sick as a dog while I'm on the ride and my legs turn to jelly.
So I went in and jumped. Nothing particularly high, but I jumped it on both reins and absolutely loved it. My style came back and my head was really clear. I really had to trust Barnaby as I can't place his feet. Max used to really stand off his fences, but Barnaby gets in a lot closer. You have to trust that he will take off as there's no room left for another stride anyway. But he just launches off those fabulous hocks and sails through the air. His whole body is straight and it's utterly fantastic. Never a hint of a run-out.
I can remember some girls watching John competing at a hunter trials years ago and saying, "I'd like a horse like that - point and press!" and at the time I said, "Huh, you ought to try riding him!" but actually he almost is. Because he's not a spooky horse he isn't distracted by anything going on around him and is totally focused on the fence. It really is a fantastic feeling.
If I was 100% nervous the first time, I'd say this time I was only 25% nervous, and there's nothing wrong with a bit of adrenaline, anyway. I am trying not to have plans and ambitions just yet, especially as winter is approaching fast. My days of winter showjumping are well and truly over, but we'll see what I'm capable of in the spring. When I get a bit better I'll get John to take some piccies. I'd love some of me jumping Barnaby anyway, as I don't have any as yet.
Well, I'd better be off,
Thanks for dropping in today, and for your kind comments on my last post. I'm certainly feeling a lot perkier now!
Jane x

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sad Days

I've had a peculiar few days.  I had a phone call from a woman enquiring about livery spaces.  She said they wanted to have CCTV in each stable, their own grazing and a tack room of their own so they could bring their sofa and kitchen cupboards.  I said I couldn't do it.  She said, "But you've got nine acres."  I tried to explain and she hung up on me.  Oh well.
On Friday I walked down to the village with Tessa.  I clambered all the way back up and strolled along the road.  There in front of me, I eventually realised, was a dead cat.  I tried to fool myself it was a pile of leaves.  But I knew it was a cat.  I had to go closer, because I realised it was one of the tabby girls.  Oh God.  Red collar.  That meant it was Tab, cold and wet, by the side of the road.  I sobbed, instantly and loudly.  Such a shock.  Then I realised I'd have to go in and tell Missis her cat was dead.  Lordy.  I put Tessa in the stable and went straight round and knocked on the door.  "I don't really want to tell you this, but I'm going to have to."  She got a bag and I got some gloves and we went out together, both fighting back the tears.  I picked Tab up and put her in the bag.  And I will never see her again.  I loved her so much.

That's her on the right, with her sister Climb.  I can't believe I'll never sit in the sun with her on my lap again.  I am distraught.  Climb is walking around looking for her all the time.  I have cuddled and cuddled Purdy.  Thank goodness it wasn't you, my little princess.  You must die of old age.
And then... On Thursday our farriers came.  No problem with that.  At the end, Martha said, "You make cards, don't you?"
"Yes," I said. 
So she asked me if I could make a sympathy card and I agreed.  Then she said it was actually three cards, which is also fine.  She seemed a bit upset, so I didn't say much.  After they'd gone I realised I really need to know who the recipient is, as I would make a different card for a man than I would for a woman.  So I rang her on my mobile and asked her.
She said, "Actually, one is for the parents, one is for the brother, and one is for the girlfriend."  Oh.
So I made the cards and text them yesterday to say they were ready.  When she came to pick them up I told her that I'd been quite sad making the cards (I've never been affected like that before) and offered my condolences.  I asked if it was a family member.  She said no, it was a farrier who was their very good friend.  He was killed in a car crash last week.  How utterly awful.  He was only 28 and leaves a baby girl with his girlfriend.  But worst of all, Andy and Martha are getting married this coming Saturday and this chap was due to be their usher.  Words fail me, frankly. 
Later on I was on facebook, talking to Leigh's mum.  Leigh owns Max, my old horse, and Simon, who we are borrowing, belongs to them.  She just came on to ask me how Simon was doing.  I said that he broke the string when I'd tied him up for the farrier but when I just held the leadrope he'd stood there like a lamb.  Then she asked who our farrier is.  I thought she was going to insist that we use her farrier, but she couldn't because... her farrier is the young man who has been killed in the car crash.  Dear, oh dear.  I have spoken to my friend Julianne today, as we have been fence judgeing at a hunter trials at our old yard, and it turns out he was her farrier, too.  It's a small world.

Finally, some good news.  On Thursday a man rang with regard to our livery advert.  He just asked where we were and how much we charged, so he could tell his wife (who was at work).  Then he rang on Friday and said they'd like to come and have a look round.
So they came yesterday (Saturday) and had a look at the stables, grazing and manege.  There is a family of husband, wife and son, who have a 14.2hh mare and their friend who has a 16.2 gelding.  They seemed to like what they saw, and went away, saying they'd let us know.
They rang back yesterday at 6pm and said they'd like to come!  Woohoo!  They seemed really nice, just a normal family, so I am very pleased.  Their friend was worried her horse could jump out of the stables in the little barn (where we are now) so I've offered them the two big, stone built stables in the main barn. 
They want individual grazing, which I didn't really want to do, but they said the gelding was not very good in the field, and they only turn out for a few hours every day, so they are having a fenced off paddock.  This means we'll have to keep Simon for the time being then. 
So all in all it's been a strange week.  There are a few other things to tell you, so I'll try to come back tomorrow.
In the meantime, R.I.P. Tab, I will miss you.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

All The Latest

I know I haven't blogged for a week.  The thing is, I'm coming up against the same problem all the time.  Things are going on around here and in order for me to tell you exactly how it is, I could really drop myself in it, if Missis ever came across it and read it and it's not a totally accurate record for me if I leave out the gory details.  So I am probably going to finish this blog at the end of the year.  If only a few people read it anyway, I may as well keep a diary.  I will carry on with my card-making blog, though.
This is because we had a woman who came with her daughter last week, to have a look round with a view to bringing her horse here.  You need to know first of all, that I have totally blitzed the place, and it looks fantastic.  Basically the whole stable area has been cleared of Missis' junk.  The shared space outside of the stables, but within the barn, is completely clear.  The farrier is coming Thursday and I can't wait to see his face.  He'll actually be able to shoe a horse without wondering what he's going to trip over.
Anyway, this woman came, with daughter and boyfriend, and they seemed very impressed with what they saw, especially the manege.  
Just before they came, I asked Pongo if he could guarantee me a strong door on the stable that has been designated as a tack room, and he said no, that he'd put a door on the garage outside our kitchen.  Missis and I have been having lengthy discussions about how this would be a room for us, which I would immediately turn into a craft room.  But now Pongo has decided that would be the tack room.  Great. It's got our tumble dryer and freezer in there, so I'm not sure how that would work. But I do see where he's coming from, as, if we (ever) move into the other barn, the tack room in there would be needed as a stable, so it seems silly to buy a door for it, just for a few months.  But even so...
Don't forget, one minute we're told they've applied to have the roof rebuilt, and we'd have an extra room upstairs, but that didn't work, then we're told the garage will be an extra room for us, but now it's going to be a tack room.  Marvellous.  So I had to put a brave face on it when I showed these people round and say grandly, "And this will be the tack room!"
It drove me mad because Pongo walked round with us and wouldn't go away.  Even Missis had the sense to come out and introduce herself and go away again.  I didn't twig until much later why he wouldn't go.  We got down to discussing the cost of straw.  Missis and I had just talked about it before they turned up and she told me to charge £2/bale.  They asked me how much we would charge, so of course I said £2 when suddenly Pongo piped up, "How much do you pay now?" and it turns out that's what he'd been loitering for.  They said they paid £2.50/bale so he said, "Well that's how much we'd charge as at the moment we're not sure how much we'll be paying as the farmer we used to get it from has sold his farm, so we're sourcing it elsewhere."  Oh my flaming God!  When were they going to tell us this?  Bear in mind that it's been on the news that it could well snow in October.  We have about six bales of straw in the barn and might need to bed our horses down very soon indeed and they don't know where to get straw from.  Flippin 'eck. 
But I just stood there trying to stay calm but probably going redder and redder and still Pongo wouldn't go away.
The next day I confronted Missis and she said it was true that the guy we used to get our straw from has sold his farm (not just Pongo trying to make a quick buck, then) so she's trying to find it from somewhere else but doesn't want the huge round bales (we couldn't collect them). 
But the outcome is that it's been over a week now and this woman hasn't even phoned me to say she will or won't be coming.  I guess we assume she won't be coming, don't we?  I actually have her phone number in my call log on my phone so I'm tempted to ring her and ask what she's decided.  Or do I just assume it's obvious.  A tad frustrating.
So I'm just going along as normal with our three horses until the next person rings.
I'll leave it there for now and try to write again soon. 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Simon Says

Still busy here, as usual.  I have decided to class Thursdays as my day off, as lately the weekends can be busier than some of my week days.
I have been going to the knitting group in the village every Thursday morning and really enjoy it.  I don't knit though, as you know, but it's really motivated me to keep doing my cross stitch. We have such a laugh, and I really need it.
The woman who owns the shop keeps alpacas.  She knits things with their wool.  It's fabulous stuff.  Imagine being able to knit wool from your own animals.  Alpacas actually sound quite easy to keep.  They don't need to be mucked out or fed much, and their little feet don't churn the ground up like horses' hooves do.  Mmmm.. (rubs chin thoughtfully!)  Unlike most animals, it's not the male that's the most valuable.  You know how you have your stallion or your stud dog?  With alpacas it's the female that counts.  Where you can buy a male for £500, the females can be £2000 or more.  Nobody's rung up about our livery spaces, so you never know, alpacas may be the way to go.
Simon, our field ornament, has settled in very well.  He likes Zak a lot.  John has been schooling him this evening and Simon has been standing in the field whinnying for him.  It's not that he doesn't like Barnaby but there's definitely an air of 'Us TB's must stick together.'  Leigh and her sister came up to see him yesterday, but he didn't seem desperately interested, to be honest.  Considering he's only been here a week and a half, he's very settled.
I have decided to clip Barnaby in the next day or two.  I keep hacking him out and not going very far but when we come back he's dripping wet.  I couldn't think what the matter was, but realised he's got very hairy very quickly.  I've never clipped him this early before, I normally do his first one in the middle of October, but needs must. 
I decided to lunge him yesterday.  I don't do it on my own very often, as he's very difficult to lunge.  He quite often runs off and eventually I have to let go of the lunge line.  I can't attach the clip to the noseband on the cavesson, I have to put it through his bit ring, over his head and clip it onto the bit ring on the other side. 
But he did get away from me, the crafty devil.  He galloped round and round and up and down until he ran out of puff.  I caught him and decided to take the lunge line off him and just freeschool him instead.  With most horses I think free schooling is a total waste of time, but I decided as long as he burned off a few calories I wouldn't mind.
And then, to my astonishment, he brought himself onto a 20m circle and started lungeing himself around me.  I decided to give him some voice commands and he obeyed them instantly.  Then I stuck the whip out in my left hand and said, "Aaand Barnaby, TURN!" and he did, and went the other way.  I was thrilled.  Again I gave him voice commands and he obeyed them all.  I have no idea what it is about being on the lunge line that he doesn't like, but he looked at me at the end as if to say, "See, I told you I could do it!"  I gave him a good rub to say 'good boy'.  He looked as if to say, "You've learned a lot today, haven't you?"(giving me that sideways, patronising look).   It was fabulous.  We've had him six years!  So I guess that's how we'll be lungeing in future. 
So all is well here, but I wouldn't mind a couple of liveries to come soon.  Here's hoping.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

All Change! (Lyndy Leaves, Simon Arrives)

It's been hectic here as usual.  Sadly, after a great deal of discussion and mind changing, Lyndy went to his new home on Saturday afternoon.  I said my goodbye's in the morning and felt quite calm about it at the time, but I miss him so much.  It's not like he and Barnaby ever got on, but he was a lovely boy, a huge cob who was lovely to ride.  He was my Big Bear. 
But while this was going on, we were driving to Nottinghamshire to pick Simon up.  I will post some photos of him very soon, but probably not while we're enduring what Hurricane Katia has to throw at us!  He sweated up a little in the lorry but we turned him straight out and he was fine.  The stress of transporting someone else's beloved equine is incredible.  There's no way I could be in the horse transport business.  Anyway, Barnaby and Zak were in the middle field, so they ran up and down the wall, trying to work out where Simon had come from.  Then they came down to get better acquainted.  Barnaby made it clear that he was in charge and was to be obeyed at all times.  He didn't like Simon being with Zak.  At the time they probably thought Lyndy had just gone for a hack and would be back any minute, so it was all very unsettling for them.
We decided to just let them be horses and get to know each other, so after watching them for about half an hour, we left them to it. 
On Sunday we decided to ride Barnaby and Zak together and leave Simon in the field, just to see what happened.  He whinnyed while we tacked up, but we could see him from up the road and he seemed to settle and just carry on eating.  This is very good news, although it's not often these days that John and I ride out together.  It really highlighted just how much we need at least 3 horses here, as we got Zak in to feed him yesterday and Barnaby began to trot up and down the fence line.  Then he remembered that he had Simon there and that things weren't as bad as he thought, and he calmed down.  He's being quite hard to bring in at the moment, though, as he's desperate to eat.  He doesn't run off, he stands there and lets me put the headcollar on, but then refuses to move.  Time for the Kemp Controller to come out of storage, I think!  They know the weather is changing and just want to stay out and eat and eat.
We've been getting Simon in every evening too, to groom him and get him used to the stables here and used to us.  I don't want him to become feral.  He's let us groom him and pick his feet out, anyway, which is good.  He isn't shod, but obviously he'll still need the farrier for trimming so he's got to be used to being handled.  I'm just so glad he's here - we'd be totally stuck without him.
I have seen the advert for us as a livery yard that Pongo and Missis have put up in a couple of local tack shops (and in the village Post Office, I think, I'll have to have a look on Thursday when I go down there).  I was astonished to see my name and mobile number on there, even though it was my idea.  Missis is in America all week and so it seems silly to put her number on it, a) because it will cost people a fortune to phone her and b) because they'll probably ring her at 4am, which won't go down very well! 
So suddenly it seems a lot more real and I am ready to be the manager of a livery yard.  I am spending this week, while Missis is away, tidying everything up, mucking out etc, to have the place how I want it.  They've hired a skip but there's a lot more stuff to chuck in it yet!  We need room for the farrier to shoe the horses indoors without bumping into things, and I want all the wheelbarrows and tools together in one place so people don't think it's acceptable to leave them in the stables.
I also need to move Missis' feed bins out of the way, as I can't have some horse sticking their nose in it on the way past and making themselves ill.  I've never been happy with having feed in the actual stables anyway, have you ever come across that?  (It's not even shut into a spare stable).
The other thing is that apparently Hugo is being very badly behaved in his schooling home.  At first it was mooted that he might come home, but I think that would be a bit strenuous on Missis, not to mention thoroughly confusing for Hugo.  There are a number of options being bandied about, so we'll have to wait and  see on that one.  Apparently he's trashed his stable and keeps escaping from his field.  I do think he'll get fed up if he's just schooled all the time, especially as he's on a lot less turn-out than he had here.  Let's hope a buyer comes along soon.
Before I go, I must just tell you something that happened on Saturday morning.  I was supposed to go to Specsavers for a contact lense appointment but decided to ring up and cancel.  The receptionist kept me on the phone for quite a while, but finally said, "Can I have your date of birth, please?"  I replied, "14.03.67."  She then said, "Is that 1967?"  I ask you!
All for now

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Next Installment

Are you ready for the next installment?  You might want to make yourself a cup of tea...
I have to tell you, I've been seriously contemplating giving up blogging.  It's not that it's time consuming, it's because I've always kept a diary in the past and once I'd made the decision that this would be my diary I realised that there were certain things I wouldn't be able to say, as this is a public forum and I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  But in a diary I could write the whole truth and it would be there for me to remember, warts and all.  Plus you never know how long your computer will last, and this diary is 'out there', not in my hand, as I would prefer.
But I've read through quite a bit of it recently and realised that it's quite sweet and a very good record of our lives here.  And because of all the latest stuff going on I've decided to keep going.  But you must remember that I've decided to keep it on as my diary, in which I am going to put the raw truth about how my life works, and you must form your own opinions.  I won't be offended, and it won't alter the fact.

So yesterday turned out to be a phenomenally busy day.  The two boys next door went back to school, the eldest to secondary school for the very first time.  This was slightly overshadowed by other events, though.
The two women who came on Sunday to look round rang to say they wouldn't be coming.  I am quite relieved about this, because although they were calling themselves DIY, which really means what the title says, you come, you muck out, you ride your horse and you put your horse away, really they were part livery and needed quite a lot of jobs doing for them.  I'm really after DIY as I don't  want to do lots of mucking out for other people.  So anyway, I'm quite pleased.
Then Mr O came home and went out again.  More of that later (eventually).
Then the farrier came.  I'd made a mistake and booked him in for Barnaby but we really needed Lyndy doing as well, but he only had time to tighten his shoes.  I showed him Zak's wound.  He said one of his clients took his horse to a show at Killamarsh at the weekend.  The horse wouldn't load to come home and reared up and fell over backwards.  They got a vet out (imagine the call-out) who said he was fine.  The horse still wouldn't go in the lorry so the owner decided to walk him home.  He'd gone quite a way when the horse fell down dead in the road.  Sorry to shock you, but how absolutely awful is that?  I knew we'd got off light with Zak on that Sunday, and this just goes to show, doesn't it?  Count your blessings, people.
So we turned the horses back out and waited for Sally to come, which she duly did at 4.30.  I'd been feeling sick all day (and Lyndy isn't even my horse).  It just brought all the memories of selling Max flooding back.  Plus Missis wanted me to escort this woman on a ride and the weather was dreadful, gale force winds and rain.  I got Barnaby in and Lyndy was already there.  Sally and her groom and her son were looking Lyndy over.  The groom came straight over to Barnaby, "He's handsome, isn't he?"  Barnaby just stood there with that smug look on his face. 
In the end they didn't even want to ride Lyndy.  He was to be the young boy's birthday present.  They just trotted him up to see that he was sound and said they'd have him.  'Struth.  I hope they're not thinking cob = plod, because he isn't.  But there we are.
Because Barnaby had had Sunday and Monday off, I still had to ride him,  so I carried on tacking him up and got on.  The wind was howling, but fortunately the rain had stopped, so off I went.  Do you know, that horse didn't put a foot wrong?  He is so amazing.  And he needs to be, as it'll be windy like this for the next few months (then it will snow!)   We went past the yellow circle painted on the road, that he spooked at last week.  I thought we'd make a thing of it and go over it a couple of times but Barnaby couldn't have cared less.  "Yes, it's a yellow circle, I've seen it before.  Can we get on?" 
So, as I was riding up towards the livery yard, I thought, 'Shall I go in and say, "I haven't come to poach your liveries, but if you know of anyone who wants to stick their horse in my field as a field companion for a few months, that would be fantastic!"' but then really felt the Lord saying, "Don't panic.  I WILL PROVIDE."  His voice was quite insistent, almost stern, it isn't always like that. 
I was quite stunned as I haven't heard from the Lord like that in a while and carried on riding thinking, 'well you've never let us down before, if you've said it, I believe it.'  In fact, the last time he spoke to me like that was when I was selling Max and the Lord said he'd bring me a buyer within 3 weeks.  And He did.
So I told John this when he eventually got home.  We were so starving we decided to go and get fish and chips.  When I got back I found my mobile and on it was a message from Leigh, who bought Max from me.  She'd put, 'If you seriously want a companion, give me a ring,' so I did.
It turns out they have an 18yr old TB called Simon.  I do remember him when she showed him to us when we visited Max in May.  They have been considering putting him on loan as a field companion for a while.  I said straight away that I might only want him for 3 weeks, or it could be 6 months and she said that was fine.  She said I could leave him in the field and take Zak and Barnaby out and it wouldn't stress him.  He isn't shod and only needs trimming every 10 weeks.  I am totally gobsmacked.  My status on facebook this morning says, 'All I can say is, God moves phenomenally fast these days.'  The thing is, companion horses that you can give back are as rare as hen's teeth.  He won't need a stable at the moment, I've said he can stay until we get liveries.  But of course, if it snows in that time, we'll keep him for as long as necessary.
I'm not sure if I've explained why this is so good.  The problem is that Lyndy will go on Saturday and then I just have my two boys in the field.
If I take Barnaby out, Zak will be a bit stressed.  In fact, this happened yesterday with Lyndy and Barnaby in.  Zak was trotting up and down whinnying because he's on his own.  But, to be fair, he did calm down and it wasn't long before Lyndy went back out.  But this is what it will be like with just the two of them if I take Barnaby out to ride him.  BUT more significantly, if John takes Zak out, Barnaby will go mental.  He will either injure himself or do some serious damage to Pongo's brand new post and rail.  If I leave him in the stable it will be worse.  Don't forget, this is the horse that jumped over the stable door last November and got stuck.
So this is a massive answer to prayer.  I am so happy I could cry.  I am trying to get hold of Leigh now to say we'll come and get him at the weekend.  So we'll have two TB's and one cob.  Crisis over.
More soon,
Thanks for wading through this!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Farewell Hugo

We went to fence judge at our old yard yesterday, for the showcross.  It poured with rain most of the day, and we got drenched, but it was a good day.  Three cheers for my friend Leanne, who won the Novice Senior section, having only just got back on a horse in recent weeks.
As arranged, Missis took Hugo to Nicky's yard at lunch time.  I made sure I said goodbye to him on Saturday.  I hope he finds a good new owner and gets back into competing as he is such a talented horse and only nine.  He was wasted here, really. 
Missis came out to see us before we set off for Lorna's, to say that a prospective livery was coming to look round in the evening and that she wanted me to be there, as she'd like to introduce me as the Yard Manager.  To be honest, I am delighted by this, and have cheered up considerably.  Missis has told me how much she wants from each livery and that I can charge to turn out, bring in and muck out, although I don't want to do too many.
So the two girls came at 5pm.  They share a horse between them.  In fact, the younger girl owns him but is away at university and the older woman does him four days a week (including the weekend fortunately).  They would want me to turn out every day, bring in three days and muck out three days.  A woman helped them out at the yard they're on, but she's left as she had to have her horse put to sleep, so they've got no one to do him and need help on the days they can't be there.
The main thing for me is that they're quite happy to poo pick the field.
They had a good look round and seemed quite happy, but they have to give 30 days notice at the yard they're on, so hopefully they will do, and then they'll come, but we'll see.
Missis has complied with all my requests, like:
proper tack storage (one of the stables in the new barn will have a heavy door put on it like Pongo's got on his workshop, and each livery will be given a key.)
No smoking on site at all.
No dogs.
Everyone uses the same gate we use, which John will unlock in the morning and lock up at night.

So we'll have to wait and see.  Missis is going to advertise in local tack shops and in the village shop.  Hopefully they'll all be DIY as I don't want to be mucking out other people's horses all day and be worse off than I was before (physically) but at least I'll be being paid for it this time, and we really need a couple of horses to be companions for Barnaby and Zak once Lyndy goes.
Watch this space.
More very soon

Friday, 2 September 2011

All Go

Hello everybody.  I am a bit stunned.  I'd better tell you what's been going on.
Missis told me on Monday that she'd decided to sell Hugo.  He will go to Nicky Hunt's yard for a couple of weeks, to be schooled, then she will compete him and advertise him for sale.  He is going on Sunday.  John and I will be out fence judging, so at least it gives Missis time to recover a bit before we get home.  I am quite upset by this, as you can imagine.
But then the second blow came today.  It seems they have decided to let Lyndy go as well.  Missis sold Fudge to a dealer (a very nice dealer, I think) called Sally.  Missis has obviously been discussing her predicament with Sally, who has said that she has someone very interested in Lyndy and Missis has agreed to let him go (which she must have planned, to have rung Sally in the first place). 
I am absolutely devastated.  I love Lyndy so much and he is such good friends with Zak.  It serves me right for getting attached to someone else's horse, doesn't it?  I considered saying we'd have him, but to be honest, by the time I've mucked out in the winter I've just about got the energy to ride Barnaby (plus I lunge Zak 3 days a week).  Plus Barnaby is very much a one-woman horse and doesn't like Lyndy at all, and would hate me to ride him!
Obviously we are very worried that Pongo and Missis won't need/want us here if there are no horses to do.  I asked her and she said it's absolutely essential that we're here, a) because I have the boys after school anyway, but also just to have someone about the place when they're not here, which is quite often, as you know. 
Of course, I could look on the bright side, as I'll now only have my horses to muck out in the winter, which is a big bonus.  Missis has said she'll advertise for liveries, but I don't think she's really thought it through.  I mentioned today that if she goes ahead with it, liveries will expect some lockable storage for their tack.  I didn't even mention rug storage and a feed room.  (We keep our tack locked in the house).  
She did say today that if we have liveries they won't use our showjumps (which is John's main worry), but at the moment I am the only person that poo picks the fields and I'm not doing it for other people's horses.  I also level the manege, which will have to be done more often, won't it?  I don't mind cleaning the trough out as I do that for my own horses anyway. 
It is so quiet and peaceful here that it will be odd having virtual strangers about the place.  I don't really want people who smoke (but it will have to be made clear at the outset that people can't smoke on site) and I hope we get some nice people who don't swear and steal other people's stuff, as that's a side to livery yard life that I definitely don't miss.  You have to remember that the whole point of coming here was that this isn't a livery yard.
But it's not going to happen over night, is it?  Lyndy is going on Tuesday.  I've got the farrier coming at 1pm, so it'll be a strange and hectic day.  I think this Sally might want to try Lyndy out as Missis asked me if I'd hack out with her, which isn't a problem.  Maybe she won't think he's suitable?  Who knows?
And then of course, the really big, immediate problem, is that only our two horses will be left.  This is going to cause problems when I want to ride Barnaby out as it will mean leaving Zak on his own.  And even worse will be if John wants to ride Zak out, as Barnaby will go ballistic.  Marvellous.  But I'm not panicking as I think John isn't going to ride Zak until he's completely better.  His wound is not an attractive sight.  So maybe we'll have a livery by then.  It's either that or we'll have to get a field companion.  John actually suggested this himself, much to my surprise.  I wouldn't mind a little 13.2 that we could take to shows! 
So I feel very strange this evening.  I feel as if someone is taking my horse away, which is silly, but there we are.  I keep wanting to go outside and make sure Barnaby is still there.  I feel sorry for him too, because he loved Max and he went, then he loved Polo, and he went and now he likes Hugo (albeit a love-hate relationship) and now he's going.  I suppose, as long as he's got Zak, he'll be fine, but this will make them more inseparable than ever. 
Missis has said we can have her stables if we want.  I might consider it, as they are bigger than ours and Zak's stable is really a bit on the small side for him, plus he'll be out of the doorway and a bit more sheltered.  But I don't really want Zak and Barnaby to be able to touch each other as they'll mutually groom and Barnaby will pull all of Zak's mane out like he did to Max ("I haven't got a mane - you shouldn't have a mane!")
So I feel very unsettled at the moment and am going to drown my sorrows in the most enormous bar of Dairy Milk I've ever seen.  It's either that or a bottle of wine, and I'm not a big drinker and don't really want to wake up with a hangover. 
Thanks for wading through this mega-post.  Your comments are, as always, much appreciated.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

It's been a hectic few days.  I suppose I am blessed really that I am too busy living life to have time to sit down and write about it!
I hacked Barnaby out yesterday.  As you know, he is a bold horse, who is afraid of nothing.  So when we went down the first lane and a pigeon flew out of the trees just above our heads, and Barnaby leapt to the right, I thought it was acceptable.  It actually startled both of us.  Fair do's.
We continued down into the village, where a number of the scarecrows from the weekend were still lounging about, minding their own business.  Barnaby didn't turn a hair, and was quite close to some of them, including Lady Gaga... 
And yet, when we came to the yellow circle painted in the road, apparently this was terrifying and required an energetic leap to the left ('It's just a jump to the LEFT!) in front of some elderly types at the entrance to the nursing home.  I was not embarrassed, no siree!
We trotted on until we came to a gate.  Not just any gate, but the gate, beyond which lives the love of Barnaby's life.  Yes, Maud the donkey resides there.  Barnaby arched his neck, ("Hello, Pretty!") Maud batted her eyelashes, ("Oh Sir Barnaby, how lovely to see you!")  Oh for goodness sake, can we get on
Instead of going straight home, I decided to take a detour.  At one point there is a garden which is about 2 feet above our heads.  I don't know how to explain why it's so high above the lane, but it is.  I know there is a dog in this garden and that he will come out all guns blazing, which he does, so it's a good job I'm ready as Barnaby does another death defying leap to the right.  It's amazing that something so heavy can leap so speedily in the opposite direction to that in which it was originally travelling.  I guess I can forgive him for this one, too, as, let's face it, a barking dog must look pretty scary to a horse when it's above him, it must look as though it's about to leap on his back or something. 
So I got home in one piece, and so did my noble steed.  Or not so noble, now I come to think of it.  All we needed was a few guns going off and I'd have ended up in Derby!
Jane xx

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Busy Bank Holiday

Hello all!  I think August has been the longest month going.  I know I am willing it to pass quickly as I have stupidly given myself a monthly craft budget, which John happily agreed to, and which didn't take long to spend!  Because I am trying to stick to it, I am desperate for September, so I can buy some more goodies essentials.
There has been loads of stuff going on in the village this weekend.  There is a beautiful old building called The Bassett Rooms (because it used to belong to the Bassett family who make Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts) which was hosting an art exhibition upstairs and a coffee shop downstairs.
The paintings are  by local artists and they were all lovely.  I think, because I've started using watercolour paints, I can appreciate what's involved.  My favourite pictures were some of our area when it was snowing, they were beautifully done.  I am amazed that there is so much talent in such a small area.
Then the church was hosting a flower festival.  The theme was 'Thankyou for the music' as apparently there had always been a music festival here every year up until 2010.  I don't know why they've stopped doing it, though. 
Some of the displays were amazing.

This display was called, 'These Boots Are Made For Walking' by Nancy Sinatra. 
Very clever.

This is 'Carmen' by Bizet.  It was stunning. 
I'm not sure if the photo does it justice.

The church itself is a beautiful building in its own right. 
I am ashamed to say, I've never been in it before!

And then, outside, the craziest thing I've ever seen. 
Apparently it's a local tradition at this time of year, to make a scarecrow. 
 It's a competition, and the 'Thankyou For The Music' theme was carried through
 to the scarecrow costumes. 
 I'd joked at craft group that I was envisioning scarecrows dressed as Elvis,
and lo and behold, the first thing I saw when I got out of the car:

There were cries of, "Look, there's Elvis!" from passers-by.
Not something you're going to hear very often, is it?!

Only in England, eh?
What with that, and the barmy weather, it's been a very interesting weekend.
Hope yours has been enjoyable, too.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Travel Trauma - Bonsall Moor Pleasure Ride

I hardly know where to start.
We set off with Barnaby and Zak yesterday morning, to go to a place called Bonsall Moor.  Zak was pretty quiet in the lorry, only one brief bout of banging around.  We arrived at the venue and were patting ourselves on the back for a job well done as we lowered the ramp.  We opened the dividers and there was Zak looking sweated up, but none the worse for the journey.  John led him down the ramp and tied him up.
I went back into the lorry to get Barnaby out, but stared at the partition in horror.  There was blood and hair all over it, and a big pool of sweat and more blood on the floor.  The wooden part of the partition had been smashed.
I went straight to John and said, "You need to check the other side of him."  John walked round and stared in disbelief at Zak's side, which was covered in lacerations.  Zak began to shake.
It took a while to calm down and try to think what to do.  Both of us were trying not to cry.  I think I was shaking as much as Zak was. 
I got Barnaby out and saw loads of flies on him.  I swept them aside and saw blood on Barnaby's flank, but realised it was Zak's blood.  For goodness sake.  Barnaby just stood there stoically.
We knew we couldn't travel back in the lorry.  John said he would ride Zak home and come back for me and I could do the ride, but it wasn't really viable for either of them to travel in the lorry.  I knew Barnaby wouldn't want to go round without Zak, and who really wants to swan off on a pleasure ride while their husband's horse is injured?  I said we'd ride home together.
Then we couldn't think what to do about the lorry.  This is one of very few weekends where Pongo and Missis are away.  They'd gone to the V Festival in Birmingham.  If they'd have been there they'd have whizzed over in the car and Pongo could have driven the lorry back.
In the end I said we'd have to ring eldest daughter and son-in-law to see if they could help us out.  We knew it would take about 2 hours to ride home so rang them and asked if they could be at our house by 1pm and they agreed.  They dropped their children off with Daughter 2, then set off for our place.
Meanwhile, the organisers of the ride had given us 2 hi-viz vests and a mobile phone.  We couldn't very well ask someone to transport the horses home as
a) they'd come to do a pleasure ride, not sort us out and
b) there is a massive liklihood that Zak would trash their vehicle, too.

So riding was the only option.
Fortunately, after John had cleaned Zak up and dressed the wound, we walked him round and he was sound, so we tacked them both up and set off for home.
At this point I'd like to count my blessings, because
a) Zak could have broken a leg in the lorry or something that doesn't bear thinking about.  I don't want to go there, but imagine having to call a vet out.
b) It wasn't raining!
c) Considering where we were, it's a miracle that we knew how to get home, as we were south west of Chatsworth.

We decided to make the best of it, as we'd come to do a pleasure ride anyway, and both mentally broke the ride up into sections, so nobody felt like saying, "Are we there yet?"  The traffic for the first half was horrendous.  This area is very popular with motorcyclists, and hundreds of them must have gone past us.  I am so glad I knew I could trust Barnaby and that he would get me home.  He didn't bat an eyelid at anything going on in the fields next to us or anywhere else.  I love him so much.
And very quickly they knew we were on a mission and not just a normal ride.  We had to go up the steepest of steep hills and they did it.  It shows how fit they are.  Obviously it was a long journey, but when we got to a place called Darwin Forest, they knew what was going on, it was weird.  Barnaby just suddenly started the shoulder roll and could have trotted for England, it was amazing.
I was worried about John as he'd signed up for a 10 mile ride and suddenly found himself doing 20, but he was fine (because of him being not very well lately).
I have never been so glad to see signs saying 'Ashover Parish' in all my life, and it was actually thrilling to turn into our road and know we'd done it.  They are such strong boys, and so fit, I never doubted for a moment that we'd make it.
I untacked Barnaby and washed him down and John cleaned Zak up again.  It's hard to see how bad the wound is because he's got purple spray on dark skin, but it isn't nice at all, poor boy.
Then Lisa and Steve arrived and we went in the house to have a cup of tea while the men went to collect the lorry.  I am meant to clean it out today but I just can't face it.  It looks like somebody was murdered in there. 
So we made the best of what was an awful situation.  I don't know what we'd have done if Lisa and Steve hadn't been able to come over, I suppose we'd have had to leave the lorry there until today. 
I've seen both horses cantering about this morning, so they are obviously fine.  I am going to put my foot down though, and insist that Zak doesn't travel again for ages (if at all) and that Barnaby isn't going anywhere with him until I know he's totally calm again.  It's not fair on Barnaby to have to put up with that.  He's been a total man about it, but I don't want him to be put off travelling when he's so good.
I have slept through the night for the first time in weeks, absolutely exhausted.  I never want to go through that, or put a horse through it, again.
Mrs O.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook - August

Outside my window: It's starting to get dark and it's only 7.45pm.  Boo hoo!

I am thinking: I wish I hadn't told Mr O I would reduce my crafting budget.  It's nearly killing me to spend such a small amount on craft stuff each month.  Oh well, everything comes to him (or her) who waits...

I am thankful for:  the fact that Barnaby is well and fully recovered from his injury.  In fact, judging from his energy levels today, I'd say somebody's feeding him when my back is turned!

From the learning rooms: practising with a distressing tool to see how to get the effect on card.  It's lovely, and really easy to use.

I am wearing: my lovely grey cardigan.  It is so cosy and bobbley and comforting.  I wear it indoors all the time.  It is my noo noo.

I am reading: 'Love In A Cold Climate' by Nancy Mitford.  I have waited all my life to read these books as they obviously went out of fashion for many years.  If you want to know a bit more about this extraordinary woman, read this.  I am only half way through but am thoroughly enjoying it.  It's very witty, things like this:
'...Lady Montdore loved anybody royal.  It was a genuine emotion, quite disinterested, since she loved them as much in exile as in power, and the act of curtsying was the consummation of this love.  Her curtsies, owing to the solid quality of her frame, did not recall the graceful movement of wheat before the wind.  She scrambled down like a camel, rising again backside foremost like a cow, a strange performance, painful it might be supposed to the performer, the expression on whose face, however, belied this thought.  Her knees cracked like revolver shots but her smile was heavenly...'    I'm afraid I found myself cackling at the thought!

I am hoping/praying: for poor Mr O who is still ill.  He gets the results of his blood tests this coming Wednesday.  Something is obviously wrong, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

On my mind: Our cockerel George has sadly died.  He was quite ill last week, then I found him on Monday morning.  Poor boy.  I don't know what was wrong with him.  I don't think it's red mite as all the other chickens are fine.  I really miss him.  How silly, to be attached to a bird like that.

I am creating: cards, of course!  Commissions are like buses - you don't see any for ages, and then suddenly you get three at once.  A wedding card for Priscilla to send to Hong Kong, and a card for a friend's sister and her son.  Plus my own son next week, so I'm not idle!

I am hearing: Stephen Fry narrating a wildlife documentary.

From the kitchen:  I made a strawberry cheesecake yesterday.  It was low-fat (a Slimming World recipe) and absolutely delicious.  I used leaf gelatine for the first time in my life - fascinating stuff. 

Noticing that: the creative side of me is becoming quite dominant.  I am having 4-5 hours sleep a night as I lay there with card making ideas running through my head.  I am seeing 'design' everywhere, especially in one particular cinema advert.  I don't know how else to describe it.  I see things in terms of pattern and colour and whether things go together or not.  This is a completely new experience for me.  It's a bit mad but I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

Around the house: I am bracing myself for removing every single book from the book case, dusting them and putting them all back again.  Thank goodness for libraries.

One of my favourite things:

I don't use a diary, I use a journal, and everything is written in it, from my inspirations to shopping lists. I was thrilled to find this  Cath Kidston version in Waterstones, and even more thrilled that Mr O was willing to buy it for me!
This is one of the inside pages, but some are different:

How can I fail to be inspired, writing in a book like that?!
A scripture thought: 
 'If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm;
 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.' 
Psalm 37: 23-24

A few plans for the rest of the week:  A pleasure ride round Bonsall Moor tomorrow.  It's just over 10 miles which will be a doddle for the boys at the moment.  I just hope Zak travels well. 

A picture thought:  I walk round the corner, and this is the view that greets me:

Even on a misty day, it never fails to take my breath away.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Life Is Full Of Ups And Downs!

On the upside: I am thrilled to say that Barnaby is much better, he's sound and rideable, but the wound is still there.  Fortunately he let's me pick the bad leg up to pick his feet out, and when he does this, all the leg hair (that he won't let me clip off) moves out of the way, and I can put a big dollop of Sudocrem along the wound.  If he lets me do that every day, it'll heal up pretty quickly now. 
I nervously got on him on Saturday and walked him around in the manege.  I am much better at telling if a horse is lame by riding them rather than watching them trot up, although I know this isn't always feasible.  He felt fine.  In fact, he felt absolutely wonderful, so we went for a quick hack, which turned out to be a lot quicker than I'd intended.  He flew along the lanes and we were back in no time, with him in no pain whatsoever.  So that's one less thing to worry about.  Such a joy to have my boy back.
On the downside: Mr O has been quite ill and now we think it may be gall stones.  He's got to go back to the doctor's tomorrow for blood tests.  Our lovely friend the chiropractor has recommended that he drink cider vinegar with cloudy apple juice, as this will naturally get rid of gall stones.  We have looked into this and it seems she is right, so Mr O is doing it.  I'll let you know what happens.
On the downside: the monotony of life is getting to me.  This is not helped by the number of people, including my sister, who think I am living a life of lottery-winning style luxury!  Some days I work non-stop from the minute I get up until the minute I go to bed.  What annoys me is that this is not our farm, but we do all the jobs on it.  I clean the trough, poo pick the field, level the manege, clean out the chickens, clean out the ducks, feed the cats, water the plants, weed the garden, etc, all physical jobs (did I mention the washing and ironing?) which people seem to think they can pile on me.  I know I live somewhere wonderful and I don't have a boss breathing down my neck, but I don't have a wage either.  Missis has never poo picked the field or cleaned out the trough and only levelled the manege a couple of times before the novelty wore off.  I've seen to their horses while they were on holiday and am doing it again this weekend (and the dogs, too) but we haven't had a holiday this year, and if we did, we'd take the horses with us, and I'd still be poo picking.  At least if you go out to work you get to leave it all behind at the end of the day.  My 'jobs' never seem to end.  Phew!  Glad I got that off my chest. 
Because of this:
On the upside:  A new shop has opened next to the Post Office in the village.  It's called 'Vintage Junk'.  I've been in for a mosey round and really liked it.  There was a little notice outside saying that on Thursdays they have a get together where people bring their knitting and sewing and have coffee and cakes.  Spurred on (mostly by the lure of coffee and cakes) I decided to go down last week and see what's what.  And I'm so glad I did.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  I seriously don't see enough people from day to day, and it was so lovely to sit and chat with some like-minded women and have a laugh.  I actually took down and did some cross-stitch, which is something I haven't done for ages.  It was so nice to be motivated and look at somebody else's four walls for a change.  I am, of course, going again this week, and will try to take some photos this time.
I also said that I make cards and took a few to show them.  One of the women asked if I could do her a christening card that day, so I rushed home and made one.  She was very taken with it, which is a relief! 

So, sorry about the moan, but things have been getting on top of me a bit lately.  I am astonished to be just as busy during the summer as I am in the winter, and it's all physical tasks.  I am not a man, or a machine, and wouldn't mind so much if other people joined in now and then.  I know they say, 'A woman's work is never done,' but this is ridiculous.
Mrs O (climbing down from her soapbox somewhat reluctantly!)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Ashover Show

We are very fortunate that we have a big village show here every August.  This year they were celebrating 80 years of the event.  Although I had withdrawn Barnaby I decided to go down anyway, just to have a mosey round (okay, I went to eye up the opposition a bit, too!) I got there in time to see the TARRA ex-racehorse class.  There were only four in it.  Perhaps I should have taken Zak instead of Barnaby?!  The cobs were all stunning, and all of them looked a lot bigger than Barnaby. Maybe it's because I was on the ground. There is a height limit for showing cobs of 15.3hh, but some of these looked at least 16hh. No photos I'm afraid as I decided to video it instead to show Mr O when I got home. He couldn't get the day off work, unfortunately (hold that thought!)

But if it's horses you're after, you can't go wrong with these guys:

(or girls, obviously, as they are clearly mare and foal!)

There is usually a good turn-out of shires here, but it was lovely to see them with their babies.

Have a close look at the curly coat on this foal.

Of course, not all horses are huge, look:

This little colt came fourth in the youngstock class. 
 He let me get down and give him a cuddle, which was so sweet.
And then I saw these guys, who were significantly bigger than the colt:

Deer hounds, apparently, and very friendly (but I did have a cake in my bag by then!)

Of course, there is the possibility that you're not interested in the animal side of things,
but there is another side to Ashover Show, that mostly revolves around food.  Let me explain:

Five eggs on a plate, either five the same, or five completely different.
Not got chickens?  What about this, then?

I may have a crack at the lemon curd next year, so watch this space!

And every type of vegetable known to man.
Something for Mr O to aim for, for next year?

There was also a fabulous craft tent but I didn't dare take any photos!
And then the rain came down and I decided to wend my way home,
walking up the steepest of hills
with only blackberries to sustain me.
I did see these chaps, though:
A taste of rural England, at it's very best.
Even though it decided to pour with rain in the afternoon.
(and I got home to find Mr O poorly and asleep on the sofa!)