Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Meet The Gang, Cos The Boys Are Here!

It occurs to me that if you're a newcomer to my blog, you may not know who the boys are, especially as the newest arrival hasn't had much of a mention. We talked about it, and decided it would be best to to let them introduce themselves, so here goes...
(Do you mind? I'm having my feet done!)

Hello, the name's Barnaby, and I can't waste valuable eating time talking to you, so I'll be brief. I'm in charge, obviously. I organise everybody in the field and make sure they don't get above themselves. The haylage is mine, the trough is mine, you get the picture. I'm in the prime of my life and it goes without saying that I'm dashingly handsome (you can see that for yourself, clearly). Things have changed a bit around here recently. I always belonged to Dad, but last year the Little Woman got a bit above herself and started riding me instead. We go out, we gallop, we come back, like I did with Dad, but she's obsessed with running round in bally circles, too. Total waste of time if you ask me, everyone just gets dizzy, but she won't listen. She also insists on kissing me and doing lots of slobbery stuff in front of the other chaps. At first I didn't like it but I've taught her to scratch me in all the right places and she's getting really good at it, so I suppose the odd kiss when nobody's looking is acceptable. She has her uses though, after all, someone's got to bring me my tea, make my bed and change my rugs, haven't they?

Is it my turn? Is it? How frightfully nice. Well my name is Zak but sometimes I'm called Just Enough. I am an officer and a gentleman. I have a passport with parents and grandparents (Did I tell you my grandsire was Nijinsky?) I belong to Father. He's terribly nice. I used to race and still like to run up and down whenever I get the opportunity. Barnaby and I are chums. I do like the Little Woman, too. Whenever it rains, she dashes out and pops my pyjamas on, which is jolly useful, as I'm not allowed to get cold or I drop orf (whatever that means).

Right my name's Lyndy and I'm a southerner. I used to be in a riding school, so I get totally fed up if my dad, or anyone else for that matter, tries to school me. I used to be in charge until 'he' came and I'm not happy about it, I can tell you. If Barnaby comes in from the field I always try to get in ahead of him, just to show him I can still do it. I've got a new hobby now anyway, it's called 'trashing the electric fence' and I'm the best at it. None of the others can do it as well as I can. I'm ace because I can do it even when the power is on and I can't feel it and I just push against it until it snaps, cos I've got super powers and Barnaby hasn't so there! And in case you're wondering, I'm huge and rugs don't fit me and I jump the stone wall in the summer, just for fun, but when mum takes me to a competition I pretend I can't do it, which is really really funny. Don't tell her. You won't, will you?

Top o' the marnin to ya! Moi name's Hugo and I've kissed the Blarney Stone, to be sure. I'm part Connemara and part Thoroughbred and I was an event horse until I came here. That involved workin, really hard and, if I'm bein' honest, I wasn't that keen. I've come here and you've got to like the craic, it's like bein' on holiday, so it is. I only get ridden once or twice a week, it's flippin great. And I get turned out every day, with other horses. I didn't think much of the grazin' to be honest, so I stuck me head under the electric fence and jumped the wall from a standstill, into the next field. It was worth it just to see the look on their faces. Apparently there used to be a horse here called Max, and he was in charge of games and telling bedtime stories, so Barnaby gave me that job and I love it. I love to play 'bite your knee caps' or 'who's got the highest head?' or 'bite yer face,' it's great. And of course, at night I can tell stories of my adventures on the cross country course and keep everyone awake for hours. I do like to play games with mum in the school, it keeps her on her toes - well on her back, actually, I don't know why she likes it down there. Never mind, she'll get used to it...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Butterflies and Bows

I am on a roll with card making at the moment. Sometimes I get to my desk and I'm so excited I don't know where to start. I can't decide whether to flock something, put glossy accents on it or heat emboss it! No piece of card or paper is safe. I've made more cards for Mother's Day. I don't know if I mentioned that my own dear mum died about five years ago. I've never missed her on the big occasions like Mother's Day or her birthday until last year's Mother's Day where I felt that I couldn't make any cards without a mum of my own to send one to. But this year I've decided to make each one with love as if they were all for her, and I'm really enjoying myself.


These beautiful little toppers (the chipboard with the boy and girl on a swing) were free with a magazine I bought recently, so this card cost me absolutely nothing to make. I got the butterfly punch for my birthday. I could easily get carried away with these, don't be surprised if it's 'butterflies with everything' from now on.

I'm very pleased with this one, too. I've used a flower punch on the white vertical strip. For some reason I've had this punch for ages and only just worked out how to use it. Again, there is a very sweet image on the topper.

It's beautiful and sunny here. I am very affected by the weather, I've realised, especially as my job is outside all the time. The slightest bit of sunshine totally changes my outlook on life. Barnaby has gone out without a rug on for the last few days and even Zak is in a rug without a neck cover. Cats, dog and chickens are sunbathing for most of the day. I went for a fabulous ride yesterday. We came to a place where, for some inexplicable reason, someone has dumped two whole bales of haylage (Why?) . Barnaby was having none of it, reared up and spun round, but this was partly naughtiness, as he didn't think we should be going that way anyway, so he set off in the opposite direction. It was one of those times where you have a brief second's realisation of 'I bet he looks stunning' even while you're trying to sort things out! I was extremely pleased that I was able to stop him, turn him back and make him go past the spooky object. He was clearly fooling, silly boy, he isn't afraid of anything and we both know it. There were a few fabulous canters after that, whether I wanted to or not (this is at a place called Stubbing Court which is beautiful. You can see where the hall looks out across the lake. With the sun shining on the water it was a blissful place to be).

I hope you're all getting some time to make the most of this lovely weather, too, although I gather some of my American friends have snow, good grief.

Well I'm off to bake a cake (and maybe some biscuits too, if I get time).

Blessings, everyone,

Mrs O. (who is pleased to say that Zak is no longer lame, judging from the way he was belting up and down in the manege this morning...)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Blazing A Trail

I hope everyone's okay, it's really sunny and warm here, so I am outside a lot, making the most of the good weather.
I must tell you about Sunday. Mr O. took Zak to Trent Valley for another Trailblazers showjumping competition. We set off in plenty of time and arrived earlier than last time, but they were actually further on. The Clear Round had finished and the 65cm class had started, so we quickly registered and got Zak out of the lorry. We had come to do the 75cm and 85cm classes.
Mr O admitted he was very nervous. I am like that myself, sometimes I could be physically sick, which is one of the reasons I don't want to do it any more! Mr O tacked Zak up but I checked everything was done properly. For some reason, when you're nervous, normal behaviour goes out of the window. I've got on Max before and realised I hadn't even done his girth up properly. Nerves definitely do something to the brain.
So Mr O set off to the warm-up ring, but then realised he must walk the course. Sometimes a competition can be done so that everyone goes in and jumps round, then all those that jumped clear go back in for a 'jump-off' where less fences are jumped and it's against the clock, and obviously the fastest clear round wins.
This competition was two-phase, which means a competitor must know the jump-off course when they go in. They jump the whole course (10 fences) and then if they haven't had a fence down or had any refusals, they go straight on and do the jump-off course without stopping, which might be fence 1,2, 4,5 and 8 and 10. I can't stand doing it like this as I have a terrible sense of direction, I'd rather have a jump-off, but there we are.
I actually filmed Mr O as my photography is useless. So I was watching through the lens as Mr O went round. To my joy, he did the course clear and went straight back round to jump fence 1 again, then 2, whip round before your horse tries to jump fence 3 as it's straight in front of him, jump 4 and 5, then turn right quickly and jump 9 and 10. To my amazement, they did it! I can't show you the video as I may have said a little tiny swear word at the end, before letting go of the camera! I was so thrilled I was holding back a sob. We've had this horse two years and this is only his third competition. Mr O was a bit choked as well.
He came out of the arena and we both worked hard to pull ourselves together. Zak knew we were pleased with him. This means he has qualified to go through to the second round. This is a biggie for us, I can't begin to tell you. I am so excited, just thinking about it all over again.
Then Mr O warmed up for the 85cm class but felt something was wrong with Zak. Someone else said he looked lame. He didn't look lame to me. Mr O hopped off and we checked Zak's legs but all was fine. We decided that he should go in and have a go but if anything felt wrong he was to pull up immediately. And sure enough, after jumping two fences, Mr O doffed his cap and came out of the ring.
We gave Zak a bute in his tea and he was fine on Monday but I've got him in for his tea tonight and he is still lame. We think it might be an abscess (again) so we'll get the farrier to take his shoe off and have a look. Poor boy. Mr O is gutted, as you can imagine. We love our boys and can't stand it when something like this happens to them. It kind of takes the shine off, but I am still thrilled and delighted that Zak did it (and Mr O too, obviously, especially as he was so nervous).

Saturday, 19 March 2011

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Sorry it's been a while since my last post, I've never been so busy. It's all about prioritizing, isn't it? The fact is I love to ride, so by the time I've mucked out, taking Barnaby out somewhere is my first priority, which can also be quite tiring, as you can imagine. So the way I spend the rest of my time is very important to me. I've realised how important card making has become to me, I absolutely love it. I do love blogging too, but I've realised I'm spending far too much time on facebook again. I do love Farmville (do you play it?) but it's so slow, especially if you play in the evenings, which makes it very time consuming. I've decided to put that on the back burner for a while. It takes over your life if you're not careful, doesn't it? We did a fantastic fourteen mile pleasure ride round Rother Valley Country Park last Saturday. It was absolutely superb. We did a ten mile circuit and arrived back at the lorry park so the horses thought we'd finished. I nearly called it a day there, but I'm so glad I carried on as it was nearly all galloping after that. I thought Barnaby might be tired but he easily kept up with Zak. It was a fabulous place, the sun was shining and both horses were in a very good mood. It was my birthday on Monday (14th) so we went to my favourite craft shop, Dolly Cottage Crafts (what a sweet name!) and bought the item I've been waiting and waiting for - a heat embossing gun. I've been playing with it ever since. I also got some flock and some adhesive paper. Let me show you what I've been doing:

I've made several cards for Mother's Day which I've taken to the shop, and this is one of them. The thing is, the scalloped pink border is made using flock, so it's got that lovely soft texture. I stamped the image of the little girl and coloured it as usual, and then stamped it again on adhesive paper. I cut out the section that is her pink top and stuck it down on the stamped image. It's double sided sticky paper, so I peeled the top off and rubbed in the flock. I am very pleased with it. I'd like a pale brown flock, then I could use it on some bears, which would look really cute I think.

What else? Oh yes, this one:

This is another stamp from Little Claire's Designs. I think they're all so sweet. These and Lili of the Valley are my favourites. This card was actually quite hard to make and should have had an acetate window but I couldn't get the ink to show up on it at all which is a bit frustrating. I'm pleased with the end result though.

So all is well here, but one of the other reasons I haven't been blogging is that I'm so deeply in shock over the events taking place in Japan. I'm sure we're all watching developments unfolding on our television screens in horror. I think it's hard to grasp the scale of the disaster. Some of the images of the tsunami make it look like a bit of treacle spreading out, it's so hard to believe the wave was over 20 feet high and moving at a rate of 10m per second. You just can't fathom it, can you? So my thoughts and prayers are for all those involved, and I'm sure yours are too.

Hope you're all having a great weekend.

Mrs O.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Anniversary Days

Goodness me, what a hectic few days. First of all we had our wedding anniversary on March 10th (last Thursday). We've been married 16 years but have actually been together for 21. Yes all those years ago I walked into a large kitchen, our eyes met and the Lord said to me, "This is the man I am giving you." I glanced behind Mr O to find the dashing and wealthy man the Lord must have meant, but there was no one else there. At that stage I had no idea there were several Little O's running about the place too. I can only cope with one thing at a time. But all these years later we are happier than ever - who'd have thought it?! First of all I'd like to show you the card I made, filled with TLC:

I bought this image to do Valentines cards with, do you remember? But I couldn't resist bringing him out again for this card as he's so sweet and such fun to colour. I kept the rest of the card fairly simple, and was really pleased with the result.

And now the other thing...

Ages ago on facebook we got onto the subject of having our horses' picture painted and my friend Heather just casually mentioned that her mum paints horses. We were all a bit astounded by this and my friend Debbie asked if H's mum would do a painting of her horse Arthur. We waited with baited breath, and the finished result was astounding. I immediately emailed H and asked if her mum would do one of Zak and she said she'd love to. I sent across as many photos as I could muster, but in particular a good shot of his face as I love his markings. I had decided it would make the perfect birthday present for Mr O, but as the week went on and my excitement grew I realised there's no way I'd be able to wait that long. Then I had the brainwave of giving it to him for our anniversary.

The production of this painting has been conducted in total secrecy though. Once the painting was finished Heather sent a photo of it to my mobile phone. Of course it beeped when it arrived and Mr O asked who the text was from. I opened the message and my jaw dropped when I saw the photo. I lied through my teeth and said it was my riding instructor asking if I wanted a lesson in the morning. Then Heather tagged the photo to me on my facebook page and there it sat. That meant that every time I wrote on my profile page I got in a panic if Mr O was looking over my shoulder watching what I was typing and had to quickly flick off the page.

I had to wait a week for the painting to dry and then it arrived in the post. I cried when I opened it. Anyway, here it is, and I have to say, it's a fabulous likeness:

Mr O was absolutely delighted with it and was actually speechless for several seconds, and then shed a tear. He also thought the white bit on Zak's nose wasn't correct and went outside to check. To his surprise, it is an indentical likeness. I am thrilled with it, I must say. All we need to do now is find a frame.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook - March

Outside My Window: is glorious sunshine. It makes me wake up early in the mornings and I love it.

I am thinking: I hope it doesn't rain on Friday, so I can bath Barnaby for the pleasure ride on Saturday.

I am thankful for: Son 1 being here to help me muck out. It's made it so much quicker and easier.

I am wearing: green jods and a green jumper. It makes me look like Robin Hood.

I am reading: 'The Robe' by Lloyd C. Douglas. I haven't read it since I was about fifteen. I only realised yesterday that it's the perfect book to read in the run-up to Easter. You may have seen the film where John Wayne says, "Surely this man was the son of God."

I am hoping: Mr O likes his anniversary card, and more importantly his present. I am so excited about it. All will be revealed tomorrow.

On my mind: Am I going to be able to catch Hugo on my own tomorrow as he's jumped the wall and the electric fence into the next field every day this week!

From the kitchen: Pancakes - what else? I love them with bananas, cream and maple syrup, or black cherry pie filling - yum.

I am creating: I have just bought some flock and am working out exactly how it works. It's going to be fun.

I am hearing: the kettle boiling. Time for a hot chocolate, made by hubby.

Noticing that: the grass is growing in the field. I hope Barnaby doesn't put more weight on.

One of my favourite things:

Around the house: In all our years of marriage and the three houses we've lived in, we have never had a breadbin. I have no idea why this is as I've always wanted one. I think we decided there wasn't room. Bread has been a bit of a loose cannon, bedding down for the night wherever it could. But finally, last Saturday we bought one, and here it is:

It matches our tea, coffee and sugar cannisters and I'm really pleased with it.

A scripture thought: 'And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.' Ephesians 1:13-14

(I just love this passage of scripture).

A few plans for the rest of the week: Pleasure ride Saturday, church Sunday morning, possibly afternoon tea at Chatsworth in the afternoon.

A picture thought:

Finally, they are everywhere.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Ride Away!

It's been a hectic few days. Last Tuesday Mr O had the day off to go to hospital for physio. This meant we could hack out together in the afternoon, which we did. It was all rather fab, but when we got back it turned out Zak has lost a shoe. Mr O was a bit baffled and couldn't think how he'd done it.
This caused a crisis as Mr O was desperate to go show jumping on Sunday. I quickly text our farrier to see if he could come out and put a shoe on in an emergency and he text back to say it wasn't very likely as he was skiing in Austria! Marvellous. I rang the riding school to see who they use and they gave me the number for Nasty Farrier, so that was no good. In the end I rang Lucy Goosie to find out who she uses and she gave me his number.
Fortunately he was in the area the next day and came at three o'clock. I said it would be fine if he just wanted to put one shoe on but if he could do a set that would be brilliant as the others were wafer thin. He moaned and grumbled and criticised my farrier's work and was very insulting to my previous yard owner. You know like when you go to the hairdressers and they always say, "Goodness, who did your hair last time?" I always want to reply, "You did!" I think the horse world is far too small to go round slating people. It's bound to come back to you, isn't it? Pongo did it when we went to see Fudge. He was slating a certain person in front of the seller, and it turned out she knew the person Pongo was talking about. Imagine if she'd said, "That's my aunt!" wouldn't you just die of embarrassment?
Anyway, it was all very confusing but eventually he did all four shoes and they look fine. They only had to stay on until Sunday (which they did!)
And so to the showjumping. I liked the place on sight and when I saw the jumps I wish I'd brought Barnaby. Mr O was very nervous. The journey was very good. The equestrian centre is very close to Southwell racecourse. I was praying there wouldn't be a race meeting on as surrounding Zak with loads of lorries containing excited racehorses wouldn't have gone down very well at all.
It was all clear though, so we arrived and unloaded Zak and went to register. Mr O decided to do the 75cm and 85cm courses. They were still doing the clear round and then came the 65cm so we had plenty of time. We tacked Zak up and Mr O took him down to the warm up ring. They just walked round until the class started. I put his number on the board and he went into the jumping ring. Zak was jumping with style, which is just as well as Mr O was fifth to go in, and to my absolute joy he went clear. The fences were all lovely and simple, nowhere near as intimidating as Marchington was, they were more like the sort of thing we'd set up at home.
I think Mr O was astonished he went clear and had two fences down in the jump-off , which were both his fault. He did the 85cm and had one fence down but it has to be said that Zak actually jumped really well. I don't know if Mr O ought to have slightly shorter stirrups as he lost a stirrup going over one fence. He also forgets to actually tell Zak to jump. Sometimes I still wonder if he can see a stride. Zak likes to jump but he still likes to be told when. You can't be a passenger on this horse, you have to work with him. (I am quite happy to debate this as I also believe to a certain extent that the horse should work it out for himself. If I told Max when to take off he'd have been quite cross as he 'knew pefectly well thankyou!')
All in all I am thrilled at how he went. Unfortunately there aren't any photos as I left my camera at home (and I'm pretty hopeless at photographing showjumping anyway). He was very relaxed about the whole thing. I think Mr O needs a few more lessons. We've been so focused on 'Can this horse do this?' that now it's time to tidy Mr O up a bit. He comes too far out of the saddle when he goes over the fence and his elbows are out a bit too much, so that's what we need to concentrate on next, but I am pleased to say, 'The boy done good!' Well done Zaky Zak, I am proud of you (oh, and you too, Mr O!)

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A Reprieve

The days are busy, but damp, foggy and miserable. I was quite glad to see the back of February but today has been just the same. We have driven to the location of the show jumping competition tomorrow as it's a new venue for us. I am sick with nerves and it's not even me doing it! I will be unpaid groom for the day. I'll let you know how we get on.
I have finally got my mojo back on the card-making front. I realised my mistake. I'd packed all my card magazines into a trunk, just to be tidy, but then we bought a new (fabulous) printer and put it on top of the trunk. Without my magazines for inspiration I found it very difficult to get anything made. Anyway, I found some vellum in a drawer that I must have had for a year and finally put it to good use.
See what you think:
I love the feel of vellum, I could play with it all day. Have a look at this one:

On another subject, you may remember that we hatched quite a few chicks last year, which have all grown up. Unfortunately, the cockerels have been 'excess to requirements' and treated accordingly. The youngest babies have grown up too, and one of them has also turned out to be male. We put him into solitary, pending an enquiry, but last week we rode past a farm and counted not one, not two, but four cockerels, all with a few hens each and all seemingly living quite amicably together. We've decided that the cockerel can come out and go back to his harem. His girls seem to have really missed him and George doesn't seem too bothered. I have named this cockerel Charlie (actually after Charles I, due to his impending fate!) and he's very handsome. Unfortunately he didn't make it to this photo call, but I hope you like it:

George and his women.

Some of the younger hens are starting to lay eggs. They are absolutely tiny. Sometimes they don't make it to the nesting box and I keep finding eggs all over the place. We've ended up with twenty chickens altogether. Not bad considering we started off with six.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Fat Club

It has come to my attention that Barnaby is a little on the porky side. This may be an understatement...
The trouble is, Pongo and Missis put out a whole haylage bale once a week and just leave the four horses to get on with it. Barnaby immediately and firmly takes possession and rents it out to his friends (this doesn't include Lyndy who only gets to eat some if Barnaby goes off for a sleep or comes out of the field to be ridden!) I think it really started when we had the snow in November. The horses didn't move around much and just stood there eating. Plus they were having lots of haylage at night. Mr O actually suggested I increase Barnaby's feed, but I stuck to my guns and said no, as he wasn't doing any work. I'm so glad now.
Haylage, by the way, is cut first, in June or July. It is only turned once or twice, and then it's baled, so it's slightly moist. We cut our hay in September. It's turned over for 3 or 4 days so it dries out properly, then it's baled. It has a lot less protein than haylage. Haylage has a lot to answer for really.
At our old yard, the horses had proper grazing. They walked around all day snipping off tiny bits of grass with their teeth. Winter grass has very little nutrition in it, so they'd have to do a lot of walking around to gain any sustenance at all. Now they go into the field, stand there gorgeing on haylage all day and don't move because the field is so muddy. They probably stroll up to the trough occasionally, but that's about it. Plus they're still having a huge net of haylage at night, too.
So Barnaby is a little barrelly, to say the least. There we are, all desperately feeding Zak and trying to get him to keep the weight on, when all the while, sneaking in under the radar is Barnaby, the size of a house.
Fortunately he is only on a basic brand of feed called Pegasus Mix which has very little protein in it. He only has half a scoop in the morning and half a scoop at night, with a scant scoop of HiFi Lite, which is a very basic chop, suitable for laminitic horses, so you can imagine how light it is. I've decided to keep him off haylage at night and give him hay. I have to soak it because dry hay makes him cough. He never has carrots or sugarbeet or anything like that (pure sugar).
The first day I gave Barnaby the hay he hardly touched it. He kept looking at me as if to say, "Excuse me love, you've given me the wrong hay net!" Sadly for him, I haven't at all. I have noticed he's eating quite a bit of it since then. Needs must 'n all that.
And the main thing, obviously, is lots and lots of lovely exercise. Most horses have a day off (or two) during the week, and some horses don't get ridden much at all. Barnaby is more like a dog that needs to have daily exercise. He has to go for a run, bless 'im. So I have been motivating myself for his sake and we've been doing a lot of riding. Because we do a lot of road work, it's possible to Google the map of where we've been and work out the distance. Recently we've done a 12 mile ride and several 7 mile rides and he's coping really well. I've decided I must at least make him walk as much as he would in a normal field on a normal day if he was in a field of proper grazing.
It's just as well, too, as I've booked us onto a 14 mile pleasure ride on 12th March. I am really looking forward to it. We don't normally do our first ride until April, which is also 14 miles. Last year they managed it well and we had snow in February so we didn't have long to prepare for it. Surely this year they'll wing it. I hope so. It's so hilly here they are fitter than we realise, which will be proven the minute we take them onto flat land, where they'll be off like rockets.
But in the meantime, just to put it on record, Barnaby weighs 596kg, which is at least 50kg too much. I am so ashamed! This is taken from a weigh tape which isn't totally accurate, but it's near enough. I'll check him again in two weeks and see if there's been any improvement. Watch this space.