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Thursday, 30 June 2011

So Much To Do, So Little Time!

Goodness, it's been a busy week.  This is my favourite time of year, though, as it's Wimbledon fortnight.  It is absolute bliss to be at home and be able to watch it.  I am counting my blessings (and eating strawberries straight from the garden!)
Some good news and some bad news:  The goslings are now enormous.  When they stand up their bellies are higher than the ducks' backs.  They all live together in the duck house.  They seem terribly hungry all the time (who doesn't?!) so I am giving them extra feed.  I've no idea how big they'll end up.  Their feathers seemed to arrive in a day.
The sad part is that last week one of them injured his foot and was limping around.  We put him in a pen on his own as he was distressing the others because he couldn't follow them and they didn't want to leave him.  He has been feeling very sorry for himself, and to be honest, on Tuesday morning I thought he'd had enough and was dying.  He was just laying there, occasionally lifting his head up to look at me.  I was debating whether to put him out of his misery and decided to wait until Mr O got home from work, but when we went to look at him he was sitting up and looked fine.  It's driving me bonkers not knowing what to do.  He must be able to move around as he is in different places when I go and look at him, he did hiss at me and is definitely eating and drinking, so I'm in a quandary.  There has to be a downside to country life, I suppose and this is it.
Yesterday was Mr O's birthday.  He had a half-day from work and came home at 12.30.  We decided to go and see Transformers 3 at the cinema.  I can sum it up in one word, a word that I don't use very often.  It was, in fact
awesome!

I could quite easily have sat there and watched it all through again.  I was enthralled.  What on earth is a 44 year old woman doing watching and enjoying a film about some robots from outer space?  I couldn't stand the cartoon.  I couldn't stand tripping over little bits of car on the carpet when the children were small, and yet, I am transfixed by the movies.  I've always liked action films, but this one is exceptional.  There are some films you just have to see on the big screen and this is definitely one of them.  And Shia LeBeouf, for goodness sake, don't you know I'm old enough to be your mother?

Afterwards we went for dinner at a pub/restaurant near us called The Nettle.  To be honest, we went there for lunch a while ago and I wasn't terribly impressed by the food, so when Mr O asked me to book a table I did so with a touch of reluctance and was prepared to say I'd really enjoyed it even if I hadn't.  But this time we were in the restaurant proper, and the food was outstanding.  We both had grouse to start and both had ribeye of beef on a haggis mash, for our main course, which was out of this world.  There are very few words to do it justice. 
We drove home happy and replete and found that all the haylage had been baled in our absense and the horses were happily stuffing their faces in the now cut top field.  And can I just say, "About time, too!"  The horses have been so desperate to get on it that we've been putting out bales of hay to keep them going.  I am not a procrastinator myself, so it does drive me mad to be at the mercy of someone who is.
Apparently there had been all the usual chaos of tractors breaking down, etc. but the job is done and I didn't have to do it, so I must try not to complain.
I'm off to pop round all your blogs and see what you've been up to.
More very soon
Mrs O.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Elvaston Castle Ride

We had a fabulous time on Wednesday evening.  It had been raining on and off all day, so I couldn't really bath Barnaby.  He didn't look too bad after a good groom, so we set off for Elvaston Castle.  It only took about 45 minutes to get there, with no real traffic considering we left at 4.30pm.
Zak banged about in the lorry for a little while but seemed to settle down, fortunately.  Mr O drove really slowly.  But when we got there it turned out he'd pulled the fillet string off the back of his travel rug and had struck into himself again and cut himself.  Grrr.
We found the secretary and signed in, got our high viz vests and went to tack up.  The only thing I'd forgotten was fly spray, and there were flies everywhere.  I suppose the combination of warmth and damp was perfect to bring them out. 
We set off around the park, and it was lovely.  The route was very well sign-posted.  We'd been riding for about five minutes when we came to our first game.  It was a hoopla thing.  We were given some hoops each, had to ride up to the things that were like paper mache heads, and try to get the hoops over.  Fortunately we both did it.  I was flushed with success and grinning from ear to ear.  We got given a sweet each, which were really sour, so that soon wiped the smile off my face!
We carried on round, the horses in good spirits and enjoying the scenery, when we came to the second stop.  This time we came to a big paddling pool with various fish in it, and had to hook one out.  Apparently no one had managed it so far.  I took the stick and immediately hooked a duck out.  I was so chuffed.  We had to do it at the TREC last summer, so I knew Barnaby wouldn't mind, but Mr O did it too, to give him his due (Zak that is, I'm sure Mr O is capable of hook-a-duck under normal circumstances!)
We carried on around the lake and then back to where there appears to be a riding stables, then there was a game where you had to throw a beanbag into a bucket (while still on your horse, obviously).  I am absolutely hopeless at that kind of thing, and missed completely.  Mr O got one in, so we decided he was the winner overall (on this occasion!)
Eventually we made our way back to the start.  Barnaby's internal compass was on top form and he speeded up the second he realised we were on the last stretch. 
When we got back there were proper TREC obstacles laid out on the grass.  There was 'control of paces' first, where you canter down as slowly as you can, without going back to trot or you lose the available points, and then you have to walk back up.  The last time I tried this with Zak waiting was a total disaster as Barnaby went into a flat out gallop so as not to be separated from Zak any longer than he had to be.  This time he did really well and I was mightily pleased with him.  Zak did very well, too, but they weren't timing us, it was just a bit of fun, so I don't know how well we did.
Then there were weaving poles, which we did in trot which was fine.  Then there was an obstacle consisting of two wooden uprights with string tied to one and looped over the other, to form a gate.  The idea is to pick up the rope and keep hold of it, like a gate, go through, turn your horse round and re-fasten it, without letting go of the rope, which we completed successfully.  I was really pleased as gates aren't our best thing.
Then we had an 's' bend, which wasn't too bad, then we had to go to an upturned dustbin that had a big fluffy toy dog sitting on it, pick up the dog, walk along with it and plop it into the washing basket on the floor.  Barnaby has done something similar to this before, so I strolled up full of confidence, and he was having none of it!  He ran backwards, which really surprised me, so I got him to go gradually nearer and nearer.  Eventually he gave it a big sniff, and I managed to get him to stand alongside it.  Then I picked it up and put it behind my back so he couldn't see it.  I rode up to the basket and casually let go of the dog, in case it made Barnaby leap sideways, but he seemed fine with it by then.
Mr O had just as much of a struggle with Zak, but got him there in the end, which is very good, as Zak can be quite a spooky boy if he's not sure of something.  Mr O is very good at giving horses confidence, though. 
And then, of course, there was a rein-back obstacle, which Barnaby cannot or will not do, under any circumstances.  You can actually feel him thinking, 'Oooh, she wants me to go straight backwards, what a great opportunity to stick my bum out to the right.  There we are then!'  (Insert appropriate expletive here!)  Unfortunately for me, this is something that Zak excels at.  Mr O just parks him between the two poles and Zak marches backwards, straight as a die, until Mr O tells him to halt.  It's really quite sickening to watch.
He'd just finished doing it when the marshall came up and said, "Is this one of your shoes?" and held up a delicate horse shoe.  Needless to say, it was Zak's.  Marvellous.  Goodness knows how he'd done it, as we hadn't heard it clanking while we'd been riding round, but at least we had it.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, the highlight of my evening.  The last obstacle was a jump, and for some inexplicable reason, I decided to jump it.  I asked Mr O to walk Zak beyond it, where Barnaby could see him, asked for trot, got two strides of canter and Barnaby went sailing over the fence.  I was absolutely thrilled and whooped and gave him a big pat.  The marshall probably thought I was a bit OTT but I did tell her I was scared to death of jumping (and I am!) and I think she could see how thrilled I was, and I'm so pleased I did it.  Barnaby just acted as if it was nothing.  I may have to have another go soon.
Mr O thought he'd better not chance it, with Zak having lost a shoe, and so with job done, we took the boys back to the lorry, so they could munch grass while we joined in with the barbeque.
Eventually it was time to load up and we set off for home.  We'd been underway for about ten minutes when the heavens opened and it began to pour.  Zak was very unhappy in the lorry again, and Mr O was driving as slowly as he possibly could, so I don't know what's happened to him there.  When we got home, it looked as though he'd stood on Barnaby as there was blood just above Barnaby's coronet band.  He wasn't very happy at travelling with Zak in that mood, and I am reluctant to put him through it again, as he travels very well and I've never had any problems with him.
We rugged both horses up and they went sailing off into the night, me still as high as a kite because of the jump.  The simple pleasures.

Post Script:  The farrier came out on Friday morning.  He pointed out a big crack horizontally across Zak's hoof and said it's basically a stress fracture in the hoof.  He said Zak's given something an almighty kick (presumably in the lorry) which had also dislodged the shoe.  I think we are very fortunate that he's not lame.  I have no idea what to do about this sudden downturn in his travelling behaviour, and am at my wit's end.  Any ideas? 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Things We Have Done, and The Things We Have Not Done

I have to confess I ended up not going to the show on Sunday.  On our old yard we would have bathed the horses Saturday night (along with 20 other people!) and kept them in, but we tend not to do that here.  There's no way Barnaby would stay in on his own anyway.  So I was left with having to bath him Sunday morning and the weather was terrible, plus Pongo and Missis were away so I was dog sitting and a duckling hatched in the night (will put on some piccies asap) so I just decided enough was enough and gave it a miss.  We'll try again on July 3rd.
I must tell you that on Monday I finally got round to doing something I've been dying to do for ages.  I had run out of milk, so I tacked Barnaby up and put his saddle bags on, and set off for a farm down the road that sells milk from a little shed at the top of their lane.  We rode all the way there, much to Barnaby's annoyance and I dismounted to get my pound coin out of my jods pocket.  I'd brought my lunge line in case Barnaby wanted to wander round eating the grass while I went in the shed, but as it happened I opened the shed door and peered inside and the next thing I knew, Barnaby was standing next to me, peering in with me, as if to say, "Any carrots?" 
I put my one lonely coin in the vending machine, the slots turned and I opened the door only to find the slot presented to me was empty - completely devoid of milk.  I tried pressing buttons, to no avail.  As far as the machine was concerned, it had presented milk unto me and it's job was done.  It's mouth stayed firmly shut. 
Unabashed I decided I'd better ride down to the farm to explain what had happened.  By this time, two cars had pulled up and two women had got out to buy milk.  They obviously knew each other, and one of them turned out to be the owner of our local riding school, just down the lane from us.  She turned to the other woman and said, about me, "Is that the woman from L*&! Lane?" as if I couldn't hear her.  "Yes," I said, "It's me!" and rode down to the farm.  It'll be all round the village now, "That mad woman from M- Farm, you know, the one on the big grey horse she can't control, well I've just seen her trying to buy milk while still on her horse!"
The farmer was very kind and put two litres of milk in my saddle bags and we set off home, Barnaby quite happy when he realised that was all he had to do, and that he was now very busy and important.  We did quite a bit of trotting on the way home and Barnaby wasn't at all phased by the weight of the milk tapping him on the side.  I was a bit worried we'd have milk shake by the time we got home and didn't dare risk a canter, but it was fine. 
We came home and  I untacked and turned Barnaby out, but was thrilled at how good he'd been.  I really thought he might spook at the milk shed, but he took it all in his stride.  He went marching into the field, to tell the others he'd been on a very important mission, and would probably be mentioned in dispatches.  Thankyou Barnaby, I am very proud of you.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook: June

I'm a bit late this month, but here goes:

Outside my window: it's sunny and bright.  The horses are milling about looking distracted, which is unusual.  Maybe it's the flies bothering them.

I am thinking: I am quite tired after a long hack yesterday but I have my lesson soon and I'm really looking forward to it.

I am thankful for: the farm at this time of year.  There's nowhere else I'd rather be.  In fact, it's true to say we haven't had a holiday for some years, unless we've taken the horses with us!  I'd be bored silly laying on a sandy beach.

I am wearing: black jods and a black T Shirt, but as we've had to bodily lift out the goslings this morning and carry two of them down to the pond so the other two would follow, I am now filthy and will have to get changed.  I am in love with the gossies.

I am reading:  'A Dying Light In Corduba' by Lindsey Davis.  This is, I think, the eighth or ninth book about Marcus Didius Falco.  He is a Roman informer (spy/detective).  This books are witty and clever and very historically accurate, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.  I plucked one off the shelf a couple of years ago and as I was reading it I was asking myself loads of questions (how did he meet Helena, for a start) and realised I'd stumbled on a series and was in fact on the 13th book, so I went back to the beginning and have been hooked on them ever since.

I am hoping/praying: for so many things at the moment.  Mr O has been having bad headaches after his fall from Zak last week.  He has been to the doctor who says he'd had concussion, which is like bruising of the brain and will take about six weeks to get better.  Missis is seriously contemplating selling Hugo (but has done nothing but ride him ever since she said it.)  Where will that leave us?

On my mind: I am taking Barnaby to a showing show on Sunday. It'll either be a complete disaster or a great success.  I am doing in-hand cob, ridden cob and senior equitation.  Hey-ho.

From the kitchen:  We have been following the principles of Slimming World as we don't have time to go to a group, but have a few cookbooks.  I have lost 10lb in the last three weeks and Mr O has lost 9lb.  We are thrilled, as you can imagine, and I think it was the eating healthily that got me through the illness so rapidly.  I have to remind my body that it is no longer winter, I am not mucking out, and that amount of pastry is obscene.  There is a lot of preparation of vegetables involved in the cooking (I hate onions!) but the actual cooking time is short, so it's still equivalent to shoving a pizza in the oven and waiting 50 minutes for it to cook, but the end result is so much better for us.

I am creating: cards to sell in church in September.  All the proceeds will go towards our scheme for helping the homeless in the local community.

I am hearing: Radio 2.  I love it. I have now included Simon Mayo in my repertoire, so I listen from 8am to about 6pm.

Noticing that: there is a definite split between the horses.  Barnaby and Zak were the best of friends, but now Barnaby seems to spend more time with Hugo, and Zak and Lyndy are going everywhere together.  I am thrilled for Lyndy as he was devastated at the loss of his best friend last year.  Barnaby and Hugo seem to have a love/hate relationship.  One minute they are mutually grooming (to the detriment of Hugo's mane!) the next minute Barnaby's ears are back and he's shooing Hugo away.  Oh dear.

Around the house: the usual chaos.  Life's too short to spend my entire life doing housework.  I have done the ironing, though, so huge pat on the back for me (and the yard is immaculate!)

One of my favourite things:  these are growing on a patch of wasteland near the manege:


I love them best growing in fields of wheat.  They seem to go on for months.

A Scripture thought: '...I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength...'   Philippians 4: 12-13

A few plans for the rest of the week:  More schooling for Barnaby in the double bridle, which I tried last week and was astonished at how well he went in it.  Then getting ready for the show on Sunday.  The weather forecast is good!

A picture thought:




These are both duck eggs, but on the right is the most enormous duck egg I've ever seen.  It was huge.  It filled my hand.  I was curious as to whether it would have a double yolk, so instead of boiling it I decided to make scrambled eggs, and sure enough, there were two yolks inside.  Fabulous.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Fun at Chatsworth

We had the most glorious ride yesterday.  We have actually bought a photo, but I can't scan it in to show you any more (boo hoo!)
Anyway, I rang for our time on Saturday evening and she said we could go either at twelve or ten thirty, so we chose the earlier option as the weather forecast had said rain for later.
I got Barnaby in from the field.  The poor boy had been laying down, and getting up for a bath wasn't on his agenda, but I stuck to my guns and dragged him in.  I didn't have much time, so I decided to wash his tail as that was the worst bit, but as it happened I had time to do him all over and he looked fantastic by the time we were ready to load up.  We put Zak in first, then Barnaby and set off.
We approached the 'Golden Gates', a rather grand entrance to the main estate, and drove through.  We had arrived quite early, but as it happened it was spot on as it gave me time to give Barnaby a bit of a groom and comb his tail out, which looked fabulous by the time I finished.
We went off to sign in and hand over our sponsor money, and the ride began.  We rode through the glorious countryside, sheep scattering in all directions,  to the bottom of a steep hill, turned up it and went into a flat out gallop to the top!  It was fabulous. 
We did this ride two years ago, but last year it was so unbelievably hot we decided it would have been mean to have travelled the horses in a red hot lorry and slogged round, but today the weather was perfect and we cruised along, through the sheep fields at the top, past where Pongo had come off last year (Pongo and Missis didn't do it this time as the tax has run out on their lorry and they weren't able to get it sorted in time). 
There were little direction arrows hammered into the ground at regular intervals.  I'd like to say it was impossible to get lost, but having overheard a conversation in the photographer's van later on, I can't actually vouch for that!  We just followed along and cruised round, overtaking several sets of people along the way.  We came out onto the moors and shot up the track, but then it started to rain, so I got my mac out of my saddle bags and put it on.  I'd decided there was no point getting soaked if I didn't have to, especially as I was so ill not long ago.
We got onto the 'track I don't understand'.  It is very rocky and gravelly and full of dips and bumps.  I have no idea why they leave it like this (maybe for drainage?) but it makes it very tricky to ride down.  You have to really concentrate.  This shows up quite a difference between Barnaby and Max.  Max was very clear about where he was going to put his feet and that he'd be making the decisions at all times, but Barnaby leaves the decision to his rider, so you have to pick the best ways for him to go.  He is quite sure-footed, but he is what you call a 'wide gaited horse.'  This means his legs are set quite wide apart on his body, and he can't walk along ground that slopes to one side, whereas Max never had problems with this, and could walk along a very narrow track, practically putting one foot in front of the other, but Barnaby can't do it.  Just another little discovery as we go along.
By the time we got to the bottom it was time to turn back into the park grounds.  We rode along and just galloped and galloped, it must be at least a mile, if not more, and then you're streaming along in front of the house (which unfortunately is covered with scaffolding at the moment, so not looking its best, but here is how it usually looks:

Barnaby was being really good and listening to me and Zak looked wonderful.  Galloping is effortless to him.  We slowed down and went through the next wooden gate, and then we were nearly home.  We came to Queen Mary's Bower (named after Mary Queen of Scots) which is the water jump on the cross country course.  When we'd been a few weeks ago to the Horse Trials, I'd been looking at it, as I wondered what a rider does if their horse absolutely refuses to jump out, and I'd noticed a grass slope that leads down into it.  So next year, if my horse happened to bolt and go through the water jump, I'd be powerless to stop him, wouldn't I? 
We went back into trot and then went down a steep grassy slope, and when we hit the bottom, for some reason Barnaby went into a flat out gallop.  I shouted at Mr O not to overtake me as I hadn't intended this at all, so near to home.  Of course, Zak was galloping on behind us which just made Barnaby go even faster.  In the end I had to really get hold of him to pull him up.  I don't know what brought that on.  Quite honestly he had so much energy he could easily have gone round twice, it wouldn't have bothered him at all.
Finally we managed to get back down to a walk and strolled back to the lorry to cool them off (well Barnaby anyway, I don't think Zak broke into a sweat at any time.) 
We untacked them and let them relax and eat the quality Chatsworth grass, and went off to tell the organisers we were back, and really to say thankyou for putting on such a wonderful event, we had an amazing time.  We got a beautiful rosette each, then went off to the photographer to see what we'd looked like, and liked the photo so much, we obviously bought it.
By now it was raining quite considerably so we decided to load the horses up and get them home.  Zak didn't travel very well at all for some reason.  We were going along quite a quiet road and he was practically rearing up, then lashing out with a back leg, as if to say, "Get me out of here!"  It was so bad I climbed into the back to hold onto him, talk to him and calm him down.  He really doesn't travel very well sideways.  He can't stick his legs out and brace himself like Barnaby does, so he sticks his front legs out and sits on his back end, but with the slightest bump in the road he flings himself against the partition.  It was awful, but he seemed to like me being with him and he calmed down a lot, but was steaming up the lorry with the sweat pouring off him.  I think the partition is too wide apart and needs to be much closer to him so he can reach it to lean against it easily.  Poor boy, no wonder he has cut himself in the past.  I don't know why he's started doing it this year, though, he never used to do it.
We got home and had to keep them in for half an hour to let Zak cool off properly before we could turn them out.  I think they might happily have stayed in as Barnaby was nodding off, too.  It poured with rain for the rest of the day and most of the night, so Barnaby went out with a rug on too, as I'd bathed him in the morning.
So all in all, a fantastic day, the highlight of my year, really.  And although I can't show you the photo, I thought these from last week at Osberton, would do just as well.

Splashing through the water.


Mr O went so fast the photographer only had time to take a couple of snaps before he was off!
Have a great week everyone,
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Schooling Sessions

I've been trying to read back through my blog, to see how I left things on the schooling front.  I think I'd basically given up, but lack of funds has a lot to do with it as well.
Anyway, I want to do some showing with Barnaby this year, and he really is hopeless in the school, so I've got Nicky Hunt back, who I used before, and finally, finally, we are beginning to make some progress, but it is very slow going.
You can see, just from Barnaby's build, that schooling him is like asking a rugby player to do ballet, but if I don't do something with him, he will just get worse and worse.  I do think for his own health/bones/muscles, he needs to do some schooling.
So Nicky has been coming every week.  One session she rides him and the next session I ride him.  Last week I got so frustrated I actually swore!  I have never sworn at an instructor in my life, so I was a little bit taken aback myself, and I did apologise, but if I don't say what I think, how is she going to know where I'm at?  Basically, she is phenomenally good at schooling Barnaby, who is coming along nicely, but she's not as good at teaching me.  I need her expertise, so that when Barnaby does something wrong, she instantly corrects him, and I don't always know how to do it.  I feel totally dim, as if I can't ride at all.  To be fair, I've never ridden a horse as bad as Barnaby is in the school.  Even riding school horses can canter around an arena and keep themselves upright, for goodness sake, how hard can it be?  Max never had any problems with it.

Every so often, you have a conversation with someone who makes a passing
comment without realising the huge significance behind it.

Mr O and I were talking the other day and I mentioned that Barnaby really drifts to the right on a hack.  Obviously it's very noticeable on a road, as he drifts towards the traffic, so I have to regularly nudge him to make him stay over to the left.  Mr O said, "Oh, he never does that with me."  Further discussion led to the revelation that Mr O keeps his leg on the whole time to keep him over (strength as usual).  So he spends an hour providing a leaning post and Barnaby says, "Thanks very much!" and spends the hour leaning on it.  That in itself explains an awful lot, because the whole of Barnaby's schooling is about him learning to carry himself.
So Nicky is teaching us at a level that I always knew must be out there but was never allowed to have.  It makes me want to cry and shout, "Why was I never told this before?"  It makes me want to cry because my money might run out before we get really good.  It makes me want to cry because we'll do some showing soon and it'll still be a disaster, because you still have to be able to canter and he still can't do it.  Grrrr!
So I'm going to school him twice a week, because if I do more than that he'll mutiny, I know he will.  I'll have my lesson with Nicky on Wednesdays and then I'll school him in a double bridle on Saturdays when he'll have to start cantering.
You probably know how showing works, but basically you all go in a ring together and ride round, sometimes all cantering together, which is lunacy, but shows you have control of your horse.  Then you go and line up near the edge of the ring, all facing inwards in a line, and one by one the judge calls you out, and asks you to do a little 'show' which is a riding display showing walk, trot and canter on both reins.  My concern is that Barnaby will just tank round in canter with his head down and crash into the line of horses, so we'll see.
I'm going to do two little local shows, one in June and one in July, then the main show I'm aiming him at is in August in our village.  It's actually a county level show, but you don't have to be affiliated to take part.  In the cob class the judge gets on and rides each horse, so I don't know how that bit will go either, but as it's cobs, you ride in a double bridle, so I'd have more control and so would the judge. 
So we'll just have to see.  I feel a bit more accountable now I've written it all down.  Sorry it's a bit long today, but it really helps to get the frustration out of my system.
I've decided this is make or break year for us, because life's too short to have a stressful time with what is, actually, a wonderful horse.  We will try some showing this year.  If it goes well, I'll be thrilled and I'll do some dressage this winter to keep him going and we'll do more showing next year.
If not, then we'll do pleasure rides and the odd fun thing and that will be that. 
Because:
I went out this morning to get Barnaby in for my lesson and he wouldn't budge.  I put his headcollar on, attatched to the leadrop and pulled and pulled.  He just looked at me.  I flapped and shouted and even got on his back.  He said nothing, but his feelings were perfectly clear (something about "You can keep that up all day love," but it wasn't quite clear.)
I sat down on the floor and cuddled up to him.  We had a bit of a chat about the time I'd sat with him in the field for half an hour at the old yard, when his foot was still bad, and admired the view and that I'd known all that time ago that he should have been mine really, and now he was, and we dozed and I knew in my heart how much I love him.
And because my friend has been told by her vet that today is the last day her 26 year old Arab will spend on this earth, and it just puts everything into perspective, doesn't it?  None of us knows how long we have together.  Let's not waste a single day of it. 
Mrs O.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Pleasure Ride - Osberton

I have just got back from the most fabulous ride.  I've been so determined to go, even though I'm still a bit ill.  I had planned to bath Barnaby, but it was chilly first thing and as it had rained in the night I think it would have been rather mean, so I just put his tail bandage on and away we went.
It was a nice smooth journey up through Nottinghamshire.  The weather was a bit different to last year, when it was pouring with rain with loads of thunder and lightening.
The plan was for Mr O to do the 14 miles and for me to only do the 7.  I was a bit nervous about this, as you know that Barnaby and Zak don't like being separated once they've travelled together.  I could have taken my double bridle (for more control) but decided to do it in my dutch (continental) gag, which I normally hack out in.
We'd decided that Mr O should set off first, as once he got going there's no way I'd catch up with him, so I led Barnaby off to introduce him to some other horses as a distraction technique.  I managed to get on him and just kept walking him around the car park for another five minutes, then decided to set off.
The thing with Osberton is that it's miles and miles of off-road riding, and it's blissful.  More so today, as the sun decided to come out, the ground was beautiful, and we just cruised along.  Barnaby was whinnying all the way round, which absolutely shook his body.  But he didn't pull or do anything silly.
When I did the ride round Clumber Park he kept going like the clappers to catch up with any horse he could see in front of him, and I'd fully expected him to go round pulling my arms out, but he was lovely and just trolleyed along, looking for Zak.
I caught up with a woman and a child (on a Norwegian Fjord Pony, aren't they beautiful?) and stayed with them for a while, but then carried on.  We've ridden here so often Barnaby knows exactly where he is all the way round, so I just let him get on with it.  We did a lot of cantering, but that was the whole point of going, to let him have a run on grass, as we get so little opportunity at home.  All of our hacking here is roadwork of some sort, so they love to go for a good gallop when they get the chance. 
I caught up with another two women and stayed with them for a while, going through the cow fields, then I parted from them and turned up towards the Green Mile, so named because that's exactly what it is, a mile of wonderful green grass, made for galloping, so... we did!
I remembered, in the nick of time, about the big stone at the end that we normally jump, that is to say, Mr O would have jumped it on Barnaby and I would have winged over it on Max, but thought we'd better not today, and that's just as well, as there was a woman sitting in a deckchair right next to it, so she'd have got a fright, wouldn't she? 
She asked if we were going to 'do the water,' to which I said yes, and thought she meant the ford in the village, so I was confused when she said to turn left and keep going (the ford is along to the right) but I obeyed her instructions and followed the track all the way down, mostly cantering again.  I had definitely underestimated Barnaby's fitness, but because I'd been ill all of last week and the weather had been bad the week before that, I haven't ridden half as much as I'd have liked and  I didn't think he'd be really fit enough, but I really needn't have worried, he had so much energy, but wasn't pulling me, it was wonderful.  I love this horse.
I turned right and followed the track and saw some really weird skid marks on the track.  I thought, 'a car can't have done that, because it's not black rubber,' they were like white scratch marks on the surface of the road.  I didn't think too much more of it, and carried on my way. 
When I say 'road' here, they are technically roads, but you hardly ever get any cars, as it's a private estate, but even if you do, there are ten foot wide verges on either side, so you never need to go near a car anyway, that's why it's so blissful to ride there.
I caught up with a girl on her own on a coloured cob and fell into step with her and decided to go along together for a while.  Her horse was called Drummer, which is my favourite horse's name of all time.  I'd love it for Barnaby actually.
It wasn't long before we came to the water, and it's where Mark Cavell (an old friend, and the manager of the estate) holds his cross country water clinics, so it's a run across a river.  It turned out this is where Maurice Tilford, the photographer, was standing.  I led the girl on Drummer through the water, and she was thrilled as it turned out she'd never done water before.  Then Maurice said to walk up the river and turn round and trot back through the water and he would take some photos, which we duly did.  The water was splashing up above my head, so I'm dying to see the photos.  I am delighted that Barnaby did it for me as he's not keen on water.  He doesn't mind walking through it, but he's not great at jumping into it, but I was just thrilled that he did as I asked (especially as Missis came along later and her ex-novice-event horse wouldn't go in it!)
We carried on and later had to go across the river again, and he went straight in.  I'm so pleased with him.  After that we made our way back to the lorry park and were done for the day.  It was so lovely, I haven't enjoyed myself so much in ages.  On the way round, I was thinking that this is how I'd wanted the TREC competition to be, so maybe endurance is the way to go (more about this in a future post). 
I got back to the lorry park and of course Zak and Mr O were there waiting for us.  They'd done 14 miles, and as it turned out, we'd done 11, so we hadn't done too badly at all. 
The first thing I noticed was that Mr O had blood on his nose, so I was somewhat concerned and thought, 'What's he done now?' and decided to ask.  It turns out he'd jumped one of the logs on the course (nothing wrong with that, I was pretty tempted to pop a few myself.)  Then he got onto the road, still in trot, and turned sharply round the corner and Zak slipped and slid across the road until he fell over and Mr O came off.  It sounds like it was quite a crashing fall and Zak has cut himself.  Of course this was the cause of the skid marks I'd seen on the road.  Mr O managed to get back on and continued on the ride, but he is going to ache like mad tomorrow.  What I haven't told you is that he jumped Zak last Saturday, came off and landed on the fence, but kept hold of Zak, who dragged him across the floor for a while before I yelled at him to let go.  So there is already hardly a patch of his body that doesn't have a bruise on it at the moment as it is, so you can see this is the last thing he needs. I'm just glad they're both okay really. 
And so we loaded up our beautiful boys and brought them home, where they went into the field and had a roll, a scratch and a drink before commencing munching.  Of course, I said thankyou to my beautiful, wonderful boy, with whom I had the most amazing time.  Thankyou, My Lionheart, it was a pleasure.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Goosey Goosey Gander...

I am pleased to say I am feeling better, but not much.  On Monday evening Mr O brought Barnaby in from the field for me to ride him.  As he came round the corner of the barn my face split into a huge grin.  I feel as though I haven't seen him for weeks.  I have to say, he looked a bit scruffy!  He desperately needs hogging and a leg shave (who doesn't?!) and didn't look terribly clean, but still.  He looked quite pleased to see me, anyway. 
I tied him up and groomed him and gave him lots of cuddles.  I feel as if I've been asleep for ever.  Call me Sleeping Beauty Rip Van Winkle.  When we rode out, it seemed as if everything has turned a tropical green.  I know it has rained quite a bit, but good grief! 
I've managed to lunge Barnaby yesterday, but I had to get Hugo ready for Nicky to school him in the morning (Missis is in Canada all week) and by the time I'd done it I was exhausted.
I am improving every day, but I am annoyed at how long it's taking to get better.  I've been able to do some gardening today, but only by sitting in a chair!  Oh dear, poor invalid me.
But I have something to show you.  Last week, as a very spur of the moment thing, Pongo and Missis bought some goslings.  They were a week old, but since I've been ill they seem to have grown enormously.  They're very similar to how the ducklings looked, but their beaks are a completely different shape.  Have a look:

They don't know what breed they are, and no one's going to know if they're male or female until they're fully grown.

And where are they going to live?  And who's going to be cleaning them out?  Hmmm.  Another bright idea, then.  It's a good job they're cute, isn't it?   They're very timid, actually, so I'm sitting with them for a little while every day, so they get used to me. 
Well I'm off for yet another early night. 
Mrs O.