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Friday, 29 July 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook - July

I'm going to pretend I've deliberately put this at the end of the month,
instead of at the beginning, like it normally is! 

Outside my window:  Lots of plants are going to seed.  I am a bad gardener.  Actually I am a very good gardener, but I've had to let Mr O find out for himself!  I'll probably take on a bit more next year, but to be honest, with horses, chickens etc to see to, plus housework and the odd bit of cardmaking, I've got enough to do without taking on an ever expanding garden as well!

I am thinking: back to my lesson on Tuesday, which was fabulous.  Nicky hardly said anything, except at the end, when she said, "Try not to fall back into any bad habits."  Praise indeed.  I don't know why I've suddenly sussed it, but I'm extremely pleased.  Only two more lessons before 'The Big Show'.

I am learning: how to use my new Aquamarkers.  They are amazing.  I knew they would be.  There's nothing nicer than spending an hour lost in the wonder of painting. 

I am wearing: navy blue jods.  I have a terrible habit of wiping my hands on my trousers when I'm working.  I also dropped an ink pad, face down, on my favourite jeans yesterday.  Scruffy trousers it is, then!

I am reading: 'Rough Ride' by John Francome.  I love his books.  They are all connected to racing in some way.  I found it in a second hand shop, along with another book by Philippa Gregory, so that'll be next.

I am hoping/praying: for my friend Priscilla who is opening a new chiropractic clinic but having terrible problems with the planning department.  I'm sure it'll come right in the end.

On my mind: I had to go to the doctor's on Wednesday, with a rash all over my back.  It turns out it's a histamine reaction to the prawns I ate on Tuesday night.  I've had this once before, but about ten years ago.  The doctor prescribed  some tablets, which have stopped the itching/stinging.  I felt as if all my nerve endings were on fire.  Better than having shingles I guess.

From the kitchen:  I have eaten blueberries in a trifle last night and some on my breakfast this morning.  I thought they'd be really sour, like redcurrants or something, but they were gorgeous.  I do love blueberry muffins, though, so I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised.  They'll be on the menu regularly from now on...

I am creating: cards using some cross stitch pictures I made last year.  Really pleased with the first one.  Time for a little more cross stitch, I think.

I am hearing:  Radio 2.  Very interesting, as usual.

Noticing that: there are so many flies here at the moment.  I don't think there should be this many.  I've hardly seen any wasps or bees, but swarms of flies coming in the kitchen, and flying around the manege.  Missis has given me a fly mask and I put it on Barnaby yesterday.  Once he realised it kept the flies off his face, he decided he really liked it.  Last time we tried it, a few years ago, he got it off and buried it in the haylage pile, hoping to never see it again!  An indication of how bad the flies are, I think.

Around the house: Blatant peace and quiet as Pongo and Missis are on holiday.  No dogs barking, no children running around.  Bliss.  Feeding the fish is a small price to pay.

One of my favourite things:  Missis brought me back some coffee from Canada that's flavoured with maple syrup.  It has the most gorgeous smell.  I am trying to cut back on coffee, but it's not going to happen with something like that around, is it?

A scripture thought:  'The joy of the Lord is your strength.'  I had this scripture while making a card for a friend recently.  A week later I was at her house and noticed she had it on a little plaque on the wall.  Result!

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Taking Ebony's (granddaughter) birthday card and present to her on Saturday (you can see why I didn't want to have shingles!) and... on Sunday I am going to our old yard to take part in a fancy dress treasure hunt (on horseback, obviously!)  I think I mentioned that I have to dress up as Where's Wally?  We ride round in teams of four and have to work out the clues to find certain objects.  I may put photos on here next week, it depends how incriminating they are (bright blue spandex leggings!!)  I am so looking forward to this, and I'm sure Barnaby won't let me down. 

A picture thought: 

Tigger's house.  He's very happy here...

Have a great weekend, everyone,
Mrs O.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Busy Days

Hello, I'm sorry I've been a lazy blogger (on this blog, anyway!) but we've been really busy.  Mr O had last week off work and we've been here, there and everywhere.
We've been to the cinema to see 'X-Men First Class' and I must say, it was, well, first class.  I can't resist a film with James McAvoy in it anyway, but it is seriously good, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Nicholas Hoult is in it.  He is the boy in About A Boy, although, of course, he's all grown up now.  It was driving me mad all the way through it, as I was trying to think where I'd seen him before.  Good old Wikipedia.
We had a wonderful morning in Bakewell last Thursday, a beautiful town in the Peak District, where Bakewell Tart comes from, a truly delicious concoction of pastry, jam, almonds and cake.  Mmmmm.  Do not, under any circumstances, let that lull you into buying a Bakewell Pudding, for they are an abomination, and human beings should not partake of them, lest they fall by the wayside (i.e. they are disgusting things with what tastes like raw egg in the bottom.)  You have been warned. 
I had a lovely time wandering round art galleries and bookshops and having lunch in a very nice cafe. 
On Friday, having phoned to ask if it was okay to come, we set off with the horses to visit our old yard and it's very, very nice cross country course.  I told myself I wasn't going to jump anything when I got there, and 'myself' fell for it, hook, line and sinker, but it meant I stayed calm while I tacked Barnaby up, which is always a good thing.
I took him into the warm up ring and jumped the showjump in there and felt rather elated, so after Mr O and Zak had had a couple of goes, we set off down to the course.  The first fence we came to was the drop, which I know Barnaby isn't very keen on, but after a few false starts, he jumped off it, which wasn't really what I asked him, but it was quite good.  After that we were on a roll and jumped a few fences in sequence.  To be honest, I am amazed that I can still do it, as I haven't done cross country for a couple of years, and never on Barnaby.  Actually, that's not strictly true.  When we liveried there I'd sneak off for the occasional ride on Barnaby, when I used to take half days from work in the winter.  I did jump one or two things then, but not in a serious way.  There is a new water jump that we've never done as it's only a year old.  To my surprise and delight, Barnaby went straight in.  I went round again and he cantered straight down into it.  Brilliant boy.
This was basically Barnaby's back garden for four years and he and Mr O used to whizz up and down here at least once a week, so he didn't see any reason why he shouldn't do the same to me and shot back to the yard at a flat out gallop.  I thought I'd lost him for a fleeting moment, but he pulled up very nicely and waited for Zak to catch up (yes, I said, "For Zak to catch up!!")
We rode back to the lorry to take our body protectors off and Barnaby thought his job was done, but we then set off to a beautiful place called Hodsock Priory and went for a whizz round.  It's a fabulous place, all off road.  Barnaby knew where he was the whole time, it was so sweet.
Oh yes, one little incident I ought to mention.  As we were going along quite a busy road, it must have been nursery chucking out time, as there were lots of little children all over the place.  One mother was walking along with her little girl, who stopped to watch us pass, always deeply gratifying... until she spoke.  She said, "I like those horses mummy.  That one is brown and that one is... yellow!"  I have never, in all my days, heard my horse referred to as yellow.  Of course, Mr O was ahead of me, absolutely howling with side-splitting mirth as I trundled along behind, now slightly crestfallen.  They say pride comes before a fall, don't they?  Hrmph! Yellow indeed!
Anyway, the outcome of all of this is that we've been invited to their camp at the end of July.  We can't really go as Pongo and Missis are away on holiday, so I've said I will go on the Sunday, to join in with the treasure hunt, which is usually great fun.  The only trouble is, I'm in a team called 'Where's Wally?'  So I have to dress up as him.  Marvellous.  (You may know it as 'Where's Waldo?' and if you don't know what I mean I suggest you google it immediately, you won't be disappointed.)  How am I supposed to wear thick black glasses on top of my own specs?  I know I wanted a fun year, but good grief!
So you can see why I haven't had tonnes of time to blog, so sorry.  I have been reading lots of yours though, so I'm not a totally bad person.
Thanks for popping in today,
Mrs O.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

What A Flock We've Got!

I just wanted to start by thanking you for your comments on my previous post.  Jean, your comment was so astute I can't begin to tell you!
Well, Mr O and I had a fantastic time at Newhaven on Sunday.  Last year I only did the seven mile route so I really enjoyed doing the fourteen miles this year.  Barnaby was fabulously behaved, I am so pleased with him.  This must be the best ride for breathtaking scenery.  Derbyshire has areas of outstanding beauty, especially in The Peak District National Park, which thousands of people walk over every year.  The scenery is rugged and in the area we were, there wasn't a road to be seen in any direction.  We were on the White Peak Trail, much of which must have formerly been a railway, as there is an old signal box half way along it.  This is the ride we do with lots of gates so poor Mr O was on and off quite a bit, but there are also several good canters.  I was amazed that Barnaby knew where he was all the time having only done it once a year ago.  Horses have amazing memories, don't they?
The only downside was the vast quantity of flies.  I doused Barnaby in fly spray before we set off, and yet within minutes we were covered in them.  Mr O had swarms of them all over his hat.  They were crawling up my face and on my bare arms - ewww!  Horrible!  Poor Barnaby just strode stoically on, braving it out, but Zak did quite a bit of head-shaking.  Poor boys.
And the really good thing is that Zak travelled very well.  I do think (Jean again!) that there were flies in the lorry on the way back from Elvaston Castle the other week, so we made sure there were none in the lorry when we loaded them this time, and apart from a couple of bangs, Zak was fine all the way home.  Such a relief as we were beginning to think we'd never be able to travel him again.
I'm sorry I've been a bit lax with photos from around the farm lately.  Firstly, as I've said in a previous post, the goslings are huge now.  Here is a picture to show you what I mean:


Basically, if it's big, it's a gosling.  If it's small (or black) it's a duck!  They look all friendly here, but when there's food about, the goslings get quite aggressive now. 
But, please welcome our little darling baby ducklings:
They're about three weeks old now, and seriously cute.  Here they are doing their Beverley Sisters impersonation.  They call out to the other ducks in the mornings at going-out time and have got to the stage where they love to play with water.  One sticks its head under the water and says to the others, "Look!  We don't drown!"  It's very cute.
Have a great day, everyone.  Hope you're getting lots of riding done.
Mrs O.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Schooling Update (And Other News!)

Nicky, my instructor, came yesterday, and I managed to say that I was taking a break for a couple of weeks.  The fact is, Mr O is on holiday next week anyway, and I can't have a lesson while he's off.  The actual lesson went very well, and I do feel we're both making progress.  In fact, as Barnaby is behaving himself, it is showing up my riding faults and giving me an opportunity to learn to keep everything still and not work so hard.  Oh the joys of a forward going horse!  There have to be some bonuses, don't there?
So I am going to get myself in a routine of two hacks to one schooling session, like this:
Monday: day off
Tuesday: hack
Wednesday: hack
Thursday: school
Friday: hack
Saturday: hack
Sunday: lunge

and that will have to do.  I am not flogging us both to death with schooling, when that's not what I got Barnaby for.  I've got him because he hacks out flawlessly and that's what I love about him.
And it's just as well, because I hacked out on Tuesday, got onto a bend in a narrow lane and could hear a big vehicle coming towards me.  I tucked Barnaby into the hedge and stuck my right arm out, hoping the driver would see it as I came round the corner, but he was driving a lorry and gunning it, until in the end I just stood there and shouted, "Don't hit me!" and he managed to pull up about two feet away from me.  My heart was pounding and I rode on, just about managing to squeeze past him.  I did say, "Thanks very much!" as I rode past, and the driver was as white as a sheet, but it's a narrow country lane, for goodness sake, what does he expect?  It could have been an old person out walking who wouldn't have been able to get out of the way in time. Or what if it had been a tractor coming towards him and the boot was on the other foot?  There are loads of them about at the moment because of cutting the hay.   I wish I'd taken his number now, but I was just relieved to be alive at the time. 
I don't know if I told you that one of the goslings injured himself last week?  I think he caught his foot running through some long grass and thistles near the pond, as it looked broken.  Anyway, I told Missis and we separated him off from the other goslings as they were distressed about leaving him and he didn't want to be left.  He went downhill quite rapidly, then revived for a while.  I asked Missis if she would take him to her vet and have him put to sleep, but she didn't.  I am quite cross about it, to be honest.  By Monday I'd decided enough was enough and Mr O and I 'did the deed.'  Poor thing, but at least he isn't suffering any more. 
The other goslings are huge now, and I am putting out extra food for them in the mornings.  I decided to watch them for a while yesterday and I noticed they are chasing the ducks off the food.  They aren't frightened of the ducks at all, even though they are a year younger. 
And the other thing I really must tell you, is that Missis says she may well sell Hugo and give up riding.  They would keep Lyndy, but I don't know where this leaves us.  She is upset about it, obviously.  I do agree that Hugo is too much for her.  He is a competition horse after all, and being left in a field and ridden once a week is not his idea of a good time.  He has chucked Missis off twice in the school, then pushed her right across the stable not long after that, and she seems to have really lost her confidence, which is slightly understandable, but I wouldn't let a horse get into a situation where it could do that to me.
While Nicky was here last week, Missis actually broached the subject of Nicky taking him to her yard to school for selling, so we'll see what happens.  Pongo and Missis are going on holiday at the end of July, and it wouldn't surprise me if Missis sent Hugo to Nicky's just before that.  Either way, although I appreciate that it's a difficult decision to make, I think Missis should make her mind up about what she's doing and stick to it.  It took me a long time to make up my mind to sell Max, but I didn't announce it until I knew I was going to go through with it.   Every time she says this she then rides Hugo for a couple of days, as if she's changed her mind, so we'll see. 
Never a dull moment round here.
Mrs O.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Schoolinng and Showing

Chapter One! On Thursday I took Barnaby out for a hack, which was nice, but towards the end I got quite fed up because I am now obsessed with how my hands are, how my feet are (I still really struggle with keeping my legs still) whether my toes are back (they creep forwards) how I'm holding the reins etc.  I think I just want to go out for a hack and enjoy the countryside, and Barnaby's magnificence, and not worry about how I look.
Because of this, I was all set to tell Nicky that I wasn't going to have any more lessons.  The fact that I can't really afford it doesn't help. 
Then on Friday she came for my lesson, and brought the lungee bungee with her that I'd ordered.  I will try to take a photo this week to show you what it looks like on the horse, but basically it's a strap that clips loosly under the horse's chin, from one bit ring to the other.  It has a ring in the middle that you thread the lungee bungee through, which then goes through the rings on the roller and back on itself, then you can alter the tightness with settings similar to a market harborough.  There is nothing that goes over the head like in a chambon or a Pessoa, so there is no poll pressure involved.  You can also attach it to the D rings on the saddle and ride in it.
And Barnaby went like a dream in it.  He was, for once, an absolute pleasure to school.  Having it on the highest clip is quite strenuous for the horse, so we kept the session short.  There is nothing for the horse to fight against so they gradually relax into the correct position, it's amazing.  It builds muscle behind the saddle relatively quickly, which Barnaby needs, and this in turn will help him to carry himself and so will lighten his forehand.  All I know is, riding him in it was absolute bliss.
So with this, to be honest, I may not need many more lessons anyway, although I have ended up booking one in for this week, but I need to make a decision very soon.
It's not that I am going to give up on the schooling though, as Barnaby definitely needs it.  Mr O says it isn't Barnaby's thing, as if to say I am wasting my time, so I gave this a great deal of thought.  It's like saying to a child, "Oh, you really struggle with reading, so you don't have to do it any more!"  Are you prepared to cope with the illiterate adult of the future?  You just wouldn't do it, would you?  It's the same with Barnaby.  I am not asking him for anything exceptional, just to be able to go the way any well schooled horse should go.  I know he's a big lad who would prefer to trolley around on his front end all day, but that doesn't mean he should.
My next thought was:  Although it's hard work, if my efforts with my hand position, leg position and generally trying to keep myself still mean we make a better 'picture' as we go up the road, rather than someone who's flopping about all over the place, maybe that's a good thing anyway...

Chapter Two:  Yesterday we did go to Eckington Show, and I really enjoyed it, but showing is still a farce, isn't it?  I'd rather do dressage any day.  Let me explain:
I did the in-hand cob class first.  I have had to practise this a bit, as Barnaby is a lot bigger than Max was, plus I have to make sure I can see round his head to see if the judge is calling me in to the line up.  Anyway, the steward halted us, then one by one we had to run our horse round the edge of the field and back to the line up.  The girl before me did a few trot strides and then stopped.  I asked the steward if we had to run all the way round, because it seemed a bit odd to me, so I set off with Barnaby and went like the clappers, boiling hot in my tweed jacket and my heart hammering, but you have to go fairly fast if you're going to show your horses paces off well.
Then we did our individual show, where you go out to the judge one at a time.  The judge asked me how old Barnaby is (14) and said he looked very fit.  Then you turn and walk away from the judge, turn round and trot past her in a straight line (you just keep going, it's up to the judge to move out of the way if she doesn't want to get trampled!) and back to the line-up.
When this other girl came out, the judge gave her a lecture about not trotting the horse properly, that she was letting the horse down, that she must give the horse a tap with her whip and put in some practise at home, turning to me and saying, "This young lady's horse is beautifully schooled!"  I nearly said, "Please can I have that in writing?" and then she said to the other woman, "But I liked your show, so I'm placing you first."  I was flabbergasted, and so was everyone outside the ring who could clearly hear and see what was going on.  Honestly, what is the point of that?
Then I did the senior equitation class.  There were seven in it and I came seventh because Barnaby cantered on the wrong lead.  Oh no, not on the right rein, where he does struggle, but on the left rein.  I was so stunned I didn't correct it, and the judge said that if it ever happens I should pull up straight away as then at least the judge knows I've realised and am trying to do something about it, which is fair comment.  He also said that Barnaby was putting his tongue between the two bits of the double bridle, not a good look!  I'll have to do something about that.  So I do think the judge was fair in this instance.
HOWEVER, an hour later I went into the ridden trimmed cob class.  To my surprise there were quite a few in it, but there was a dapple grey sports horse that was hogged.  This is quite a common occurrence, and for the life of me I don't know why the judge doesn't send them out.  It states quite clearly that it is a class for COBS! 
The judge had just judged three from the previous class who were also in this one, so he said he didn't need to see them again, so he watched the three new entries ride, but when he came to me he said, "I've already seen you ride," and didn't ask me to come out again!  What a flaming cheek!  I'd have come out and bimbled round in trot like the others did and probably have got placed.
Strangely enough I really enjoyed the day, but why is judgeing so fickle?  This is why we got into show jumping.  At least then you know why you're first or fifth or twelfth!  Surely there must be a set standard that the judge must use, like there is in dog shows? 
But I went primarily to get some ring experience with Barnaby, who I thought might be awful, but turned out to be impeccably behaved all day, spending several hours tied to the lorry on his own in searing heat.  I am very proud of him.  And it was worth the fight at bath time, where he snapped the string he was tied to and ran off back to the field, where I eventually caught him and began the process all over again! 
Thankyou, my boy, I am proud of you today.
Mrs O.