Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Oh my goodness, when was the last time I blogged   ...  September!?!  What's that all about?    Well, goodness me, I swear time passes quicker the older I get.   Actually, having said that, I shall be glad when this year is over.  I think its been one of the worst years ever for me, starting with my Dad's death  in March (may God rest his soul) and the very near break up of my marriage in October.  We are hanging on and trying to get back to some semblance of normalcy.  A serious lack of funds is hampering our efforts and I'm not sure how we're going to get through Christmas.  Everything is considerably down-sized so I hope people don't think we're just being stingy with presents.  Hopefully in the new year my other half will get off his backside and get himself a proper job earning proper money (and pigs might fly, but we can only hope!).

I will not give up mine and my daughter's horses unless we are completely destitute!  At least Jasmine has got herself a job to pay for her livery - she works for two hours after school every day for the cleaners at the school.  It means she's not home until after 5.30 but it leaves her weekends free.

Talking of horses, Santana is still looking fab.  I've never seen him looking so good.  Everyone at the yard says how great he looks - it makes me swell with pride. 

In an attempt to combat my confidence issues I had a lesson with Caroline at our yard in October.  She was great - making me think of all sorts of things at the same time (multi-tasking, gah!) and by the end of the hour I had completely forgotten my worries about Santana.  He was feeling the difference and was so relaxed and chilled out - just like he used to be.   This gave me something to work on and I rode on each of the next two weekends. 

Then we had another mishap.  Santana had started forcing his way through the rather flimsy fence around our field and I had to get it repaired several times already.  One morning we had to bring the horses in because there was a "shoot" on the farm.  No horses anywhere in our field and we finally found them a couple of fields down  having destroyed several lengths of fencing, electric and other sorts.  We brought them back through the gaps they had made when Rambo, Jasmine's pony, took a dislike to one of the gaps and suddenly freaked out knocking us both over in his panic.  Of course me, being the one who always gets injured in any incidents, was the one who got trodden on.  I had a perfect hoofprint on the inside of my thigh and, boy, did it hurt!   That was about six weeks ago and its only now starting to get better. 

I have managed to ride the last couple of weekends and I'm pleased to say it has been good.  I am concentrating very hard on relaxing and all the things Caroline taught me which seems to be working. 

Next problem:  Jasmine had a very bad fall from Rambo about a month ago.  Fortunately she escaped unharmed but it really shocked her.  It has left her with a lot of distrust in Rambo which she's got to build back up again.  She is such a confident rider, and with good reason - she's got great natural ability - I've never seen her nervous like this.  I'm really hoping she can get back to where she was.

What a pair!  We're as bad as each other now!

Anyway - now for some pics:-

Riding in the menage

Alex, my son having a lesson

Early October - chilling by the "lake" in his field

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Where did the summer go !?

Exactly that ...where did the summer go?  It seems like only a few weeks ago that we moved to our new yard and here we are nearly at the end of the summer already.   We have definitely enjoyed the last three months at our new yard, organising our grazing and our stables, etc.  We've had lots of time to ride, either hacking out or schooling in the menage. 

Santana seems to be really happy and is looking great at the moment, although he's slightly fat having managed to sabotage my electric fence energiser while I was on holiday and make his escape into the hay field.  He was put back every day but by then he'd realised that the electric was off so as soon as no-one was looking off he went again!  Cheeky monkey!

Anyway, we've now negotiated a field move to a field much closer to the yard, like literally 2 minutes away - how good is that!?  We made the move on Wednesday and all ponies have settled in well together like they were old mates all the time. 

Santana, Rambo, Ned and Robin (in that order)

This was after Santana had pranced around the field stargazing and with his tail stuck straight up in the air like he was an arab stallion.  I didn't have the heart to remind him his carefree colt days were long gone!

Happy in his new field

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Busy Days

It seems I've had another long break from blogging - I seem to have been so busy, I hardly even get a lunchbreak at work sometimes. 

We've been busy with non-horsey stuff such as, my family thinking it would be an excellent idea to sell our folding camper six weeks before we are due to go on holiday in it.  The idea was to buy a caravan with the money from selling the camper.  Good idea in principle but not so easy in practice because caravans tend to be more expensive than folding campers.  Still, we managed to find one in our price range (just) and brought it home to store at mum's house (thanks mum!).  Of course, on closer inspection when we got it home we find out all its little faults and foibles.  Its a good job my other half is very handy and knows lots of other handy people.  Work has started to get the caravan in shape for our holiday in Cornwall in August.  Next we had to buy an awning so another search of Ebay ensued.  Awning is now bought - check. 

Of course in the process of inspecting and buying these things a fair bit of mileage was clocked up on the old Pajero which drinks diesel like its going out of fashion.  This has had an adverse effect on my bank balance and the decision has been made that I can no longer afford to run the Paj.  Its costing me over £50 a week just to get to work and back and I could halve that with a more economical car (and pay another livery fee instead!).  I'm gutted about selling it but its just too thirsty.

The question now was what to buy.  As far as I'm concerned I'm not too bothered, my only stipulation is air conditioning - the climate control in the Paj is so good I would really miss it now.  I don't know if any of you have children but my two (15 and 20 yrs respectively) are very particular about what wheels they are seen in.  No mere Vauxhall Astra or Ford Focus will do for them, oh no - buy an Audi A3 mum!  Yeah, right, like that's going to happen! 

Having trawled Ebay and Autotrader I think we've reached a compromise with a Peugeot 206 - around year 1999-2000.  It's a little smaller than I would have liked but it seems to have great fuel economy and it looks cool enough for the kids.  Now I just have to find one thats cheap enough for me to afford to buy and sell the Paj.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

The Lovely Pajero

Update on the horsey situation next time.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New Yard, Fresh Start

Riding in the menage (yes - menage!  Posh or what!) at our new yard.  Santana has been superb since we moved.  He's really settled in well and I feel so much more confident riding him now. 

In this first pic he was doing that lovely typical Welsh Cob trot - really active and moving beautifully.

Canterrrrrr !
Someone should remind me to look up!

I put him in his stable one day (a novelty in itself) so that we could go and move the electric fencing.  I only made a very small paddock at first while he got used to his new surroundings, but now that he's eaten everything in sight its time to give him more space.  One small problem - he's a little itchy so while he was in his stable he was busy rubbing his backside against the front wall and managed to push it out and pushed out the bolt holding the door closed.  Disaster I hear you cry!  But no .. I had already thought of this eventuality and in true Worthy End style (my old yard) I had tied up the door with a clip rope.  His bid for freedom was foiled!  In truth I don't think it would even have occurred to him to escape, but just to be on the safe side my very handy other half has strengthened the front wall with a nine foot post bolted to the floor and roof beam so hopefully we won't have any adventures of the escaping kind in the future.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Back to Blogging

I've not blogged for ages now for several reasons.  After the various life changing events which have affected me recently I just haven't had the heart for it.  Everything seemed so small and petty in the whole scheme of things and really not worth recording. 

However, I feel as though I am now starting to come out of those dark dark feelings and look to the future.

I have made a HUGE decision, to move my horse to another yard.  Reasons:-

1.  Money.  It is a completely DIY yard but I can keep him out 24/7 over the summer which is what he's used to anyway.  It is half the cost of where I am now until winter when I'll need a stable as well but even then the rent will still be cheaper.   I'll need to buy feed (which I do already anyway), bedding (shredded paper, free from work, maybe mixed with some shavings) and hay at £3 per bale from the yard.

2.  My daughter badly wants a pony of her own since her Section A, Catrin, was sold when she grew out of her.  Although she has been able to ride almost whatever she likes on the farm and train up the youngsters, its not the same as your own and I can understand her feelings.  We will look for a loan pony for her maybe over the summer and in the meantime she can ride Santana.   She also has several friends already at the yard we're going to so I'm sure she won't be without a ride.

3.  The farm has lost much of its magic for me since Tom died.  I love the rest of the family, but it was Tom we were working with every day, Tom who we looked to for support, Tom who gave us the confidence to do things we might otherwise not do.  I think the time has come for us to move on.

In the meantime I've had lots of problems with Santana.  Looking back, ever since I broke my wrist last year I don't think I ever re-gained my confidence properly.  This obviously transmitted to Santana and he also lost confidence.  Falling off twice over the winter just compounded the problem.  He would spook at the slightest little thing and charge off like a freight train at top speed.

We decided to start Santana's training back at the beginning with lunging and teaching him voice commands.  We changed his bit from a Wilson snaffle which is surprisingly harsh, but which he didn't respect at all, to a rubber mullen mouth Pelham.  This has given me a lot more control and I think we are starting to understand each other a little better -  I don't hang on his reins in a constant state of panic and he doesn't charge off on the slightest whim whenever he feels like it.

I've spent a lot more time with him on the ground talking to him while grooming and all that sort of thing.  I think we are now back on an even keel.  I think he likes me again and I feel that I can hack him out without fearing the worst.

There is a lovely outdoor menage at our new yard and lots of riding on the farm so I'm really looking forward to it now that I've made my decision.  I've had lots of wobbly moments about whether I've made the right decision, but I can't wait for it all to be sorted now.  I've bought some electric fencing to make a paddock in the section of field which I've been allocated, so I can rotate the grazing within my area.  It should arrive this week so we'll go and set it up one evening.

Moving day is next Saturday ...*gulp*

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Happier Days

What a fantastic photo this is.  Taken many years ago, look how relaxed and laid back Tom is sitting amongst the bales.

A picture of me and Tom taken a couple of years ago at Tom's daughter's birthday bash.

Happy days.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Motivation ...or lack of it

I haven't blogged for ages. There are various reasons, not least of these was the death of my Dad. I still cannot, and probably will never, believe that he has gone. The pain is still there, as strong as ever, but I guess you eventually learn to live with the loss.

Another huge shock to me was the sudden death of the farm owner, Tom, at the age of 70, just two days before my father's funeral. I have known Tom for only about six years, but in that time I have seen him almost every day. He has been my friend and mentor and he has shared so much of his incredible knowledge of horsemanship and experiences with me. If it were not for Tom, I would not have bought my first horse, I would not have gained the experience I have of riding and training young horses, and I would not have had the confidence to break and train Santana. All this was done under his close supervision and guidance. His funeral was attended by approximately 400 people which is testament to the immensely high regard people had for him and the number of lives which he has touched.

At first I felt that all that wealth of knowledge and experience had been lost but, on reflection, I realise that, in fact, he was so generous with his knowledge that he has passed much of it on to so many people, not least his four children and his grandchildren, as well as friends like myself.

We spent many a happy afternoon lunging young ponies with my daughter on board, Tom and I both on the end of the lunge (in case the pony took off!), and Tom would pour out his stories of the old days. He was fascinating to listen to.

I am proud to be able to say that I knew Tom and could call him my friend. I will also be forever grateful for everything he has done for me and my daughter over the last few years.

Rest in Peace Tom

Monday, 29 March 2010

For my Dad

My dad was born on 12th June 1926 in Walthamstow, later moving to the North Circular in Edmonton. He attended Latymer School in Edmonton, a notoriously difficult school to get into. He was an only child and his parents were very proud of him. He joined the army and served two tours in Cairo towards the end of WWII in the Royal Medical Corps as a clerical officer
He met my mum and they were married on 5th March 1955 at Christchurch, Southgate. They made a beautiful couple.They set up home together in a bungalow in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.

Dad was initially employed as an insurance clerk, later moving to the Civil Service to work in the Treasury Solicitor's Department. Over the years he studied and attained the position of Higher Executive Officer where he remained until his retirement in the 1980s. This was obviously in the days when a "job for life" still existed.

In 1959 my brother was born
And in 1961 I came along. I love this pic! On the very day I was born, my Dad passed his driving test.

Dad was not a "touchy feely" sort of person, but I was always secure in the knowledge that I was loved by both my parents. Dad was always there for you, he was always willing to advise without forcing his views on you. Growing up, my brother and I had a really good childhood and we never wanted for anything, although we weren't well off by any means. We always had a summer holiday, mostly camping or staying on a farm in Cornwall, and also a weeks holiday on a boat on the Norfolk Broads or canals.

Christmastime and some of the boating holidays were spent with the family of Dad's "best man" and I have many wonderful memories as a result of this happy time.Mum and Dad enjoyed rambling and I remember lots of jaunts into the countryside with Dad striding ahead with his Ordnance Survey map at the ready.

When I was ten or eleven we moved to a bigger house in Potters Bar which had an enormous garden, backing onto fields. (Later they built the M25 two fields away!). The size of the garden meant it required many hours to keep it in good shape. There were plenty of opportunities for a bonfire to burn the cut down bushes and brambles. I loved those bonfires and spent ages poking a long stick into the white hot centre to watch it burn - strange child!

(It was at this time that I was allowed to start horseriding, but much to my frustration Dad would never entertain the idea of a pony of my own, grrr!)

Dad was an old fashioned type of guy who took the role of head of the household seriously, liking to keep a firm hand on the finances. Mum studied at the Royal College of Music and became a piano teacher and an Associate of the Royal College of Music and earned her own money which she paid into her own bank account - much to Dad's chagrin!.

He had a great interest in classical music and over the years built up a huge collection of records which he later had to replace with CDs, giving in to "modern technology" very reluctantly.

His handwriting was incredibly neat and when he retired he took classes in Calligraphy and produced some lovely decorated pieces. Mum tried to get him to have some framed and put them on the walls but, ever the perfectionist, he always maintained they weren't good enough.

Through the years Mum and Dad belonged to a social club which originated from a youth club which members were required to leave when they were considered too old (ie. about 20). The members who left the youth club formed this new club so that they could continue to meet and do various activities together (and think up new excuses to have a party).

This club is still going today, albeit slightly less energetically, with some of the original founder members still attending. The club was a very big part of Dad's life, with some of its members becoming very close, lifelong friends. How amazing to have so many friends for this length of time.

An early photo of the club members all dolled up in their glad rags. Dad is about eighth from the left in the back row and Mum is second from left of the ladies seated.

In 2002 after about five years of trying, I managed to persuade Dad that it would be a good idea to move to Bedfordshire to live closer to our family. I mentioned in passing, a few times, that houses would be much cheaper and they could have a similar size house and have money to spare from the sale of the Potters Bar house. Eventually this argument won out and they moved to Shefford, only 15 minutes drive from us. They never regretted it and, in fact, wished they'd moved years previously. Stubborn old Dad, didn't like the idea of change.

A happy holiday in the 1970s
and 1980s

working in the garden at Potters Bar.

My wedding day

Mum and Dad
Dad's funeral was on 25th March 2010. My 15 year old daughter, Jasmine, read Life Goes On by Joyce Grenfell and my 20 year old son, Alex, read All is Well by Henry Scott Holland. It was extremely emotional but my children did their grandfather proud. We sang Praise my Soul the King of Heaven and Lord of all Hopefulness, Lord of All Joy. The music played was Chanson de Matin, Elgar, Nimrod, Elgar and Air from Suite 3 in D, Bach. The service was taken by the daughter of my Dad's Best Man who has obviously known him since she was a child and made it a lovely, personal, service.

I loved my Dad very much indeed. I only hope that he knew how much he was loved. Not being a very demonstrative person himself we, as a family were, similarly, not demonstrative generally.

I am so sad that he has gone, but I know now that he is at peace. May God rest his soul.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Rest in Peace Daddy

My dear dad died at 3am on the morning of 9th March 2010 in Papworth Hospital, Cambridge. He was 83 years old.

He had been in hospital since November, initially in Bedford, then transferred to Papworth to undergo a heart valve replacement procedure. One thing after another prevented the procedure going ahead and eventually he was bedridden and in dreadful pain from gout which had resulted from kidney failure. I am thankful that he is no longer suffering. We, the family are grateful to all the staff at Papworth Hospital for their thorough and sensitive care of my dad whilst he was in Varrier Jones Ward. They helped to make my mum and dad's 55th wedding anniversary on 5th March 2010 a lovely day for both of them, as far as it was possible in the circumstances.

Despite dad's age and heart condition, we always expected that he would come home and have a little more time to enjoy his last days so it has come as a shock to us all and I still can't believe that he will never come home.

The funeral is Thursday 25th March. I do not know how I will get through this day. My children will both be doing a reading for their grandad. I will reproduce them here in a future post.

Rest in peace daddy.
I love you.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Another Wet Weekend

Almost, but not quite, a washout. Went to the farm on Saturday. It was lovely sunshine when we were driving there. Of course this disappeared as soon as we had tacked up! Anyway, it was so wet and muddy on the farm that we decided to ride around the roads. I wasn't entirely happy because it was out of my comfort zone - I would have preferred to stay in the relative safety of the 'Pit'.

I needn't have worried because Santana was like his old unflappable self and, other than a little prancing and fidgeting when we came back through the gate onto the farm track, he was fab. I think he is unsettled there because that was the spot where he bolted and I fell off last time. I must be transmitting my feelings of trepidation to him. He soon got over it though when we moved off again after Jasmine had latched the gate.

It rained on us while we rode back up the track to the farm.

Back in the yard, we untacked and I felt GOOD! We had a lovely uneventful ride and I was feeling confident. The sun came back out again!

I was looking forward to repeating this on Sunday but when we got to the farm Sunday morning it was tipping down with rain and the front fields were almost completely underwater.

Jasmine brought Mouse in, got straight on with just a cooler rug on to soak up the rain from Mouse's coat and rode through the lakes that had formed. I'll post some video when I get round to downloading it from Jasmine's camera.

Back at work today and the sun has shone all day so far. Typical!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Another video

I thought I would post this video I made last winter about my jumping exploits with Santana and my daughter and my friend Angie. As you can see Santana hadn't done much jumping so we were keeping them small, and of course he had the draw reins on. I only used them a couple of times.

Jumping This & That from Jooles1111 on Vimeo.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Well, my few days off didn't work out quite as planned as far as riding goes. Thursday poured with rain and sleet all day then it snowed overnight so we woke up to a blanket of snow on Friday morning. Friday was quite warm though and most of the snow had melted by lunchtime so I managed to sneak a quick ride. The farm was so wet that all we could do was go out round the block but it was better than nothing.

As my riding plans were thwarted on Thursday I used the spare time to make a video which I have been trying to upload to Youtube ever since. I finally managed it this afternoon by saving in a poor quality wmv format.

When I look back to what I was doing with Santana in the early summer I'm amazed. We seem to be going backwards, which is not good!

On our ride on Saturday we went round the roads again and when we got back to the farm we walked round the outside of the front field. As we turned the corner, something spooked Santana from behind and he was off. I managed to turn him in a circle and then kept him going round and round until he got fed up with it. When I say something spooked him, there was actually nothing, he just imagined a monster. He never used to be like that at all so its a bit unnerving and unpredictable at the moment.

Today I just rode round the circle, trotting mainly with a couple of canters and it was all good apart from first getting on board when he was very tense and jumpy. As soon as we walk of he relaxes. I think he sees my right foot coming over his back and it frightens him, although its not as if anything has happened to make him scared other than the time when I fell off on the ice.

I just can't wait for the better weather and drier ground so I can get some more riding and schooling in and get back to where we were.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Another Birthday

I'm sure as I've got older birthdays come round far quicker than they did when I was young. I seem to remember it being an eternity between birthdays. Nowadays they whizz round far too fast and I don't like it at all!

So, its my birthday today, and I'm sitting here at work wondering why I didn't take the day off and spend it riding. What was I thinking?!

Oh well, I have Thursday and Friday off so I can look forward to the other end of the week.

Keeping my fingers crossed for some half decent weather.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Sea of Mud

After the frozen wastes of last weekend when I only managed to ride for half an hour on Sunday afternoon because the mud had turned to concrete with a layer of ice on top, this weekend was slightly warmer but, inevitably, very muddy. I rode yesterday, but I was far too tense and nervous which obviously transmitted to Santana and he spooked and flinched at everything imaginable. I held him too tight and sat too rigidly, it was altogether not very impressive. Poor Santana, he did his best for me but I wasn't giving him clear signals.

Today, after retrieving him from the sea of mud around his field gate, there was an altogether different vibe. Elby held him for me while I mounted from the hay bale. He flinched while I found my other stirrup, but was fine as soon as we walked off. I made a concerted effort to relax, to give with my hands and to sit back. We managed to pass the area in "the pit" where the monsters hide with only a cursory glance. We managed a lovely swinging trot on both reins, we cantered on the left rein and then ... our worst bugbear, cantering on the right rein. The first time he got his front legs right but the back legs wrong. We tried again and he got it right, cantered half a circuit and trotted the rest. Then we had another go, just to make sure it wasn't a fluke and he did it right again. We cantered for a circuit and a half, no leaning, no pulling, just nice controlled cantering. By jove, I think he's got it!

I don't want to speak too soon but I really feel as though he's so much more comfortable in the Pennwood saddle that it could have been the other saddle which was causing the problem all the time.

All in all a lovely, confidence giving ride. Just what you need on a Sunday.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sciatica - ouch!

Oh the misery of increasing age!

Anyone who has suffered from sciatica will understand how debilitating it is. This is the second time I've had it, the first being about four years ago, with varying degrees of lower back pain in between.

I know that its my fault, I know that I'm unfit and my stomach and core muscles are virtually non-existent. I also know I really should do something about it. Maybe this will be the incentive to get me to that aerobics class I've been promising myself.

However, at the moment I can barely roll out of bed in the morning, let alone prance around the scout hut. Why are your feet so far away from your hands at times like this? I need a long handled implement to get my clothes over my feet. I feel rather foolish when my 19 year old son pops his head round the door and asks what the heck I'm doing when he finds me on all fours on the bedroom floor, attempting to stand up. "Just having a closer look at the rug!" I say blithely. Poor young thing - he has no idea in his strapping youthfulness. One day he'll understand.

I think the only saving grace is that my work might get me an all singing, all dancing chair to use. I wonder if I can put in for a footstool and a massage as well!?

I guess its just as well its still too dark to ride by the time I come home from work.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Enough Snow

Okay, snow is great ...when it only lasts a few days. Much though it looks lovely and picturesque, I've had just about enough now. The horses are all bored and have nothing to do all day except wait by the gate for the tractor to bring the next lot of hay.

With no all weather surface we can't ride. All the farm tracks are treacherous for the horses and the yard, well, don't even go there!

I did manage to ride a couple of weekends ago and we have decided that Santana's sudden aversion to being ridden is mostly to do with his saddle. Although I have always used this saddle on him and it has been fine, we have now come to the conclusion that a combination of having stopped riding him most days due to longer hours at work and dark evenings and also winter setting in with a vengeance has caused him to drop condition slightly. Enough to make his saddle uncomfortable anyway.

What precipitated this conclusion was that when I rode him when the last lot of snow had nearly gone, we came back from riding round the block and I had to dismount to open the gate (I had already done this to go out of the gate with no problem). I turned his head into a corner of the fence to re-mount and Jas stood beside him on her horse. I went to get back on and was past the point of no return when he took umbrage, spun round and took off at a gallop up the only icy stretch remaining on the farm. After about 50 yards I couldn't maintain my balance and landed front first on the ice and skidded for what seemed like miles!

I'm now using my narrower Pennwood saddle which sits well off his withers and although I've only had a chance to use it once because of the weather, he seemed to be much more comfortable in it.

So as there's no riding, here are some pictures instead ...