Thursday, 24 November 2016

Before and After

I've pinched this from Cob Jockey.

Six photos to show how things have changed from April to now. I'm so pleased with Zed, but the best thing is something that the photos don't show, and that's his attitude. 

After a rolling spell at work and a weekend away we missed 10 days of riding, but today I was able to give him a very quick twirl on the lunge (just in case) and then get straight back on. It was soooo goooood to be back in the saddle. 

Our first week on our new yard - Spring time

Second ride

June/July I think 


Late August playing in the field

October, with the start of his clip

What would your three be?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

We CAN feel good(ish) about winter: 5 top tips

Ice bogies - sexual 
Let's all agree that winter sucks hairy walrus bum buns.

I'm not even going to run through the tired old list of things that drive us mad. 

Instead I am going to put on the helmet of happiness and cautiously suggest ways we can downgrade it from black widow to garden spider. 

The hat of happiness

1. Even when we can't ride, we can do small things that can really improve our riding. 

My friend has taken up pilates for the first time and has even found a class that starts almost directly after work so she can't get comfy on the sofa and then cop out. It's made a world of difference to her riding and she says she feels much more flexible in her pelvis and hips now. All for a few quid and an hour of her life once a week.

I defo struggle to stick with classes when the dark nights come but I can whack my yoga dvd on a few times a week. Even doing ten minutes helps so much. A good stretch after you've been driving or working at a desk is just luscious amazyrainbowdust and I think it helps me sleep better, 

And for the days when we'd rather stick needles in our eyes than exercise, reading is a good plan B: Dust off a few classics and get some ideas for schooling. Denny Emerson (How Good Riders get Good ) and Mark Rashid (lots to choose from) are my faves. 

Other options? Meditating (nectar for worrywort like me) running (eek) ... It can really be anything that you can chip away at that will get you a physically or mentally closer to your riding goals. Then when summer comes you're ready to pounce.

2. Pay special, specific attention to the sensory good times that winter brings.

Sometimes we can get so twined up in the shit stuff that we don't notice the lovely little moments any more: That delicious smell of good haylage, the homely feeling we get when we're mixing our hard feeds and sprinkling in 10,000 different supplements (wait, is that just me?), and catching breathtaking sunsets, sunrises, moonrises and frosts. When I put Zed's rug on I try to always remember to take a second to run my hand down the soft fluff under his mane.  And I try to keep in mind that without owning a horse I wouldn't see the hundreds of little differences between each season. 

3. Save a little bit of Christmas for the horse or pony in your life.

If we can it's good to use Christmas as an excuse to appreciate the beasties that give us so much joy year round. No need to spend money, just pinch a carrot from the festive veg pile, take the time to groom properly or give them a scratch in their scratchiest spot. Personally I have less hangovers and am able to eat a lot more mince pies as a direct result of owning a horse, simply because mucking out gives me an appetite and since I'm always driving to the yard first thing, no mad benders. Good for the wallet, good for the liver, good good good. 

4. Plan 2017 as if it is the last year you will ever get the chance to sit on a horse.

Not to freak you out but who knows? None of us do. My goals for summer 2017 are to do a dressage test, a pleasure ride, the annual camp at our yard and my Stage 3 BHS exam training. All in a calm manner allowing lots of space for it to be fun. No brown jodhpurs I hope. And I'll grabbing every chance I get to ride out this winter. 

Goals can be small, huge, anything in between, just give yourself a chance to do a bit of dreaming and a little bit of room to take some action towards whatever it is you'd like to do. 

5. Use winter as resilience training.

Turns out getting what we want is terrible for us. Damn. So is peace and quiet. Double damn. We need struggle and hardship to keep our resilience muscles strong. We can take comfort that when we're wet through, covered in mud and devoid of all heat and warmth..we're growing mighty! Embrace the madness. 

And finally:
I hope, sincerely, that winter is good to you and your animals. And if it isn't, I hope you can find a way to soldier on. The only way out is through.
We can do this.

Monday, 21 November 2016

My dad

Lately my mind has been avalanche of thoughts about our parents and what they mean to us. Both when they are here and when they are gone. 

Then I read this. 

"There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time." 

And I thought about my father, and the fact that he's been dead for 14 years. And it made me want to write about how great he was so he can live forever in this little corner of the internet.

Because not that many people did know my dad. And though he wasn't famous, he wasn't ordinary either. 

This is what I think I know about my dad, and what he showed me. If this seems sentimental or rose-tinted...I suppose it is. After all, it was the good in him that taught me the most. 

He grew up in the Potteries and was very close to his grandad, gravitating towards his grandad's farm, and the tractors in particular. 

He was a self-made man - not a silver spoon in sight. From a young age he was incredibly careful with money and learned to save and invest.

When we were little, him and mum would put on Abba records and the kids would all go nuts leaping and dancing around, up and over the sofas and running around like loonies until we could hardly breathe any more. It was pure, mad happiness. 

My dad liked watching telly with his family, and he wasn't above a bit of subterfuge to keep us close. Through the winter he'd only heat one room so if you wanted to be aloof you had to be prepared to wear a bobble hat indoors and see your breath mist out in front of you. 

He loved making bacon sandwiches with white bread and chips in the deep fat frier. He had a particular way that he liked to do things. The chips were always thin and crispy and golden brown. The bacon was always just so.

He wore a pair of faded blue chords every day. He had a pair of shoes that started to show wear after 15 years so he glued them together and pronounced them 'a bad buy'. 

He kept diaries that he typed out on a typewriter and stored in A4 ring binders. He was a gardener. Later in life he grew oak and cherry trees; some are 15 years old now and beautiful. He taught English and Geography and studied law. He was a good climber, he could fix cars. It felt like there was nothing he couldn't turn his hand to. 

Dad loved cars, we often had a few on the drive when we were younger. He liked Land Rovers before they were civilised - when the noise of the engine made it impossible to speak or even think. He had a gold Mark II Cortina that went like shit off a stick. He used to speed along the quiet roads around Tow Law with me and my sister taking it in turns to stick our heads out of the sun roof. 

Once, my mum and sister went on holiday and we made puddings together every night out of a cruddy old recipe book. Mostly Upside down pineapple cake with custard. We'd make a huge deal out of getting the custard just right while making each other laugh. We'd pretend it was like brain surgery and do it with the utmost care right up to the point at which you had to whisk when we'd start yelling "Whisk, whisk, whiiiiiiiisk!" at each other. 

He was thin and tall and good looking. He was often very quiet. When something made him laugh it really made him laugh. He had a terrific sense of fun. 

He made sincere efforts to be better. He had a temper but as the years went by he worked harder and harder to rein it in. He looked for the elegant solution to every problem. 

Best of all: He taught us to question things, and when we did he answered honestly. He was suspicious of majority norms, like chasing career advancement, credit card debt and large mortgages. He made his money work hard for him. He was never a slave to work. 

Dad made me do horses the hard way. He wouldn't buy me my own, I had to go to the local riding school and work for my lessons. He knew instinctively that getting what you think you want isn't always good for you. Owning a horse will always feel like a privilege to me as a result. I cannot take it for granted, and unlike many who had everything bought and paid for from an early age, I never lost interest. 

He was so interested in people. He retired young because he had enough money, and because of ongoing problems with his back, but he liked it when you brought back stories from the outside world. He liked it when you liked someone. He'd want to know all about them, why you thought highly of them, what they thought of this or that. He was curious. 

He taught me to find the fun, and to plough my own furrow. Not to do what everyone else does. 

Like so few people, he walked his talk. I am trying to do the same. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Gruesome germs, recovery and riding

Ah, summer time! 
After winning at contracting mild food poisoning/horrendous germ fest over the weekend today was my first hack out in a few days and it was a tonic.

Nothing looks better than a bright, sunny November morning after spending 48 hours with your head in the toilet and your husband shouting I'm A Celebrity updates while you barf your brains out. 

Halfway through his clip: he was very well behaved
It was just our usual ride around the west side of the village but it was gorgeous weather and I had a good, light-hearted natter with my companion. Zed was really relaxed and rode so nicely, like an old timer. I have to remind myself he's only four and not to switch my brain off but he really is very good. Even when the horse in front jumped a tiny bit he just took no notice and stayed straight. 

He's been on form lately in the gold star stakes: I took my time but he was ace to clip and he also stood nicely for his first pair of fronts. I got them done because we were meant to box to a nearby forest for a ride out. Unfortunately it was cancelled because of the weather but the nicest part for me was that I was really looking forward to it. No terror, no sweating, no dread. I have faith in my horse and I'm pretty confident he'll take it in his stride when we reschedule.

A big part of his progress is being on the right yard. The staff and the facilities are simply amazing. Everything is done right, it's very close to home and the prices are extraordinarily sensible. 
So yummy. 
I'm at work for the next few days and then away over the weekend so it's nice to have the memory of a good ride to keep my heart warm till next time. I'm going to miss my little beansprout!

Nancy thrives also. She was a terrible nurse and cared not one jot about my germs but instead bullied me into taking her to Hamsterley forest today. Even if my legs fell off she'd make me take her out. She's heartlessly consistent, mercilessly persistent and I wouldn't have her any other way. 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Little things

This is the time of year to pay attention to the little things so the big, bad things don't get you.

Trump is president. Brexit is happening. The first snow has been. 

I've been comfort eating a lot of mince pies and washing them down with Actimel to blot out the feeling of impending doom.


So when Nancy comes and cosies up on the bed next to me and falls asleep, farting and snoring and pushing her gritty little paws into my back: that little moment makes me feel happier and warmer.

Zed is a cute little bun of rugged-up fluff. Our schooling is pretty hapless at the moment but who cares when he walks over to see me in the field? When I've got my face in his neck fur and that good young horse smell is in my nostrils it's hard to give a flying crap about 20m circles. 

Animals are such a brightspot. When life feels slow or grey they bumble around like tiny suns, lighting everybody up. 

We saw a young deer a few days ago, and the birds are visiting our feeders. These moments make life infinitely more bearable.

Mother Nature just rolls quietly on.  

It's the perfect time for music too. My sister has got me hooked on the majesty of Claire Boucher (Grimes) and Taylor Swift's live lounge of Riptide. Phil bought me the Jack Savoretti album which has become my cooking music. Whenever I'm making food I put it on and it takes the stinging boredom away from chopping mushrooms. 

I hope you have little things (or big things) that make you happy.