Mud Mud Glorious Mud

Will it ever stop raining? More to the point, when will it stop raining for Long enough for everything to start drying out? Please! We need to have a summer this year.

Everything is permanently filthy and saturated at the moment. The horses never seem to be entirely dry. It’s far too warm to put a rug on then, so they seem to have developed a shell of mud which is virtually impossible to remove. Manes, tails, feathers, and even beards are rapidly morphing into mud encrusted dreadlocks. . Although we haven’t entirely run out of grass, the top field is mostly a trashed boggy wasteland that will need reseeding, if we ever get a Spring that is. Sweeping the yard has given me a deep empathy with King Canute

,I can’t hold the tide back either. Even the avenue down to the bottom field and the muck heap, where no horse treads at this time of year, is so wet and slippery that Hal is having massive problems getting the barrow too and from the muck heap. It’s fair to say that it’s all a bit of a struggle at the moment.

It is strangely comforting to know that we are not the only people who are struggling. Nearly everybody you meet who keeps horses is in the same boat. Really though., it’s getting to the point where that boat should be an Ark! It must be just as frustrating for anybody who is a cattle or sheep farmer, or makes a living off the land in some way.

Sadly the mud Took a terrible toll this week. In a field which is only just down the road from us, an elderly horse got so badly stuck in the mud that a full blown rescue had to be launched. . I don’t know the horses owners, or much about the horse, but I really feel for them and their plight. The ground is so wet at the moment that it was impossible to get a tractor onto the field in order to attempt to lift the horse. Fire and rescue, The specialist animal rescue team, had to attend. It took several hours to get the horses out and up. The horse was taken to a nearby stable, but sadly it didn’t survive. Apparently the horse was 34 years old, A remarkable age, and has been a part of that family for over 30 years. After such an ordeal the poor Thing must have been exhausted I can only imagine how devastated the onus must be. Horses leave extremely big holes in our hearts.

The mud poses A whole new set of different challenges for those of us you can’t see. Firstly, and similar to ice in a way, it is not always easy to tell where it is safe to walk. Yes you can poke at the ground with a stick, but unless you do this you have no way of knowing if your Nextep is going to take you into deep impenetrable bog. The other problem is when you drop something. A classic example of this happened to me yesterday. When we were bringing the horses in, this prime example of human intelligence dropped a head collar into the quagmire. Then had to scrabble around with her bare hands to find it. Cue One short fat middle-aged Horse, owner completely plastered in mud from head to toe, clutching a slippery mud in crusted pile of mank which vaguely resembled a head collar and lead rope, and one totally disgusted horse, onto whom said horse owner was trying to place the aforementioned item.

For a brief moment this morning, when I was giving the horses their breakfast, that magical special time it is just me and then, there was a brief hint of spring in the air. The temperature was just right, there was a gentle breeze, The dawn chorus was in full tune, and, I kid you not, it wasn’t raining. Could this be a sign of things to come? Sadly it didn’t last long. Oh well, it’stime to buckle up, and go and face the elements. I wonder if my coat is dried out yet?

Honey I Broke the Gate!

It’s been a long, but enjoyable day. Hal, Quincey and I have been to the South West Christmas Equine Fayre , at Westpoint Arena, Exeter. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us. Hal buys the tickets for me each year as an early Christmas present. However, having a full day out comes at a price, and not just the money kind.

We were up and at it early, and the horses were out in the field a good hour before normal, which came as a shock to all concerned. There were cries of “I haven’t finished me hay yet!”. We then didn’t get home until about when we normally bring them in at this time of year – and we still had to muck out, fill Haynes and do water. We desperately needed a medical emergency cup of tea first though.

To be honest, it makes very little difference to me if we do things in daylight or darkness. It does make a difference to Hal though, and, despite them supposedly having excellent night vision, I suspect it matters to the horses. So there we were, about two hours later than usual, in the pitch dark,, with a freezing East wind blowing, in the act of bringing the horses in. Leo was already in and stuffing hay, and, after Sapph and Breeze had had a brief, erm, discussion about who should come in next, Hal was on his way in with Sapph. When Yours Truly broke the gate! Now, when I say gate, what I mean is a continuation of the electric fence with a spring loaded, insulated, hook style handle on the end. . I’d had thrown the bottom line over the fence to get it out of the way, and was struggling to hook the top line shut. I gave it a yank when… “It just came off in ,e ‘and your ‘omour!”. Suddenly I’m holding so much loose electric fence, have a wide open gateway, and two loose horses. Breeze took the opportunity to stroll past me and help herself to some grass, and who can blame her. It’s what happened next that has really rocked my world. “OK Florence, where are you then?” I muttered under my breath. . Breeze can be very food possessive, and I really didn’t want to get flattened if she decided she wasn’t sharing. I needn’t have worried. I was just looking for the fence, to put myself in a safe zone, when Flo walked up and stopped just inside the mow wide open gateway. She wickered quietly and reached and gently touched my arm with her nose, as if to say “I’m just here”. She then stood like a statue while I stepped away from her to hang Breeze’s head collar and the remains of the gate on the fence, . She wickered to me so I could find her again and slip her head collar on, and stood rock steady while Hal caught Breeze. Not once did she consider going through the the gate and helping herself to some grass. What a special horse!

She got an extra big haynet after all that!

Buckle Up Baby, We’re About to Hit Turbulance

Wow last week was challenging. Yes it had its high points, but , like all roller coasters, it had plenty of dramatic and frightening lows. So buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
It goes like this…

Monday. Not having been feeling too well for the last few days, I had a lie in and didn’t check the horses first thing. So there we both are, tucked up in bed, when the doorbell goes. There stands our young next door neighbour with the news that the horses are in the process of clambering through the hedge into our bottom field. Cue mad dash to catch them in. No harm done thankfully. Just a realisation that that stretch of hedge is no longer secure.

Monday was such a lovely day that I took the opportunity to hop on Florence and go for a ride. It was one of those rides where everything just clicked. It was like we were telepathically linked. Perfect!

Tuesday. 6.30a.m. Tuesday saw me standing in the field trying not to go into a total melt down as I listened to Florence struggling to breath e. Seriously, I’ve never heard any horse make that kind of noise. Did she puncture a lung getting through the hedge yesterday? Should I call the emergency vet? Calm down dear! A horse who is at deaths door wouldn’t be trying to steal mints of me, would she?

I waited for the Vet’s to open before calling them, and waited on tentdrhooks until a lovely new vet arrived. She was very thorough, and had a lovely way with Flo. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with Flo’s lungs, but that her upper airways where completely blocked with mucus. . The poor girl was completely bunged up. Bloods was taken and antibiotics, anti inflamatories and decongestants prescribed. Nothing but R&R for Flo for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday. With time on my hands, and the sun shining we decided we should do something with Breeze. So I hopped on board. . She went off really positively, and I was just warming to the idea that Brezd might turn out to be as nice suddenly…
Let’s just say that, even with doing everything he could to help from the ground, when Breeze naps there ain’t nothing I cann do about it. She stopped, I sent her forward. She Sam round, I turned her round. She went backward, I sent her forward with Hal leading her. Hal let go, she span, I turned her round. She went backwards…
You get the picture. Anyway, this went on for what felt like eternity. Breeze getting more and more cross, me getting increasingly dizzy and disorientated . Then a van came up the road behind us. I got off.
We walked her in hand the rest of the way, and she was an angel. Looks like we’ve got some work to do to build Breeze’s confidence..

Thursday. Riding lesson day. We both had very positive lessons . Both of us had taken steps forward. For me there was also the fact that I had ridden 3 different horses in 4 days, and, I was not in any pain! Perhaps I am finally getting back to some degree of fitness at long last.

Friday. Bloody Leonie kicked Hal! He’s OK, very sore, badly bruised and very shaken. . We’ve been putting light rugs on then at night when it’s cold and taking them off in the morning. Leoni has grown out of her rug from last year (which luckily fits Breeze) and is actually wearing one which I bought for my old horse Bella about 20 years ago. . Unlike the more modern rugs, this rug had fixed leg straps. . I prefer a fillet string, and always remove detachable leg straps and convert one into a fillet string, but in this older rug the straps were sewn into the lining of the rug. Leonie is not convinced about about the whole concept of rug wearing, and had let me know she wasn’t happy with the leg straps. Poor Hal was actually undoing one of the offending items prior to taking the rug off when she lashed out and caught him on the thigh. I’ve cut them off now!

Sunday. A lady called Clare, who works at the yard we bought had arranged to come and see her. I had originally suggested we rode out together, but the vet had told me not to ride Florence. So Clare rode Breeze while Hal, still hobbling, led Sapphire in hand. Breeze was a bit nappy, but seemed to draw confidence from Sapphire. Sapph herself seemed to really enjoy herself, and didn’t put a hoof wrong.

Tuesday. Ever known true fear? I did on Tuesday night. We checked the horses last thing as usual but there was no sign of Florence! What there was was a lot of churned up mud, some broken fence, and a huge hole in the bank, but no Florence! Now there are two things you need to know. Florence is not the horse for striking off alone. Leonie or Sapphire, it’s a point of honour with both of them to thoroughly test the security arrangements in any location, but not so Florence. In fact, in Leo’s earlier escapes, Flo really became very anxious. So something bad must have happened for Florence to have gone by herself. Secondly, a long way below where the hole in the hedge was there is a deep, corn create drainage channel, and I mean a long way below! Also, behind our land, and again, a long way down, there is a disused sunken lane, it!s only use for years, an unofficial dumping ground to the lazy. All I knew was that Florence must be down there somewhere – and she was ominously quiet!
With the others , strangely subdued and compliant, caught up and munching hay in their stables, Hal braved himself up and went on a fact finding mission. I went for reinforcements in the shape of my Dad who was staying with us.
I don’t know if horses have multiple lives in the same way cats do? Hal found Florence down in the sunken road. She was a bit wide eyed, and very pleased to see him, but stood on all fours and totally fine! If there is a God of Horses then it was certainly watching over Flo on Tuesday night. The problem was now how to get Florence back home. The obvious answer would have been to walk her down the lane to the village and back up the road. No chance! The lane is so blocked with rubbish that a cat couldn’t get through. I don’t think Hal knows how they did it, but he and Florence managed to clamber up the bank into our field. It was now about midnight!

Florence seems none the worse for her adventure, and is all better from her breathing trouble too. I don’t know what happened, but all four of them have been unusually agitated since Tuesday, and they all keep staring at that corner of the field.

All I know is that we are very lucky to still have Florencd.

The Grass is only Greener Because There Aren’t Any Horses on the Other Side of the Fence

I read a quote by somebody famous , I forget who, that said “The grass is only greener on the other side of the fence because they look after it better”. I beg to differ. I think it’s because they never use it, especially not for grazing.
I’ve written about the state of our fields before. The terrible wet winter we had, together with introducing Florence to the heard, and briefly having four horses, left our top field looking like a tribute to a World War One battlefield. It was both frightening and embarrassing how many times people would come and look at the field, and enquire in all honesty, why we have ploughed it! We were unable to do anything about it though, as the ground was too wet to get any kind of machinery onto it.

At long last it stopped raining long enough to be able to begin to resolve the problem. Our grass guru Steve began by ‘Gate Grading’ the entire top field. No, I’ve never heard of gate grading either. Basically, he dragged what looked like a metal field gate round the field. It had angled blades on the bars, that smoothed out the lumps and bumps. Next, the field was reseeded with Pony Paddock Mix. Then it was rolled. Now all we have to do is wait for the grass to grow.

The thing is, from seeding, it’s about 6 weeks until we can put the horses back on it. It’s been 2 weeks now, and our bottom, much smaller, field is struggling to cope. The next 4 weeks or so are going to be challenging!

Five Years!

Today marks the fifthe anniversary of Hal and I coming to Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

I’ve just read back through all my posts since I began Poo Picking in the Dark, which it surprises me that I didn’t actually begin until the November after we moved in, and, we haven’t stopped have we?!

Looking back, we’ve achieved such a lot, and learned even more. Yes, there have been some terrible lows, the whole Leonie situation will haunt me for life, however, there have been so many more highs. Yes, it’s hard work, no we haven’t had a holiday since we’ve been here. No, we don’t have any money. Yes, we have a great quality of life.

I still have to pinch myself regularly. I still can’t believe I’m here with my own little yard and my own school. The last five years have been full on, but we’ve done all the big stuff now. So now it’s time to consolidate on what we’ve built here. Here’s to the next five years.