What a Month!

It’s just occurred to me that it’s a month ago today that I rode at Nationals. Really! Where did that month go then?

Honestly we just haven’t stopped. Once we got home we went straight into the whole rehoming process for Peregrine. The car knows it’s own way to the Mare and Foal Sanctuary now, and naps in that direction every time we pass the junction. We’ve also been down to darkest Cornwall several times to view potential new horses, and get Mayo vetted. Then the weather did the dirty on us, so Mayo’s delivery day had to be brought forward. Not that I’m complaining, any extra time spent getting to know a new horse has got to be time well spent, but it did mean we had to suddenly prepare things, rather than having a few days to play with. Since we’ve only had 2 horses for a while, the third stable has morphed into an unofficial storage shed. Let’s face it, the tractor lived in there last winter!

In between all this, we’ve been up to Shropshire to celebrate our neice Hannah, and her lovely man Sam’s wedding. We’ve had the outside of the house cleaned, and we’ve ordered a Horse Box!

It’s no wonder we’re both so knackered!

Today though I finally feel like things are slowing down and becoming more relaxed.

Florence came home exactly a fortnight after we lost poor Breeze, and Melissa took her over to Kingsland. Peregrine came home on the same day, and Mayo came home on Thursday. It’s early days; but all of them are now turned out in the same paddock, and all really does seem to be going incredibly well. I’ve never had such a smooth, or quick introduction of new horses.They all seem totally relaxed about everything. In fact this is the most chilled I’ve ever seen Florence; she really does seem to be warming to her new found status as the matriarch of the herd, and is being remarkably tolerant of having a small pony almost perminantly welded to her side. She called to the boys the other day when I had her out, and called to them both yesterday when they were being worked in the school and she wasn’t. It really couldn’t be going better really.

So now we can relax again and start having fun. I’ve just booked my first lesson since Nationals and I have a plan to try and get Florence hacking out again, I’ve got lots of plans for Mayo, and Peregrine is beginning agility and beginning to walk out in hand. All three horses are far too fat, so are, along with their equally porky owners, officially on boot camp, well, OK, more like comfy slipper camp really, but we all need to be fitter and slimmer.

So now we’re waiting for some concreting to be done. Yes folks, Digger Man Pat is returning, and for the Horse lorry to be built, then the world is our lobster, as Arthur Daily would say.

From where I’m sitting the future is looking very positive indeed.

Welcome Home – and – Welcome to Your New Home

Today has been the best.

Florence is home!

But before Florence could come home, we had to find her a new companion – so…

Introducing Peregrine

Peregrine is a rather gorgeous 3 year old Welsh type gelding who we have rehomed from the Mare and Foal Sanctuary, a horse rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming charity, who whilst they act on a national basis, are based here in Devon. Peregrine (I haven’t quite made up my mind whether that’s Perry or Pip in reference to Peregrine Tooke, one of the Hobbits in the Lord of theRings), was taken into the Sanctuary under the Animal Welfare Act, as part of a groups of ponies who were found abandoned on public land in Wales. He was then only 12 weeks old, and was not with his Mother. Honestly sometimes I’m ashamed to be Human. The Sanctuary have obviously done a brilliant job with him though, as he’s a very healthy and extremely confident little chap. He’s grey and white, and looks very Welsh Sec B, although he obviously doesn’t have a pedigree, and nobody really knows his breeding or parentage. He currently stands at approximately 12.3hh, but that’s at the front. He’s considerably bum high , so it’ll be interesting to see where he tops out. Obviously I can’t see him, but I’m told he’s absolutely stunning. He’s not yet backed, but in all honestly, when he’s matured a bit there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be, but he’s only here to be a companion for Florence. That’s all he really has to do, is just be there. However, he’s obviously a very intelligent, and very inquisitive pony, so we might try him with some agility, in an attempt to keep his mind occupied.

He travelled like a dream, a bit cautious loading, but as cool as a cucumber, and perfectly calm on arrival. You could almost hear him say “Travel Smavel – You seen one horsebox, you seen them all” as he walked off the lorry like a true pro. He didn’t even work up a sweat in transit, and it’s ridiculously hot out there. He was a bit reluctant to go into his stable, but it must have seemed like a cavernous black hole after the bright sunlight outside, and not only that, but, even though we’ve cleaned it out, it probably still smells quite strongly of Breeze. However, once he was in, and he had checked every corner out, he soon settled down. Despite the fact that our neighbour’s gardener was out with all his power tools, Peregrine didn’t seem at all bothered, and soon fell asleep, occasionally waking up enough for a bite of hay, lick of his salt lick, or to play with, rather than drink, his water. We hardly knew he was there.

Enter Florence

Florence arrived at about 2 O’clock. Just as when she left, she travelled really well, although she was unsurprisingly very hot on arrival. Poor Flo runs hot at the best of times, so this extreme heat is really uncomfortable for her. She’s been on her best behaviour over at. Melissa’s, and I’m surprised she wanted to come home. She’s been having far to good a time. There’s beensome squealing , all Florence, as she and Peregrine beginto get to know each other. She does make some terrible noises, but so far there’s been no nastiness. Flo doesn’t do nasty, she’s quite a naturally ‘don’t want any trouble, just leave me alone’ kind of horse, but she is extremely touch sensative, and also when she’s in her stable, that’s her space and don’t you dare stick your nose in here thank you very much, but it’s only because she’s scared of being bitten.

Now, normally, when introducing a new horse to a herd, you do t very slowly. You turn the new horse adjacent to the established horses, and when there’s no argy-bargy over the fence, you start slowly putting individual members of the established heard in with the new horse. I would normally do this. This time, I’ve just turned both Peregrine and Florence out together. Florence is of course the established horse here, but I was worried that if I did turn them out seperately, she might just go through the fence because she didn’t like being on her own. So there’s been a bit of marish squealing and bad language from Flo, but nothing nasty. Peregrine has had a good belt round the paddock, tipped the water bucket over, and learned that if you bite the electric fence you will get a shock. He’s also learned that you have to know Florence a hell of a lot better before you attempt to scratch your head on her bum! There’s been no nastiness though, and all seems peace at the moment. Peregrine is calling a bit now, but there’s a pony who has recently been re-homed from the Sanctuary on the other side of the valley, so I expect they are comparing notes.

As I’m typing this I’m sittingin the living room with the French Windows open listening to the peaceful evening sounds. The occasional snort from one of the horses, and an even more occasional call from Peregrine. I haven’t heard Flo squeal for a few hors now. I love beingable to sit and hear the horses.

Got my girl back. Got a new pony to enjoy.

Tonight life is good.

Nationals – A shot in the arm ๐Ÿ˜„

So, despite everything, on Friday morning, Hal, Quincey, and I loaded up, and travelled up to the RDA National Championships at Hartbury College, near Gloucester.I only went because a lot of people had made a lot of effort to get me there. Honestly though, I’d have rather stayed in bed.

I’m so glad I did go. The whole experience was the most perfect antidote to the terrible week that preceded it, and I’ve come away feeling much happier, more confident in my abilities, with a little more self believe, and a lot of plans/hopes/dreams for the future.

This has to have been the friendliest, and most supportive equestrian event I have ever been to. No dragging other people down, no bitching about why the person who got placed above you shouldn’t have even been allowed to enter, no arguing with the judge, no fat shaming, picking fault with other peoples riding ability, tack choices, turn out, or choice of horse. Just support and admiration from everyone to everyone, a feeling of camaraderie, genuine good will, and a lot of people having a lot of good horsey fun. Why aren’t all equestrian events like this?

Hartbury, or at least the bits I saw, is an amazing place. OK, so I can’t comment on the human accomodation, as we stayed in the Holiday Inn in Gloucester (a lot nicer than our usual Premier Inn or Travelodge whenever we go anywhere), but the horse accomodation was the poshest stabling I have ever experienced.Large, airy,barns with lovely wide walkways, and all immaculate.I have no idea how many stables there actually were, but North Cornwall RDA were based in Barn D, and I know there was a Barn G! There were several arenas, both indoor and outdoor, although confusingly, according to a plan that Hal saw, no arena 3. Although I did dressage, there were a lot of other disciplines taking place. Showjumping, showing, endurance, vaulting, musical rides, and the Countryside Challenge, a handy pony style competition unique to RDA

Now, when it came to my test, in all honestly, I didn’t think that I really rode that well

. No excuses here, it’s just how I felt, sick, sad, and sorry over Breeze, extremely nervous, and desperate not to let anyone down, and far far too hot! Let’s face it, even in the coldest of conditions I run warm, and I get a proper sweat on when I’m nervous or anxious, and it was really very hot on Saturday. However, Willow (Stephania! Who knew?) was a total pro, bless her, she’d have done a lot better without the sweaty mess on her back, and of course Mark, Becky, who had only giben birth to their tiny daughter Lowenna 12 days before, and the wonderful, and very long suffering groups of volunteers who called my letters for me, were just the best. A special mention has to go to whoever it was who turned Willow out, all shiney and white, and plaited beautifully. Thank you whoever you are.

Ok, so my test wasn’t a thing of beauty. This was the first time I had ever ridden in an arena where the boards are all away from the walls, and it’s fair to say it’s something I need more practice at. I was worried that Willow would step out of the boards, so I over compensated and ended up cutting of the ends of the arena. At one time I was riding directly towards K thinking to myself,”I really shouldn’t be here should I”. I felt a bit like a bunny in the headlights throughout the test. Not my best effort at all.

So imagine my total shock, and utter delight, when I discovered that I’d won! I still can’t believe it now.

My score was 63.12%, which is the lowest score of the 3 competitions I’ve done with the RDA so far, but having read my scoresheet, I think the judges comments are entirely reasonable. Although, I am a bit surprised at the comment “A calmly ridden test”! Oh no it wasn’t!

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If I’ve managed to attach a video here you will see exactly what I mean. Ignore the first bit it’s me on the grey. As she can probably tell, Hal wasn’t very much calmer than me.

So, all I really need now is a new four legged dancing partner, a lot of practice, and some self belief. Not too much to ask surely?

Here’s to next year๐Ÿ˜„

Looking Back, Moving Forward

As I clambered through the fence this morning to check that Florence and Breeze had enough water, and as our gorgeous girls searched me for treats, I was oblivious to the date and what an important day it is today. It was actually one of those Face Book memory things that woke me up to the fact that today is the 5th Anniversary of Magnum and Sapphire joining us here at Albert’s Bungalow.

Five Years!

Bakc then we had no stables, no School, and didn’t even have a proper access onto our own land. We moved up here without knowing anybody, and, to be brutal honest, without really knowing what we were doing. Now we have our own lovely yard, our own menage, which still rocks my world, and have opened the old field access next to the house. We have lovely neighburs, and even more lovely friends. However, we couldn’t have done it without the good will and support of a lot of people, most of which we didn’t know before we moved up here.

Ok, so nowadays it’s Florence and Breeze who are the centre of my universe, and hopefully there will be another horse joining them later this year. However, looking back, if it hadn’t been for Magnum, none of this would have happened. Who knew that an elderly Irish Draught Horse with an open festering wound on his back could be the tiny pebble that set off such a life changing avalanche!?

We’ve achieved so much in the last five years. Now it’s time to regroup and consolidate on what we’ve built. What will happen in the next 5 years? I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

Bring it on!

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.

Proceed up the Centre Line

It turns out that I did indeed qualify for Regionals , and they took place yesterday. However, because life has been quite busy I only managed to get down to Lakefield once beforehand to do a coaching session, and that was on Friday.

A lot has changed!

On Friday morning I got an Email telling me that I would be riding a different horse. Enter Willow, a rather gorgeous, grey cob mare. I’ve been changed on to her because she goes straighter than Carrie. Size, shape, and pace wise Willow is very similar to florence, so I felt very much at home as soon as I sat on her. Although, Willow is perhaps a little bit wider , and not quite as responsive to the leg. . However, I took to her straight away. Lovely!

Next change was that they had the new, blindy friendly, higher, dressage boards in place. They are great! It’s amazing that just having a few extra inches of height makes more of a barrier that the horses won’t step over. I was absolutely horified whenn Mark let slip how much they cost though. As far as I know I am their only blind rider, so they must think I’m worth the investment. That makes me want to really up my game and do my very best to prove that I am worth it. It’s a challenge, but what a fun challenge to have.

Next. I had a full team of people calling the letters, including Mark at X. Now this is Gold Standard for blind riders. However, it’s a skill,both for rider and callers, and it was the first time for all of us. I think we did alright, but I ride with my toes sticking out a bit, wel, a lot actually, and so kept kicking the callers. In fact, the man calling M was very nearly gelded in the process! However, it seemed to work, and I was able to ride out to the track a lot more confidently,

So, yesterday, a bit better turned out, in a new pair of cream Jods that I could actually breth in, and a new stock shirt with stock, but still wearing Amy’s borrowed jacket, I arrived to find a beautifully turned out Willow, complete with plaits, and, horror of horrors, a dressage saddle!

It’s been a very long time since I sat in a dressage saddle, and while I totally get the point, and fully understand the reasons why I was suddenly riding in one (which actually had a lot to do with an equipment failure and not the fact that I was doing dressage), , my body just isn’t that shape any more. The saddle had huge knee blocks too. Oh my word was I uncomfortable.

Combine this with the fact that I wasn’t feeling the 100%, and it’s no wonder that I felt that my round was a real struggle. I really felt like I was untidy, unbalanced, stiff, and had to fight , me not Willow, for every step.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I got my score.

68.12%!

Not only that, vut, there was a big red Q written by my name.

I’ve only gone and qualified for Nationals!

Beginners luck r what. I can’t believe it.

There is a problem though. My new found dressage career may well be the end of my marriage. Nationals is the same weekend as Wimbledon finals.

Going to hav to be mega nice to my husband between now and then.

Enter at A

Wow, what a great week this has been so far.! Things have really taken off in all the right ways. And I couldn’t be happier.

Firstly, Florence is very definitely on the mend. At long last! She’s having a course of injections that are designed to lubricate her joints. Cartrofen they’re called, although I’ve most probably spelt that wrong. It doesn’t matter because, regardlessof how it’s spelt, this is truly a miracle drug. She’s got to have a course of 4 weekly injections. She had the 2nd one on Wednesday, but even after the 1st the difference in her was obvious. I’ve got my girl back! What a relief.

In the meantime, my RDA experience couldn’t be better. In fact on Tuesday, having only ridden at Lakefield 3 times, I entered the dressage arena for a competition for the 1st time in approximately 16 years! I know. Honestly, if you’d told me even 6 weeks ago that I’d be doing a competition at the end of April I’d have told you that you were bonkers.

So, there I was, in a borrowed jacket, a shirt that used to belong to my late Father-in-Law, a pair of beige jods that I could hardly breath in, on a horse I’d only ridden 3 times, and for a total of 1 1/2 hoours before, doing a test that could potentially qualify meto ride at RDA Regionals. Coach Mark had told me it was going to be a low key affair – I’d hate to see his definition of high end. The venue was absolutely heaving! There must have been representatives from every RDA group in Cornwall in attendance, and the atmosphere was just brilliant. I never heard anyone having a stroppy, or witnessed any unsportsmanlike behaviour. Just good hunour, camaraderie, and genuine support for each other. Lot’s of people, of all ages and abilities enjoying horses in the, not too warm actually, Cornish sunshine.

So, how did I get on?

Well, I’m really chuffed. I got 68.75% in my test. I’m not sure, but I think this the most I’ve ever achieved in a test in all the times I’ve attempted Dressage in the past. Beginners luck or what!

The next bit sounds a bit weird, but I’m feeling so happy that I’m prepared to roll with whatever happens.

I have absolutely no idea where I was placed. I have absolutely no idea if I’m going to Regionals or not. I haven’t seen myscore sheet.

Because I’m completely new to all this, and because it’s all happened so quickly, I didn’t know how the day was going to be organised. I was told to arrive half an hour before my round, but that was all. It turned out that for the seniours, which of course I am, the prize giving wasn’t held until the end of the day, which was around 5.30. My round was at 1pm, and we’d left the dogs at home alone, and hadn’t made any arrangements for them to be let out, so we couldn’t stay. It matters not.

I came out of the whole experience feeling bouyed up, and more confident about my abilities in the saddle than I have for a long time. Yes, I do need to take the time to learn how things run as far as RDA competition is concerned. I also need to upgrade my wardrobe. For now though, I’, just happy to go with the flow, and take every experience as it comes. Just bring them on!

As a big juicey cherry on the cake. Ben, who had yesterday off school because of the annual Great Torrington May Fair celebrations, hacked Florence out . Hal and I walked with him, but honestly, he’s doing so well with his riding that he didn’t really need us. He only went down to the village square and back, because it’s only the 2nd time Florence has been ridden out this year, but it couldn’t ;have gone better. Flo was positively skipping along with a big smile on her face, while Ben’s smile could have wrapped around the world!

Tomorrow I’m going to have a completely new experience. I’m taking part in a mechanical horse clinic which is being organised by Ruby Moor Riding Club.

Don’t look now, but it looks like things are on the up.

Good times!