I survived my first Christmas in charge of six horses. It mostly involved forcing visitors to the yard to drink port at unholy times in the morning (me pictured top with Lauren) and coercing them into eating handfuls of Quality Street for breakfast.
We bribed our liveries with gifts of necklaces containing strands of hair from their horse’s mane (the perks of having a jeweller for a husband) and brass stable name plaques in return for their continued patience and tolerance over the coming year.
In an effort to stave off trench foot, I treated myself to a new pair of wellies between Christmas and New Year. My old ones leaked and I felt my professional image was being somewhat undermined by the carrier bags I was using to line my wellies in an effort to redeem some of their waterproof qualities. The only saving grace being that when I had to empty a stone out of my shoe in front of one of my liveries, at least my feet were clad in posh Waitrose carrier bags rather than our usual Lidl ones. I feel nothing says “professional yard owner” more than Waitrose carrier bag welly liners.
I was delighted to receive confirmation from the British Horse Society that South Woolley (my yard) has been granted livery yard approval. So, once my spare kidney has been sold on the black market and I have pawned off my children, I shall gladly pay up the annual fees and await an approval plaque to display at the yard.
Early in the New Year I had my first true test as a yard owner. We had the classic and inevitable “livery-can-no-longer-pay-the-fees” scenario.
I actually have no problem with a horse owner holding up their hands and confessing they no longer can afford their horse. I think it can often be the most responsible thing to do, so I am always willing to help someone in this situation. Especially when circumstances are out of their control.
I felt very comfortable (definitely not smug) in the knowledge that the two-week livery deposit and signed contract we require from every livery client put us in a protected position. The deposit buys time and the contract gives us the right to sell a horse in an emergency situation, clawing back any costs owed to the business.
Luckily for me, the horse owner was doing their absolute best to cooperate and we worked together to resolve the problem. We agreed that I would find the horse a new home, either loan or a sale, so I set about utilising my excellent Facebook skills. I knew my talent for liking and sharing would come in useful one day.
Thankfully, the horse I was trying to move on was a safe, kind, gentlemanly chap who did fantastic auditions and is anyone’s ride. I might have had more trouble trying to flog the livery that bucks, barges and won’t leave the yard alone (yes, we have one of those, but I won’t mention any names this time). So, within seven days of multiple messaging, securing terms and deals and feeling a bit like an estate agent with all the to-ing and fro-ing, the horse left to go on trial to a wonderful local home. All is going well and, fingers crossed, everybody will be happy.
Yesterday I had a visit from a lady from our local Pony Club branch. We spoke about the potential of holding rallies at South Woolley and some possible coaching opportunities for me. I am really keen.
My daughter is of Pony Club age and the thought of someone else coming in and taking on the challenge of teaching my daughter to ride delights me. Besides, I would finally get to fulfil my dream of being a Pony Club mum, shouting from the arena fence: “Kick on, Ellie, darling! Oh, it’s only a broken bone, get back on that pony!”
Yes, I am aware that my stereotyping of Pony Club mum is probably quite out of date. I am sure it is much more: “I’ve got your body protector and air jacket here, darling. Dad is getting your cotton wool and bubble wrap onesie out of the car now.”
In all seriousness, Ellie would be delighted to ride with some other children and I think it would do wonders for her confidence.
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Epic fails from this week include showing visitors to the yard to the toilet and discovering it lying on its side on the grass, not drunk, but a victim of the recent gales. Oddly they were not amused when I suggested it might be quite comfy lying down on the floor to use the facilities.
Then today I harrowed the school and as I drove the ride-on mower towards the arena gate to put it away, it spluttered, coughed and died a pathetic death. I had an arena hire booking arriving imminently, so rather than calling The Husband, I used my initiative and rolled the mower through the gate and out of the way. The path from the arena is a fairly steep slope down to the car park, so this quite large piece of garden machinery very quickly started accelerating out of control and only a desperate last-second reach out and flick of the steering wheel stopped it from careering into Lauren’s (lovely livery and Penbode vet) work van. The runaway mower came to a halt awkwardly in the middle of the car park and that is where it shall remain until a capable adult comes to rescue it.