Maternity leave at South Woolley has begun! It lasted for four days. Not until a baby arrived, but until the weekend came. And, understandably, nobody in their right mind wants to work on a weekend. So I have been back on the job for three days and now I am, I think (it is very confusing), definitely on maternity leave. Apart from on Saturdays. When no one in the whole of North Cornwall or Devon is available. I hope my labour isn’t this stop-start!

My God, with just five days now until my due date, it has been so good not to have to waddle up to the fields several times each day, lift water buckets or bend down to pick out feet. I am already eternally grateful to my fabulous maternity relief team, Sarah, Natalie, Trin and Abby for all their hard work and help in the past few days and that promised to me in the coming weeks.

I am finding it really hard to watch other people doing the yard work that I did on a daily basis. As an empathetic onlooker, I can see that looking after seven horses is indeed actual slave labour. I am finding it best not to be around too much for those hours as you just end up wanting to lend a hand.

A few weeks ago, my husband, Jerome, kidnapped me on my birthday. I got in the car on the pretence of a quick shopping trip to our local town and a stop at the beach on the way home.

It soon became apparent that I had been captured and was swiftly re-routed to lunch at The Lost Gardens of Heligan and then on to the Cornwall Hotel & Spa for a child-free night of swimming, saunas, posh food and wine. The liveries and grandparents were all in on it and everything at the yard and at home was taken care of for me.

Me at The Lost Gardens of Heligan

I was quite impressed with the thought and planning that had gone into the trip. Ellie, my daughter, had sweetly chosen a selection of dresses for me to wear. Jerome had impressively thought that ‘the woman’ might require some of that face decoration stuff. Not exactly a MAC or NARS connoisseur, I keep my Poundland make up in a small, glorified bucket at home. It tickled me to see that Jerome had unceremoniously picked up the entire bucket and put the whole thing into a handbag for me. Proper job!

Hilariously, having my overnight bag packed by my husband meant that I had a bucket full of make up, several outfits to choose from and diamond jewellery to wear (jewellery is his trade when he is not busy building stables or houses). Yet nowhere to be seen was a clean pair of knickers or deodorant for the next day! Absolutely not a complaint, just an amusing observation. I would have expected nothing less from a man, but it speaks volumes about the upbringing of my daughter.

Jerome and I at The Cornwall Hotel & Spa

Luckily, I had thought I was going to the beach and had such items with me anyway. If I hadn’t, Ellie had also packed me a pair of thick, black, woolly opaque tights, so my modesty would have been well preserved in the blazing July sunshine.

The whole trip was such a special treat. In the true style of parents who have weasled an evening off from children and all responsibilities, we both nearly fell asleep in our posh dinners and were truly out for the count after the opening credits of the movie we put on in the hotel room by 10pm.

Returning back to the yard, the frustration of not riding means I have been re-directing my energies towards other forms of self-improvement. I not long ago booked my BHS intermediate teaching test for October. The new baby is likely to be under two months old on exam day, but it won’t be the first time that Jerome has had to sit in an equestrian centre car park all day with an infant while I run back to the car between units to feed. It’s actually quite restorative and calming to have a cuddle with a baby after you’ve been interrogated by a particularly fierce examiner!

Longing to get back to ridden training, the next best thing I could do was to organise for myself some coaching CPD. I contacted a few of the best and most highly recommended local coaches to see if they would let me shadow them or loiter with intent for a few hours.

Tim Cheffings in action

The first and easiest to arrange was to sit in on a Pammy Hutton, FBHS dressage clinic at Lakefield EC. I usually ride in this clinic myself, but this time I went as a spectator and sat in on one of my own coach’s, Mark Cunliffe’s, sessions, watching him ride both his grand prix trained Hanoverian and a five year old he has been schooling. It was fascinating to compare the two horses at such different stages of training and to soak up some of Pammy’s wisdom from the ground.

Next, I stumbled across a brilliant morning at Tim Cheffings’, four-star international event rider, yard, Downe Farm. I messaged Tim asking if I could shadow him for a day and he suggested I come along to a morning where he was training with his own coach, Clare Sansom, FBHS. I got to see perhaps seven or eight different, quality jump horses, all at different ages and levels, ridden by a top level professional and coached by an expert. Tim and Clare were both so incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and advice. Especially as we were previously strangers and neither had any obligation to endure me.

Tim and Clare

More recently, I have found a fortnightly clinic on my doorstep with brilliant local showjumping coach, Katy Deithrick, BHSAI. Katy is a much-loved, humorous character with plenty of the straight-talking, no-frills approach that is so respected in coaches (yes, you can translate that as a bit sweary and hilariously honest). The horse and rider combinations were all of a similar level to that which I will find in my exam, so it was invaluable training for me. Jan and Steph Rakhshani were incredibly welcoming hosts and I met some lovely new friends from the local equestrian community.

Tim jumping

In other news, my waters have just broken. No, really. I am not kidding. How is that for live-action blogging?

So, I have just gone down to the yard and brought Percy in for his dentist appointment at 9am, given him a good groom and done all the ‘bare necessity’ jobs before I give birth, such as sweep out from behind the feed bins and tape up any opened and half full feed sacks (what am I doing?!).

Continued below…

Granny has come and taken the kids away and, having cancelled all my lessons and engagements for the next couple of days, I am now going to sit down and await a length of excruciating pain and cruel agony. And, of course, a beautiful baby, God willing (look, I have already started getting religious and I am not even in full blown labour yet).

…Just after I have washed every single throw and cushion cover in this house (it’s an instinct — it really can’t be helped).

Wish me luck!
Katy