The diary of the home-made livery yard: ‘There was an almighty bang and part of the roof burst inwards’

  • I’ve come a bit late to the New Year party. I’m only just starting to think about the coming year and what I’d like to achieve both at South Woolley (my livery yard) and personally.

    Last year I wrote an ambitious list of professional goals for 2016. Ambitious because I was trying to mother two small children, construct an equestrian yard with my husband, start up a livery business and keep my own CPD on the go all at the same time.

    I didn’t do too badly. I fulfilled approximately 70% of these goals (if you count blogging for H&H as starting to write a book and the fact that, most of the time, I now ride with my toes 30 degrees further in than this time last year).

    2017 looks set to be equally busy, if not more so. We have two pretty big projects on the go in the background, but if I told you about either of them just yet, I’d have to kill you. I’m still trying to mother two small children and the construction work is ongoing. I now have a livery business to maintain and grow and there is still the CPD to keep up.

    Nevertheless, I feel an exam booking brewing. My next arduous challenges are the BHS stable managers exam, intermediate teaching test, BHS stage 4 flat and stage 3 jumping exams. Also on my list are the UKCC Level 3 and RDA Coach exam.

    I just need to choose the most friendly looking one and crack on with fitting a year’s worth of training into four weeks or whatever ridiculous time scale I give myself. I look forward to the skewed version of obsessive compulsive disorder that overcomes me in the run up to an exam: “If I can wash all the dishes before that TV programme finishes, then I’ll pass,” or: “If I can’t run all the way to that tree without walking, I’ll fail.” It is mental torture.

    My ambitious list of professional goals for 2016

    We’ve had some bad weather lately because, well, this is Cornwall. I was just driving back from training at Lakefield Equestrian Centre the other day and started pondering what I should include in this week’s blog. I mused to myself that not a lot had happened lately in the way of actual events at the yard and decided upon some general nonsense to do the job (see above… and below, I expect).

    I popped in at home to check in with the family before going down to the horses. When I walked in my husband, Jerome, looking rather pale, told me that in my absence there had been a bit of an incident in the strong gales since I’d left that morning.

    Apparently he had been sitting on a bench in the stables barn, warming up with a hot drink when there was an almighty bang and part of the roof burst inwards with explosive force, blasting sharp shards of roofing  slate (me picture top with them) to the floor just feet from his head!

    What had happened was that the children’s trampoline had blown up onto the roof and the legs had crashed through it. Luckily, it was at the empty end of the barn, not over any of the stables. Sarah, who looks after the yard when I’m away, tells me that none of the horses that were in were particularly bothered by the occurrence, but the shock of the explosion made Jerome drop his soup in his lap. Being the closest to the bullet-like, lightning bolt-shaped shards of roof that fell so close to his head, I think he was the most shaken by the whole drama.

    So, there is a little bit of maintenance on the agenda this week.

    I’m getting quite good at the whole “work vs school run mum” thing. My daughter, Ellie, is still too young to be embarrassed by my appearance, so most days I take her into school looking like Worzel Gummage and smelling like a pig farmer. However, when necessity dictates, I can do a speedy Superman-style costume change into something resembling a “proper mum”.

    The key to this is a very long, non-horsey coat, clean shoes, a pretty scarf and at least 12 squirts of strong perfume. No one needs to know you still have muck splattered jodhpurs and a molasses stained top on underneath.

    I thought I’d been quite crafty this morning when I realised that Ellie needed to practise her cornet before school having procrastinated all week long. In what I felt was an inspired feat of multi-tasking, I told her to practise the instrument in the car at the yard while I fed the horses en-route to school. Brilliant!

    Except that horses do not have the fine musical appreciation to differentiate between a child practising the cornet and a hunting horn. So my feelings of smugness rapidly dwindled when I had to turn out a yard of horses that were convinced that there was a hunt nearby that they should be joining immediately. Queue many threats of “glue factory” combined with language and expletives that really are not appropriate from a young lady.

    On the note of wild horses, I had some lovely feedback from one of my liveries the other day. The horses at my yard are generally very well behaved, but like most, strong winds can make them quite irrational and unpredictable. The walk from my fields back to the barn is not a short one and I must have been looking particularly laboured one stormy day as I tussled with the equine version of a 700kg kangaroo with steel shoes on, bouncing off the hedges on the end of a short rope.

    Continued below…

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    As I wrestled this unruly beast as calmly as I could back into the barn, ‘Chunky’s’ owner, Jo, said something that really touched me. I can’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it was that she said I was her inspiration, that she admired the way I handled the horses and she didn’t know how I did it (with some of the more difficult ones).

    It was so nice to hear and really uplifting after a difficult day. So, please, go and find a yard worker today and offer them a compliment. They are probably so bedraggled and knackered that they will be gullible enough to believe you.


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