The diary of the home-made livery yard: flat out 14 hour days and getting over-familiar with shrubbery

  • Approximately twice a year (but no more than that), I really let my hair down and get terribly drunk. Room spinning, vomiting in the hedge the next morning kind of drunk.

    It is not a planned occurrence. So, seeing as my inebriation is spontaneous, it is very difficult to plan ahead for someone to help me at the yard the following day. There is no readily available relief cover to be found at short notice and my husband is neither trained, nor willing to learn, how to carry out yard duties.

    I chose exceptional timing for my most recent biannual p**s up. One of my liveries was off to a competition the next day and I had promised to have their horse plaited for them by 8am.

    I stumbled out of bed at 6am and managed to feed, hay and water the horses. Having emptied the contents of my stomach in a hawthorn bush, due to the physical exertion of the morning chores, I mused (if not prayed) that perhaps a bit of gentle plaiting would be more agreeable for my fragile head and stomach.

    It was not. If there is anything worse than heavy lifting and bending down when you are suffering from a hangover, then it is very intricate, dextrous tasks that require stillness and concentration.

    I lost track of the number of times I had to visit the shrubbery during those 11 torturous plaits, but I shall tell you that I am know overly familiar with our Westerly shrub border!

    Alcohol poisoning aside, Lila was show ready by 8am. I was unsure whether to be proud or slightly miffed that my ‘under the influence’ plaits and my ‘sober’ plaits the following week were indistinguishable from one another.

    South Woolley Livery & Coaching has been open for nearly two and a half years now. I presume we are doing something right as we recently welcomed our 11th livery. Well, there’s always room for a gorgeous 17hh Friesian (Indie, pictured top), isn’t there?

    Indie and me

    Luckily, I have run out of space in the barn now, as I find it very hard to turn down any person who presents me with a beautiful horse, asks me if I would like to take care of it AND be paid to do so. Gifts and bribes are also gratefully received and help the cause no end. I’ll do pretty much anything for a bottle of wine.

    We now have a bit of a one-out-one-in situation at the yard. A few weeks back, Lauren made the difficult decision to retire one of our first ever liveries, Ruby, from ridden work. Having the option to take Ruby back home to live out her days eating grass, Lauren was able to look for a new horse to keep here at South Woolley. And so, I was tasked with accompanying Lauren on some horse shopping trips.

    Me saying goodbye to Ruby

    As it turned out, Lauren fell in love with the first horse we visited. A very sweet coloured mare not too far away from us. We went along to see the horse with every intention of doing a bit of tyre kicking to see if there was any possibility of getting the price down. When we got there, however, it was quite tricky finding anything to tyre kick about. The mare was nice and ticked all our boxes.

    That night, my advice to Lauren was to play it cool, put in a low offer and be prepared to wait a week or two while we looked at some other horses.

    The next morning, I was temporarily distracted by events outside of work. I didn’t realise quite how much Lauren clearly loved this mare as the second I looked away, she sneakily bought the horse!

    I have never been so pleased to have my advice totally disregarded. I suppose, when you know it’s the one, you just know.

    Lauren has found her perfect horse and the lovely, Bea, is now a happy part of the South Woolley family.

    Lauren with her new horse, Bea

    Always one to be at least 10 years behind the latest technological trend, I recently bought myself a cheap fitness tracker sports watch. Rather than using it for the conventional means of keeping tabs on my physical activity, I have conversely been using it to assess how I can reduce the number of steps I take per day and increase the amount of rest I can achieve. A ‘laziness tracker’, if you will.

    I am averaging 38,000 to 42,000 steps per day and then riding one to three horses per day on top of that. Any labour saving steps I can take are very valuable to me. Little things like, we finally replaced my supersize wheel barrow that I broke almost a year ago, so I don’t have to make 33 trips to the muck heap each day.

    I’ve also really been getting to grips with my yard routine. Having sole charge of seven full liveries and four part liveries on winter routine, while trying to fit in lessons, schooling and children can be quite demanding. I was finding myself working flat out 14 hour days.

    Continued below…

    The key, I have found, is simply getting up earlier. If I start at 6am, yes, it makes my day longer, but I can then take breaks. I am finding you can achieve super human levels of productivity if you get a morning break for a cup of Earl Grey.

    Next time I shall tell you about my gorgeous new ride and my latest BHS exam. Please wish me all the luck in the world for my results next week.

    Katy x

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

    You may like...