The diary of the home-made livery yard: frozen to the seat of a Portaloo

  • Last time I checked in, I was being very smug about our well draining, puddle-free arena in the recent wet weather.

    Well, the Gods have punished me for such hubris and sent a frosty cold snap (quite rare for coastal North Cornwall) to turn the sand school into a huge block of ice. And this was all just as I was making some real breakthroughs and progress with the liveries booked in for schooling.

    I am one of those incredibly irritating, upbeat people who loves all the seasons. The arrival of winter, with this week’s frost and ice, excites me. However, the harsh weather does bring its difficulties for me.

    Schooling Chunky before the frost arrived

    Schooling Chunky before the frost arrived

    When it gets very cold my hands pretty much cease to function. If I have to take my gloves off for any period of time to do fiddly yard chores, my fingers will quickly mutate into a frozen claw. It is a painful combination of cold and numb where my fingers are rendered useless and I can no longer bend them or grip anything with them.

    Every year I forget about the complications of this minor problem until one day I will nip to the loo and upon trying to leave, realise that my fingers are now too numb to do my jodhpurs back up again.

    Don’t ask me why, but undoing jodhpurs is apparently a much easier task than doing them up. This inevitably happens in a public place where there are lots of people around.

    There is a horrible moment where I am stuck in a toilet, unable to fasten the fiddly zip and clasp due to frozen claw fingers and unable to leave the cubicle because my jodhpurs are undone, hanging loose around my hips, and there are people outside.

    I mentally scroll through the contacts in my phone, wondering who might be appropriate to call for help in this situation. There is no one. No one is appropriate when you unexpectedly cannot do up your own trousers.

    Usually I take a chance and open the door, doing a contorted, hunched over shuffle, hoping my jacket will cover my midriff while I waddle over to a hand dryer, radiator or horse, whatever heat source the location has to offer, to thaw out so I can put myself back together. One year I will learn — warm hands first, loo second!

    Sunset at the yard

    Sunset at the yard

    Let me tell you about a second cold weather/toilet related incident this week. You might think I am scraping the barrel for blog material this fortnight, but I did promise you a candid view of running a livery yard and I am afraid this is it.

    At South Woolley, we currently have a Portaloo which is hired out at an astronomical cost to the business as a temporary solution until we build our posh club house next year. On Wednesdays the Portaloo company come and service the facilities. When life gets very busy, sometimes this is the only way I have of telling which day of the week it is (loo has been cleaned? Must be a Wednesday!).

    The servicing includes a complete jet wash of the whole internal structure of the cubicle. This often leaves behind a residue of clean water on the surfaces of the toilet and the seat.

    On the very coldest day last week I went to use the facilities and sat down (being a lady, don’t you know). What I had not noticed was that the little pools of water from the previous day’s cleaning had turned to patches of ice on the seat.


    Sunrise at the yard

    Yes, it was very cold. But what was worse was that, when I went to get up, I realised the resistance I felt was that of skin sticking to dry ice. Oh God. I was stuck to the toilet seat like an unfortunate wedding guest who had licked the ice statue.

    I knew the plaster had to be ripped off the wound, so I counted to three and leapt up violently.

    If you live in Woolley and thought you heard wolves howling last week, that was me removing myself from the icy Portaloo seat.

    Continued below…

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    I’m not too disappointed the arena is frozen over. While recovering from my ice injuries, no part of me particularly wants to get in the saddle!

    Next week I have arranged an initial inspection to see if South Woolley can become a British Horse Society (BHS) approved yard. Alongside checking the facilities are up to scratch, there is a lot of documentation required to become approved, much of it geared towards health and safety. I will be sure to amend the yard health and safety policy and risk assessments to account for potential loss of skin due to icy loo seats.

    Now I have to go and explain to my six-year-old daughter why the notes for my blog she is reading over my shoulder say “Portaloo bum freeze”.


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