The diary of the home-made livery yard: ‘I’m sorry, you must have mistaken me for a responsible adult?’

  • Last time I left you, I was imminently about to give birth.

    There really is no rest for the wicked when you have your own business. My waters broke, I went down to the yard and was bringing horses in from the field and doing some light chores before travelling into hospital for lunchtime. One syntocinon drip induction and plenty of gas and air later, we had our gorgeous new addition to the Malone clan; little baby Monty, born on 23 August 2017, weighing 7lbs 6oz.

    Monty and I were released, happy and healthy, from hospital two days later after some concerns about infection and his breathing rate. I barely had time to open the new baby cards before we got a call from one of the liveries with a situation that required my urgent attention at the yard. So, still in my pyjamas (plus wellies combo, looking ever the professional), the newborn baby in a car seat on my arm and hospital tags still around my wrist, I went and brought all the horses in from the field and did the morning stables, with Jerome’s company to assist and make sure I didn’t pass out along the way. Well, he needs me. Wet nurses are hard to find these days.

    Life with three children, a yard of seven horses and a cabin to build is proving to be good fun.

    Some days I am winning: the house is clean, the laundry is washed, I’ve done the yard, taught lessons and schooled horses before 1pm.

    Other days I am so tired I want to cry. I have spent a whole hour trying to remember where I put the side reins, lost 10 minutes in the bathroom staring blankly at the toothbrushes trying to remember which one is mine and I have tripped over in the living room with a very full potty and poured the entire (liquid and solid!) contents of it onto the sofa.

    Yes, this really happened. A real ‘FML’ moment.

    Six days after baby Monty was born, I was back in the saddle. I was very keen to feel all the hard work that Sarah had put in to our re-schooling livery, Caspar (owned by Harriet Winchurst). But above all, I could not wait to get back on board my beloved full livery, Chunky (owned by Jo Bunker).

    Me back on board Caspar

    With a good four months off riding, I had plenty of time to day dream about the moment I got back in the saddle. The inaccuracy of the daydreams surprised me however. Feeling so fat, unfit and wobbly, looking like a Michelin man on horseback was not part of the fantasy!

    Each riding session now takes up one hour of the day, with the majority of that time spent sitting in my hat and boots, waiting for Monty to fall asleep so I can vault onto the horse, do an intensive 30 minutes schooling and hop off before he wakes up. In reality, most of my schooling sessions are now spent shouting to various people from horseback, mid-leg yield: “Yes, I know he’s crying. I’ll be there in a minute.”

    Waiting for Monty to fall asleep (again!)

    Still, I’ve managed to tick off a few of the ‘fun jobs’ on Chunky’s education list such as riding on grass, jumping small fences and, er, …circus tricks?

    Circus tricks with Chunky

    Throughout my pregnancy and still now, I spend most of my time feeling guilty that none of the children are getting enough individual attention. Before Monty was born, I made a concerted effort to do some final fun stuff with my daughter, Ellie. One of those things was to take Ellie and her pony, Spice to their first showjumping show. At eight-and-a-half months pregnant. Great idea.

    While Ellie rides on her own at home, she very much needed to be on the lead-rein at the show. Plans that I would run a clear round with her and then let someone else take over were soon scuppered as it became apparent that Ellie was quite nervous and really just wanted her mum by her side. Thankfully, Spice is a showjumping expert and the team at Tall Trees Arena were very understanding. Clearly quite anxious about my condition and not wanting a live birth in the outdoor arena, they announced on the PA system that: “Mum, you can walk between the fences.” Hallelujah! So, I ignored the onset of chest pains after the second clear round and ran with Ellie around her 20cm class for first place. The next day my legs hurt more than after I ran The Eden Project marathon last year.

    Lead-rein jumping with Ellie

    We very recently had a visit from Spice’s owner, Yasmin, and her mum, Tracey. We loan Spice, so it was so nice to finally show them his ‘new’ home. They brought lots of gifts with them and some of Spice and Yasmin’s old showjumping gear. When they handed over Spice’s Championships of Great Britain numnah and Yasmin’s stunning show jacket I felt quite emotional. It was a physical reminder that 23-year-old Spice, who has done so much for Ellie, has been a faithful servant to small pony-mad girls for many years.

    Ellie with Spice and his owners, Tracey and Yasmin

    Over the summer, I had a phone call from a young girl who lives close by asking if I might consider taking on an equine apprentice. I had to resist the urge to reply, “Er, no. I’m sorry, you must have mistaken me for a responsible adult?”

    Pulling myself together, I had some initial concerns over whether I would have the hours for her to work and whether I could afford it. I’d also heard some horror stories about apprentices in the equine industry. I had previously met and worked with some fabulous apprentices, but I had also come across some of the more useless variety.

    Me jumping Chunky

    However, with the baby on the way, the timing was perfect and any initial fears were waylaid after a chat with the college and, upon meeting my potential apprentice, Trin.

    After a few trial shifts, I knew I had a good ‘un. Trin is brilliant with the horses, cheerful and works hard. She is keen to learn and she tolerates my children and the dog — what more could I ask for?!

    Continued below…

    So, after some very grown paper work and phone calls, we welcome Trin as our level two horse care and riding apprentice through Duchy College. Being an official, legal employer now, I feel as if I have aged 10 years overnight.

    Me cantering Chunky

    So, I have acquired myself a teenager. Dear Lord! I find as long as I smile at her and she has a steady supply of pink Lucozade to hand, she will do me no harm.

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