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The diary of the home-made livery yard: injuries, retirement and disappointment — pass the prosecco

I was going to write a blog on a specific topic but, actually, it’s been a while since I wrote and I think we just need a good old fashioned catch up.

June brought a plague of lameness and injuries upon the yard. The horses were dropping like flies and it was hard not to start taking it personally. We had field injuries, self-harm injuries, random unidentified injuries and a severe vaccination reaction. At times, I felt more like I was running an equine hospital than a livery yard. There was a ‘ward round’ of endless sprays and powders to apply and wounds to check, along with weekly outings for scans and X-rays.

With us all at the yard needing a decent morale boost and having missed out on our Christmas party, livery and owner of ‘May’, Kate Starmore, suggested we have a yard BBQ.

I don’t need telling twice to organise a ‘do’, so there was smoke coming off my keyboard as I fired the invitations out.

In the end, BBQ-ing sounded like a lot of effort. I couldn’t envisage how I was going to drink Prosecco, pour Prosecco, get more Prosecco out of the fridge at the same time as flipping burgers. So, in the end, we simply invited friends round for general pre-prepared food and drinks and I tied it in with my birthday celebrations.

Later on in the evening

It was a fabulous evening. Livery, Jen, got so drunk she fell off her chair. Probably because after an hour or two, I got fed up of re-charging glasses and started handing out entire bottles to guests.

I knew it was almost certainly time for us all to go to bed when livery, Lauren, performed a rather slurred 12 minute long impression of her dog. I, of course, remained the picture of sobriety and poised elegance for the whole evening and was the perfect hostess.

Jen post-chair tumble

By the middle of July, the spate of injuries had thankfully come to an end and horses were starting to recover and get back to working life. I don’t know whether it is because I think of every horse as being partly my own, or whether it is because I consider each livery as a good friend, but I feel huge sympathy for them when the chips are down. Equally, I share in their joy when life gets back on track and it was rather thrilling to see everyone doing so well again.

Thankfully, Chunky was not one of the horses incapacitated. Since I last wrote, Chunky has been cross-country schooling for the first time (pictured top), achieved 70+% scores at novice level dressage, enjoyed two R&R holidays at his mum, Jo Bunker’s, yard and has been entered for Cricklands Dressage Championships of Great Britain.

I have had an awful lot on my plate at home lately, so I thought it would be a really good idea to pile on a bit more pressure professionally. Like you do.

Subsequently, I made my application to become a trainee British Dressage judge. I am really excited about the implications this has for my coaching and my own riding and training of horses.

Judging should also help with my personal development. Before I did a lot of coaching, I used to struggle with forming solid opinions on other people’s riding (“Well, I don’t know, it looks okay? Yes, nice. Very nice”) and giving feedback, especially if it might be difficult for people to hear.

My new badge

Now, after years of teaching, I am much more comfortable with my role in praising and critiquing riders. But I do hope that judging will help me develop this further. Perhaps I am hoping to find my inner Simon Cowell?

In other news, Emily Skerrett has had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster with her horse, Lila.

We came back from a hugely successful trip to Wellington premier league para dressage gold semi-finals, only to find weeks later that Lila was one of the horses to be struck by injury and was sentenced to box rest. This came at the same time that Emily and Lila were selected to represent GB at Bishop Burton CPEDI two-star international. It was an absolute tragedy.

Emily and I at Wellington

Never one to let life get her down, Emily took the opportunity to AI Lila. It was something Emily wanted to do all along and the inevitable break from riding meant the timing was perfect. We are so excited that Lila has today scanned as in foal to Belissimo M.

As I said to Emily: “We are having a baby!” (*H&H, please don’t put that as the headline of this blog — I already have too many children, my father would have a heart attack!).

This does mean that Emily is on the look out for a new ride, so please get in touch if you have anything at BD elementary level or above that you might like to loan to an international para dressage rider, to be kept on five-star livery at my yard.

Continued below…

My final piece of news is that Lynn Wingard has made the tough decision to retire her beautiful Friesian mare, Hilde, from competition. As always in these situations, it is a very bitter sweet call to make. Without a doubt the best decision in the interests of the horse, but we shall miss our fun outings and training sessions together.

Hilde and I at our final competition together

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lynn for the ride on her gorgeous girl and for all the advice and support over the last half year. Hilde will now enjoy a lovely retirement with Lynn, relishing a life of hacking and gentle schooling. Thank you, Lynn!

Katy x

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

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