The diary of the home-made livery yard: this may never happen again for us…

You might remember a blog from many moons ago, where I admitted coming very close to using our Golden Retriever’s anti-fungal dog shampoo, when a lack of time to go shopping in December lead to a scarcity of human shampoo in the house?

Well, this year I knew the disorder of Christmas was upon me while on my way to coach at a Pony Club rally. I blitzed my yard at the crack of dawn and jumped in the car to race off to the venue.

I realised I had not managed to eat anything that morning, but there was no food worth going back into the house for. I had no time to stop off and buy anything to eat, but I was starving.

Halfway to the rally, I caught sight of a box of boozy chocolate truffles that I had bought as a Christmas gift for someone sitting in a carrier bag on the passenger seat of the car.

I will not lie to you, I ate the whole lot. At 10am in the morning. Every single one.

Me riding Indie at our Christmas show

Not only did I turn up at the PC rally feeling rather sick and gluttonous, I am pretty sure I stank of brandy (synthetic flavour, I presume, not actual alcohol)! I was no longer hungry though.

I was going to write a paragraph here, shamelessly bragging that Hilde (my gorgeous new Freisian ride, owned by Lynn Wingard and trained by John Chubb) and I won our novice silver test at our second ever dressage outing, having only been affiliated myself for one week.

Me, Hilde and her owner, Lynn

As it happens, I may not necessarily have to. Because we actually made it into the Horse & Hound magazine dressage news section!

For me, this was huge. I have always jokingly vowed that, while I have infiltrated the H&H website for a couple of years now with my blog, one day I would make it into the print pages for my riding skills.

I didn’t think it would really happen. But, then, my three fairy godmothers (Emily Skerrett, Hilde’s previous rider, friend of mine and livery; Lynn Wingard, Hilde’s owner and producer; and John Chubb, our trainer) introduced me to this gorgeous little Friesian horse.

Winning score sheets from Tall Trees Arena

They brought out the best in us and helped us achieve overnight success, glory and fame. Alright, I suppose we only won a novice test at a local venue and, perhaps I should calm down a bit.

The owner of Bradworthy pop-in shop is clearly not an equestrian enthusiast. The day I walked into the store and discovered we had made it into print, I squealed and jumped about, waving a copy of Horse & Hound around.

“Oh my God, I’m in this!” I squawked, “I am actually in this!”

The shop owner looked pretty apathetic. I proceeded to announce to the entire shop (consisting of Mrs Jones from the dairy farm up the road and the school boy shop assistant working the odd shift on his Christmas holidays), flouncing around with an air of drama and importance, that I would buy every single copy they had in the shop. Which turned out to be two. One of which I will park under the nose of anybody who will give me the time of day. The other, I shall frame. Well, come on… Neither me nor Hilde are getting any younger. This may never happen again for us.

Me and Lila at Allen’s Hill para comp

Just recently, I added a new string to my bow in supporting one of my friends and liveries, Emily Skerrett, at a para dressage competition. I’ve done plenty of grooming over my years in the industry, but usually for a string of showjumpers or eventers, not for a lone para dressage combination. To go to a competition with one very well behaved horse and one (reasonably) well behaved rider (she’s a bit of a liability after prosecco), leaving my 11 horse livery yard behind, felt like a holiday to me. Especially as the trip involved a stay in a hotel with a spa, escaping from my very lovely but equally demanding, three children. We had Emily’s eight-month-old baby, Lowen, with us. Baby Lowen is an excellent lucky mascot and kept me warm with cuddles while we waited for mummy to finish winning her classes, on excellent percentages, under a very high profile judge.

Me and baby Lowen ‘working’ at Allen’s Hill para comp

I like to think that I am, generally, a rather cool character and can recognise both the appropriate and inappropriate moments in life to speak or act. There was a funny/mortifying moment on the way to the Allen’s Hill para competition with Emily, where we had got in the lorry and I had driven us halfway to the M5. Emily threw into conversation, “…But, of course, you have driven a horse in a lorry before…”

I felt this was an appropriate moment to clear my throat and get briefly distracted by something outside the window.

Don’t tell anyone, but this was indeed the first time I had transported a horse. Luckily, I possess a strong character combination of being confident enough to drive a horse with minimal practice, yet being such a cautious driver that grannies were overtaking us in the middle lane because I was adamant I needed to maintain sufficient braking distance for emergency stopping.

I thought I could share this with you now, because there is totally no chance that Emily will be reading this.

The weekend before Christmas, we held a small show and party for my wonderful liveries and clients for being so supportive of us throughout 2018.

My liveries in their Christmas gifts

I have quite a few hats to wear as one person. I am a livery yard manager, riding coach, competition rider, RDA coach, BHS welfare officer, mum of three, wife and exam student.

On the odd occasion, one of these roles might call me away in an emergency capacity. If ever I am sidetracked to one of these commitments, I often come home to find liveries have done half of my jobs for me. Considering I have no full-time staff and run the yard alone, their continual support and understanding means a huge amount to me.

Liveries’ Christmas gifts

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Christmas itself was lovely. For us, it is always a pleasantly chaotic time of large family gatherings and self indulgence. I realised the level of sheer gluttony we had accomplished when I noted that my husband had started keeping a knife in the fridge, on top of the cheeses. Presumably, so we could slice and eat cheese without even having to take it out of the fridge?!

We have had beautiful cold, dry and still weather this week. That means our horses can be turned out on half days and it’s back to 30 to 40,000 steps per day for me. Factor in a bit of riding each day and I am hoping all those Quality Street and roast potatoes will melt right off.

Happy New Year!

Katy x

For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.