The diary of the home-made livery yard: a moment that required an awful lot of self-restraint

  • It is now dark in Cornwall at 8.30pm. School starts back this week and my daughter’s pony is growing his winter coat. I am not okay with this. Despite being a big all-seasons lover, I am not ready to let go of summer just yet.

    However, the change from summer through to autumn does mean I can dip into the contents of my newly-obtained clothes rail.

    I had a bit of a storage crisis in our bedroom recently, so I purchased a cheap and cheerful clothes rail as a solution to the problem. Having assembled my new acquisition, I proudly displayed all of my finest clothing items (those that would not cope with being crumpled up and stuffed in a drawer), neatly hung in a pleasing array of colour and in order of favouritism.

    My good friend Emma came round to visit one evening. I ushered her into our bedroom, full of excitement, as I wanted to show her how I had recently succeeded in training my husband (who is the last person out of bed every day) to straighten the duvet each morning (after eight long years — hallelujah!).

    Emma noticed the clothes rail. I raised an eyebrow as if to silently say, ‘Pretty impressive, huh?’

    To which Emma simply said: “You’re so weird.”
    Slightly miffed, I said: “Excuse me?”
    “Any normal person would have all their pretty dresses out on display,” Emma replied. “But you’ve got all your puffa jackets and horsey coats lined up for everyone to see. In your bedroom.”
    She is an oddity, that Emma. I cannot always make her out.

    Ellie and Spice

    I have spent the majority of this summer turning horses lame with the power of my posterior.

    I kid you not. Every horse (okay, two of them…) I have sat on and entered into a competition has gone lame.

    Our beloved Chunky ‘self-harmed’, as our fabulous veterinary physiotherapist, Amy Cox, put it. He most likely went head over heels in the field, pulling chest and back muscles on one side of his body and so missing the next arena one-day event he was entered for. It was entirely my fault for proclaiming just mere days before that, “Chunky has never had a day sick or sorry in his life!” I could not have tempted fate more if I had left a tray of gourmet snacks and fine wines lying around. What an idiot.

    Subsequently, I was very kindly offered a ride on my lovely friend, neighbour and client, Juliet Hayes’ horse, Shamus. One-day event entries transferred, arrangements in place and a quick practise session achieved (pictured top), Shamus proceeded to go lame in an uncannily similar fashion to Chunky.

    Ellie and Spice in action

    It was not the same injury. But enough to give me a complex, all the same. I have walked around the whole of August saying, ‘Don’t let me sit on your horse — it will go lame!’

    I was very much looking forward to both competitions: a confidence-giving second bash at a baby one-day event with Chunky; and a fun, no pressure ‘proper class’ with the more experienced Shamus.

    The silver lining of this cloud is that my daughter, Ellie, and her pony, Spice, have had lots of attention. As such, they have achieved Ellie’s big goal of riding her first dressage test off the lead-rein (and coming home with a first rosette!).

    Jen, Ellie, Wendy and Natalie at Tall Trees

    I am so thrilled for Ellie as she has more than her fair share of struggles with confidence. They both looked so tiny, all alone in Tall Trees’ indoor arena. It was a real yard outing, with friends and clients, Jen, Wendy and Natalie all competing too and achieving fabulous results.

    I called Ellie’s tests out for her, while simultaneously videoing. Partly because I am superwoman, partly because I suspected that the more occupied I could make myself, the less nervous I would be for them.

    Continues below…

    I did find you can impart a huge amount of instruction to a child, when reading out the test movements, without diverting from the permitted script, simply by using absolute maximum intonation of your voice.

    “A, enter in WORKING TROT. Proceed down the CENTRE LINE, WITHOUT halting!”

    To anyone watching, I suspect I sounded much like an excessively theatrical actor, performing warm up vocals, preparing to go on stage for the evening.

    Me (aka the boy) and Ellie

    If there was any to doubt as to what I sounded like that day, there was no doubt as to what I looked like. We had torrential rain all morning and I had just managed to change into some dry clothes before we set off for Tall Trees and scraped my soggy hair into a baseball cap.

    As I began calling out Intro A for Ellie, I heard a small child to my left among the spectators ask their mother, with absolute clarity, “Mummy, why is that boy shouting?”
    It took an awful lot of self-restraint not to laugh too hard and spoil the video.

    Ever the optimist, the child may have got my gender wrong, but I was delighted to be called a ‘boy’ and not an ‘old man’!

    Katy x

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