The diary of the home-made livery yard: No sleep, a hangover, a faller, a colicking horse and a labouring dog

  • It’s been an intense week. I cleverly managed to plan our yard Christmas ‘do’, Christmas hack and BHS approvals inspection all to be within a few days of each other. Brilliant.

    We started the weekend with a jolly booze up at one of our local pubs with liveries, partners, lesson clients and people who had helped us at the yard over the year, meeting up for dinner and drinks.

    I gave out some light-hearted awards, hoping to start something of an annual tradition.

    “Most improved rider”, “most improved horse”, “best ground work” to name a few. My personal favourite was “best fall of 2016”. This year there was only one contender, my daughter, who got pulled over the head of her pony in halt when he reached down to scratch his knee. I’m really hoping to see a greater team effort at South Woolley throughout 2017 to compete for this prestigious award next year.

    Our yard Christmas party

    Our yard Christmas party

    At the party, I insisted that everyone was to meet up at the yard bright and early the next morning for a festive Christmas hack. It had been re-scheduled from the day before (the day of sobriety, joy and health) due to heavy rain, but we needed to set off early as I had afternoon lessons to teach.

    It seemed a great idea at the time. It still seemed a great idea that evening after several bottles of wine (shared bottles, shared. I am not an animal).

    It did not seem such a great idea, however, after five hours sleep, vomiting in the hedge (twice), with horses to muck out and decorate in tinsel.

    May I take this opportunity to point out that, although this might be the second time I have blogged about hangovers and vomiting, this is absolutely not a regular occurrence for me and I have always made sure the horses are seen to. Because I am a professional. Clearly.

    We were a sorry mess of sore heads and puffy eyes that gathered at the yard the next morning. Grooming and tacking up was quite a solemn affair until my husband Jerome turned up with some sloe gin for the riders and we got the tinsel out. As soon as we were mounted and set off, the cobwebs were immediately blown away and we enjoyed a nice hack… straight back to the pub! I know how to keep my customers happy.

    The Christmas hack arrives at the pub

    The Christmas hack arrives at the pub

    Upon return to the yard one of our horses, Percy, without warning, came down with colic and became very unwell all of a sudden. With the vet on the way, my afternoon lessons turned up. I suggested that we worked down at the C end, while Percy was quietly walked around on the soft surface on the vet’s advice up at the A end, until the lesson horse decided now was the time to randomly nap, bronc and spectacularly throw its rider on the floor. Thankfully the rider was not hurt and Percy was co-operative enough to plod around a nearby paddock.

    Percy responded well to treatment, but it was still a long night of hourly checks and worry for both his owner, Tina, and myself.

    This was the start of a week that saw us keeping our vets, Penbode, firmly in business. As soon as Percy started perking up in the evening, Jerome rang to tell me that the dog had gone into labour and would definitely be giving birth tonight.

    Dilly and her puppy Wiggles

    Dilly and her puppy Wiggles

    Well, of course. No sleep, a hangover, a fallen rider, a colicking horse and now a labouring dog. Jerome ended up whisking her to the vets out of hours for a caesarean as the labour was not progressing and we knew from a scan that she was having only a single puppy, which can be complicated. Out of hours surgery? Not looking forward to that vet’s bill!

    Anyway, we now have a very happy, healthy boy puppy. Having taken the foolish leap of faith of allowing our seven-year old daughter to name him, he is called “Wiggles”.



    I now found myself with 48 hours to prepare for an inspection from the British Horse Society to see if South Woolley could become a BHS approved livery yard. Having lost Jerome to canine post-natal duties, this involved a lot of shouting and swearing at machinery I am not used to handling alone.

    I managed to nearly set fire to the starter motor of the ride on lawn mower, trying to start it from cold, to harrow the arena. I discovered a broken water pipe connector and was disappointed to find that no amount of blasphemy would stop it from leaking. However, the impact screwdriver did respond to verbal aggression and name calling, so all was not lost.

    After some very long days of preening the yard, resisting the urge to just throw everything onto a bonfire rather than find a home for it, a few very long nights of paper work and hundreds of hours laminating health and safety signage, inspection day finally arrived.

    I wasn’t nervous, but I was excited and perhaps a little anxious to find out whether all our hard work was up to BHS standards. The inspector spent a long time getting to know the place, learning about our facilities and services and offered a lot of useful expert advice for the progression of the yard.

    I had really only been aiming for bog standard approval, but it was hinted at that we could expect to earn “highly commended” status for several areas of the inspection. We just have to wait for confirmation now.

    Me on the day of our Christmas hack

    Me on the day of our Christmas hack

    The very next morning I got to put into practice the isolation procedures document that I had been assessed on just the day before. One of my livery horses came down with a high fever and needed to be quarantined while we waited for blood test results to confirm that he was not contagious.

    As part of the isolation procedure I put a sign on the horse’s door that read: “This horse is unwell. Please do not touch him or his equipment.”

    Such is the calibre and class of my livery clients at South Woolley that one of the owners (mentioning no names, TINA FORD!) thought my sign meant that no one was allowed to touch the horse’s manhood.

    Luckily, the horse had only a non-contagious viral infection and is now well on the mend.

    Continued below…

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    Among all the chaos, we have had little time to leave the house or yard to buy a pint of milk, let alone do any Christmas shopping. Supplies have run low.

    My daughter Ellie and her pony Spice

    My daughter Ellie and her pony Spice

    In the bath the other evening I realised we had run out of shampoo. I spent a good 10 minutes weighing up the pros and cons of using the antifungal dog shampoo sitting on the side of the bath. In the end I opted for hand wash. Then getting ready for a Christmas dinner the other night I noticed that Jerome has, over time, used all my pairs of tights for oil filters for engines. All that remained was a pair of floral fishnets, so I had to message my friends to apologise for the cheap hooker that was meeting them later that evening.

    Here’s to happy, healthy horses and a peaceful, restful festive period!

    Merry Christmas!


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