The diary of the home-made livery yard: I really hope the neighbours weren’t watching…

  • My goodness, that was some snow storm, wasn’t it?

    Having mercilessly ridiculed all those poor drivers who got stuck out on major roads in the snow for having not ‘heeded the weather warnings’, Jerome and I found ourselves snowed in at home with no wood for the fire, no heating oil for hot water and inadequate supplies of chocolate and wine.

    The Beast From The East brought both hard work and comedy to South Woolley. The first morning we were surrounded by that lethal sheet ice that enveloped the UK, I set off to feed the horses. Stepping out the front door onto our door step provoked my most impressive Bambi impersonation. Having regained my balance momentarily, a huge gust of wind came along and blew me down our icy lane, like an inflatable toy being blown across the surface of a swimming pool. I let out a torrent of expletives at a decibel level deemed massively inappropriate for a quiet rural English hamlet and crouched to the floor in a sideways manner to ‘ride’ the black ice, much like a surfer catching a wave on their board.

    Jerome & kids off to the yard

    After feeding and an initial check about the yard, I realised that I would need my husband, Jerome’s help with getting water to the horses that day. Knowing that attaining water would require the two of us and would take a little time, we had to work out how best to get our three children from the house down to the yard. Driving was out of the question, as was walking.

    It was decided that Jerome would take Ellie, our eight-year-old daughter, and Jasper, our three-year-old son on the tractor, which seemed to be coping reasonably well with the steep icy slopes.

    I was left to navigate six-month-old baby Monty’s journey. I reasoned that Monty would be safest in his carry-style baby car seat, so, wrapped up like Eskimos, off we went.

    Slightly excited!

    As soon as we got out into the lane, I felt that I was not at all capable of carrying Monty. I froze in the middle of the black ice, terrified of repeating the Bambi incident with the baby on my arm.

    I soon saw what I needed to do. I set Monty down on the ground in his car seat and slid him across the ice to the nearest patch of snow, where I would get a better foothold. I then skated over to join him, picked him up and we waddled cautiously over to the next point where snow met ice. Down he went again and with a good push, Monty went sliding over the road (obviously no traffic that day!) to the next snow mound. This is how we travelled.

    Monty survived his curling match

    It was a curling match. Baby curling. Dear God, I hope the neighbours weren’t watching. But we made it safely to the yard in one piece.

    One slightly devastating effect of the storm was that we lost a huge amount of sand from our arena. We had only just a few weeks ago spent huge amounts of money and three days of hard work with the digger and dumper truck topping up the surface.

    Sand lost from the arena

    It was quite a struggle against the clock to get the four lorry loads of sand spread in the short time scale we had given ourselves. We didn’t want to interrupt use of the arena too much. Having missed our first deadline, I booked a session for 12pm the next day to make sure we got the job done. It was another optimistic deadline and, inevitably, it came down to the wire.


    Ten minutes before one of our riders was booked to use the arena, I jumped into our car to give the newly spread surface a quick harrow. It was a bit of a manic dash. I let the kids hop in the car, as they usually do and somehow my son, Jasper, managed to turn on the sat-nav. With no time to stop and turn it off, my stress levels were not helped by the computerised voice incessantly repeating, “Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating,” as we drove round and round in circles levelling the sand. Oh, well. I drove out of the arena at 12.01pm (presumably having not arrived at our destination!) and it both looked great and rode fabulously.

    Wiggles enjoying the snow

    When I first set up the yard, I received various snippets of advice from my horsey mentors. One of these people told me that you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure and warned me not to socialise with livery clients. Personally, I disagree entirely and we at South Woolley enjoy regular p**s ups (important bonding sessions) at the local pub or at the yard.

    Continued below…

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    I do try and avoid having people over to the house, though. Only because I cannot face anyone seeing the filth and chaos that is our home. I broke that trend recently, however, when I invited our livery Lauren and her boyfriend, Joe, over for an at-home wine tasting experience I’d acquired as a Christmas present to myself. There was a horrible moment before Lauren and Joe arrived when I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake. Our ‘wine consultant’ (a very knowledgable, smartly dressed man with a selection of clinking cases in tow) arrived and asked me two questions which made me feel slightly nervous. ‘When will the others arrive?’ and, ‘Where would you like to do it? Here in the living room?’

    I had to hold back from asking, ‘Sorry Sir, just to be clear, this is the at-home wine tasting experience and not the at-home orgy experience, yes?’
    What on earth would the liveries think?! Perhaps my mentor was right.


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