The diary of the home-made livery yard: what is said in the barn, stays in the barn

  • South Woolley is now an ‘owner lives on-site’, ‘24 hour supervision’ yard!

    About this time last year, my husband, Jerome, and I were granted planning permission to construct a house at the yard. Jerome and a couple of friends spent the second half of last year building a gorgeous and cosy log cabin for us to live in. And, finally, during The Beast From The East blizzard a few weeks ago, we moved in.

    For the first few days it was very much camping — mattresses on floors, containers of water in the kitchen and a gas camping stove for cooking. The moving out process took a couple of weeks and for a short while we were living between the two locations.

    Schooling Caspar

    With no washing facilities at our new cabin, I was having to head up the road to our old house each evening to have a bath and do the laundry. Seeing little point in getting dressed again, I would get out of the bath and wrap my dressing gown around me, poke my head out the front door and bob about like a meerkat, checking the coast was clear before dashing to the car to head back to the cabin.

    Yes, I temporarily became the village flasher. Feeling very draughty and exposed, I would pray I wouldn’t bump into an old neighbour as I fled from the front door to the car. With both hands holding the laundry basket, I was terribly vulnerable to effects of a sudden gust of wind upon my loosely tied dressing gown!

    Hacking Chunky

    What a difference it makes, to be living on-site. Life is so much easier. Previously, I had to try and stuff three wriggly, irritable children into the car several times each day, to go back and forth between ‘home’ and the yard to feed, entertain and placate the kids. Now, the children can roam free and at will, with the kitchen fridge, snack cupboard and toy boxes ever to hand in the cabin if they get cold, tired or hungry.

    My fabulous apprentice, Trin, recently finished her work with us here at South Woolley. So, I have been happily back on full time yard duties after having baby Monty.

    Today, my daughter and eldest child, Ellie, has come down with a sickness bug. She woke me at 6am with the words that will make any parent sit bolt upright from even the deepest slumber and sprint for a washing up bowl: “I feel sick, Mummy”.

    Happy hacking

    As the poor girl repeatedly vomited, I thought to myself, in true practical equestrian style, ‘I’d better go and school Chunky and lunge Phoenix before I am struck down with this bug myself.’ Of course, there were also thoughts of concern for my child. I felt very queasy while riding but, miraculously, I think I have escaped this one.

    We are soon to be welcoming our ninth livery. I am so incredibly proud of our lovely little horse community at South Woolley. The barn is always filled with laughter and smiles and we are fiercely supportive of each other.

    Django in from the ‘swamp’

    Having said that, it has been a tough old winter. We have all had our fair share of horse troubles in these darker months — injuries (both horse and rider), lameness (again, both horse and rider!), behavioural issues (er… I shan’t say) and personal hardships. I tell you, that barn has seen more tears and confessions than a whole series of Jeremy Kyle.

    Hacking Chunky

    I would say a huge part of running a livery yard (more than or at least equal to looking after the horses) is looking after your people. Beyond an impressive ability to nod and smile, I think psychology and counselling skills are a pre-requisite to good yard management. I’m pretty sure the three lectures I attended in the one year of the psychology degree I took qualifies me for this. In fact, I believe there should be a whole new unit in the BHS exams, ‘amateur psycho-therapy for yard managers and coaches’.

    Continued below…

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    Supporting my clients, who are also my friends, is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I often joke that, “What is said in the barn, stays in the barn.” Horses are marvellous at bringing out raw emotion in us and any stresses and struggles usually surface over a grooming session or during a hack. I joked with Jerome the other day that I think there is only one livery client I can think of who I have not seen have a full on ‘melt down’ and perhaps I should inform them that they are not utilising the whole of the South Woolley services?

    At last, some of the swamps I have been turning horses out in are starting to dry up. It is so surprising to finally be able to walk through field gateways without sinking up to my knees that I feel like Jesus walking on the water. Roll on spring and summer — we are ready for you!

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