The diary of the home-made livery yard: I am the worst husband

  • Thank God, the equine flu drama ended for us with negative test results. All horses were clear and normal life was allowed to resume at South Woolley.

    It was clear that some of the liveries had not seen a horse in a while. When livery, Debbie, came down to be reunited with her horse, Toby, we had a good laugh comparing her beautifully manicured, petite hands with my ‘workman’s spades’, covered in Hammerite. I have never felt more butch than at the moment of the capture of that photo (see picture below). The dawning realisation that I would never make a hand model was brutal.

    My manly hands

    Sensing that manual labour and arduous physical tasks are much more my calling, I set about entering Chunky, Jo Bunker’s Shire x cob, into an arena one-day event at The Grange (pictured top).

    I love this event, because they start the classes at flea circus height, which is fabulous for letting babies (whether that be horse or rider) see cross-country-type fences in a very un-intimidating environment, at heights that can be stepped over in an emergency.

    Chunky in action

    Chunky went and was a superstar. No longer the bull on amphetamines I once wrote of, he did three mature and controlled phases, only let down by his rider, who failed him hugely by missing out showjump fence number seven!

    My chuckle of the day occurred upon returning to the yard, when greeted by a livery’s ex-partner, Keith. Keith just so happens to be a member of the gold medal winning GB veteran European showjumping team and is a previous Badminton finisher. Keith had obviously been told that Chunky and I had been to a one-day event and was quick to congratulate us on our outing (despite my catastrophic route error).

    Chunky at a show

    For me, the humour came when Keith commented that it was a bit early in the season for an event fixture. At this point I had to confess that it was arena eventing we had been to (no grass, all on an arena surface), the dressage test was walk and trot only (Chunky has no reliable right canter lead, yet) and that the fences were 40cm — a concept that I wasn’t sure a man who eats up a 1.50m course for breakfast could possibly comprehend. Keith was very lovely and was saying all the right things, but his face betrayed the fact that he was quite baffled.

    Chunky and I

    Talking of Emily, our most recent para dressage trip took us back to Solihull EC for a hugely successful outing. Emily and Lila stepped up to ride the the Grade V gold individual championship test, which I can only describe as ‘pretty meaty’. The competition went perfectly and we were lucky enough to be staying in a gorgeous hotel that is virtually on-site at the equestrian centre.

    We noticed that the hotel had started to accept dogs since our last visit. We both commented on what a nice thing that was and cracked open a (alright, another) bottle of prosecco. Emily had experienced a little difficulty in booking our rooms, so we were aware there must be some sort of event happening in Birmingham. It took us a worryingly long time to catch on that all these very clean, well groomed dogs were, in fact, off to Crufts! Not even when one pristine dog and handler arrived at breakfast and were ushered straight through to a VIP doggy dining room, did the penny drop for us. We suddenly felt very star-struck to be surrounded by such prestigious canine company. And, also, completely thick not to have realised sooner.

    Emily in action

    It did make me think, though… if Emily and I were capable of not recognising a pack of dogs on their way to compete at Crufts, the other hotel guests might not necessarily be aware of dressage competitions happening at the equestrian centre next door. When Emily turns up at breakfast, ready to compete, do they just presume that she simply likes to dress up all fancy to eat her cereal in the mornings? Or do they assume that white breeches, tall Italian leather boots and a frilly stock are all the rage on the catwalks of Cornwall at the moment?

    We did have one minor disaster while at Solihull. Having driven up, settled Lila, eaten dinner and got Emily just the right kind of drunk that she would perform perfectly the next day, I headed off to my hotel room to sleep. I am blessed with the ability to fall asleep quickly and deeply. So, it took an awful lot of knocking, banging and eventual shouting from Emily to wake me up an hour later. Poor Emily had a very sad baby with a chest infection, who had lost his dummy. I had the lorry keys with me and Emily was desperate to look for a spare dummy in the lorry. All the commotion had awoken the guests opposite us who sympathetically asked Emily why her husband would not let her in? I must admit, I am just the worst husband. After a fruitless search of the lorry in my nightie, I finally found the lost dummy, hiding in the bath in Emily’s room. Well, of course. Where else would a 11-month-old baby put it?

    Upon returning home, I am so happy to really be getting back into the swing of things with Lynn Wingard’s, Hilde. We had quite a long break after my fall, due to my injury and the flu lock down. Lynn spoilt us with lessons with our trainer, John Chubb, in the first two weeks of our reunion. A shrewd move that settled any confidence issues on my part and really helped to up our game in a very short period of time. Lynn was preparing to book a competition for us and we chatted with John over which level we should enter — novice or possibly try an elementary? John suggested that, seeing as we only have two outings under our belt, we stick to novice tests this time.

    “Go out at novice — get yourself in Horse & Hound again,” he joked. I laughed at the improbability of another win, but agreed this was a good idea.

    I think of myself as a pretty good student and always try and do what my coaches tell me. So, when John told me to get in H&H magazine again… Well, I did!

    Against all odds (Hilde and I being rusty, the show attracting a big class for Cornwall and some rather intimidating horse and rider combinations in the warm-up), Hilde and I won our comeback test and I was over the moon to receive a call from H&H South West reporter, Annabel.

    I’m going to start a scrap book. A two-page scrap book.

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    The other great thrill of the past few weeks, was an incredibly exciting email from the H&H office, inviting me to save the date for the Horse & Hound annual awards in December. How glamorous! I was absolutely bouncing off the walls when I opened the message.

    I have done some research. There is no Horse & Hound award for blogging. So, I can only presume that the budget has already been blown for 2019 and H&H cannot afford to pay their reporters, thus relying on bloggers to cover the event. No complaints here. A child-free night, chance to wear a pretty frock, flowing booze and rubbing shoulders with the equestrian stars? Hell, I’ll write the entire magazine for free, for a year in return for my invite.

    [Katy, you’re on. *blows entire budget on champagne* – Ed.]

    Is it December, yet…?

    Katy x

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