Hello and welcome to my first Horse & Hound blog entry.
Alongside the big names of H&H magazine columnists Carl Hester, Pammy Hutton, Sir Mark Todd, Olympians and honoured men, may I now introduce myself as new H&H blogger, Katy Malone… an ordinary nobody from Cornwall!
Fear not. Although I may not be an elite rider or trainer, at least I have literary credentials. I once had a letter published on the problems page of Horse & Pony magazine when I was nine-years-old.
You find me at an extremely exciting point in my life whereby I am lucky enough to be realising my ultimate dream; setting up and running my very own livery yard in Woolley, North Cornwall.
I’m really look forward to sharing this experience with H&H readers — the highs, the lows and all the laughs along the way as we finish building the yard, officially open it, seek BHS approval and embark upon our first year of trading, while I simultaneously continue to toil my way through the BHS, UKCC and RDA coaching exam systems.
God alone knows how I have got to this point of building my own livery yard. I haven’t come from a ‘big money’ or land owning family. I haven’t inherited a fortune or won the lottery. I certainly never built up the capital to start a yard through my 10 year equestrian career of various low paid instructing and grooming positions.
I suppose what I did do was marry a man who is selfless, trusting and gullible enough to pour all of his earnings, time and energy into an (at best) optimistic and (more realistically) fantastical equestrian business plan. What is more, my husband is one of those people that can ‘do’ anything. Wood work, metal work, ground works, build and design sports cars, design and make fine diamond jewellery (I’m not kidding – he’s an engineering genius!). So we have been fortunate enough to be able to create some stunning equestrian facilities from a bare field on an incredibly small budget, using his vision and skills and my ability to fetch a hammer and pass the correct size spanner.
My husband could not care less which is the arse end and which is the head end of a horse. But, for some reason, he has ventured courageously forth with me into this new endeavour. I have heard him say before now: “Well, it should keep her out of trouble.”
His blind faith in me is tremendous. It occurred to me the other day that, until I dragged him along to a dressage lesson on my birthday so he could take some photos, he had never even seen me ride a horse in the eight years we have known each other (apart from one hack I took him on near ‘the beginning’ where he was hugely distracted by the overriding thought that men of breeding age should NEVER be subjected to trotting!). By this point in time we had already spent two years securing planning permission for the facilities and one and a half years building a yard that I had ‘told’ him I knew how to run. The only empirical evidence to back this claim up, I suppose, being that I had not been fired from any of my previous horsey jobs (to his knowledge). I didn’t even ride very well that day he came to watch. Not that he would have known. He is one of those ‘muggles’ that think if you can start, stop and steer a horse, then surely you have mastered the art of riding. By then, we were in way too deep to back out, anyway.
It has been a long, hard slog to get to this point. We have completed all the ground works, built a hay barn and a beautiful American barn housing six open, airy internal stables (with permission and space for six more) from a pile of steel on the floor. The 60x20m outdoor arena is our current project and we are busily working on the fencing. We are very proud to have done all the construction work ourselves (with a six-year-old daughter and a newborn baby boy in tow).
It has not always been pretty. The low points have included me on my hands and knees in the mud, in the middle of January, using a washing up cloth to sponge the water out of a sea of giant, muddy puddles (pictured below) in the vain hope that they might dry up enough so we could concrete the floor of the stables. And I will never forget driving a very bumpy dumper truck over hard, rutted ground with terrible mastitis when I abruptly weaned our son, but the show had to go on — ouch! Or today, when I have been creosoting the fence around our in-progress outdoor arena and I have horrible burns all down my arm where the creosote dripped down my arm and the hot sun has angered it. The language, innuendos and expletives the neighbours have heard over the past year as we have played at being construction workers will be pretty unforgivable (the neighbours have politely confirmed this). However, they are all still talking to us, so all is not lost.
We now have the very first horses all moved in. The dream we have worked so hard for is finally coming to life and the only way is up…!