The diary of the home-made livery yard: I have learnt some big life lessons

  • Did you ever see such a sad looking pair of riding boots?

    If these boots could talk they would say, “Why, Katy? Why did you leave us? Was it something we did? Don’t we make you happy any more? Have you found better elsewhere? Do we smell…?”

    Katy Malone

    Lockdown 2020… What a ride! And while the horse hasn’t quite stopped bucking yet, it looks like the sedalin might finally be starting to kick in.

    Today is the day, as I write this, in the UK, where lockdown measures have eased slightly for the first time since it was imposed a long, long seven weeks ago. Today is the day I can take my kids to the beach! I don’t know what we are all more excited about — going for a walk that is not round the block yet again, or the notion of all of us getting in a car together and going for a family drive!

    Today is also the day I can sit on a horse again and teach riding lessons! I have really, really missed teaching. Equestrians all made their own decisions at the start of lockdown as to whether or not they would ride during our confinement. For all sorts of reasons, I made the personal decision not to ride over lockdown. It was a decision for me, alone, and I fully support those who chose to keep going for their own individual reasons.

    Katy Malone

    Endless painting!

    Seven weeks is a very long time for a professional (or any rider) to not ride a horse. I am having to resist the urge to contact my local riding school and ask for a private lead-rein lesson on a nice, steady gee-gee to ease me back in.

    All jokes aside, I could feel really insecure about the break in my riding, if I allowed myself to. Half of my clients will have continued to ride over lockdown and it’s easy to start thinking, “Hang on a minute… Should they now be teaching me?” As it goes, I am fairly sure my qualifications and skills haven’t evaporated over the past seven weeks and if you too haven’t been riding, then I doubt yours have either.

    It’s easy to feel as though you’ve been left behind, watching all your friends on Facebook and Instagram going for glorious sunny hacks, teaching their horses intricate pole work, new dressage movements and tricks like how to stand on a box and knit a scarf (I’m sure I saw that somewhere on YouTube — or had I had some wine?). You haven’t, though. We are all in the same boat and loads and loads of people haven’t been riding at all or have been struggling without their regular training sessions or facilities to use.

    Catching up on the strimming

    I’m all about a positive mindset, so I am looking forward to making good use of any anxiety and being able to empathise and sympathise with the clients who are feeling a bit wobbly about getting going again.

    There are lots of things to look forward to now lockdown is slowly easing.

    First on my list, when restrictions are lifted further, is to get my arse seen to. Apologies. That statement really required a little context before I threw it out there. If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will be familiar with my whingeing and moaning about an old injury that has left me with a disfigured, concave buttock. I’d like that looked at.

    Plaiting manes… I miss that! Going to the tip… oh, heaven! Looking people in the eye, rather than staring at their half-closed upper eyelids on video calls. Sitting trot… no amount of YouTube abdominal workout videos quite cut it in the same way (or maybe you have to actually join in with them, rather than just watching them — I still don’t know how it works).

    And going to a show! Monster Munch and Lucozade just don’t taste the same unless you buy them at 4am from a fuel station, with a three-hour trip up the M5 ahead of you.

    I learnt some big life lessons over lockdown. Namely, that if you get a splash of creosote in your eye when you are painting the arena fence, you will live and you don’t necessarily go blind as a result, despite what you might think (please note, I am not qualified to issue official advice on the pros and cons of pouring creosote into your eye). If you get some on your cheek, however, and accidentally smear it around and stay out in the sunshine for a few hours afterwards, you will get an agonising chemical and heat burn all over your entire face that stings for days.

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    While I have kept myself really busy over lockdown, looking after my 11 livery horses and catching up on various maintenance jobs, it felt like someone had hit the pause button on normal life. The best way I heard it described was when a listener called into Radio 1, saying they felt as if they were starring in The Truman Show (the film where Jim Carrey’s character is unaware that his life is being broadcast to the world on TV, 24 hours a day), and lockdown is a fictitious event that the scriptwriters have created so that the TV crew can change the set.

    I’m now ready to press play on the world again — even if only at half speed — and start looking forward to summer 2020. Whatever that may look like.

    Katy x

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