Before I fill you in on all the latest news at South Woolley Livery & Coaching, I need to address the fact that I haven’t been around lately. Indeed, I haven’t written a post since May, which was five months ago, now. Writing for Horse & Hound is a really important part of my life and a huge privilege. As such it has taken a very serious chain of events for me to neglect my blog.
Over the past year, my marriage broke down and I am now separated from my husband. It was messy and dramatic. Things really came to a head just a few days after I wrote my last blog post. I haven’t been able to write since then. All my energy was focused on fighting like a tigress for my children, running the livery business and keeping the family home going.
This past year may well have been the hardest thing I have ever been through, but something has changed now. It has taken plenty of space and time on my own, months and months of therapy with the most incredible psychotherapist (one and a half hours, twice a week, to be precise!), counselling from The Women’s Centre, Cornwall and the most overwhelming level of support from my family, friends, colleagues and clients. But I am finally getting back on my feet, stronger than ever before, and starting out on my new path of thriving rather than simply surviving.
So, what has happened with the horses since May? Well, Emily Skerrett’s beautiful para dressage mare, Lila, had her Belissimo M foal in June. A gorgeous, cheeky, healthy colt appeared one Tuesday evening after a thunderstorm. Emily and her boys named him, Pumpkin, due to his distinct orange-ness.
The birth was wonderfully straightforward. I was lucky enough to witness the whole thing and capture the event on video for Emily, who rushed straight down to the yard to meet the little chap as soon as she could get my livery client and our friend, Jen, to arrive and look after her sleeping children.
There were a couple of comedy moments that evening. The first being Emily, totally drunk on love for her new foal and a couple of celebratory beers, stumbling around Lila’s stable, attempting to identify the foal’s gender (rather unsuccessfully and to much hilarity for us onlookers), while trying to avoid tripping over her crutches. If it had been any other mare, I might have intervened. But Lila is incredibly placid and tolerant. I swear she raised an eyebrow at Emily, as if to say, “For goodness’ sake, woman! He is clearly a boy!”
The second being the moment where the vet and I finished up at 3am and I could not face the final bit of tidying up that remained to be done in the maternity suite. I sent my amazing freelancer, Abby, a bizarre message, saying, “Abby… It’s 3am. Knackered. Soz about placenta in a bucket. Will deal with it tomorrow.” I feel as though Abby knows me well enough, now, to expect nothing less of me.
May, June and July were very tough months for me, personally. But it was special occasions, like the arrival of South Woolley’s first ever foal, that gave me the morale boost I needed to look forward towards the future.
I have a few standout horsey memories of those hard, long months.
A day or so before the foal was born, Emily allowed me to tag along on a photo shoot at the beach with her very talented photographer sponsor, Julia Powney. I nearly didn’t go. I’d lost my mojo a little bit. I just wanted to work hard by day and then hide away at home in the evenings. I think you can see, from the look on my face in the photos (pictured top and above), that I made the right choice.
The horse is another of Emily’s rides, Clint, who is owned by Carol Pearson. I tell all my children and my horses that I love them the same, but Clint is just that little bit special to me.
I had another exciting opportunity with Clint at the end of July. Emily had entered for a BD elementary and medium test at our local venue, Tall Trees. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but Emily could not make it. Emily and Carol offered me the ride, rather than waste the entries, and I eagerly accepted. I was punching way above my weight. I hadn’t competed at all in nine months and had totally neglected my riding over lockdown and the breakdown of my marriage. I had never competed at medium level before and I now had 24 hours to learn how to sit Clint’s super bouncy trot. These are the circumstances that hors concours was made for!
Safe in the knowledge that our times were last of the day, when everyone else would have gone home, Clint and I went and wangled our way clumsily around a medium test. Clint gets fabulous scores at medium (and now advanced medium) with Emily, but he does not give the rider those scores on a plate.
I was happy with our elementary score, even with two rider sat-nav errors. And I was absolutely thrilled at being in possession of a test sheet that read, ‘Medium 69… Katy Malone’ at the top, no matter what the marks were below. The previous sentence is, of course, a pretty poor disguise for, ‘Some of my my marks were a bit sh*t.’ But I am in no way lying about the ‘thrilled’ part. And with the obligatory folding of my test sheet (requiring the intricate skill of an origami master), I was able to hide the worst marks, add the pretty rosette we took home, and take a photo that contributed to a social media post that I am still very proud of today.
We are now well into autumn and I’m feeling stronger and happier day by day. I have had huge amounts of support from my family and friends over the summer, but, essentially, I am currently a full-time businesswoman and a part-time single mother of three. I knew I would cope perfectly well, but I also knew there would be a learning curve and a period of adjustment, as I settled into a new life for me and the children.
There are certain things one takes for granted while having a man around the house. Instant on-site repairs, for example. As such, I have bought myself a set of shockingly cheap and crap quality tools. I repaired a fence rail today and I am pretty sure I bent my new £2 hammer by banging a nail into the timber. Domestic spider removal, for another example. I am not too bad with slow-moving arachnids, but I find the Usain Bolt-type variants fairly traumatic to live with. For me, the best method for spider eviction is to use one of those massive gin glasses, for maximum spider capture area (reducing the risk of Usain Bolt escapees) and maximum human-hand-to-target distance (reducing my panic and anxiety). Overall, I am getting more grown up about it all. Okay, that is a lie. As demonstrated by an horrific incident in the tack room, a couple of weeks ago, where I picked up a saddle and Emily did ‘The Face’. You know the one… The, ‘Oh my Christ! You have something un-Godly on your face/head/neck/shoulder and I think you are going to die and I am leaving you for dead!’ face. Yes, that face.
I dropped Emily’s very expensive saddle on the floor (luckily it landed safely in a cushioning pile of numnahs) and ran out of the tack room, leaping around like I was on fire.
“What is it?! Where is it?! Is it on me?! Oh my God, OH MY GOD! GET IT OFF ME!!! HELP, HELP, HELP!”
When presented with a perceived imminent threat, it is perfectly normal to enter into a fight, flight or freeze mode. However, it is not so often that we hear of the ‘strip off all your clothes’ mode. (I am reminded of the time when one of my oldest friends, Lottie, ended up standing naked in the middle of the road at my house, when she had gone into ‘strip mode’ after a bee had gone down her dress on the way to my wedding. The whole village had turned out to see us all off and, boy, did they get a show!).
This was the tactic my body involuntarily chose on behalf of my brain and, before I knew what had happened, I had stripped down to my bra and continued my dance over imaginary hot coals, while frantically brushing the (probably now long gone) ‘tarantula’ off of my head and my neck.
Like this? You might also enjoy reading these:
Very briefly, in other news, we now have a lovely new carpet gallop surface on our arena. And today, I leave for Keysoe International Para Dressage with Emily and Clint. Emily informed me that Horse & Country TV would be live streaming some of the show. I threatened to streak through the arena during her test, just to get on telly. Emily replied that during her walk pirouettes would be best, please. And, if anyone complains, we could easily blame it on another spider incident.
Thank you for having me back.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.