Christ, this weather in the UK is weird, isn’t it? Sunny, warm and glorious, but sometimes literally freezing. Icy, gale force winds on some days and not a single leaf rustles in a tree, the next. The weather appears to have severe mood swings and I have a daily wardrobe to match. I start the day in two winter coats and gloves, stripped down to shorts and a T-shirt by midday. Jodphurs make an appearance at some point, too.
Not only do I feel perpetually confused by the weather (“Arctic rug, today? Or fly spray, fly rug and mask, Dobbin?”), but my skin is suffering for it, too. I can blame my ancestry for my terrible skin. To a point. There may, possibly, have been some poor life choices along the way, in my youth, too. Let’s just say my body has not been so much a temple and more of a public toilet, at times. We live and we learn.
The extreme changes in weather and temperature, lately, play havoc with a common skin condition I suffer from called Rosacea. My outdoor equestrian lifestyle aggravates it terribly and I get a very sore, red face when I’ve been out in the wind and sun. I am finding great relief in slathering vast quantities of Sudocreme on my face, each morning and night. Yes, of course I got it out of the vet kit. Yes, of course, I picked off the horse hairs and general bits of muck before I put it on my face. I have some standards.
My other dermal complaint is that, for all my sins, God has smitten me down with a sun moustache. If you are not familiar with this affliction, a sun moustache is uneven pigmentation, caused by excess production of melanin, on the upper lip, following exposure to the sun. And I am not pulling it off. Not at all.
In my research on how to rid myself of this unwanted facial feature, sun protection is a key feature. I have taken this advice seriously and have bought a load of baseball caps and sun block to wear daily. Modelling myself on the cricketers and surfers, who wear a thick streak of sun block over their noses and cheeks, I am doing similar with my sun moustache. I think you’ll agree from my photo that it looks rather fetching.
Aside from wandering around the yard looking like a toddler with a milk moustache and with my face smelling like a baby’s bottom, I have been coping with the demands of running a yard and parenting three children, ranging in ages from three to 11 years, throughout lockdown. I am fairly lucky. My children are older, fairly independent and get on together really well. I also only have them here half of the time, as they currently stay with their father for the rest of the time. I know from social media that yard owners were despairing at the start of this most recent lockdown at how they were going to yet again juggle yard duties with the closure of schools and child care facilities. There was confusion among the livery community and vast discrepancies between different schools over whether yard owners counted as essential workers and whether school places were available for their children. I hope everyone muddled through in one piece.
We had another foal at South Woolley this year! An unexpected surprise. A lovely client, Kerri, bought a very sweet cob for her daughter to ride. When the pony arrived back at the yard, the size of Bella’s abdomen stirred suspicions among us all. Less than two weeks later, a cheeky little filly appeared in the pony’s stable overnight and there was another soft, tiny muzzle waiting for me at morning feed time.
The mare, Bella, was very protective over her foal. My stables are separated by partitions of metal railings on the upper section of the dividing walls. To help the mare with her maternal distress, Kerri had the idea of tying old horse rugs to the stable dividers, so Bella could not see her equine neighbours. The plan worked brilliantly for the horses. The comical consequence of this, however, was that livery client, Jack, whose horse was in the neighbouring stable, subsequently became a shameless peeping Tom. In order to be any part of social interactions on the yard, while in his horse’s stable, Jack would have to peer out from between a crack in the wall of rugs. As was appropriate, I teased him mercilessly.
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I am now back to teaching outside clients and the competition calendar for me as coach, rider and groom is filling up again. It’s a priviledge to be allowed back to these aspects of my work and know, with the utmost certainty, that I truly love what I do.
One of my favourite parts of my job, is at the end of a client lesson, where we are all finished, the rider drops the reins and they fall against their horse’s neck and shower the horse with praise. It is then that I can see, visually, and feel deeply, in my heart, the emanating sheer love between that human and that beast. It’s beautiful.
It is with mixed emotions that I am bringing ‘The Dairy of a Home-Made Livery Yard’ to a close. This will be my final blog post for Horse & Hound (my 47th entry!). I will never forget receiving the email that I was to be joining the blogging team, four-and-a-half years ago. I was so incredibly excited to start my new adventure with Horse & Hound. When the email came through, I was horrifically hungover, following a dinner with friends the evening before. So, it seems apt that, on the day I sign off from my blogging position, livery, Jack, found me sitting in a disheveled heap on the floor of the barn, nursing a sugary cup of tea, having enjoyed a bit of a celebration with friends the evening before. I had finished my morning duties, but was now feeling the worse for wear and, as we chatted away, I became increasingly horizontal and eventually succumbed to using the cold concrete floor as a welcoming pillow for my weary head.
Next month it will be a whole year since my husband left. A whole year that I have been running South Woolley Livery & Coaching on my own. When I say, ‘on my own’, that is, of course, total nonsense. I have had incredible support from friends, family, clients and colleagues, to whom I will always be very grateful. I was repeatedly told (by someone who did not want me to succeed) that I wouldn’t manage the yard on my own. So, I am hugely proud that I have succeeded in steering South Woolley through a global pandemic and we have come out the other side in one piece — just about!
It has been a huge privilege and honour to write for the Horse & Hound team for all these years. I’d like to extend a heartfelt, thank you! to H&H for the opportunity and for providing a platform from which I have been able to connect with so many lovely readers.
I am not going anywhere, or disappearing off the face of the earth. You can find or follow me, on Facebook, at South Woolley Livery & Coaching. I continue to welcome messages from anyone who has read my blogs and wants to get in touch — I really do love hearing from you!
I will continue to run the yard and teach. Who knows, maybe a new writing project will come my way?
So, for the last and final time (*sniff, sniff*)… Thank you for reading the thoughts of ‘an ordinary nobody from Cornwall’ (blog entry number one).
I hope I’ve given you an occasional giggle. Goodbye, for now, and I’ll see you on Facebook!
Take care of yourselves,
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