Graham Fletcher: ‘A year’s wait seems endless’ *H&H Plus*

  • With Olympia cancelled, Graham Fletcher reminisces on Christmases past, sharing stories and hilarious anecdotes...

    It’s that time of year when the Christmas lights go up here at Foxglade Farm. But nothing would have been more important to my two boys, Will and Olli, than competing in the under-25 championship at Olympia.

    The class is a good one; and since being given a time slot just before the grand prix, it’s a great opportunity for them to experience the intense atmosphere.

    Sadly, this year it’s not to be. The way things are looking, Olympia will be on in 2021.

    But, as we all know, a year’s wait seems endless when you’re young.

    So many shows being cancelled this year has had an obvious impact. Although, in the horse sales department, we’ve had one of our best years. Maybe it’s because people had more time to try horses, or maybe we’ve had some nice ones to sell?

    I’ve been in the horse business for decades, and have never quite understood why there can be such a differential from one year to the next.

    I remember starting out on my own after leaving the financial comfort of the family farm. I’d bought a handful of good horses, but as autumn turned to winter and nothing was selling, bills needed paying and depression was setting in.

    One day, I got talking to an old horse dealer. Billy Bamlett – who incidentally had sold me Buttevant Boy years earlier – lived near Thirsk. He was astute, packed with knowledge, and had a great sense of humour.

    (Note: before I finish this story, the young and those of a nervous disposition should turn over the page now…)

    I told Billy about my dilemma. He looked at me, customary Woodbine cigarette hanging from his lower lip, and said: “It can happen like that, lad. But I’ve bought hundreds of horses over the years, and you know something? I’ve never had to eat one yet!”

    Handbags and Christmas past…

    With more than 30 horses to exercise and look after, and staff wanting some time off, there’s going to be plenty of work to be done at home this next couple of weeks.

    I’ve always enjoyed Christmas though. Maybe it’s an age thing, but when you’ve lived your life full-throttle, it’s good to have a bit of down time.

    At this time of year, I can’t help but think of Christmases past. One I recall with particular nostalgia was many years ago when our then vet was Mr Sinclair, the real-life Siegfried Farnon of All Creatures Great and Small fame.

    On this occasion, he’d given me a Christmas tree he’d just cut. Then I was invited into his lovely house to have a chat with him and his wife Audrey. There we were in the sitting room, fire blazing and a wonderful panoramic view over the North York moors with a very nice glass of port apiece. Stories were told and more port slipped down.

    Over the years, Audrey became increasingly blind and, although he could be eccentric and was always a dapper ladies’ man, the devoted way he looked after her was lovely to see.

    Mr Sinclair continued with his veterinary work well into his seventies, by which time Peter Wright – now of TV’s The Yorkshire Vet – had joined the practice.

    On one occasion, Mr Sinclair welcomed a Mrs Pinkney into the surgery and carefully examined her little dog Tiggywinkle. “Siegfried” got the diagnosis totally right of course, but when it came to administering the required injection, the dog got a bit frisky.

    It was a couple of weeks later that Mrs Pinkney called Peter to ask him to give Tiggywinkle another injection. Peter started to explain that the dog didn’t need another, when Mrs Pinkney nervously explained that when she’d got home from her initial visit to the surgery, she’d found most of the syringeful at the bottom of her handbag.

    After that at the practice, injections were known as intramuscular, intravenous and intra-handbag!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 17 December 2020

    You may also be interested in: