Life’s rich tapestry

Owing to a vile tummy bug, I have missed two blog posts so £2 in the pot to Unicef. Although now on the mend I have been hoping and praying the children dont get it as it makes you feel like death warmed up. I havent eaten since Friday eve and even then it was just toast.

The first day I felt rubbish I muscled through it and went on a 3 hour hack on a horse I ride for a friend, it was well worth the effort as I havent ridden such a good horse in ages, but it turns out he is going to be sold as they dont have enough time for him. Typical that when I want to help them out I cant because of a stupid bug. So I waved the white flag and went to bed.

My baby boy is nearly three and he has already got a girlfriend, in fact he was ‘married’ on Halloween. The older children performed a ceremony in the front garden of our local pub, then said ‘and now you may go on honeymoon’. He has been talking about how he is on honeymoon ever since. He also likes fireworks and is not the least bit bothered by the noise, every time we go outside in the dark he says ‘fireworks, fireworks’.

My daughter has ad a traumatic week with a girl that has been nasty to her, to the extent I have had to get involved. It tirns put she is going to be in the School Christmas play with her, so hopefully they will work things out……..part of learning about life’s rich tapestry.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Thou shalt not trespass…….much

My apologies for last night’s missed post – I had writer’s block and simply couldn’t get past it, so £1 in the pot to Unicef.

I am generally a rule breaker. There are quite a few of us out there, the ones who question before they obey. I didnt stand a chance when you look at my parents. My dad didnt last very long in the Navy. He went awol twice and ended up in military prison a couple of times. As a joke Mum sent him a nail file and a bit of string while he was inside.

My Mum is almost as bad. She is the first to go the wrong way round a supermarket car park to jump traffic and get a space. Perhaps her finest hour was when she discovered catholicism to get a discount on fees for my attendance at a catholic school. I then proceeded to drive the nuns mad over my 5 year tenure by dying my hair, wearing my skirts too short and talking in class (all of which are standard in most secondary schools, but convents are a tad stricter).

Today my good old rule breaking attitude came back with a vengeance when I rode past a ‘private property’ sign. When i bumped into the grumpy gamekeeper I feigned ignorance and pretended to make my way back (as it turned out I had to turn back anyway as there were a load of pigs at the end of the drive and the horse I was riding is scared ****less of pigs. For some reason they dont want you trespassing because it ‘disturbs’ the pheasants. But if you have a gun, that must be a different matter?

Perhaps my worst trespass on a horse was on MOD land. Its OK when the red flag isnt up – it was up on that day and for some idiotic reason I chose to ignore it………KABOOM! ………….So I turned back for home.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Thelwell models on horseback

I set off this morning with my daughter to have some mother daughter bonding time on a ride together. It sounds rather grand but actually isn’t. Our noble steeds are piebald and skewbald gypsy cobs who live out all year round and they don’t belong to us we just help out with their care in exchange for rides. My daughter is not the keenest of riders although it was her suggestion that we go out together. It just so happened to be a sunny day hurrah! So it was actually pleasant (for once) to be outside.

However once out on the road, me riding the horse and my daughter on the pony, it wasn’t long before I heard a whining voice. “mum my hat is too tight and my head hurts”….(a while later)…..” mum do we have to go this way, can’t we just turn back now please?”. I explained to her that I wasn’t going through all the faff of getting them in from the field, grooming them and tacking them up and rigging up the lead rein so she could follow without too many problems, without making it worth our while and having some decent time out in the countryside. Of course it didn’t help that a friend had stayed overnight with her and the amount of sleep she actually got was questionable. In fact most 8 year olds are hideous when they haven’t had much sleep (so too are adults, even worse in fact).

Then I switch into old fashioned horsewoman mood, “right come on, let’s get you off that lead rein and taking charge of that pony” (my daughter groans). I unclip the lead rein and move off saying to my daughter “just use your legs and ask her to walk on”. A simple command you might think but not when a strong-willed pony takes a dislike to the direction of travel and appears to be oblivious to a pair of 8 year old legs flapping at her sides. I carry on in the hope that the pony will decide to follow my horse for fear of being left alone. Meanwhile my daughter is moving every inch of her body like she is trying to kick-start an old motorbike – the pony doesn’t move a muscle. I soon realise that if I walk on any further I am in danger of losing sight of my daughter altogether so, after failing at the first attempt at horse psychology, I turn back to re-unite the pony and daughter with the lead rein. The next scene in the morning’s activity would have been copied perfectly from a Norman Thelwell cartoon. On attaching the lead rein, I then give pony a tug with it and ask my horse to move off. My right arm then jolts backwards as pony strains against it on the other end. Meanwhile my daughter is still kicking her legs with zero effect although she should have got top marks for perseverance. We then look like we are having a game of tug o’war as me and the horse are one end of the lean rein pulling and pulling while the pony’s nose is outstretched and it’s front legs well and truly rooted to the ground……and my daughter was still kicking. At one point I tried to boot the pony up the bum while mounted on the horse but this only served to push the pony round in a circle as I tried to face the right direction again on my horse, by which point all momentum had been lost and we were back to square one. With my daughter tired from all her exertions and my arms longer than they were an hour earlier, I decided to wave the white flag and said to my daughter that we were turning for home. She then complained about her head again so I passed her my riding hat and relieved her of the skull squeeze hat and rode home looking like a completely irresponsible parent without a hat. It was liberating though to feel the breeze in my hair. My right arm was still being yanked back by the lead rope but at least the pony was moving. Next time we will have both had some more sleep, my daughter will have the correct sized helmet on and we might take a stick and some carrots. Maybe if I stick a load of polos to my right leg, pony might move a little faster.

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A nutty Saturday

Yesterday’s post mentioned my room 101 issues. One of which was suppressing the urge to scream WTF!!! to people living in my corner of rural England.

Today’s occurrence was a fine example of that. As I was about to drive off I noticed the house across the road from me appeared to be burning some kind of toxic waste, judging by the colour of the smoke billowing out of his chimney. Upon my return 2 hours later, the fire engine or nee-nah (as my baby son likes to call it) had arrived with firemen wandering around the rooftop of my neighbour’s house like a bunch of Santas on a reconnaissance mission. What makes me scream ‘muppets!’ (or WTF!) is that a chimney sweep only lives 3 doors down and charges a mere 15 pounds to clean the chimney. I wonder how much it cost to send the fire service out?

Unfortunately they are not the only nincompoops on our road. Next door to us we have the pleasure of occasionally overhearing a dysfunctional family in meltdown because they have a teenage grotbag for a daughter, not that she can help it with a Mum and Stepdad who treat the local pub like their front room. They also have a penchant for collecting crap cars and then using them to take up precious places in our road. We live in the middle of nowhere, yet our road wouldn’t look out of place in London’s suburbia with all the cars parked down it. Why 2 adults and 2 kids need 5 cars is beyond me but what pushes it from casual observation to bloomin irritating is when they park their collection in front of our house so we can’t park. I know this is a bit belligerent of me but I couldn’t resist parking so close to their bumper that you would have had a job sliding a hair in-between the 2 cars. We have tried talking to them but with this lazy bunch it is much better to make life a little harder for them so that thy grasp the message …. F** off!

But there is an element of the pot calling the kettle black, as today myself and my friend ignored all the weather reports and rode out on horseback in the pissing rain. We had a laugh and a joke about it and I believe that it is a test of real friendship if you still enjoy each other’s company even when your pants are wet…..oops…that came out wrong didn’t it?

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef – check out the campaign here.

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I’m spinning around…..

The opening lines of a Kylie Minogue song depict the theme tune to my life this week. Unicef are doing well out of my offline fee as last night’s absence racked up another one pound donation. Strictly speaking I did have time to blog, but hubby wanted me to cuddle up to him in front of the fire (something we rarely do together) so thought I better sacrifice the blog for a little boost to our marriage (plus it is his birthday tomorrow too). He ended up falling asleep on my shoulder while I watched a fascinating programme about avalanches.

Yesterday after school was particularly good as I found my daughter was far more willing to ride round the fields when I joined her on another horse. Now baby boy seems to be able to operate small ride on toys such as the trike, he was happy busying himself on that while me and my daughter rode round the paddock by the yard. It was a lovely autumnal evening and we were trotting round the paddock looking out across the fields and the trees beyond and, occasionally, riding alongside each other (when her pony decided to put in the extra effort to keep up). After a while I did have to put him on a lead rope as he decided to amble back to the gate once he had done a few laps, leaving my daughter flapping her legs in an effort to influence him in the opposite direction in a manner similar to the Thelwell cartoons. 

What I hadn’t anticipated was the amount of pleasure we both experienced riding together. I did this briefly with my Mum when I was a teenager, but she wasn’t very confident and the hacking sometimes got a little boring. However, I am hoping that my daughter will enjoy it once we get beyond the gates of the stables. Particularly as we live in a horse friendly area, where there is a hitching post both at the local shop and pub to stop for drinks and ice-cream.

Changing the subject to the attempt to sell our house, I hadn’t anticipated how annoying it would be to respond to constant enquiries from neighbours on how many viewings we have had, whether we received any feedback and tolerating listening to their own views on the price of our house and commentary on the health of the property market. If I lived in a fantasy world where I wouldn’t cause offence if I told them to eff off, I would be saying ‘fuck off you nosy bastards’ but sadly I have to tolerate such enquiries and provide a response, albeit guarded. It is a bit like being close to the end of a pregnancy and people asking when the due date is and whether you have had any contractions. 

The biggest annoyance is keeping the house unusually tidy for viewings and disappearing every weekend for people to look round. Particularly when, after having tolerated viewings at relatively unsociable hours for families (kid’s bedtime), they insult you by putting in an offer 30k below asking. When you ask them to improve that offer, they then only increase it to 5k. I would be considered a mug if we sold our house for the same price that we bought it for 6 years ago – but strangely some people think that we might like to accept the offer to find out what it is like to actually be a mug.

Once again I find myself using the letters ‘FO’ ………..and its only Tuesday.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. It would be fabulous if a fellow blogger could donate to this campaign – if you do I will gladly mention you in my next blog post plus any other words you would like to see me try to weave into the text.

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My addiction

Horse-riding and equestrianism is addictive. Like many sports, once you are set on improving your skills or aspire to be ‘good’ at it, it is very difficult to walk away and admit you can’t do it. So, to avoid being defeatist, any spare time is spent honing skills, receiving coaching, purchasing equipment to maximise your effectiveness and attending events to see how the pros do it.

This is true whether the sport is tennis, football, curling or athletics. The difference with equestrianism is the addition of the horse. So the skill lies in how you can get the very best out of a horse by the use of your legs, seat, hands and brain. The brain is required to establish the training method that will suit that particular type of horse. It also takes a significant amount of sensitivity on the part of the rider to notice when a horse is out of sorts or on edge and to adopt calming tactics to placate the horse’s nervous energy. There have been many instances of world-class horses having ‘an off day’. 

As a result, there are many elements of learning in equestrianism. From the basics of how to ride and defy gravity by staying on to communicating the aids for movements in advanced dressage or the best approach to a ‘dog-leg’ distance in a show-jumping competition. Then there is the welfare of the horse and how to care for it when it is not being ridden. There is a plethora of information and advice on how to manage grass turn-out through to identifying common ailments and symptoms for potentially fatal health problems such as colic. Riders also need to consider the psychology of the horse, how to ensure it has a positive experience when loading into a horse-lorry or trailer, how to combat bad habits such as napping, rearing and bucking. They may also need to know how to tow a horse-trailer or drive a lorry. A person who demonstrates good horsemanship has a sound knowledge of each of these elements. 

Therefore a Sunday afternoon trip to an hour’s jumping coaching session is quite a serious undertaking in: preparing and loading a horse for transit, packing tack and other sundries (incuding first-aid) and feed and water, successfully and safely driving  horse and trailer to the venue and back and then, during the session, absorbing everything the coach is saying about the horse’s way of going and your riding style and reacting quickly to each remark to make improvements. That was my experience this afternoon (although the owner of the horse did all the transporting part – I just had to turn up and ride). I have ridden for 25 years and competed at a novice level at a handful of events with all the passion and enthusiasm I can muster. I have lost count of how many horses and ponies I have ridden over the years and how many lessons I have had from different levels of instructor – from dressage judges to entry level British Horse Society instructors. Yet today I felt that all of that was just and experience that had not sunk in and I was back to square one trying to encourage a bit more energy in a thoroughbred horse’s action by doing a bit of trot, a bit of canter and going over some trot poles. A few years of riding horses that err on the side of laid back has skewed my riding position into a bad habit with an ineffective backwards seat in a poor attempt at driving them forwards with my bum. My fingers have been loosely holding onto longish reins losing any front action that I managed to help generate. In short I was crap today. What’s worse was I was crap in front of the horse’s owner and her friends (they were meant to be in the school too with a youngster who wouldn’t even enter the school) so the spotlight was on me. The session was good as the instructor (BSJA) identified basic riding errors that I should have seen myself. The session was crap because I didn’t jump in what was meant to be a ‘jumping’ lesson. Often she started her sentences with “When you were a child being taught to ride…” like my riding was of the level of a five year old (further inward groaning).

So I feel like all that experience has gone to waste because I have had a couple of years ‘off and on’ with horses owing to babies and time and money commitments. 

This is why top olympic level riders are so much older than the typical olympian. It takes years to master good horsemanship because you are only as good as the horse you are riding yet it is down to the rider to get the very best out of the horse. Some riders have a natural flair for it, others, like me, don’t and have to try and do it by will, commitment and determination. Unlocking talent in a horse has got to be one of the most satisfying achievements in equestrianism, whether amateur or professional. That is what makes equestrianism so special. We are all striving for that Eureka moment and I will be working at that for the rest of my life.

To ride at your best you have to be constantly critical of your riding position to ensure the horse has freedom to enhance movement. To do this takes a sound knowledge of how a horse moves combined with a significant repertoire of training strategies. This is what makes equestrianism so fascinating and horse-riding so addictive.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you are able to support the campaign, please visit my page on Unicef’s site.

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What a day

Its fabulous because my husband’s cousin has 2 new little sproglets in the shape of 2 gorgeous boys. The picture of them all huddled up in fluffy towels next to their Mum who looked like she had just been given them without any labour effort at all was priceless. They now have 3 boys (an older boy aged 4) to fill their time.

Also enjoyed riding for the first time in several months and taught my daughter to do rising trot for the first time – not easy on a pure thoroughbred ex-racehorse who leaps into the air when he goes from walk to trot. We then enjoyed cleaning tack while my Mum, back from Spain, looked after baby boy.

The day began with a visit to my Canadian/ Mexican/ Polish friend who is, to quote friends, “on a break” from the father of her 2 year old child and is now residing in a beautiful Georgian maisonette. I am not convinced that the need to be “on a break” is good for long-term relationship success but at least they are not giving up completely. Despite this they are having a lovely life living as girls together in the middle of town and I felt a pang of envy at the freedom of just crossing the road to the shops and restaurants. Its also nice to not have to cook every night for the other half and fight for the laptop/ remote control. Bedtime must be a bit rubbish though as a microwaveable bear is no replacement for a nice toasty male to warm your toes on (maybe a bit of spooning too!).

Also today I have just learned that my Honda CBF failed its MOT because it is basically a death trap. Apparently it shouldn’t have passed its last MOT when we bought it off a motorbike school because of a missing bracket that is rather crucial for keeping the engine and chassis together. So I passed my test and have been riding about on a bike that, for the past year, could have at any time dropped its engine on the road. I intend to send a snotty email to the school that sold it to me – they should have known better – aren’t bike riding schools there to ensure riders are safe to ride on highways?

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. £1 a day is my goal – can you help? If so visit my site on Unicef online. 

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