Frozen pipes


“You’ll be okay doing the pump won’t you?” asks Ollie. “Be careful not to fall in!”

Heights are not my thing at the best of time, neither are depths!

I look at him and give a half smile, which translates as ‘are you having a laugh?’

Ollie translates this as ‘of course, no problem’, thanks me profusely and says, “See you next week!” jumping in his extreme vehicle and giving me a wave, the snow spraying behind him as he heads off piste towards the drive.

With ‘Ding Dong Bell, Pussy’s in the well’ going round my head, I slide to the well. The area surrounding the iron cover is sheet ice and snow. The well is, I don’t know how deep, but from the cover to the water surface is at least 8 feet. There appears to be no way to climb out and call me a pessimist but in sub zero temperatures I think you’d die of hypothermia within the first ten minutes of falling in!

But the tap on the main yard is frozen, as is the tap in the tundra tack room and the outside toilet. In fact, there is not even a drop of drinking water on the yard. We had drinking water last year, so it must be decidedly more arctic, either that or the drinking water has been turned off by accident. Using the pump to get water out of the well is the only way of getting water to the yard. Fine when it is all rigged up, but rigging it up or putting it away is a job in itself requiring strength and mental fortitude.

I heave the pump out of the water. Slowly, slowly it comes up to ground level. The freezing water drips out of it as it comes higher. Then the hose comes off it. I am left holding the hose and the pump splashes back into the water. Good job the pump is on a piece of baling twine tied to the fence or else it could be good bye pump!

I heave the pump out of the water again. The water drips off it. I get it to ground level and squeeze it through the gap between the side and iron cover.

My heart beats faster as I move closer to the edge. The ground is slippy. I grip the freezing iron lid and heave and heave, finally dragging it into place.

I lean against the wall and breathe.

When is the big thaw due?





When I was little I loved the snow. Snow meant no school, a snowman in the garden, rosy cheeks and drying off in front of a roaring fire. Lovely!

Well, it wasn’t a real roaring fire, it was a gas fire that if you lay too close to it, made the sleeve of your jumper change colour. But the thought of it still gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Now, I still love the idea of snow, but it fills me with trepidation on a number of counts – that I won’t be able to slither down our track to the main road to get to the stables in my car, that I will crash the car on the way to the stables, that having arrived I will not be able to slide down the drive to the stables without going through the fence, that I will not make it back up the drive on the way home without going through aforementioned fence, that I will crash on the way home and that if I don’t crash on the way home, then I may not be able to get the car down the track to my house.

This is without thinking about the resident horses and what they think of the snow. These are not cuddly, ride once a week horses but lean, mean exercise machines who are addicted to exercise. If they were people they’d be gymaholics who run before cycling to work, go the gym in their lunch hour and that is before cycling home and going out to play squash till ten every evening.

However, with the exception of Ollie and Becky, everyone has been hexed by the Snow Queen and are noticeable by their absence. Their horses meanwhile, have been transformed and not in a good way!

Dessie, the most predictable horse in the yard has turned into a rearing psychopath whose athleticism is quite remarkable. I didn’t think a horse could go from the field all the way to the stable block on two legs. She clearly has been hit by the Snow Queen and now thinks she is in Dancing on Ice. My experience of hanging onto the end of the lead rope while she danced on two legs was terrifying. The Snow Queen’s spell only momentarily being broken by the haybarn where Dessie glimpsed the haylage. This gave me chance to breathe and made the last part of the skate back to the yard slightly more bearable.

Meanwhile, Idris has taken on the mantle of Little Ted (the meanest pony in the paddock before he changed yards). He has been vying for this role for some time, but today out in the snow has been crowned the most evil by the Snow Queen.

I know he didn’t want the bit in his mouth which was still cold in spite of my best efforts to warm it, but rearing and lashing out with his front legs has not endeared him to me.

So now, when I see it snowing, I still initially think no school, snowmen and the glow of the fire and get a warm fuzzy feeling and then I think of crashing my car and dealing with hexed snow horses.

Funny how life changes!

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year! A time for new beginnings, for resolutions, reflection and a time to think ‘am I in flow?’ and ‘where to next?’

As I think about the past year and am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, I try to work out when I’ve been happiest and where I’ve most been in flow.

I am thinking about this as I lead an explosive horse into the yard, the mud nearly over the top of my wellies.

As my wellies disappear in the lake of formerly dirt track, unavoidable on the way to the stable block I say out loud, in a crazy, talking to myself kind of way, ‘am I in flow?’

This is worrying on two counts, firstly that I am questioning whether I am in flow doing something horsey and secondly that I am talking to myself!

According to Barbara Sher, the way to work out how in flow you are, is to rate how happy you feel on a scale from H1 – H10 when you are doing different things, H1 being not so happy and H10 be the happiest you can be. Simple!

I decide, it is probably easier to be ‘in flow’ working with horses in summer.

As for what exactly I want to achieve this year. This could take some consideration, but it will definitely involve more experimentation, more playing with horses and possibly some voluntary work with the RDA (Riding for the Disabled).

What are you going to do this year?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and horsey 2013!

Yard trip to Olympia


One minute until scheduled departure time for the bus, but I can’t park as the bus is in my parking space. The bus finally moves. I drive past the mounting block and horse boxes, reverse and swing my car into my parking space. I leap out my car, wave my remote vaguely at it and dash up the wet bus steps. I can’t see who’s inside as the windows are all steamed up. It would appear, they have been in there a while!

The bus driver says “Can you do your seatbelt up?” through a toothless mouth which concertinas his whole head when he speaks or chews. He is monotone and neither friendly nor unfriendly. I do it up – I can’t remember ever having to do my seatbelt up on a bus before.

Jeanette passes smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches down to me and a can of Fosters. I’m not sure Fosters goes with smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, but there’s a first for everything.

I am sitting with Grace, the little girl who loaned Ted the Teeth. She talks non-stop about her new pony, however this is not all bad as before we know we are driving through central London!

We are on our way to Olympia, The Olympia Horse Show. I never thought I would get to this point in the day as getting there has been far from straight forward.

I was originally working a full day but I swapped with Lucy. She’s done my full day and I’ve done her half day, dashed home and got changed, getting back to the yard to catch the bus, which was supposed to be 3pm. Perfect!

It turns out however, we are leaving for Olympia at 1pm not 3pm, which when I realize induces a small panic as how could I possibly muck out all the stables I’ve got to do, go home and get showered and be ready to leave by 1pm?

My small panic makes me tell Ollie I’ve decided not to go if he’s not got the tickets but would have mince pies with Lucy instead. However, Ollie has got the tickets, which calls for a rethink.

I will go in early and work like a dog. The morning of Olympia I start work early, so early it is still dark.

All the horses are fed and rugged up by the time Lucy arrives. Everyone who is going to Olympia mucks in or rather mucks out and I do have enough time to drive home, get cleaned up and drive back to the yard for the bus’ departure.

Olympia is nothing short of fantastic, however, I’m not sure it is fantastic enough to warrant only four hours sleep before getting up for a full day at work on Sunday, which is a killer. It would have been bad enough without three extra straw beds for the brood mares, who have just been brought in.

Note to self – Next year remember to ask for the weekend off!