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?



Yard Christmas dinner at The Station pub


The yard Christmas dinner is at The Station pub, a good food pub, or so I understand. I’ve been there once before for lunch, but can’t actually remember the lunch, which means it was neither outstanding nor dismal.

I arrive at the pub, park my car and notice the notice that says, ‘absoulutely no parking for pub customers’, so I move my car and park on the main road. This is not a good start.

I look at my watch. I’ll just about be in time. I dash to the pub door and push it. It doesn’t open. I pull it. It doesn’t open. I push it again. It still doesn’t open. People inside the pub look at the door This is embarrassing. I walk round the front of the pub to see if there’s another door. There’s not. I walk round the back of the pub to see if there’s another door there. There’s not. I walk back to the door, where I started. The inside people at the bar look at me as if I have escaped from somewhere. I push the door again. I pull it. I stand and wait…

I rattle the door again and sigh and this door still does not push. Neither does it pull. I now feel as if I have been outside the pub for a lifetime. As my eyes get used to the gloaming I realize the door to the Station pub is not locked to keep the diners warm, it has a latch.

Finally, I manage to open the door to the pub. The people on bar stools at the bar look at me as if to say the person who has escaped from somewhere has managed to get in the pub.

I think, thank God we are going to be seated in the snug.

I walk through the door and close it quietly behind me. A hundred eyes are on me.

To my left is a table with an older couple seated at it, “Behind you, you’ve not shut the door,” squawks the woman.

Stunned, I push the door until it clicks behind me.

The squawking older couple woman carries on eating her turkey pie.

I am still reeling with incredulity and as I pass the couple’s table and I say “Thank you might be nice.”

I don’t wait for her reply but spirit myself to the snug. I sink down on a chair and think, this evening can only get better.

“Happy Christmas!” I pin my sparkly pony name badge/place setting on my jumper.

I think I need a drink but unfortunately I am driving.





Two Socks


I squidge through thick mud, the colour of chocolate mousse with the consistency of custard. It must be nearly lunchtime as even the mud is making me hungry! My next thought is, there must be something you can put down to make field entrances less boggy, and there is, rubber matting especially for field entrances, but there isn’t any here, or if there is, it has been submerged under the mud.

I look up at Socks, a giant of a horse, whose head and neck obscure my view to the right completely, We are heading back to the main yard, just the field entrance to negotiate and the road.

However, this proves to not be so straightforward as we wade through the mud. Socks doesn’t like the mud any more than I do.

It would appear that I am sinking, and sinking! Socks keeps walking and I would like to keep walking with him but as I take another step forward my foot leaves my wellie behind, almost forgetfully, so now I am hopping. With a horse giant in one hand, my wellie stuck in the mud about three feet away, I struggle to keep my socked foot in the air.

If I can stop briefly on the wooden boards at the field entrance, I may be able to hop to my wellie. Yes, I can hop to my wellie! This idea might have gone according to plan, had Socks not decided that he was not going to walk on the aforementioned pieces of wood that Becky had put down especially for him earlier in the day in the field entrance. Not only will he not walk on them, but he won’t go anywhere near them.

So I hop, trying desperately to reach the boards before I put my socked foot down in the mud. Meanwhile, Socks avoids the boards with the same determination as me, but where I want to reach the boards, Socks is trying desperately to avoid them.

Socks strides on. Meanwhile my socked foot hovers in the air and…misses the boards and splidges into the mud custard.

Socks stops and turns, giving me an odd look as I hop, wellieless with a dripping, muddy sock.

I heave my wellie out of the mud and put my muddy socked foot inside my wellington boot. It squelches.

This is not a good feeling!






Ted the Teeth


Ted the Teeth is a Welsh Section A pony or should I say show pony? He’s rising five and just over 11 hands, in fact I think he is 11 hands 1 inch. And do you know what? He’s the meanest pony in the paddock.

There are younger, crazier horses at the yard, but this pony is the one I dread leading to or from the field the most. Why? Well, for the reason that he is the one that actually goes for you: he bites and not in a playful nipping kind of way, but in a tear the sleeve off your jacket, rip your ear off, maim your face kind of way.

He has always bitten and bitten to bruise, but now he is faster, fiercer and more on target, and now he goes for your face. He has always reared, but now he rears to strike.

His antics were questionable even when he was on loan to the sweetest, kindest little jockey, Grace: he’d try to squash her against the wall when she was trying to tack him up; he bucked her off every time she sat in the saddle – usually more than once per session; and he’d bite her when she led him in or out.

Little Grace was too nice for Ted the Teeth. She even cried when she stopped loaning him.

If I were her, I’d have celebrated! I think her mum probably opened a bottle of Bollinger!

But now Ted the Teeth isn’t doing any work, while his owner, Laura is feeding him just as much, so he’s getting fatter and meaner.

He’s got so bad leading him out that you really can’t take your eyes off him to open the gate as he is now going for your face. I can just about cope with a bitten, bruised arm, but not a bitten face.

The sad thing is that Laura is a what you see is what you get girl, who would do anything for you. More sad is that she can see no badness in Ted the Teeth.

Sadder still, I struggle to see a glimmer of goodness in him.

In fact, I can’t believe that Laura has managed to end up owning Back legs Bella and Ted the Teeth. How unlucky can one person be?

I’d love to be able to say, ‘Sure, I’ll bring them in for you,’ without my heart sinking!

What is worrying is that she seems to think that doing no work for a period of time will do Ted the Teeth good. Yet, she is talking about sending him to be produced for showing.

Let’s hope she finds a yard that’ll have him soon!




Streaming with cold


I am streaming with cold. I’ve not had a cold in ages, which is probably why I am feeling so awful. I have forgotten how horrible having a cold actually is.

I didn’t feel great at work on Sunday, in fact in the afternoon I felt a bit sick and very tired, but I carried on and managed to get all the horses in before the rain closed in – apart from Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth, whom Laura had asked to be left out.

Leaving them out came as music to my ears, as Ted is once again a nightmare, probably to do with being fed too much and doing no work.

There is a link between doing no work and being fed too much, Laura liking Ted the Teeth to look like a show pony, that is to say, fat and to keep him fat, she has to feed him a lot and when he’s fed a lot he is unmanageable. He was fed a lot before and little Grace, who was ‘loaning’ him,  with Laura’s help, was bucked off at least once every time she rode him, so she’s no longer loaning him, as finally Grace’s mum realised it wasn’t normal to be bucked off every time you got on. And so now Ted the Teeth is getting just as much food if not more, is doing no work at all, and is unmanageable verging on dangerous. God help us all!

However, my delight at not having to bring them in was tempered by Bella looking as if she was about to jump the fence any minute and bring herself in – something she has done before on more than one occasion.

I think next time Laura asks me to leave them out, I’ll make sure Bella’s stable door is open so she can just run straight in, should she jump the fence.

Laura and Chris arrived just as I was leaving. Their humour matched the grey sky and drizzle.

Laura dispatched her brooding welsh husband to muck out while she went to collect Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth from the field.

I walked back across my newly swept yard to see it covered in clods of earth from Bella and Ted’s feet.

I couldn’t bear to watch any more. Doubtless it would soon be covered with straw from the brooding welsh husband’s wheelbarrow.

Laura has always blamed Dave (who pronounces his name ‘Doof’) for all the straw on the main yard, which is actually hard to do now as all the horses on the main yard are on shavings.

I imagine she will have left the feed room door open too.

I think I am getting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about sweeping and yard tidiness!

This is worrying.




Surprise party


It’s Saturday tea-time and the phone rings. “It’s Jeanette’s birthday tomorrow. We’re having a surprise party at the yard from 5.30pm. Would you like to come?” asks Justine.

I don’t have to think about it. I’d love to.

“We’re taking her for a hack and that will give time to set everything up. Everyone who is coming will hide in the tack room.”

It sounds fun.

The next question throws me a little. Would I like to bring my husband and children along? That one I have to ponder. I’m not sure I would.

Quent is driving back to London either Sunday evening or Monday morning and his scale of sociability varies enormously from delightful through to disdainful. I am amazed he holds down a job where he has to be not only polite to people, but also has to be charming on a regular basis. And as for the boys, well their behaviour has a similar scale, ranging from angelic to demonic.

So I run it past them, would they like to go. If they don’t that’s fine, if they do, that’s also fine. I would like them to go if they all tow the line.

Do we need to bring anything? I was thinking along the lines of wine, crisps, salad, dessert, serviettes , that kind of thing, but I learn we need burgers, sausages and buns. Mm…not stuff we’ve got in the fridge in any great quantiites.

I say I’ll run over to Co op afer I’ve had a bath. I can’t do anything till I’ve had a Radox ‘Muscle Soak’ bubble bath.

Incredibly Quent offers to go and get some, but he returns empty handed from Co op, which had reverted from Olympic opening times to ‘inconvenience’ store times and was shut already. I ask why didn’t he carry on to Tesco and wonder why I didn’t go myself.

The next morning I am nearly late as I have to write Quentin a note about what to buy and have to run out to the utility room for a couple of bottles of wine to take to work with me, in case Quent forgets the cool bag with them in later. At least, if he fails with the sausages, there will be something to drink!

All day at work, I wonder whether Quent will manage to get the sausages, be pleasant and amiable, and whether the boys will behave.

It’s 5.30pm. Balloons are in place, candles are on cake, guests are hiding in tack room, wine is poured in plastic cups, barbecue is smoking and …

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!” Jeanette looks… I’m not quite sure how to describe how she looks, a combination of surprised, moved and mortified. Becky pours drinks and everyone chats.

The boys pat Larry. Not a horse I’d recommend they shower with affection and I suggest they go find another horse to pat. They go off and when I go to check they are okay, find them patting Little Ted, a Welsh Section A, whose teeth marks are regularly on my arm. I guide the boys back to the barbecue.

They eat a hot dog but it doesn’t take them long to be drawn back to Larry, who seems to have magnetic powers over them. He doesn’t seem to mind them. In fact he seems to be rather enjoying the fuss. They feed him grass.

“Remember flat hands!’

The boys remember flat hands, Larry loves them and keeps them good for hours. They feed him more grass, eat hot dogs and drink lemonade.

The evening finishes with a delicious birthday cake, which tastes as if Nigella had baked it

… and a good time was had by all.