Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy owniversary Fern! The story of how we met.

Our 4th owniversary was actually on the 3rd October. I did remember to tell all my pals and put it on my Faceache but I forgot to blog about it. 

Let me tell you how Fern and I met....

I met Fern by accident.

A friend of mine really wanted to go to a charity ride and as I have a trailer license, I am quite popular sometimes haha!
Unfortunately BH was lame and off games so I said I couldn't go.
She had just bought her horse from the local dealers so said she'd give them a ring and see if I could borrow one for the ride.

The dealers like to get horses out on fun rides to get experience under their belt so it was no problem for me to borrow one as long as I provided my own saddle and bridle and transport etc.
I popped over to the dealer's yard one afternoon to try one out. I took it round the block but it was so inexperienced, it was struggling to work out how many legs it should have had and which order they went in!
I asked if they had anything that was a dobbin and didn't do much at all so they drove me up to the top of the highest field and pointed to a little brown horse in the distance and said it didn't go faster than a trot so I agreed to collect her in the morning for the ride - I didn't even try her out!

We manhandled her into the trailer the next morning and set off for the ride.
The first time I sat on her was in an open field ready to set off on a fun ride. This could have gone sooo badly. Fun rides can send some horses a bit mental (*ahem* BH) but she was a doll!
We had a lovely ride and she stopped when asked and steered! What a novelty compared to BH! I definitely fell for her even though she was a funny little thing that was totally shut down mentally and didn't show any character.

after the fun ride
I was so sad having to take her back to the dealers who are nice people, but didn't give her the time of day. Just said "tie it there" and when I said I thought she was sweet, they said "well, it's for sale!" hmmmm...
They planted the seed!

I couldn't stop thinking about her but I had a poorly BH who was costing a fortune in vet bills and a very old pony so really didn't need another one!

I knew Fern had done a stint in a riding school in Somerset so I contacted a friend who worked there to ask her about Fern and how long they'd had her etc. They said she was a lovely little horse but she wasn't enjoying the riding school so it made me want her even more!

3 days later, I had a call at work from my friend's partner saying the dealers had called and said they had someone interested in her but if I wanted her, I could have first dibs....
I made an offer and agreed to buy her... Cripes!! What was I thinking?!?!

As I drove to the dealer's yard that evening, I rang mum and just said "erm... I've bought that horse and I'm on my way to pay a deposit on it" Then I just held the phone away from my ear!!

They said I couldn't keep her at home so I had better find somewhere pronto to keep her!
Thankfully, my neighbours were between horses and said I could keep her there for 2 weeks while I was looking for a yard.

The dealers were brilliant and agreed I could pay in installments for Fern so I paid over 3 months.
I also found out a little about Fern in that she was imported from Romania and they use chains as headcollars and she would have been a cart horse and that they are not very well treated and are very much working animals.

she looked awful when I first got her
I turned up to pick her up and ride home and I had no idea which one I had bought! I'd only sat on her for a couple of hours so I didn't know her very well at all. Luckily they had left her separate to the others so I tacked up and rode home.

On the way home, she was such an idiot and refused to go over any white lines on the roads... I did wonder what the hell I'd let myself in for!!

After 2 weeks at my neighbour's house, I hadn't found anywhere to keep her so she was allowed home and she transformed my very old pony into a wild thing who thought that being 20 years older than her was no problem!

She has been a total diamond and I love her so very much. I was so lucky to have found her.

She has come out of her shell a bit more now but can still be quite a closed book sometimes. Affection is only on her terms and basically I'm just her minion.

so beautiful...
She loves to gallop as fast as she can and she really loves hunting. I love to see her really enjoying herself and being free. She's a funny little thing bless her.

She thinks everything is going to kill her including her own shadow when it follows her along the hedge! She's a lovely solid ride, I trust her and we always have fun. She's not very brave when it comes to jumping which is challenging but we still have fun and enjoy ourselves. She makes me laugh when she gets all bolshy and thinks she knows best and she even makes me chuckle on the very rare occasion she gets so excited to be out hunting, she puts in a sort of bunny hop/buck.

She's a little diamond and everyone loves her.
I can't wait to spend many more happy years with her.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Stevie Wonder strikes again...

It's got to that time again.... Fern needs clipping!

We went out hunting for the first time this season on Saturday and although she was only clipped about 3 weeks ago, she's gone all fluffy again and got rather hot and sweaty whilst we were thundering across the moors.

I want to go out hunting again this weekend which means that I have to clip her after work during the week when there is failing light...

I decided to make a start on Monday evening and just do what I could then finish and tidy her up on other evenings.

I got carried away and did most of her straight away. Unfortunately I was doing it by the light of my headtorch and not very good overhead yard lighting which makes it very difficult to see where the lines need to be!

Who knows what it looks like! I've not seen it in proper daylight yet!
The lightning bolts on her bottom went ok... I hope! and I didn't attempt to clip her head or her nooks and crannies as these will need some care!

I thought I'd finish her head while she was in the yard on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, someone nearby was obviously throwing metal about and the clanging noises were making her very nervous and she was leaping about somewhat!
Her nooks and crannies between her legs still need doing but they are less noticeable than the rest of her!

Clipping horses in the dark is not recommended and I fully expect to find that my horse looks like Stevie Wonder has attempted to clip her whilst under the influence of alcohol!

Saturday morning will reveal all! Let's hope it looks better than I'm expecting it to!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Epic road trip!

At the weekend, I travelled about 700 miles all round the country to go and see my Nan for her 80th Birthday.

I went with my Dad and it was a bit of a surprise that we were going so we had to go and stay with my aunt and uncle in Suffolk. 

We went up to Birmingham, across and down to their house and it took about 6 hours including a short break in the village pub where we used to live in Northamptonshire.

We then set off from my uncle's the following morning to drive another 1.5/2 hours to Basildon where my grandparents live.

We arrived and Grandad answered the door and informed us that Nanny was out shopping! 
We then sat around until she appeared laden with groceries and had time for a brief catch up with my other uncle and 2 youngest cousins before we had to get to the restaurant for lunch.

It was so lovely catching up with everyone. It's been nearly 2 years since I've seen my grandparents, about 3 years or more since I saw my cousins and one uncle and probably over 10 years since I've seen my aunt and other uncle, if not longer!

Sadly we couldn't stay long as we had an epic drive home via my other nan's house in south London to collect some furniture.

I seemed to spend most of my weekend sat on my bum in the car but it was worth it to see everyone though. That side of the family are a real laugh and so full of life, it's a shame we live so far from them all!

I was very glad to get home to my little doggies and the ponies though.

The next adventure is up to London in a couple of weeks to go and see the poppies at the Tower of London. Exciting!


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Being an internet sensation!

This week has been bizarrrrre!

On Sunday, my friend and I set off for a nice ride round one of the local villages.
To get there, we have to come out of our lane, ride down a short stretch of main road (about 300m) and into another lane.

I'll spare you the details but basically, as we went round the blind corner in single file with an estate car behind us, some complete cretin overtook from behind everyone and nearly hit the motorbikes that we had seen approaching us.

I wear a GoPro camera on my riding hat and got it all on video!
When I got home, I watched it several times on the computer and then posted it to my local police Facebook page and asked whether they thought it would be worth reporting as it was a close call and definitely dangerous driving.

No one got hit, no one got hurt but it was a close call so I didn't know whether it would be worth reporting. The last time I reported a dangerous, abusive driver, they didn't do anything so I didn't want to waste their time if there was no need for it.

Luckily, a man who was driving the car behind the cretin commented and said he'd be happy to provide a statement if necessary and the Police said to report it to 101 and they'd investigate.

Aaaaanyway... the video went viral and it was mental!
Obviously, it got loads of comments from all sorts of people.... Quite a few horsey people defending us but sadly so many comments from people who don't want horses on the road - seriously... do they think we actually want to ride on dangerous roads? It's unfortunately a necessity.

It made me so angry that these people were being so abusive about horse riders. If the footage had come from a motorcyclist's helmet cam, they'd be up in arms!

The main arguments were:

You don't pay road tax - nope, no one does! You pay a tax on the harmful emissions your car produces. My horse does not produce harmful emissions therefore your argument is invalid.. NEXT!
Horses should just be ridden in fields - ok.. You can't just ride in any field because that's trespassing. I'll come and ride round your garden then shall I? It's also like saying you can never leave your house and you can only exercise by walking round your living room. How boring!
Why don't you stick to the bridleways? - where are these bridleways you speak of?! There are so few around and the ones that exist are usually very short and have loads of gates on them that need negotiating. We also have to use the roads to get to the bridleways and tracks so your point is invalid.
You don't pick up the poo - this is a major logistical issue and is just not feasible with a horse. Dog poo is dangerous to human health which is why it must be picked up. It is also more likely to be found on paths and in parks. Horse poo is just grass and is more likely to be found on the road where it disappears very quickly.
Why don't you stop and let the traffic go past? - because we were on the road for 3 minutes! It was not safe or convenient for us to stop or for cars to overtake so just be patient.
Horses don't have right of way - yes they do. It's in the highway code and they should be treated as you would any other vehicle.
I have a right to walk, ride or cycle on the public highway. To have a license to drive a car is a privilege, not a right.
The roads were made for cars - and what came before cars? The horse and cart? What is the power measurement of cars? Horsepower. Yep. The roads were made for horses and they have had to be covered in tarmac to protect them from cars.
Horsey people are arrogant, superior and stuck up - this is such an old fashioned view. Most horse owners give up so much just to keep their horses. I still live with my parents, drive a £300 car and work a near minimum wage full time job just to keep my horses fed and shod. I don't go out, I rarely drink because it's all so expensive when my horses need to be paid for! If I didn't have them, I could have my own house and all sorts! I'd rather have horses though :-)

I did have to sit on my hands and not bite back but it wasn't easy and there are some really nasty people out there. 
It amazes me how brave they are when they are hiding behind a screen. They would never say that sort of thing to your face.
It is soooo infuriating!!

The local police came to view the full footage and are going to speak to the driver of the car.
They also deleted the video due to the hundreds of abusive comments. It had just over 90,000 views when it was deleted!

I am so glad I wore my helmet camera and I will make sure I wear it on every ride now as I do quite often meet idiotic drivers.

Brown Horse's bottom is now an internet sensation! Hopefully it won't affect his already rather inflated ego hahaha!

Apologies for such a long ranting post. Can you tell it has wound me up slightly?!

As a little aside, I must commend the motorbike riders. They saw us coming and signalled to each other to slow down and they went past us slowly.
Every green laner I have ever met has been amazing. They slow right down and even usually stop and cut their engine until I'm well past them. Even a group of young lads stopped on the road for ages until we were well past them.
They really need a lot of credit as it is often motorbikes that get bad press for driving like idiots but these guys are fab and it is very much appreciated.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A stormy camping trip

I'm not a born camper... I don't like being cold and I don't like slumming it basically.
I have camped before at Pony Club camp when I was younger and the last time I camped was in 2013 at a friend's wedding where I took my horse trailer and slept in that so it was a little more civilised than a tent.

I'd love to go to Glasto but my friend has told me I would hate the filth and the loos and the camping in general so it makes me feel less bad about never going! 

This same friend then decided that we needed to go camping for a couple of nights... for fun!
She is based in Lincoln so we decided that the Cotswolds would be a reasonable distance from each of us so I did a quick Google search and found Thistledown Farm near Stroud.
It has no electric, no cars on the field and composting loos! Very eco-friendly!
It got amazing reviews and looked absolutely lovely so I sent the link to S who then insisted we must go ASAP!
We got time off work at the beginning of October (seriously... camping in a tent in October... yep....) and off we went with the doggies in tow.

There was an horrific storm due to roll in but S insisted we must go! I was dreading it slightly but also quite looking forward to our adventure and assuming that they would have got the weather report wrong as usual. 

Funnily enough, we were the only people on the entire site when we went so we asked where the most sheltered pitch was and they told us this little spot right down in the bottom of the valley next to the woods.
Because cars are not permitted, we had to lug everything down in wheelbarrows and it was quite steep so we had to hang on tight to the barrows of kit!

We pitched our enormous 8 man tent and cracked open a cider!
I had brought dinner with us so we cooked on our camp stoves and sat out on the picnic benches til it got cold and then we retreated inside.

We went to bed waiting for the storm to roll in. The doggies wore their jim jams and snuggled into their duvet but it was still pretty cold.

The wind picked up hugely and at about 5am S said "I don't want to alarm you....  but have we got any more pegs?"
Cue donning full wet weather gear and heading outside to pin the tent down on her side as the wind was trying to pick the tent up! One of the sections of pole had given way but it had got caught so was holding out.
The rain and wind combined made for a very miserable night but amazingly our tent survived.
We did get a little damp inside because the wind was whipping the tent about so much the lining was touching the outside and letting water in.
We did have to gaffa tape another bit of tent pole that had shattered but it held out.

We spent the whole morning sitting in the tent waiting for the storm to pass. We went back to bed for a while and when we woke up at lunchtime it was beautiful!

We went for a lovely walk in Woodchester Park which borders the campsite. It was rather wet in the woods and the doggies got sooo dirty! Monty had a shower when we got back which he wasn't impressed with!

We managed to light a feeble campfire and we had our dinner followed by marshmallows over the fire. 
We only had a fork to put the marshmallows on though so it was a bit of a comedy act trying not to burn your hands whilst cooking the marshmallow!

It rained on the second night but because the wind wasn't so bad, we stayed much drier!
Dixie also discovered that the inside of my sleeping bag was lovely and warm so squeezed in next to me. 
Sleeping bags are really not designed to fit a human and a small dog! It wasn't very comfortable I must admit! But at least Princess Dixie was warm and cosy in her 2 pairs of pyjamas and my sleeping bag! 

In the morning we packed everything up and paid for the campsite people to take all our stuff back to the car in their 4x4 vehicle rather than lug it all back to the top of the hill on foot!

We set off in search of the nearby Long Barrow and found it just up the road.
The view was a-maz-ing! Looking out all the way to Wales.

The long barrow was a small collection of stones so not very exciting!

We followed this little jaunt with lunch at a pub before we set off home in our separate directions.

We were all very glad to get home. Dixie hated camping but Monty didn't mind it.

Us humans quite enjoyed it and it was such a shame the weather ruined it as we could have done so much more!

We have said we'd like to go again and S has her sights set on the Lake District. It is beautiful up in the Lakes but it is so far away! It would take me about 6 or 7 hours to drive there!

We shall see. Maybe Cornwall or the Cotswolds again!


Monday, 13 October 2014

Meeting some Olympians!

Recently, I went to Carl Hester's yard in Gloucestershire for a morning.
It was organised by Heather Moffett of Enlightened Equitation and the money we paid to go along was split between 2 charities which was nice.

When we arrived, we were welcomed through the gates by one of Carl's riders and drove past the arenas where Carl was riding one of his horses.

There was a pile of dogs fast asleep in the sunshine at the edge of the arena and they all came mooching over to greet us. What a motley assortment there were! From a Mastiff type to a one eyed Dachshund, a boxer, poodle, collie, terrier etc. 

Carl directed us towards the indoor arena where we bumped into the one and only VALEGRO just heading back to his stable.
Charlotte Dujardin was also there and said a quick good morning before carrying on with getting her next horse ready.

We watched a 3 hour demo showing the different horses from the youngest at 4 years old up to Carl's World Equestrian Games horse, Nip Tuck.

It was so interesting to see what they look for in a horse and how they work them. 
Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos or videos while they were riding but it was better really because we were listening and watching 'properly' rather than through a camera lens.

Carl's methods of training are excellent and the way he keeps his horses is exceptional. 
He really is an incredible person and has done so much for the sport.
He deserves every ounce of credit he gets and every medal he wins.

Some of his horses cost so little (much cheaper than my hairy scraggy nags!) and now they are at world level. It goes to show that anyone can buy a potential top horse, you just have to know how to train it!

Carl was really interesting to listen to, funny, inspiring and I was riveted!

After the ridden demo, he took us over to the stable yard where the farrier was busy shoeing.
As we walked round the corner, he said 'that little cob over there is Valegro' and there he was! The wonder horse himself! Double Olympic gold medal winner, World, European, British champion. Basically one of the most famous horses in the world right now.
He was so friendly and inquisitive, checking us all out. We got a pat and a photo with him and then went and said hello to the others on the yard including Carl's Olympic gold medal winning ride Uthopia.
There was also Leibling who is retired now and Dances with Wolves who was shoving us to get our attention while we were cooing over Valegro.
The other horses are up and coming and I shall be keeping my eyes out for them on the future.
Here's some more info on Carl's Horses

It was the most amazing morning and I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to go. 
I still get all excited when I think about it!!


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Visiting an Olympian!

I am so excited!
Tomorrow I am going to visit a double Olympic gold champion!!

I have been invited to a group yard visit to Carl Hester's yard in Gloucestershire.
His yard also houses the legendary Valegro - double gold medal winning horse!

Carl represented Team GB in London 2012 and was part of the gold medal winning dressage team along with Charlotte Dujardin who rides Valegro. Charlotte and Valegro won individual and team gold.

Team GB had never won an Olympic medal for dressage ever, but in 2012 we got not one, but 2 gold medals! 

I'm not hugely into dressage but oh my... I so nearly cried watching Charlotte and Valegro do their freestyle at the Olympics. The music was very patriotic and that horse is just amazing. 

Watch their gold medal winning freestyle test here.

I have charged my camera battery and will be making sure there is enough space on my phone for a few pics as well.

eeeeeeeep! So excited!!


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Barcelona! - Things to Do

When you're in Barcelona, there are a few things you must do!
We stayed in the old part of the city, Born, which is probably the most interesting place and there's loads to see and do.

This Cathedral is tucked in amongst all the buildings at the bottom of the street called Carrer De L'Argenteria which is just by the Metro station "Jaume"
Pop in here to have a look at the stunning architecture. It's free to go in and look around. You can't get the whole front of the cathedral in a picture unless you stand in the street. The little area immediately outside the cathedral is filled with tables for the bars and restaurants and isn't a huge square you might expect to find in front of a cathedral!
The only way to get the cathedral in shot! From the street next to it!

As mentioned in my previous post. This is a very historic place and really interesting. I don't think you have to pay to get into the main area but if you want to go into the museum and artefacts areas, you need to buy a ticket.
We went the night before their national day and they had lit 300 candles in the ruins to mark the 300th anniversary of the revolution and they also had a piano recital which was just amazing. It was about 10pm and most of the lights were out so the candles really stood out and it was spectacular.
El Born CC

Seriously.... go here!
If you stand in front of the Cathedral Santa Maria Del Mar, go down the little street to the left and it's down there on your left.
It is like stepping back in time and is a fascinating place. Make sure you remember your camera!
They roast their own nuts and coffee beans every day so you can buy fresh, warm nuts and loose leaf tea, dried fruits and all sorts of other things.
Fresh roasted nuts in Casa Gispert

If you're stood in front of the Cathedral again, go down the right of it and you'll be in the square with the memorial to the martyrs.
The flame burns all year round and this is a very significant place on Catalonia's national day on September 11th.
Human tower in the square where the Martyrs' memorial is

Best. Ice Cream. Ever.
Mojito flavoured ice cream?! Yes please!!
I had Catalan Cream flavour and it was yummy but I wished I'd had mojito flavour. I tried some of my cousin's and it was so good!
This amazing little place is just next to the Cathedral on the left.
Inside, you'll also find coloured marshmallows (not pink and white!), beautifully decorated chocolates and macaroons in every colour and flavour.
Luckily (I guess) we only decided to sample this place on our last day or we'd have been in here all the time!
Amazingly decorated chocolates and colourful macaroons

My cousins stumbled (literally, by the sounds of it) across this bar on one of their evening adventures!
We went with them on our last night for a drink and it was great. Mojitos for 3.50!
They also have a range of their own flavoured gin which includes things like peppercorns and something and tomato and basil etc. Worth sampling!
Mojito at Rubi's

The National Day of Catalonia
September 11th every year. If you are in Barcelona for this date, enjoy it!
The first time we went in 2013, we had no idea what was going on so we carried on drinking and cheering with the locals. Turned out it was a protest and not a party! Haha!
This year we knew it was going to be the 300th anniversary of the revolution so we made sure we packed everything in before the national holiday so we could just enjoy the atmosphere on the day.
There are Catalan flags everywhere and people selling all sorts of stuff. We came back with wristbands, a t-shirt, flags and some bandannas (which we put on the dog...)
There was a flaming torch procession, banging drums, singing, dancing and cheering. 
This year they formed a massive "V" on a couple of the roads in Barcelona and on the news footage, they had all arranged themselves into red and yellow stripes. Apparently there were 1.8 million people there! Incredible!
They have a big gathering in the square where the martyr's memorial is and they make human towers. It's a little frightening to watch a kid climb up about 4 adults to wave a flag on top of the pile! We think this is something to signify the strength and power of the people.
Flaming torch procession

Explore the little streets
Stray away from the main areas and just wander through the network of tiny little lanes and see what you find. There are loads of little shops and restaurants tucked away down these tiny lanes and it's a really fun way to see the less touristy side of the city.
We found brilliant bars, restaurants and shops all off the main areas and in these little lanes.
A typical street

I think I've covered most of the cool things we saw....
Barcelona is the most awesome city and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

Let me know if you've ever been and what you thought was awesome.