Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Spring Flowers

I love spring! 

Everything is so colourful and the hedgerows are bursting with life. The fields are looking green and the rapeseed is so bright and so yellow! It lights up the valley.

Our garden is usually full of beautiful yellow daffodils but this year, there were hardly any!
They grew without the flowers so there are great big green leafy plants but no pretty flowers to match.

Luckily, there are other areas of the garden where the daffodils have flowered as well as the primroses and crocuses.

The bluebells and wild garlic are starting to come out now and the hedges are full of primroses.

We're so lucky to have all this right outside the door. I do love living in the countryside!


Friday, 24 April 2015

The Best Weekend!

Last weekend was awesome!

It was the weekend before my big birthday so I did loads of fun stuff.

On Saturday, I took Fern to Plymouth for some cross country (XC) schooling with my best friend, A.

She was awful and was really pushing my buttons. She obviously wasn't in the mood for jumping and was such hard work! Little Madam!!

On Saturday afternoon, I took the dogs up to Dartmoor to walk a XC course for a competition the following day.
I have to walk the course so I know the route and what each jump looks like so I am prepared and can ride each fence accordingly and know where I might have some problems.

Beautiful Dartmoor
I walked the 2' course and they were big! Very up to height and some were definitely up to about 2'6".

Walking the course on foot

Water jump - spot the dog testing the depth of the water for me!

Steps - aaargh!
I was terrified! I have been having dark thoughts for some time about taking BH and the thought of taking him round was filling me with dread - mostly because he's had so many problems with his legs over the last 6 years, I didn't want to break him and he's only seen solid fences once before because of his never ending leg problems!

These fences don't fall down when you knock them... and they were big... and BH doesn't have any experience.... Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me!

Helpers on an enormous jump! Chest height and easily 5 foot wide!
On Saturday evening, I had my birthday party at a local hotel. We had the most amazing meal and I had even made kiddies party bags for everyone which went down well haha!

The hotel has recently had some upgrades and WOW - their refurbished reception/bar area has got some beautiful big windows overlooking the bay and there was the most amazing sunset.
I got a huuuge birthday cake which was sooo yummy and it was just the best evening spending it with all my favourite people. 
Sadly my best friend S wasn't able to be there as she is in the forces and got posted abroad a couple of days previously.

Over dinner, my friend E convinced me to do the XC pairs class with her the following day.
We agreed to just trot round really steady and if I needed to pull up or miss a fence, I would. We just wanted to get round safely and carefully!

On Sunday, we made the hour long drive to the competition on the moors. E and I were both terrified.... We went and entered and got our numbers - no going back now!
BH was being an absolute cretin! Oh my days, that animal is an absolute nightmare when he's wound up.
The number of horses around and the fact he was actually somewhere other than home sent him bananas.
I decided it would be a wise decision to get his bridle on before letting him off the trailer or I'd never get it on.
After much battling, swearing and very nearly a total breakdown, I got his bridle on by building it around his head while he was trying to turn himself inside out whilst still confined to his stall in the trailer.... yay! 
Once off, he was just spinning around and being completely idiotic. It took 2 of us to get his saddle and boots on because he couldn't stand still. He was dripping with sweat before I even got on, he was so wound up.
Wild animal
I managed to get on after 282183615 attempts and then, bizarrely, felt quite calm! I can keep up better when I'm on board and maybe I had just accepted that death was probably imminent and I had come to terms with my fate. 

In the start box... terrified!
E and I went to the practise ring where everyone was going round in their pairs looking calm and in control.
E's horse is a bit of a problem horse sometimes as well so she went off on her own and BH just pranced around with lots of people admiring his from a safe distance! A couple of people asked me what breed he was - I assured them he certainly wasn't bred on purpose!!

I had taken my GoPro along but they wouldn't let me wear it which was a shame because it would have been hilarious!

E and I lined up in the start box and we were counted down. 3...2....1.... go!
So much for taking it steady! E shot out of the start box to the first fence and BH went crazy because he thought he was getting left behind! 
He galloped off and got quite close to E's horse - I thought he'd kill us at the first fence because he wasn't looking at what was ahead.

We leapt over the first fence and headed downhill to the 2nd. I had to yell to E to slow down because I was worried BH was going to slip as I had no control.
She popped over the second and shot off towards the 3rd. BH leapt over the 2nd like a kangaroo and then charged after her! 

BH the kangaroo!
I managed to turn him towards the 3rd without him slipping over.
We sailed over and E was already over the 4th.

Definitely not going to touch this one!
I thought I'd end up doing the huge part of fence 4 due to my lack of brakes but managed to get over safely.

Lack of steering and brakes!
E shot off over the 5th and BH was so out of control, I couldn't get him over the 5th in time so we had to circle and do it again.
I had managed to catch E's attention by yelling for her to slow down so she let me catch up before shooting off again.

Fence 5, take 2!
Fence 6 was bearable, fence 7 was on a slight downhill and BH was bowling along way too fast for my liking but there wasn't anything I could do to stop him.

We sailed over fence 7 like we were jumping around Badminton Horse Trials and I think it was about this point I stopped fighting him so much and just steered as best I could!

How big?!

The fear on my face!! No control!! 
We pinged over fence 8 and sailed over fence 9.

Fence 10 was a large brush - the horses are supposed to brush through the foliage on top but BH leapt over like a gazelle!

E and Gem leading us over fence 10

You're supposed to brush through the foliage BH... not clear it!
The next jump was the water jump - BH trotted over the crocodile and E's horse was hesitating slightly so we trotted through the water with her following.

Leading through the water
E took the lead again and we swerved through a stone gateway and past an old stone barn and sailed over fence 12.

Flying! Out of control!
Fence 13 was some tyres which BH flew over in hot pursuit of E.
If only E would slow down a bit, I would feel a lot safer than I do!! Her horse is much more experienced than BH so we could have done with some help!

Wait for us!
The ground was quite hard and this makes it slippy - OK if you've got control to be able to slow down a little and take corners carefully but BH was just going hell for leather and I was so worried he was going to slip over.

Fence 14 went by in a blur and we galloped on to fence 15 which had concerned me.
It was a solid, up to height jump on a downhill with a turn through a stone gateway just after it.
BH leapt over and then stumbled on landing and very nearly hit the deck.
I just about managed to stay on but I think that was because I had been sitting back and riding in the "brace" position the whole time!
We skidded along and round the gatepost, pausing for a millisecond to gather my reins up again before heading on to a simple brush fence at fence 16. 
E's horse had calmed down enough now that she offered me the lead over this one which we did with no trouble - I think BH was finally getting a little tired!

Fence 17 was a set of steps up - BH has never seen anything like this in his life so I had no idea what to expect here.
E went up first and BH leapt up the first step hot on her heels but then realised there was a 2nd step to do which he got up, but not very elegantly!
We then had a steep uphill climb to the next fence.

Fence 18 was nice and little so we took the lead and popped over it and headed towards fence 19 which was some really big tyres - definitely not 2'!!
E led over them and BH followed nicely - he was finally getting tired!!

Finally getting tired!
The last fence was a nice simple brush which E went over first and BH almost skipped out of the side but we managed to jump it then a final sprint to the finish line.

Over the last! Thank goodness!
I swear I didn't breathe the whole way round, I was so scared!
E and I were soooo glad to be over the line alive!
I was so proud of BH and had the best time ever even though I was so convinced he was going to kill us by being so out of control!
I was on such a high and it was such a buzz! I want to go again!

When we got back to the trailer he went back to being an absolute terror and I just got him in and headed home as E was leaving for her next class.

Back home, he went back in the field as calm as anything and was absolutely fine!
I was amazed he was so sound on his legs seeing as he'd not gone carefully or slowly at all.

On Tuesday evening, it had all caught up with him and he was really sore bless him.
He's on painkillers and off games for a few days until he starts looking better and the ground gets softer again!

I had THE. BEST. WEEKEND in a long time!
All my favourite people, my horses and dogs and doing super exciting fun stuff!

Let's do it again sometime!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Happy Birthday Monty Dog!

Today is Monty's 2nd Birthday!

This morning he got 3 new toys and he was so excited, he didn't know which one to play with first. He tried to pick more than one up, but that didn't work so he just picked one and promptly broke the squeaker.

His favourite toys are the Kong Squeezz Jels so I completed his collection.

His first one, he chose himself from the farmer's merchant and it was a pink pig. It was THE best toy ever until orange beaver turned up... Now he's got the frog, the hippo and the koala so we'll have to see who will be the favourite now!

The Kong toys are really good and really tough and the squeakers are nigh on impossible to break. It won't surprise me if the squeaker starts working again in the koala....
Lunchtime update: it's squeaking again! 

They have got some of Dixie's left over birthday cake for treats today as we're in the middle of lambing so didn't make him his own cake (I know... I feel terrible!) but he's super happy with his new toys and we had a ball game in the field this morning.

Happy Birthday Mr. Monty dog!


Friday, 10 April 2015

5 years ago

5 years ago on 6th April 2010, I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

I fell off my dear little BH and whacked my head. Thankfully I was wearing a helmet because it definitely saved my life!

I was riding him in a small corner of the field which is fenced off and something upset him and he started leaping across the school. I hung on for a while but ended up coming off. My head is probably 8 feet high when on him and I came off at speed.
I thought I came of in the middle of the school but I was found under the hedge!

There is a house overlooking our fields and it was empty at the time but a workman had popped back to pick up some tools and heard me squeak as I came off. He leapt over the hedge, barbed wire and the school fence to come and scrape me up.

All I could think about was getting back on my horse which is instilled in you when you learn to ride - if you come off, you get straight back on again! - but I could barely stand up and I had no idea until a week later when I bumped into the man, that I'd actually been knocked out!

I managed to capture the panicking BH and get back on, thanking the man and telling him I was fine when I really wasn't. I have very little recollection of what happened.

I somehow managed to drive to work in Plymouth the following day but they sent me straight to hospital when they could see me slurring my words and definitely not being normal!

Derriford Hospital were useless! I told them I couldn't focus on the writing on the posters and that I didn't know if I'd been knocked out. They just gave me some mild painkillers and sent me back to work.
I decided to go home from work and ended up having 2 weeks off work with severe concussion. I had 2 more trips to hospital over the next couple of weeks and each time they just sent me away. Eventually they decided that I had probably had a small bleed on the brain and a small fracture to my skull but by this point it was too late to treat it. They never once scanned my head to see what was going on inside. 

Having a brain injury is no fun at all. I couldn't stay awake for more than about 20 minutes and would even fall asleep in the field when feeding lambs!
Imagine the worst hangover you've ever had and then have it constantly for about 8/10 weeks..... horrible!

I had hit the back right hand side of my head which is the bit that affects speech, concentration and memory.
 I would get halfway through a sentence and forget what the beginning of it was and what I was talking about. I was slurring my words a bit and couldn't remember the right words for things. It was so infuriating and I got upset about it quite quickly because I had no control over it.
If I concentrated on anything for too long, the right side of my brain would feel like it was stuffed with wool. It is a very bizarre sensation! 

I should probably have had a 3rd week off work but I decided to go back and take things carefully. 

After about 5 weeks, I got bad whiplash symptoms and felt like my head was going to roll off my shoulders.
I had lots of physio and they tried to take my driving license from me and stop me working!
I had nerve damage and was a little weak down one side but not too bad.

5 years down the line and I still have my hat as a souvenir (it is cracked from top to bottom and all dented), I still own BH and know he never meant to hurt me.
I was never a big drinker before my accident but with a brain injury, you lose all tolerance to alcohol so now I stick to only one or two on the rare occasions I go out. I think the long term hangover feeling is enough to put me off ever wanting to have a self inflicted hangover ever again!

The moral of the story... ALWAYS wear a helmet!! 


Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Ok, so I've been back a week already and just haven't had a chance to write about our city break in Barcelona. I've been so busy since we got back and had lots of stuff going on.

We had the best time! The weather was mild and dry for a couple of days but a bit damp on our last day!

On our first day, we had to kill time until we could collect our keys so we walked up to Casa Battlo which is one of Gaudi's well known projects in the city. I love all the colours and shapes on this house. The roof is said to be based on a dragon.

In the evening, we went to a local restaurant for tapas - I tried squid and am still alive. Who'd have thought it wasn't that horrible?! I couldn't bring myself to eat the tentacles though!

We hopped on the open top tourist bus for the second day and did the sights. We definitely chose the right day to do it. Spring sunshine and no rain! It's not a cheap option but it is the quickest and easiest way to get around.

I had done my research for new things to see and do so this time that we've not done before. We got off the bus at the MNAC (National Art Museum of Catalonia) and sat on the steps to eat our lunch. The views over the city from here are amazing.

We then had a short walk up to the Olympic Park  where we had a brief walk around. Unfortunately we were pressed for time and weren't able to stay longer. We then walked down the road to get on the cable car that takes you over a lovely park to the Castle of Montjuic right on top of the hill.

The views from the cable car are spectacular. You can see the whole city and the ports. It was around 10€ as we had a discount voucher and it was well worth it.

The castle is excellent with amazing views. It was 5€ to get in but we decided to just walk around the perimeter instead which we really enjoyed. It was about 1km so made a lovely walk.

When we got back down to the main city and ports, we stopped at the Column of Columbus and I had seen that we could get a lift to a viewing platform at the top so 3 of us got in the tiniest lift I've ever seen and were taken to the top. The man taking us up there said it could fit a maximum of 6 people in it but I have no idea how you would fit 6 in! 

There was only enough room on the platform for a maximum of 12 people and we shuffled around looking out of the window. 
The views were amazing but it did feel a little like the top of the column was moving in the wind. It probably wasn't but it did feel a bit funny! 

We rang the doorbell to alert the lift man we wanted to be collected and he appeared a couple of minutes later to take us back down. It was a strange little trip but also really awesome too.

The following day, it was a little drizzly so we did the indoor market, a couple of cathedrals and the museum showing the old part of Barcelona they uncovered when they were restoring a market. It is a bit like the Roman Baths in Bath. Fascinating to see and imagine what it was like.

On our last night, we tried a tiny little restaurant next door to our apartment called Petra and it was lovely. Absolutely tiny and I think we were lucky to get in.
The chandeliers were made of cutlery and the menu was on a wine bottle!

After dinner, I finally persuaded everyone to go to a bar just round the corner that we had the most amazing Mojitos at last time.
We had one and decided that as it had gone down rather well (it was bloomin' strong!), we should have another one!

After 2 Mojitos, we called it a night and S and I hopscotched on the paving and our mothers wanted to go out dancing! We definitely had do bounce off the walls back to the apartment!
Clearly, we can't handle our alcohol very well!

Thankfully we had a lie in the next morning before making our way to the airport!

Tragically, there had been a plane crash the day before that had taken off from Barcelona Airport so it was crawling with press and cameras from all the different news stations.

We arrived back at Gatwick and made our connecting bus with 5 minutes to spare - passport control seemed to take forever!

We got back to my Aunt's house in Brighton just in time for fish and chips before setting off on a very long drive home!