It’s been a hard morning. I had a message which set me off in a bad mood and on a bit of a rant about Dad and the mess he left me with. Because why be angry with situations that can actually be changed, when you can be angry with someone who’s dead?!
Oh, and it’s his 60th birthday, or would have been. So, angry with him for leaving this shit behind. Upset because it’s his birthday and a reminder he’s not here. And guilty because I’m angry with him on his birthday, and he’s not here.
The days when things go right are great, or fine at least. But today I was thinking about all the things that go wrong, and I was so angry with him for leaving jobs undone or half done. So I come along with less experience and less knowledge, and have to learn how to deal with this stuff, as well as trying to deal with the estate, earn a living, and have a life.
I just wish he’d left it all a bit tidier. But he never was a tidy person. And neither am I, so maybe I’ll do the same?!
There are things that need to be done, and I am making some headway slowly. I’ve had help from people with various things, but I refrain from asking for too much help because I don’t want to be a burden. I’m quite happy to pay for help, so I’m finally getting round to having some fences built. I’m just so fed up of a tractor that doesn’t work properly (that he deliberately wanted that way!), a half-done water supply, and a ‘tenant’ I don’t like. And why couldn’t he just get his arse into gear and get a proper shed built? Instead I have the remains of a mobile field shelter that blew over the hedge in high winds, so it’s just added to the general mess.
I feel so alone in this. No matter how many people are willing to help or do help, I am alone. I will always try to be strong and to not be a burden, so I will only let people help with a certain amount. And as much as I might be angry with him at times, no one else is allowed to be. That hurts in a different way, and is likely to make me bottle up even more.
I’ve been very aware of my blogger’s block lately and thinking about why I wasn’t writing anything. This isn’t really the tone/subject I was hoping to start up with, but hopefully the block is gone.
So if I give up mounted games training, what will I do?
It is only fair to say that games is not the only reason I’m miserable at the moment. My job is not a career and is not something I want to be doing for too long: I need to find a job I’m really passionate about. I don’t see much of my friends; in fact, I don’t feel like I have many friends anymore. I don’t have much money, meaning I don’t feel I can make much of an effort to go out and have fun. I’m dragging my feet with Dad stuff.
But I don’t feel I’m in a position to do much about those things. I’m kinda stuck here with the horses, so I’ll have to find a job around here. And now my hours are going up, I might as well stick around until the end of the contract and then see what’s what. And I’ll have a bit more money then too. If I had more time for friends, I might make more time for them. Dad stuff will come to an end soon, and I just need to pull my socks up and get on with it.
I’m not getting what I used to out of games. It has been more stress than fun this year. Sure, next year could be better, but I would have to invest another 12 months to find out. Another 6 months of feeling like I’m talking to a brick wall. Another 6 months of no weekends. Another 2 months of sleepless nights.
And all for what?
I want Dad to have a legacy; I don’t want his life.
So what would I do?
I suppose the possibilities are endless. I could work on my own horses. I could do something with the dogs. I could visit family. I could visit friends. I could go away for weekends, walking and taking photos. I could blog more. I could volunteer with different organisations that might have career prospects. I could get another job and save money to go travelling.
In short, yes. I have 15 horses. I had a cat which my grandparents looked after for a while before he died in 2011, and they now have a new cat. My mother has 2 dogs and 3 chickens. My ex-housemate had a dog and a cat, and the cat came back to live with me for a few days.
I tend to prefer the idea of cats to dogs as they’re more independent and less needy, but I love our dogs to bits (scroll down to the two Bichon Frises). They have such great characters and are so different, despite being the same breed and being related. Jack is a real mummy’s boy, always making out he’s ever-so-delicate and vulnerable. He can only drink and eat out of plastic bowls because he doesn’t like it when his collar clinks on metal or ceramic. Eddie has become a bit like a cat in his old age, looking at everyone and everything like they’re dirt. He has a great vocal range as well, making all manner of trilling sounds.
My cat, Lister, was awesome. Most of the time he would look at you with such disdain. Every week he would change his mind about what type of food he liked, and when you served the one that had gone out of taste, he would look at you as though you were trying to feed him his own crap. Other times he would be very playful, but his idea of playful was to scratch the hell out of you! You could see it coming too, because he’d wait for you at the top of the stairs with his tail swishing in that ‘about-to-pounce’ way. And other times he would be affectionate. He would sit on my chest when I was in bed, pawing away and basically ripping through my skin, and purring so loudly I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep. I loved him lots.
The new cat, Shambles, is similar. He’ll take your hand off if you try stroking him when he doesn’t want you to. But my favourite thing about him is how he’ll just sit anywhere. He tends to follow people around, so he’ll greet you at the door. Then if you get chatting in the hall, he’ll just plonk himself down on the floor, in everyone’s way.
I grew up with horses and wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had disposable income, I would probably fill my fields with horses and ponies rescued from all over the place. They are beautiful creatures and I cannot understand anyone who doesn’t like horses. And unlike wet dogs, wet horses is one of the best smells in the world. I frequently wander around them in the rain, taking deep breaths usually just behind their ear. I wish I could bottle that smell!
Veganism and domestic animals is an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, pets are really there for our benefit, are not in their natural environment, and it is wrong according to veganism. But on the other hand, if the alternative is for those animals to die, then I know which I prefer. I definitely think we need to change how we think about animals: get rid of puppy mills and limit any sort of breeding. I think this is particularly important in hard economic times. I’ve lost count of the number of pet rescue posts I’ve seen where owners simply can’t afford to keep their animals anymore. And horse breeders who are selling or giving away youngsters due to overstock. We need to think about the animals that are already in the world before bringing new ones in.
So I’m feeling a bit better than I was when I write this post: my car did have more damage but it didn’t cost as much as I thought it might do. I got electrical contact spray which managed to get my Dad’s car started, and so I could start the tractor and use it to feed the horses.
Which is good news because when I don’t have the tractor, this is how I have to feed:
And considering the horses need at least 1 bin each, twice a day, and I have 13 to feed, it’s a lot of physically hard work – I’m not wearing short sleeves because of the weather!
My friend came to help me one day in December when I was moving the bales and was really impressed with my tractor driving skills, so she took some photos. All I’m doing here is re-stacking them to try to get the bales with ripped wrapping to the front so I can use them first.
It’s not perfect but I get the job done. When I’m feeding, I drive two bales to two round feeders, and one each to two other paddocks. Over the winter when I was feeding concentrates to some of the ponies, I fed hay at the same time rather than give them a bale. I did that twice a day using the bins, but I think the most impressive part of that job was that I used the tractor to get a bale into the horse trailer, which is only just wide enough.
I was also happy that I managed to find the key to open the diesel tank so I could finally put some fuel in the tractor. And my field shelter has now been put upright again. Still some work to do inside, but at least it’s at the right angle now.
Unfortunately there is always rough with smooth: my water troughs are self-filling, and connect via a series of above ground water pipes. There is also a hose-end to one of the pipes. A couple of weeks ago I found a leak in the connector of the hose so had to shut off the stop-tap to that and also one of my water troughs. Today I found a split in a pipe to another trough and so had to shut off the stop tap to the rest of my troughs. And the really annoying part? I have loads of spare pipe, but it appears the split pipe is a different thickness to the rest of the pipes!
Yesterday’s Daily Prompt over at the Daily Post at WordPress was:
“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?
Once again it is more appropriate to respond on my Blogger site.
Shockingly the answer is no, I am not living happily ever after. I don’t think the answer would be any different if Dad was still here, or even if Dad never got cancer. I’d still be a Masters graduate working well below my qualification level, with very little optimism about that changing. I’d still have lost one of my best friends for an unknown reason. I’d still be angry about the state of the world.
I also think that I’m the kind of person who changes their mind and switches their goals fairly often, either because I achieve something or because I just decide I want to do something else. I think I’m an ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ kind of person: I don’t have a finalised bucket list but a constantly changing list instead. So I don’t think ‘happily ever after’ is a concept that applies to me.
But Dad isn’t here any more, and it’s changed everything. I used to like quotes such as
you make your own luck
But not so much any more. There are so many other forces acting on you. Dad got cancer and I got more stuff to do. I had to think about changing my plans to make sure he was still looked after. Then Dad died, and I got a lot more stuff to do. It’s changed everything. I’ve gone from a very independent person with few ties, to someone who jointly owns a house and land which are rented out, and the sole carer of 12 horses.
I love my horses and I don’t want to change that. But I now need to switch my goals, to consider what I can and want to achieve in my new situation.
I have both Blogger and WordPress sites, and one of the nice things about WordPress is the Daily Prompt on the Daily Post at WordPress. Today’s is:
Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Write about a time everything did — fiction encouraged here, too!
The idea is that this blog gives other bloggers ideas, and people tag this blog post in their replies. However I use my WordPress site for photography only, so responding to this prompt doesn’t really belong there.
So here I am, responding on my Blogger site.
I have my car, my Dad’s car, and a tractor. My car desperately needs brake pads, so isn’t really roadworthy. I can’t get the key to turn in Dad’s car, which possibly means I need electrical contact spray, as the ‘steering wheel jiggle’ and trying to straighten the key didn’t work. It’s also stuck a mile away from my fields. The tractor needs a jump start from Dad’s car in order to move. I need the tractor to move the bales to feed the horses. My car is getting new brake pads tomorrow.
Murphy’s Law: there’ll be more damage and I won’t be able to drive it away again.
Murphy’s Law: the electrical contact spray won’t work, the car will still be stuck, I won’t be able to feed the horses, and I’ll have to pay for a mechanic to go see Dad’s car.
I feel like there must be more going wrong, or certainly more that could go wrong. Occasional jailbreaks by the ponies, which might prolong laminitis. The thought of having to learn how to chain harrow and roll, and worrying about getting it wrong. Thinking about the need to put up fencing and make paddocks.
Shame I didn’t know about the Channel 4 series sooner – I could have been a part of it!
Dad was a farmer and I grew up on the farm, but took very little interest in farming. If it wasn’t baby lambs or calves, or having fun driving the tractor, I didn’t care. I just liked my horses.
But this summer I had to learn a bit more because Dad was in so much pain that he couldn’t do as much of the work. I had to learn how to operate the front loader on the tractor so I could move the water container around to fill the troughs, and also had to move and stack the round bales. And I drove the tractor on the roads for the first time ever, which was an experience. Middle of town and I just could not get it into 4th gear! And the indicators don’t switch off automatically!
But now I have to learn lots of other stuff, because I have land to maintain. ‘Farmer’ might be a bit of a stretch for what I do, but there’s livestock (horses), 20 acres of grazing to get haylage from; so there is real work to be done. And there’s 40 acres of rented land, so I’m a landlady too!
I’m going to have to learn about chain harrowing and rolling, and the right conditions for cutting, turning and baling haylage. Thankfully we get someone else to come and do the baling and wrapping. There’s also fences that need putting up and maintaining and probably other stuff that hasn’t occurred to me yet. We’re in a nitrogen restriction zone so I don’t have to worry about fertiliser, and the land is really good anyway.
I also have to look after the horses, who are quite low maintenance for horses, but the conditions in the fields are making it a hard slog at the moment. And some of the horses don’t really understand that when you walk into an electric fence, you should stop and go back, rather than carry on walking through it.
The Boys in the photo are a bit susceptible to laminitis, so they have to be on restricted grazing and get hay and concentrated feed. This photo was taken on Saturday when I extended their paddock (which had turned into a mud bath). They showed their appreciation for grass by cantering up and down and rolling in it.
The rest of the horses are totally low maintenance with regard to food: just hay and water in winter, and grass and water in summer. But they’re the ones who don’t understand fences so just bring other issues!
Aside from the mud baths the British weather has been presenting plenty of challenges so far. There’s the frozen ground that the horses struggle to walk on, frozen water in troughs and frozen water pipes, and snow. The horses aren’t hugely bothered by the cold, but it means I have to go round smashing ice and carrying water to make sure they’ve got all they need.
But the best challenge has to be the wind. For the past couple of days I’ve wondered if I was going to blow away while trying to sort their food. One of the dividing fences gets pushed down to about a foot from the ground, essentially making it useless. I have to play ‘find the food bucket’ every time I arrive because they’ve all blown into the hedge somewhere.
But my ‘favourite’ event occurred weeks ago. The wind was so strong it did this:
It is basically still in one piece so I’m hoping it can be lowered down gently and still work. Not that it really matters because the horses didn’t like it anyway!
I’m hoping to blog a bit of a mini-series of my adventures as a farmer, much like my travel blogs but with less travel and more stress no doubt.
Obviously as a vegan and horse-lover I am completely against horses being slaughtered for food. But if they must be slaughtered, it can at least be done as humanely as possible. No animal should undergo abuse in their final journey.
Please sign this petition to investigate incidents, bring in new procedures, and install CCTV in abattoirs.
…while millions watch, either at Aintree or on their TVs at home, cheering if the horse they put their money on won, or sulking if they didn’t.I continue to wonder how the people involved in horse racing can honestly claim to care about the animals. And shame on the BBC and RSPCA for continuing to support this. Nothing about horse racing is about the animals or their welfare. They are pawns in the entertainment industry, dressed up in pretty colours for people to enjoy betting and a day of drinking and merriment.
Yet while the ladies and gentlemen in the grandstand continued to enjoy their drinks, horses were being treated and put down on the racecourse.
A horse of mine was put down because he was kicked by another horse and it broke his leg. Completely sliced off about 6 inches above his hoof. I heard the shot that killed him. That was about 13 years ago, and I can still remember it. I wonder if anyone at Aintree (or any of the other countless racecourses where horses are killed) heard or will remember it?
Ignorance is bliss. It must be so nice to go for a day at the races, not for one second thinking about all the horses that are bred into that world, never make it, and end up as dog meat or glue. It must be nice not to think of the retired racehorses who are not cared about anymore. Only the ones who don’t win big of course.
I’ll support horse racing when it’s the jockeys who are getting beaten around a 4-mile course at full speed, expected to jump hedges bigger than them.
Rest in peace Old Man. Thanks for the memories. 18 years is a long time to be in each others lives, even if I haven’t spent much time with you for the latter half. But this isn’t about my guilt for not seeing enough of you or not looking after you the way I should have. This is about the sadness that you’re gone, the hole you’re leaving behind, and remembering you.
Your beautiful blue eyes
Always the first to the gate at dinner time
Worrying about you cantering around with the others while you were loving it, and that ridiculous snort that made them all go nuts!
Bracing myself for the painful nose nudge in the groin every time I went to see you
Escaping onto the grass verge outside the farm in the dead of night, and getting as much grass as you could before James and I put you back in
Chewing a hole in the bottom of sugar beet bags and eating it raw, then being put back in your stable and just hoping you’d be OK
Daz: gets your pony white but gives your daughter eczema!
Trying to roll with me on your back at our first PC rally
Sunburn on your nose every summer
Eating your way through a brush fence in XC training
Chewing Sheila’s pocket off to get the food inside
Bucking at the top pole of the Bending
Your bridle coming off in musical sacks – unfortunately eliminated for that because you’re supposed to be in contact with your pony when you reach the sack!
Dancing in any river any time
Best pony ever at the Water Container Race – slow and steady!
Unfortunately with the positive comes the negative, and all the times I kicked and screamed at you because you wouldn’t go, and using my whip and spurs on you. And now I’ve run out of time to make up for that.
I’m glad you died naturally because I don’t think putting you to sleep is a decision I could ever have made. But you deserved to go peacefully in your sleep, wrapped up in a stable. Not lying in the snow on one of the coldest days of your life. I hope you weren’t in too much pain. I love you dearly and will miss you a great deal.
I’ve been sat here for a few minutes wanting to write something, but not really sure what to say. Then looking back over previous posts, I realised that I’ve gone a bit quiet on the Mounted Games front.
So to sum up… Flint & Denbigh took 3 senior and 2 junior teams to the Area 5 final in May, and one senior and one junior qualified for the Zone finals. So on the first weekend of July we travelled across to Newark on Trent for them to compete. The junior team were too focussed on qualifying and points and position; instead of concentrating on doing their part correctly. They also had a bit of bad luck, and ended up 10th out of 14, and they could’ve done better.
The seniors however were an absolute pleasure to be with that day. They were mature, they concentrated on what they were doing, and they qualified for a few finals. They did disastrously in a couple of heats, which we had a good laugh about. And they missed out on a couple of finals by a few strides, which was more disheartening.
But they did enough. And they’ve qualified for the Pony Club Championships in Draycott, Derbyshire on Tuesday. The winner of their competition will take the last place in the Horse of the Year Show. Hopefully we will have as much fun as we did at Zone. I don’t fancy their chances of winning, but they should already be very proud of themselves. They are now the most successful F&D senior team (the previous one was mine which qualified for Zone back in 1997).
We had a very successful day on 18th April, hosting the F&D Mounted Games Friendly. Thanks to all those who helped out: the day went really smoothly, and the other teams really enjoyed themselves.
Both the Quarters (Anna, Ceri, Eleri, Mari and Sam) and Stripes (Alex, Anya, Nan, Suzi, Wenz) did very well in their heats: Quarters finished with 30 points and Stripes with 25, and both qualified for the A final. The Dimaonds team of Lousiha, Sam, Yaz and two Waen-y-Llyn members (Charlotte and Megan) did really well considering they only met that morning! They finished with 18 points and going through to the B final.
The gloves came off for the A final and it was a battle for first place between the Quarters and Stripes. Quarters won 3 races, 2nd in two, 3rd in two and one fourth. Stripes won 3 races, 2nd in two, 3rd in two and one fourth. By the last race they finished equal first on 23 points, one point ahead of United Pack. They raced in the Two Flag for the tie-break. The Stripes made a couple of mistakes and the Quarters were victorious.
In the B final, the Diamonds were consistently good: they got two 1sts, five 2nds and one 3rd. They finished on 25 points and in second place.
Senior A Final:
1st Flint & Denbigh Quarters … 23 points (won on tie break)
2nd Flint & Denbigh Stripes … 23
3rd United Pack … 22
4th Berwyn & Dee … 12
Senior B Final:
1st United Pack … 29 points
2nd F&D & WYL mixed … 25
3rd Cheshire Hunt South … 18
The Quarters (Alex, Alys, Becky, Georgia, Wil) qualified for the A final, and the Stripes (Charlotte, Eden, Megan, Sophie, Tomos) qualified for the B final.
The Quarters didn’t get off to a great start with two 3rds, but things improved and they got two 2nds and two 1sts, and also an unfortunate elimination. They finished with 18 points and in 3rd place, behind United Pack A and Waen-y-Llyn.
The Stripes got two 1sts, three 4ths and a 2nd before the last race. At that point, three of the four teams were on 14 points and it was a battle for 2nd place behind Cheshire Hunt South A. The Stripes raced really well and came in 2nd, and finished the competition in 2nd place.
Seniors … Session 1 The Quarters team (Anna, Eleri, Mari, Sam Major, Wil) did reasonably well with a first and two seconds. They finished with 30 points and in 7th place. The Stripes team (Alex Major, Anya, Nan, Suzi, Wenz) also did reasonably well and finished just behind the Quarters with 28 points. The Diamonds team (Georgia, Louisha, Sam, Sophie, Yaz) finished in 15th place with 20 points.
Session 2 Mari had a fall in one race and had to retire for the rest of the session – Wil stepped in and did very well having not practiced the senior races! They finished the session with 30 points, bringing their total to 60 points and putting them in 11th place. Stripes also finished with 30 points, giving them a total of 58 and in 12th place. Diamonds finished with 19 points and in 16th place.
Session 3 Mari was back with us and feeling much better after a bath and sleep in her own bed (unlike the rest of us who were camping or in lorries!). Quarters got another respectable total of 28 points. Stripes finished the third session with 24 points, and Diamonds with 23 points.
So after three sessions of heats, the Quarters had a grand total of 88 points and were in 10th place overall. The Stripes had a grand total of 82 points and were in 12th place overall. So both qualified for the B final. The Diamonds got a grand total of 62 points, and would start the final session with a runoff to try to join the Quarters and Stripes in the B final.
Finals Diamonds didn’t put a foot wrong in the tie break, not only beating the team they were competing against for the last spot in the B final, but also finishing before the two teams competing for the last spot in the A final!
Unfortunately, their luck didn’t last into the final, but they did manage to beat the Quarters in the Sock race! They finished with 12 points and in 7th place, but they still did really well for a team who have been swapping ponies and haven’t trained together! Quarters got a first and two seconds and finished the final on 32 points and in 5th place. The Stripes did really well, and a win in their last race took them to 41 points and into a tie break for first place in the B final. Our hearts were in our mouths as it was neck-and-neck all the way, but then Braham Moor’s final rider made a mistake, allowing F&D Stripes to sail into first!
Juniors … Session 1 Quarters (Alex, Alys, Becky, Georgia, Wil) managed a first, a second and a third , and finished with 16 points and in 8th place. Stripes (Charlotte, Eden, Megan, Sophie, Tomos) finished with 10 points and in 11th place. Tomos fell in exactly the same place in the Bending as he did last week, but he got back onto his feet and carried on competing.
Session 2 Quarters managed a second, a third and lots of fourths, and 24 points. They finished the first day with 40 points and in 8th place. Stripes got a couple of fourths and fifths, and 13 points, finishing the first day with 23 points and in 11th place.
Session 3 Quarters got a first and two seconds, and finished the session with 21 points. Stripes were unlucky – a fourth, fifth, two sixths and an elimination – finished the session with 7 points. Quarters finished the heats with a grand total of 61 points and in 7th place. Stripes finished with 30 points and in 11th place. Both qualified for B final.
Finals Stripes got a third, three fourths, and three fifths. Finished the final with 12 points and in 5th place. They did really well for a young team, and they’ll be the ones the watch next year! Quarters stepped up their game! They won four of their races and got second in the other three. They finished with a total of 32 points out of a maximum of 35, and won the B final.
Another team also deserve a special mention – Alex, Anna, Becky, Georgia and Louisha – who competed in the unmounted games on Saturday night. I only saw them doing the sack race, but they won it twice! Meanwhile the parents were treated to another rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by Ann, Chrissie and Claire, and with Jude and Ruth filling in for Gill (they are branching out into other Queen classics though!).