What a whirlwind of a time the whole festive period is. I'm not sure I quite planned this one quite right, I decided to work continually over Xmas and survive until New Year! We booked a cottage away for a few days then, with some good friends, Lise and Chris Taylor. We have been away with them before and it's great fun, the two boys usually cook us a feast for New Year's Eve and, we girls do the other nights. With the team covering New Year for me at the yard. I thought it only fair that I cover the Christmas days, so they could have a few days off. With fourteen horses in and eight living out, I was lucky that my lovely liveries rallied round and lent a hand too. I also have some fabulous youngsters willing to work, one of whom, Zara Staples came and did me couple of hours on Christmas Day which was much appreciated help. The downside of my New Year’s break meant that after a few weeks with no days off and the added pressure of Christmas festivities, I think I may have mislaid my Christmas cheer!
So, back to Christmas day….all was going smoothly! We steamed through turning out and the mucking out. But the trouble began when I went to feed the youngsters and broodmares. To start with, next door horses had broken through their fencing and were stuck between their own fence and my electric fencing. There was some damage to my fence and the problem of how to get the neighbours horses back in their own field, as their fence seemed fully intact. I followed the boundary and luckily found a small unlocked gateway, so that bit was solved. In the meantime my dad had turned up with some supplies to help fix my fencing, so a bit of Christmas maintenance work was done. At this point, I thought we are still ok, I'm not going to be late for the lunch with Glynn's family, they have got used to my horsey ways and know to arrange the family gathering for late afternoon so I have some chance of not missing it!
Of course, horses never run that smooth. As we walked back to our cars, we found broodmare Bebe lying in the muddy gateway looking distressed. My immediate assumption was colic, which carries that feeling of dread, it has such scary possibilities. Once I got to her, after a few minutes I realised it was different, she was actually choking. So I started vigorously rubbing along her neck to help move the blockage along. She was so cute she put her head on my shoulders as if she knew I was helping. Luckily for all of us, it passed quite quickly and suddenly she was back up trying to eat again. Much to her annoyance we had to remove the haylage for a couple of hours as I couldn't be sure if the blockage had cleared fully or partially. Life works out in strange ways sometime - if I hadn't had to fix the fencing I would have fed the broodmares, checked them and left, most likely before Bebe choked! So although I was by now most definitely late for Christmas ‘lunch’and still needed to wait a few hours to go back and check the girls again, I am so glad for the neighbours cheeky escape artists!
Having had a lovely evening with the in-laws’ family, Boxing Day was a repeat performance with my family. Luckily everything went without a hitch and as the yard is on my parents farm, it's much easier as I can just pop out to finish up the horses. I find it a welcome bit of exercise to do a skip out in between courses!
The build-up to the festivities was equally full, we weaned the foals, which I never relish. It always strikes me as a risky time and I feel sad for the foals suddenly removed from their mum. The foals, however, always seem remarkably stoic about it and much less upset than I think they will be! In order to wean, all four needed to be loaded up and moved from their field back to the yard, as for the first few days we stable the foals for safety. We tend to load the foals ahead of their mothers, little Luigi walked straight up the ramp, so imagine my feelings when Bebe, his mum, refused to load. What kind of role model is she? This was not the problem I had anticipated, and after only a little persuasion did she deign to join her foal, bad girl!
Mario and Poppy were hesitant but much better behaved. Back at the farm it's a slightly sneaky move whereby we lead the foals into the stable and slide the mother by and then reload them back to the field. The nice part is, that by this time the foals are such good friends it really helps them cope with the separation.
Another major change was that Benvenuto, the lovely stallion I competed, moved on to his new career as a breeding stallion. This gorgeous boy was so fabulous, showing great promise with his first few Prix St Georges tests, but sadly he injured a leg in the field and we just couldn't quite get it strong enough to work back up at the higher levels. It broke my heart as he was a very special horse with an amazing temperament, a real one in a million. I am really pleased that I have found him the perfect new home for the next step in his career though.
He has gone to Shelby Smith and her mum who run Champion Park stud, and their care ethos couldn't be better. Their other stallions are all homebred, with proven eventers and a young dressage stallion in the making, so Benny will be their advanced dressage trailblazer. I was very fussy about where he went, as this kind stallion loves attention and turn out, so I was thrilled to find this lovely family home for him. I look forward to seeing his off spring out there competing in the future. Maybe he could be Poppy's next partner. He is much missed at Bombers!
As 2017 begins, I feel I've got a much work ahead of me, by with so many exciting prospects I am ready to get stuck into the challenges of the year ahead. Where will the next leg of our journey take us?