If I am working from home then I am lucky in that I can ride at one or two horses before 9am as it is only a short walk from the stables to my office in a shed in the garden and one of the pleasures of winter is riding in crisp sunshine. I'm not so keen if it's freezing, wet and windy though. If it is a day in the office in Edinburgh though I need to get up and get all my beds done, feeds ready etc so that when someone kindly brings my horses in for me in the late afternoon, everything is ready for them. We have a friendly system going here where people help one another, which means that someone will always bring in your horse or turn it out for you then you return the favour. Most of my clients don't have the luxury of being able to ride early during the week, so mornings are a flurry of rug changing and turning out.
|The only residents on the yard who couldn't care less how cold it gets.|
Groundhog dayWhen winter first sets in everyone is cheerful, there is a real sense of satisfaction in seeing your horse tucked up in a warm cosy stable, munching contentedly while the wind and rain blow outside. Then most people here are looking forward to a good break at Christmas when they can hopefully enjoy some riding. After the festive season though, as winter grinds on, a sort of grim slogging determination to get through it can set in. February is definitely the month when it seems to me that everyone on the yard seems at their lowest ebb. The winter has been long and it can be far from over, small niggles take on major significance and as the yard owner it can sometimes feel like you are experiencing your own Groundhog day!
Everyone gets tired and I am no exception - last year when I had seven horses to do there were days when the sleet was horizontal, the tractor and all the troughs were frozen and I could be spotted stomping around, muttering darkly into my scarf about selling up and moving to the Caribbean.
The one I really do feel sorry for is my lovely husband Nigel. He is the one that has to go out in all weathers and fix everything. As he used to farm in the Scottish Borders he is used to the vagaries of a Scottish winter but I am still grateful that most of the time he just rolls his eyes when I add another thing to his list of things to fix, pulls on his coat and goes out to sort it. If it is going to be a two man job then he is helped, as often as not, by our great friend Tom, who keeps Nigel's occasional tendency to the slapdash under control with a raise of an eyebrow that signifies 'I think we'd better fix it properly'. Last year our old hayshed collapsed under the sheer weight of the snow sitting on it. Nigel and Tom had to carefully dismantle the unsafe bits so that it didn't fall on anyone but we still had lots of straw in one end holding up part of the collapsed roof. For a couple of month I played a game of giant Jenga - taking bales from all around hoping that the roof wouldn't fall in on me. It has left me with a permanent tendency to duck inside the tractor when I pick up a straw bale.
Days of daffodilsThen at last March comes and the days imperceptibly begin to lengthen and the first tendrils of spring can be seen in the ground and felt in the air and magically everyone seems to chill again, the horses sense it too - they quite literally get a spring in their step on the way to the field in the morning and they stop hanging around the gates in the afternoon .
My favourite time here is when the daffodils come up along our drive - it heralds the start of the glorious long days of summer when the sun only sets for a few hours and so my dreams of a Caribbean idyll recede once again - although I'd still like a holiday home there if anyone's got one going spare!