Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Humans and their horses revving up now spring has sprung!

Just time for a quick update - Garth and I are really looking forward to our two day Ernest Dillon jumping clinic on Friday and Saturday. It has been a bit on and off for us as he was a bit footy after being shod last week, however he has had a pad put under his shoe now and the way he was leaping around like a mad March hare in the field this morning, makes me think it may do the trick, so hopefully he will be sound to jump. Then hopefully we will head off to our first BS show of the year on Sunday, to say that I am looking forward to it would be a huge understatement. I will let you know how we get on.

Garth letting Omagh and Jerry know that his buck is back! Foot is feeling better then :)
We have also been busy on the farm, harrowing and rolling the fields, basically repairing the winter ones and getting the fresh fields ready for the horses to move into. Nigel was driving me mad calling me in the tractor and telling me I was going to fast, too slow, too squint so I put my headphones on and ignored all instructions.

Getting ready for a light spot of harrowing - I like to think I fool everyone into looking like I know what I am doing.
 Only a few fields left to do now so should get them all finished by next week. Some of the livery's have helped me make a little cross country course around our top field where we also have a grass gallop. That has already proved fun for anyone that wants to jump it and we will hopefully add a few more fences over the next couple of months till there is a proper wee course up there.

Pam's turn to have a bash with the hammer - making the first of our small X-country course.
Jackie and Jenny Lammie started off by keeping just one Shetland pony with me a few years ago, as their first foray into becoming equestrians. Now this has multiplied into keeping two Welsh Cobs for driving and another Shetland pony (popped out as an unexpected foal from the original Shetland). Jackie and Callan took to driving like ducks to water and are currently getting fit for the 2012 season. What makes me chuckle is that the family cars now live an outdoor life as the garage is full of driving carts. I am hoping Jackie will have time to give me a driving lesson one night next week as I would love to give it a go. He was out last night giving Callan a workout in the evening sunshine and I thought they looked very striking.

Jackie and Callan. Hopefully Callan will cope with a novice like me having a go next week!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Gearing up for the season ahead...

Had a great jumping lesson on Garth at Balcormo last weekend with Sandra Low Mitchell. He is still looking hairy and needs a clip but the belly is shrinking (wish mine was) and he is feeling fitter and I think we will head out to a show soon.
We did some grid work in the lesson; once upon a time he would have rushed down the line of fences making me feel like I was in a wind tunnel but he now takes his time, measures his strides and backs off off to give himself plenty of space to clear everything neatly. It was a joy to ride him down the line a few times and I was really enjoying myself.
Next we moved onto an small double on the other side of the school, concentrating on not letting him cut the corner to this we popped it a couple of times then Sandra started putting it up. Garth felt fantastic and we ended up popping out over a 1.40m oxer which is probably the nearest I will ever get to flying without paying Ryanair !
I have to take my sons to various dates in their hectic social diaries this Saturday then I have to drop Amelie off at the vets near Lanark this Sunday as she is having a scan. Next weekend though I am definitely going to find a show to take Garth to.

Garth popped this 1.40m oxer for fun - the closest I will come to flying without involving Ryanair!

Lots in the diary..
At the end of March, after three days of my next magazine deadline, I am really looking forward to a three day jumping clinic at Howe Country Centre with my other regular trainer, Ernest Dillon. Sadly I can only do two days due to my a dayjob appointment, but I am sure that my clever horse will catch up pretty quickly when we come in on day two.
Then on the Sunday after the clinic I am going to head to Gleneagles to jump there. They haven't held a BS show there for a few years now. I used to love jumping here in the winter on both Cavalla and Modetia so I am really looking forward to taking Garth - I think he will love the big indoor arena there.

As I mentioned Ams is off for a scan - the vets at The Clyde Vet Hospital found that she was moving stiffly and is very mildly lame so I am hoping the scan shows any hot spot and that we can sort out whatever is bothering her so she will be comfortable to begin her jumping career proper.

Amoureva by Amoureux.
New arrival...
We have a gorgeous new arrival on the yard - Amoureva, known as Ziva, is a beautiful rising-three-year-old by Amoureux. She belongs to Ferne who is hoping to break her and bring her on over the next few years to event. She is going to be a big, beautiful horse, she is very gangly at the moment but what a mover. She has a very sensible head on her shoulders, loves people and attention and has settled in brilliantly. I am looking forward to seeing her grow into herself - she is going to be a stunning horse.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The view from my cab...

I knew I should have pulled my finger out and got updating my blog as now there is so much to tell you all that I am not sure where to start. Lets begin by sitting beside Scotland's busiest road with two horses on the back of my broken down lorry. Yes that was a day I will remember for a long time. I was on my way to the Clyde Vet Group with Amelie and Garth loaded up when there was an almighty explosion under my lorry. I stopped at once and saw clouds of black smoke billowing out from the back. I got out, had a look underneath and was alarmed to see that the truck was nearly on fire. Both of my back brake discs were glowing orange like mini suns. Panic swept over me as I was just at the end of a slipway joining the motorway so I had three lanes of traffic roaring past me, plus the two lanes on the other side and a steel barrier on the left of me - there was no where to let the horses off if fire caught hold - I would have caused a pile-up. I went and got my phone and kept an eye on everything while I called my horsebox breakdown number.

Luckily the bang of my two back tyres exploding (caused by the heat) seemed to have stopped me in time to avert fire, as the smoke died down so I calmed down a bit.

Thankfully Big Brother was watching me..
Now I have never been a fan of CCTV cameras everywhere but I was very grateful that they run the length of the M8 because someone monitoring them had seen my lorry stop with smoke puring out, the me peering ineffectually under it and they alerted Peter and Stevie, two great guys who work for BEAR Scotland. They turned up in their yellow van within 15 minutes. They then turned on their huge flashing yellow arrow which made sure that other drivers gave the truck more room. This settled the horses down, as the big HGV's flying past were making it sway and Ams was finding that unnerving. Peter and Stevie then sat there with me all day and were excellent company when it was all getting very cold and boring!

The view from my cab - Jim's massive tow truck waiting to take me away!
To cut a long story short getting me and the horses safely off the road eventually involved a cast of 8 people roadside, including two policemen, plus a lovely lady making various phone calls on my behalf. As everything took so long it was decided that shutting the M8 while I offloaded the horses was no longer an option as we were now well into rush hour, so it was decided that the safest thing to do was to tow the truck, with the horses still in it, to a quiet place where they could be loaded onto a rescue lorry. By this time it was after 5pm and Garth and Ams had been patiently standing munching haynets in the truck since 11am. They were fantastic though - it was as if they wanted to get home too - they loaded straight onto the other lorry and eventually we arrived back home at around 6.30pm. My lorry was towed by the cheery Jim with his huge tow truck back to my mechanics.

I make sure that my horse transport is always well maintained and in all the years that I have been driving horseboxes and trailers around that's the first time that I have ever had a major breakdown. I would like to thank everyone who worked so hard to get me and my horses home safely - it was a pretty Herculean operation.

Check your cover
Just a word to the wise though for everyone that has horsebox breakdown cover - double check your policy. A few weeks ago before this a friend of mine broke down in her truck and duly called her horsebox breakdown assist, only to be told that it covered the recovery of the lorry but NOT the horses. She then had to pay a fortune for the horsebox that took her horses home. Now I always assumed that my cover took care of the horses as well but I thought I should double check. When I called the NFU they told me that my breakdown package also only covered the lorry and not the cost of getting the horses home but that they could add this for a very minimal fee which I asked them to do. So if you aren't sure exactly what your policy covers it might be worth that quick phonecall.

I am also really glad that I opt to pay slightly more for a policy that covers the whole incident rather than a pay-per-use policy as I happen to know that my bill for that day for mechanics and tow trucks etc came to a staggering £1600.

Onwards and upwards..
Anyway my truck is now fixed plus has a shiny new fire extinguisher (I will never again leave home without one) and the least said about the bill for mending that the better however, on the plus side, two weeks later when I reloaded Ams to try to get to the vets again she walked on with no problems so the trip obviously didn't faze her too much.