The trials and tribulations of being mum to a pony rider

Visit our board

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Birthday Bonanza!

My birthday didn’t start too well, as I entered the kitchen where the birthday lunch was cooking to find RPD solemnly fishing out a sizzling basket of chips from my new deep-fat fryer with a rusty wrench from the garage. “The handle has broken but it’s all right,” he cried, seeing my face, “I will make you a proper handle later – just get me an old wire coathanger!”

Things looked up beyond belief later however and you won’t believe this. No, honestly…. Well, it happened like this….

Pat was wreathed in smiles as she ushered me into her office to present me with a sheaf of bills – shoes, food, teeth, hair, all the things Clyde seems to need so regularly without much to show for it, to be honest. Surely a proper pony would cost no more to maintain and might have had looks to turn heads instead of what I have to face over the stable door each day! Can all those motheaten hairy bits on his legs and that vile hogged mane really cost so much to have trimmed? Do they do it with a silver paring tool and 5 skilled stylists from Vidal Sassoon or what? I feel sure I could achieve much the same result myself armed with a pair of nail scissors! But I digress:

“Oh, boi the way, I’ll be takin’ J and Clyde to Blade’s Hill on April 10th – they can go in me lorry’, Pat beamed, and pony-mum and pony-girl swooned, as one.

Yessssssssssssssssss !!!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Boiling Bits and Ballet

We have just had what passes for a festive Easter Sunday lunch in the Merry household, which Reluctant-pony-dad and Pony-girl chose to celebrate with an exchange of vicious bickering across the table, criticising each other’s table manners, etc. “…and another thing - sit on that chair properly!” cried RPD – there is a way to sit on a chair properly, which only he knows. He was serving himself more turkey, with, I noticed, the tongs PG had been using less than an hour before to fish out Clyde’s bit which she boils in a saucepan every Sunday. I decided it was wisest to say nothing, but if RPD starts to sprout chestnuts on the inside of his knees we’ll know why.

We have been researching the very peculiar rule of attire for dressage shows, which has many complications such as: ties may be worn with tweed show jackets. However, blue or black show jackets are always worn with a stock and stock-pin. I suggested that ‘always worn’ must actually mean ‘have till now been worn’ and that we could be the first to set a new trend, but PG was not keen on this idea, saying that daring to enter a Dressage Show on a pony like Clyde was trendsetting enough for one day, so we are now hunting for stocks and tie-pins on Ebay. I have no idea what a stock is, but fear it will have a perplexing knack to the tying thereof. Clyde too must adhere to the rules, which are: white numnah, no martingale, and a bit of a certain type only, so we are looking to buy a hanging-cheek snaffle (don’t ask me, I haven’t a clue). We measured Clyde’s mouth and were aghast to find it was seven inches, a size no catalogue stocks, not even for eighteen-hand plough-pullers. How come our pony’s hayhole is 2 and a half inches more huge than any other equine in the land?

This reminds me of my days as a ballet-mum, privy to its own nonsensical dress code: white dress with pink sash for exams, powder-blue leotard in class, no knickers to spoil the body line (punishable by sharp blow with cane by vile old balletcrone) hair glued to the scalp with gel and buns pinned up like small hedgehogs on the baby-ballerinas’ heads.

But oh for those dainty ballet days! Those little satin-clad feet now clump around in hefty boots, her hands in size 7 gloves are calloused from wielding the Yard Prickle, and always a smudge of god-knows what on her nose. I will never marry her off to a rich man at this rate and will be doomed to pay for pony food forever!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Debut Dressage

We may be feeling down about trailers and our showjumping prospects but word has gone out that Pat is planning another Dressage Gala like the one she held in October. At the time we were mere ponyowning wannabes, and now we are one of them, with a pony of our own, even if it’s Clyde!

When I heard this exciting news I rushed off immediately to find J, schooling said Clyde in the bottom school. A dressage gala! A lovely dream-bubble was floating above my head: showcoats, tophats, and flashy Arabs polished till they shine, flaunting their paces and their lovely flowing moves – a grand parade of fine horsemanship - and we will be there!

I skidded to a halt at the arena and looked in. There was my dressage team: one surly old pony trotting stiffly round a bend, his skinny knock-knees clashing at each stride. His hogged mane stuck up stiffly like a Mohican and his one white foot looked as if he’d dunked it in the muck bucket. He was on the bit all right - chomping on it, trying to roll it past his big yellow teeth and out so he could clopper off back to his haybag. Pony girl sat hunch-shouldered on his saggy back, her boots covered with 3 days’ dust and her hat slipped down over her eyes. This sight was a bit of a blow to the dream-bubble I must say, but I rallied bravely and broke the news.

We have some weeks to practice yet and PG is nothing if not determined and well-versed in theoretical technique. And Clyde scrubs up ok with a spray of Canter Coatshine, held down by three strong men while his meant-to-be-white bits are hosed. And he’s a willing, well-trained sorta lad who moves into canter at the slightest touch, unlike, eg, Pantso who needs three circuits of kicking, flapping and drumming heels on her barrel sides to get the message, or Vicious, who will canter all right, but not when you ask him to and certainly not in the right direction. Clyde (or Braveheart as we must now call him) will be a star… of sorts. Roll on May 1st!

Monday, March 21, 2005

There's No Place for us....

So… there was me, in the barn, gazing admiringly at our handsome pony from a safe distance, when J thrust his reins into my hand and dashed off for a nervous pre-ride dash to the loo. Clyde is a well-mannered pony (though I always sense a dark and cunning undertow to his unblinking façade) so I felt no special fear, indeed, I straightened my shoulders with pride and glanced around to see if anyone was around to notice my casual, confident handling of my giant charge. Pony-Mum in command!

The next minute I was flying through the air at the end of the rope with my feet stuck out horizontally behind as Clyde cantered down the barn, skidded to a halt in front of Tilly’s oatfilled bowl, kicked it neatly out of her reach then plunged his muzzle in and began to chomp away greedily, ignoring my weak cries - ‘No!’ ‘Don’t! ‘You naughty horse,’ etc. Pulling his head up was like trying to budge one of the Seven Pillars of Rome and he had his ears whipped flat back, exuding menace from every bristling hair as he stuffed his face with Tilly’s feed. When Pony-girl came in she shouted – at me, not the culprit! - marched up to him, yanked up his head and slapped him sharply on the nose. Clyde’s ears sprang up instantly into friendly-mode and there he stood good as gold while he explained to her that it was all my fault, the very picture of pony innocence, only marred by the stolen chaff dangling from his hairy chops.

Arabella, Pat’s suggestion for a possible lift to the next Blade’s Hill mini-showjumping, has fallen in with Kaitlin, Bolshy’s owner. The two go everywhere with their heads together, planning the summer’s shows. I think it’s a fair guess it will be Bolshy’s perky ears poking out of Arabella’s trailer while Clyde stays home, don't you? Sudeley Show is in May and for PG and Clyde to debut there would be a disaster. We were counting on at least one practice run at Blade’s, a much less formal and competitive affair than Sudeley. Not looking good....

Thursday, March 17, 2005

PC and pathos

It seems I misjudged the time it took to build a PC and it was a little more tricky than a Harry Potter Lego Castle after all. The construction part was easy enough and certainly much easier than the Tyrannosaurus Rex I once made out of toilet tubes and triangular snippets of cardboard, but like many before me I fell foul of those mysterious things drivers, and collapsed sobbing to the floor at 3am.
I got there in the end (it took one day to build, and three to sort the software out andset up the network) and here is a picture of my creation, the fastest smartest PC in the house, and far too good for J, who will only mess it up, already I have had to remove a bridle hanging from the printer port.

I am obviously better with PCs than ponies as will be told in my next hapless entry, in which Clyde enjoys a stolen snack and I jam the poor lad’s two-ton body in a gateway - but that will have to wait.

A horsebox left for Blade’s Hill last Sunday with an empty space in it, not offered to us. And there is a cross country competition a mere ten miles away scheduled for March 27 - so near, but yet so far! At this point in time pony-girl and I feel we will never get to a show and are doomed to spend our lives kneedeep in muck and tail detangler.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Technical Hitches

I’m so flushed with the success of installing broadband this week on 2 PCs, involving scary things like routers, network cards, configuring software and firewalls, and throwing in the odd CD-RW almost as an afterthought, that a surge of reckless confidence has convinced me that anyone with my skills could build an entire new PC from a hairpin and two old custard tins!

Now as it happens, we need a new PC for J - hers dates from the days of Charles Babbage, takes up one entire wall but can only perform minimal calculations while emitting a tinny beep from time to time, not to mention that it ungratefully turned its nose up at the shiny new network card I tried to tempt it with. So I have ordered lots of exciting PC parts at a total cost of £300, that’s only about £15 more than the price of a similar spec PC bought ready made, and well worth the extra for the fun of assembly!

In case I run into a little hitch or two I have warned Panikos he will need to be on call 24/7 while I stick the darn thing together, just like he was when I was configuring the router last week. Unfortunately, it turns out it coincides with his once-yearly visit to his Auntie Dorcas who lives in the Galapagos on the only island still waiting for a telephone connection, bad timing or what! But I’ll manage. How hard can it be? No way can it be as fiddly as the Lego Harry Potter Castle, and I knocked that off in one afternoon!

There’s just a glimmer of apprehension….a teeny note of unease…. Looking round our house it strikes me we already have more than the average number of things which don’t work quite right. I don’t suppose many people have to hang a heavy candlestick off their Velux skylight blind every night to stop it pinging up and down like a bungee. And is it normal to have to repeatedly bash a marble rolling pin on top of your chip pan to make the thing perform? The fly swat beside the CD player (hearty whack on the lid gets it going), the anglepoise lamp dangling from a wire secured with a big blob of BluTack... J’s PC case stuck securely round with parcel tape – so much faster than screws! Not to mention the electric garage door you have to sneak up on, quickly pointing the remote round a corner to catch it unawares. I am a master of the bodged fix but, hmmmm, a whole real computer may be less forgiving We shall see. I bought the case on Ebay where they had a good selection of really flashy ones and I’m still waiting for that to arrive. The other bits have all arrived and I was hoping you could snap them together in advance and just drop them into the case when it comes, bingo! but apparently not so, it seems the case will have some little wiggly wires you have to pop over some sticking-up bits first. Just like Lego, see?

While on Ebay my fingers itched to bid on a ‘lightweight horse trailer’ for a mere £430. How light? I need to know because our small, feeble car is not typical of the tank-like affairs owned by most pony people and struggles to haul one large old lady up a steep hill, let alone a big angry pony rampaging about at the back. Someone had asked the question ‘what is the weight of the trailer’ to which the seller replies ‘I don’t know but you can push it with one finger, if that helps’. Why, yes it does! We can load the pony and then push the trailer to Blade’s Hill, and when my finger gets tired J can use hers.

Since the next Blade’s Hill is this Sunday and Pat can’t help us out for that one, the only alternative plan I’ve come up with is strapping Clyde to four big rollerskates and encouraging him to grip a towbar with his teeth.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Getting There

The show jacket for pony-girl that I ordered from a bargain discount store has arrived, three weeks too late for the last Blade’s Hill mini-showjumping, but in plenty of time for the next (March 13th) and I am a great believer in Signs and Portents so that did it, it was time to stop mucking about and confront Pat. I had to psych myself up for this so I gave myself several motivation talks, walking round the house saying ‘I am a strong, powerful woman! I can do it! I configure PCs, crush large gingernuts in the palm of my hand and laugh in the face of slight danger!’ This made me feel pretty big and strong so when I saw Pat coming out of the tackroom the other day I knew it was time to seize the moment like an Amazon. I marched purposefully towards her ‘I am a strong, powerful woman! I am a….’

“Pat,” I whispered.

Not a good beginning but I finally got it out after a few false, squeaking starts, aided and encouraged by Pat, who took me by the headcollar so to speak and led me firmly through the water. Yes, she thinks it’s a great idea for Clyde and pony-girl to go showjumping. Leave it with her and she will see what she can do. Can't manage next Sunday but in April she will take us herself, or we can go with her proteges Arabella and her mare Fizzy, who aren’t ready to go this time round, Fizzy living up to her name way too much and needing a bit more of the Pat treatment before she can reliably be put to a jump without ending up 3 counties away.

The other day Pat put up a spread, a cross with a high back pole for all the pupils in the lesson to jump. That is, 4 classy thoroughbreds with long spidery legs, two ex-racehorses used to soaring over Becher’s Brook, a large beefy cob muscled like a navvy, and one small thin brown pony with a stub at each corner. Not that Clyde seemed to realise his disadvantage; he zoomed round the corner, galloping thunderously down the course towards the jump, teeth gritted: “He can’t jump that, Pat!” Pony-girl shrieked, whisking past in a blur, “It’s higher than his chest… aaarrrghhhh!”
Too late - Clyde was already launching himself into flight, landing squarely on the other side and skipping nonchalantly back to the others with a jaunty whisk of his tail while PG, stirrupless, jibbered and clung to his neck. “So, Clyde couldn’t do it?” cried Pat in scorn, “Clyde didn’t even see it!”

Meanwhile Clyde was high-fiving muzzles with Tilly the cob: “What’s my one doing up there, Tils?”
“’er left leg’s flappin’ about a bit, Clyde. She’s lost that clanky thing wot bangs on your sides.”
“And did you see that,Tils? She tried to swerve out the side at the last minute!”
“Got her over it though didn’t you? Well ridden my son, well ridden!”
“Blimey Tils, when Pat said ’go on, have her Clyde, she’s green but you can bring her on a bit’, what was she landing me wiv, eh? “
“Never mind Clyde, you got a better rug than wot you used to ‘ave.“

It’s all down to Pat. I have always admired Pat, whom no man, woman child or beast dare defy, but who can coax brilliant performances from the shabbiest pony and the shakiest rider. And from the wimpiest, most hopeless pony-mum who ever lived, too.

I did it! We’re getting there! We’re going to a show!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Of Bucks and Baking

My cooking is a chancy business. I remember the time when J turned on me and accused me of not being a proper mum - “Daisy’s mum always puts home-made cakes in her lunchbox!” Anguishing thought! – my J, craning her neck to peep into Daisy’s box, mouthwatering delights plucked out by Daisy’s podgy fingers and gobbled down (by Daisy) while thin, waiflike J looks on, sadly biting into a dry beige Tesco biscuit. I at once set out to be a home-baking mum. The response was not what I hoped. For one thing I got stuck on muffins, and no matter what I set out to make, muffins resulted. Weeks later she begged me, yes, begged me never to make any ever again. I was reminded of this yesterday when RPD encountered a home-made fairy cake which refused to peel off its paper case in one piece, and advised “You have to be careful when you eat these,’ prompting a worried look from J ‘are they dangerous then?’

We have a horsy book which takes no prisoners where pony-behaviour is concerned. ‘If your pony bucks when you smack him for disobeying, then smack him again! He must learn that you will not tolerate such behaviour’. Absolutely! ‘But what if he bucks again?’ The book is stern on this matter and brooks no wimps: ‘only you can decide if your personal safety comes before condoning undesirable behaviour in your pony. Repeat the punishment until he understands that his action is unacceptable.’
The other day Clyde, a stroppy lad who knows best at all times, picked up canter at a slow, not-really-bothered-actually pace. So Pony-girl followed Pat and book’s advice and tapped him wimpily on the rump. Clyde was outraged! ‘Whassall that about then? you asked for canter, I gave you flippin’ canter!’ and up went his rear end like a bronco. It was quite a meaningful sort of buck, his angry nose on the floor and his back cloppers waggling furiously skywards and it proved the wisdom of the book beyond doubt. Clyde has taught pony-girl that such behaviour is undesirable, will not be tolerated, and that she better not try that again, Or Else.