The trials and tribulations of being mum to a pony rider

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bean Bonanza

I have been in the mood for cooking lately since our dreams of showjumping triumph went pear-shaped. This leads to problems of its own and today I found myself tramping round to my elderly neighbour’s with a plate of offerings. The curtain twitched so I knew she was in and eventually she had to answer the door and take it from me. She got her own back though – “I know what you like! You like – beans!” Oh corks! I have only just finished using last year’s lot, long tough stringy specimens that appeared with dismaying regularity on the doorstep. I made soup, I made casseroles, I made bean cakes; in the end I was chopping the things into tiny pieces and concealing them in sauces, which meant they were scraped into the bin afterwards when I could have saved time by dumping them straight there in the first place.

Therapists say that it’s essential for families to sit down regularly for a meal together, but this is dodgy advice. No other situation lines people up in better battle formation, more ideally placed for confrontation and lots of angry eye contact. I’ve learned a lot from watching master practioners (PG and RPD) at work so here’s a hint: if you have just insulted another member of the family, always look wide-eyed and hurt when they fight back and say, all aggrieved: “But I was only joking!” This is very neat: you have slid in your deadly insult and at the same time proved that your victim has no sense of humour. Double points!

As for our Clydey-boy, Pat has pronounced him fit and well again. He’s been jumping low fences in the cross country field with his usual enthusiastic panache, so he’s clearly not racked with torment about his disaster at Sudeley, ‘where did I go wrong? where do I go from here? ‘Ave I lost me nerve’ kind of thing. Pony-girl however has come down with the ‘flu and currently has a temperature of 103. Guess who’s mucking out Clyde this week?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


And so lightning did strike the showground as far as we were concerned, and it was a black and gloomy day in more ways than one; the skies were dark, the rain poured down, and every disaster you can imagine came our way. It was, as they say, just Not Our Day. A pony that will jump when you ask him to even if the stride is wrong is known as ‘honest’: so brave, honest Clyde gave it his best shot, straining with all his might to clear a fence from a touch too far away on slippery ground, and it cost him. Every time I closed my eyes that night I saw endless replays of the reach, the slip, the crash, the fall, the skid, two bodies crumpled on the ground.

Good news today: Clyde’s on the mend. His knee was stiff for a day or two but we think no lasting damage. He could have received no better care at NagsR’Us had he been the most precious eventer in the land: the 5 ponies who inhabit the big pony pen were turned out, and our bruised warrior was given the run of it all to himself so he could wander around and keep moving.. He seemed incredibly perky in his luxurious accommodation, coming to the gate with his ears pricked and putting his usually aloof nose out for a fondle, obviously pleased to see us (or more likely the special Mints-for-a Wounded-Pony he whiffed from afar). Pony-girl has a splendid moustache of black bruises under her nose, having skidded along on it for three yards, but they’ll get over it.

So that was Sudeley Show, and needless to say our enthusiasm for competing has dwindled and drooped like a withered-up carrot. Not to mention that we are persona non grata with the owner of the trailer who had been roped in to offer us a lift back to the stables, Clyde being too lame to walk. Mr NewTruck was not really a happy man, and who can blame him: he hadn’t expected to have his shining brand-new trailer’s first outing spoiled by a large and hairy hitchhiker. His daughter’s pony was small, dainty and cute, and Mr NewTruck looked doubtfully at big, bolshy Clyde: I pleaded his case - “He’s no trouble to box,” and indeed Clyde hobbled up the shining ramp with no problems. Phew! Then I noticed that large brown rump coming backwards as Clyde determinedly made his way OUT again. He had to be tempted back in with Dainty’s brand new haybag, which he proceeded to shred with his teeth. Clyde’s insides decided to have a good clear-out after all the excitement, and he dumped load after steaming load on the spotless trailer floor which Mr NewTruck ceaselessly shovelled up, spurning our offers of help with gritted teeth. The rain was sheeting down, we were all drenched to the skin, and Dainty took one look at Clyde and refused to go up the ramp. So out Clyde came, in she went after a struggle, in went Clyde again. As they drove off at last I could hear a loud, angry banging from the shaking trailer and I just knew it wasn’t Dainty. Will we be asked again? I think not.

And to think we thought the worst that could happen would be to come home with no rosette….. But Clyde’s knee will mend, pony-girl’s nose will unkink, and Mr NewTruck will get the dents out of the trailer walls. Just don’t ever mention Sudeley Show to me, will you?

"I've hurt me knee, give us some of that Apple Tango, go on ..."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Black Day for Braveheart

I can do no better than turn today's account of events over to non-pony-sister, with her permission to quote this, her email to a friend: with thanks to Helen

'Today was the day of the Sudeley Horse Show, at which Jay and Clyde, going under his more charismatic new show name "Braveheart", would make their showjumping debut, as no one really counts the little one she went to last month as a "proper" show. The omens were not auspicious, as we had spent 20 mins at the stables yesterday being pelted with hailstones the size of golf balls in an apocalyptic storm, horses held by tiny children bucking and neighing and going crazy etc, as I tried to keep a safe distance to ponder whether it was the coming of a new Ice Age. (very Children of the Dust).

So up with the larks we were again this morning to finish preparations abandoned due to hail, and off to Sudeley, Jay having trekked off along a busy road about 2 hrs before with the other sundry people from her stables also too poor to afford expensive horseboxes/too unpopular to have cadged lifts from rich tots with spare berths in large trailers, etc. So there we were, Jay amazingly blase and confident, worrying more about the protocol for the jump-off than getting over the jumps themselves. but she had just jumped a clear round in the warm up event (which of course we'd missed, being bumbling amateurs at this kind of event and still stumbling around trying to find the correct tent in which to register her!) And, Chris, I'm afraid to say that for people like us, the naturally unconfident and timid, pride, or even a touch of unusual self-assurance, does indeed go before a fall...

Yes, on the very second jump, just as my dad was getting his camera out, there was suddenly a hurtling and a crashing and Clyde tumbling to the ground with my sister shooting over his head in an arc and skidding 6 feet along the wet grass on her nose with her neck at an alarming angle. There was a horrid moment before either of them moved. But it was ok, just about - Jay was white as a sheet and dazed but fine - and Clyde just had a bit of a limp. She was so brave, though, felt a rush of pride for the poor kid. Then the situation turned pretty farcical. What with his dodgy gait, it didn't seem fair to make Clyde walk the miles home again, so somehow someone fixed us up with a lift for Clyde (primarily to avoid taking us themselves, I reckon) with someone who had bought a brand new horse box just the very day before and so did not have anyone else already arranged to share with his precious pony. So we hung about sheepishly in our anoraks, mingling with the Barbours and Toggi jackets, our lame shambling pony limping behind us, not daring to approach Owner of Brand New Horsebox for a while. Eventually my mum stutteringly asked if it might be all right to put Clyde in the box to wait until they had finished their 71 classes and were ready to leave, which it was.

but o boy it was a plush affair, this horsebox. Maroon and black and shiny,suitable for your finest thoroughbreds, this guy was clearly in love with the damn thing, giving its handles a surreptitious and unnecessary polish as he lowered the ramp for Clyde to hobble in. And what did our nag do once he'd hobbled inside, but lift his tail and deposit a large pile of poo right inside that sparkling new box. Soon as he got in. The nice man's smile faltered a little, but he fetched a shovel, assuring us it didn't matter in the slightest. but strangely he did not repeat that phrase when Clyde replaced the first steaming pile with a nice fresh lot as soon as it had been swept clean.

I shall not bore you with any more of this horsey saga, but suffice it to say i think our show days may be numbered once word gets around the local horse box owners about Clyde's improper behaviour. Apparently when it was time to get the rightful horse into the trailer alongside our one, Clyde started up such a banging and a kicking inside the gleaming metal sides that he had to be taken out while the other one got in. Ah well, at least I won't ever again see my sister flying through the air and landing crumpled under a quartet of clumsy hooves if that is indeed the case...'

And that, dear friends, was our day out at Sudeley Show.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Sound of Music

Clyde will be in two classes at Sudeley, Class 6: Novice Jumping 2’3” and Class 8: 2’6” (riders 16 and under). We entered him under the name Braveheart (at last!) because ‘Clyde’ – well, it just sounds so cloppery. (This may lead to some confusion when everyone’s eyes are trained on the showring expecting the entry of something noble, and in stomps Clyde). There’s also some Clear Round classes and a Cross Country course you can enter on the day, so we’ll see how our old boy’s legs last out since he has to hack there and back as well. Clyde is a bit rusty on the showjumping front. He still makes a heroic dash for any jump he sees, but years of riding-school-naggery means that after each touchdown it'll be a miracle if he doesn’t shamble off meekly looking for the back of the queue. All we’re hoping for is no disasters and a wonderful day out, for this time last year we went to watch with our noses pressed against the ring fence, and hung around Pat in the hopes she would say “Pony-girl! Take FlightyOne the Third and put him round the 3’9 Open Jumping, his rider has fled in panic and only you can Save the Day!” (she did not.)

Even without the prospect of a show, life at the stables has been exciting, what with PG’s young friend Lolly getting her first horse. Now, Pat had recommended ‘a nice safe steady piebald cob’ (as she does) but Lolly’s parents fell in love with Pegasus, who can clear 4ft with ease and dash off dressage piaffes with his twinkly throughbred feet. A dream-rosette sparkled in each proud parental eye as they foresaw Lolly riding Pegasus to glory at show after show but alas, he is unrideable. Poor Lolly is too frightened to get on him, and there but for the grace of Pat go we, for I too dreamed of showtime glory for my Precious, but I was too terrified of Pat to turn down Clyde when she offered him, and very glad we are too. Clyde may be more milk-cart than prancing steed but at least he doesn’t have to be herded from stable to arena by five stablegirls armed with pitchforks.

Life at home has its moments too: RPD has a keen eye for saving money and when J requested a printer beside her new PC to print out all her GCSE work (2 pages a month) and Horse Facts (15 pages a night) there came a chance for one of those savings. “Aha!” cunningly said he, “Mummy is so clever that she will arrange for you to be able to print from your own PC to one of the printers in the house, with one click!” It works a treat: J makes the one click, and in another room far away, a printer leaps into life and starts to clackety-clack away, clunkily regurgitating page after page of Ailments of the Horse. Now it just so happens that the printer that clacks into life 10 times a night in response to J’s one click is RPD’s own, in his study, right next to his armchair where he sits quietly perusing learned books. It seems to alarm him and wild shouts and muffled splutters can be heard from his room. “,,, printer!! again!! What - ??” No amount of pointing out that it was his idea and it saves money seems to soothe him, especially as he had also forgotten that he would be getting many visits from PG in person, bursting through the door to collect the output. Spirited arguments ensue:
“DOH!!!! That’s enough! How many times have you been in tonight?”
“But it’s my music homework, daddy.”
“Ridiculous! That’s the umpteenth page, how long does it need to be?”
“I bet Mozart never got that from his dad!” Etc.

Counting the days - Friday - Saturday - and Sunday’s the day of Sudeley Show!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Dream Day Dressage

Every so often something goes so right you think you must be dreaming and today did go right, or righter than we dared ever hope. In my wildest dreams I didn’t expect that pony-girl and Clyde would come Second in Prelim 4 and Third in Prelim 10, but that is exactly what they did, so our sweet, brave, talented pony came away with two rosettes – Blue and Yellow – in a proper competition, against real riders!
Now this wouldn’t be my blog without daunting disasters, consternating cock-ups and embarrassing faux pas, and, fear not, we had our share of those: our trooper Clyde kept his cool even when his bungling rider … but that’s a story for tomorrow. While pony-girl looks starry-eyed at rosettes she never dreamed she’d win, Braveheart sleeps on straw and dreams of carrots; and there we leave them till another day.