Monday, 30 July 2012


It's entirely possible that I've just competed in Ireland for the very last time, unless the whole France thing doesn't work out and we come back next year with our tails between our legs.

I'm sad about that, but otherwise I couldn't be happier about today.

It started at 6.40am, when I hauled a fat, contented Flurry in from the paddock with really long grass, which he had broken into overnight.  No feed for him, then, the little glutton.  I washed his mane, tail and fetlocks, sprayed his tail with loads of Mane&Tail conditioner, plaited his mane and spent AGES going through his tail, but it was worth it, it looked gorgeous afterwards.  I gave him a small amount of haylage to keep him happy while I went in for my brekkie - well, I couldn't let the poor little guy get hungry, could I?

Warming up, fetlocks blowing in the breeze
We arrived at our show venue, Maryville, in good time, tacked both of us up and headed to the warm-up.  Flurry didn't feel great warming up, it was busier than he's used to and he was a bit intimidated by the other horses.  He was also lazy and a bit inattentive, so I was doing transitions and leg-yielding to try to sharpen him up, but I still wasn't too happy with him when we were called up for our first test, BD Prelim 12.

Time for one more mental rehearsal before we went in, time for a little trot around outside the boards, throw in a few transitions, and Enter at A...

I felt it was accurate and obedient, but a little sluggish.  Accuracy is usually a good sign - you can't ride an accurate test if the horse is inattentive, too onward bound or too lazy.  I guessed my score would be low sixties, but I wasn't too sure.  Here's the video :
I was astounded when I saw my score - 69.6%, the third highest score in all of test 12, and the winning score in my section!  The judge's comments were "Nice active test, accurately ridden making good use of arena.  He gets a little on forehand in canter but otherwise good consistent test."  Woohoo!

I had a quick look at the video afterwards, and I have to say, it looks better than it felt!  Yeah, the canter still isn't great, I think the judge was a wee bit kind to me, but the trot work looked good throughout.

Here we go for the second test
I was determined to improve the impulsion for the next test, BD Prelim 14, but at the same time I didn't want to overcook him in the warm-up, so I carefully allowed 25 minutes to tack up and warm up again.  When we arrived back at the trailer, though, we found he had covered his formerly lovely tail with liquid, grassy poop - yuck!  There was nothing I could do except shake most of it off and hope the rest would fall off during our warm-up!
He was more attentive in the warm-up and we worked on transitions again, still trying to get more impulsion going.  I went back into the indoor feeling positive initially, but I felt like I was booting him around and the test just didn't flow as well as the first one.  The good news, though, was that the poop seemed to have fallen out of his tail!

Look at that tail!
This time there was no video, the LSH was taking stills instead, and having seen them, I have to say it doesn't seem to have been as good as the first test.  In looking for more impulsion, I lost consistency in his outline and the transitions did not flow as smoothly.  The score? 64.58%, still a score to be proud of as far as I'm concerned, and once again, the winning score in my section.  The judge's comments this time were "Overall calm, obedient test.  Needs to be more active in trot work and lighter on forehand in canter."  Yes.  I agree with all that.

So since completing our 500km trek across France, Flurry and I have competed twice in dressage and have managed to score over 63% on each occasion.  What's so special about 63%?  That's the qualifying mark for our National Championships - we're now qualified for the Sportsmans A finals (an amateur section), but the bad news is I probably won't be able to go - we've just got too much to do before we leave for France.
Halt, Salute and...
Oh well, at least we qualified.  I'm very proud of my little horse!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Little Girl all Growed up

Seventeen years ago, my neighbour asked if her friend's fourteen year old daughter could come up and help me with the livery stables.  Unsure of what I was letting myself in for - I'd seen plenty of teenagers loafing around riding schools, dodging work, getting bored and causing trouble - I said I'd give her a "trial."

And so my best helper arrived.  She was with me on Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays for years.  Constantly trying to learn, constantly asking was she doing things right.  Trustworthy enough to leave in charge when we had a sudden death in the family and had to go away for a couple of days.  Brave enough to sit on young ponies, skilled enough to bring young ponies on, strong enough to lug bales of hay around, with an absolute passion for animals in general and horses in particular.

Eventually her dream came true, her family moved into the country and bought a horse for her.  It was funny to watch our relationship change from mentor/student to an adult friendship, but that's what it's become.

I was so happy to be at her wedding yesterday.
Love and best wishes to Jane and Barry.
(I know you'll read this eventually, although maybe not this week!)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

There was a lot going on last week, so I only managed to ride Flurry once all week.  I was fairly casual about it, to be honest.  After all, it's two months before I leave, I'll have plenty of opportunities to ride and compete before I leave for France, right?


On Tuesday, I looked at the show schedule for the Dressage club and I looked at my diary.  What with attending car boot sales to get rid of some of the crap we own, running the Silver Spurs finals and attending the Dublin Horse Show with the tickets my daughters gave me for my birthday, plus a road trip to transport all the ED's gear to London, it looks like this Sunday may well be my very last chance to compete here in South Munster before I go.  In fact, we've only got three (yes THREE) full weekends at home before we leave.

I guess I'm competing this weekend, so.

Flurry waddled happily out of the paddock beside me and we went for a nice easy hack yesterday.  Well, it was easy for him - he trudged along like a sedated snail while I kicked, whacked and cajoled him down the road.

Today, there was no avoiding the arena.  "More Ongoing" was foremost in my brain, but the only whip I could find was the same silly short one I'd had hacking out the previous day. Still, he wasn't too bad, lateral suppleness could have been better and he could definitely have gone forward more willingly, but he was as obedient as ever - he's such a good boy!

Finally, towards the end of our session, I spotted the LSH passing by and asked him to find me a proper schooling whip.  Once that was in my hand, Flurry produced ten minutes of decent, forward work, and we quit while I was ahead.

We've got two days to go before the show.  Plenty of time to run through the "iffy" bits of both tests, plenty of time for Flurry to magically become forward and supple!

One other consequence of time telescoping in on itself is that I won't get to compete Aero here before I go.  I'm pretty disappointed about that, but hopefully we'll be able to do fun stuff in France.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

My ToDo List

A very dear friend stayed with me for a few days.

The odd cup of tea (or two) was consumed, along with the occasional glass of something stronger in the evenings.  We discussed many things, including just how much I have to get done before we leave on September 30th.

"Make a list," she said, "and tick things off as you do them.  Then you won't get into such a panic over the things you need to do, or should have done by now - you'll feel you've accomplished something every time you look at the list."

Some people are just so sensible!

The very first thing to go on the list was "Rehome Lilly."    TICK!

Yes!  I found a home for Lilly!  Early last week, I picked up the phone and started ringing any horse person I know who breaks youngsters.  This time, instead of saying "I'm looking for a home for a chestnut filly, I'm going back to France in January" I was saying "I'm looking for a home for a chestnut filly.  I've got eight weeks to find somewhere for her, otherwise I think I will have no option but to put her down."  Very sad, but unfortunately, very true.

The second person I rang said straight away, "I'll take her."  He's a down-to-earth horseman with a no-nonsense approach.  She'll be broken with patience, and, with him, it'll take as long as it takes - no rushing.  She won't be groomed within an inch of her life, have her mane and tail washed and brushed and her hooves oiled every day, nor will she be fed a cocktail of treats and supplements, but she will be fed and watered, wormed and vaccinated, and will learn a trade - either as a jumper or as a riding school horse.  He's a realist and he knows the horse industry inside out - if she is talented, he'll be able to sell her, if not, he'll keep her and she'll earn her keep in the school.

He came by to pick her up three days later.  She walked up to him in the field and put her head on his shoulder, then she followed him willingly into the trailer - she had never been loaded before!  I'm so happy that I haven't had to face that other awful outcome for her, and so happy that she will have a good home.

Speaking of good homes, another item on my list is "Rehome Dylan."  There is not the same sense of urgency about him, though.  I've been in touch with the local rescue organisation and I've said I'm happy to foster him until the middle of September.  Meanwhile, I'll keep posting his photo on Facebook and keep telling friends about him - we may find a home for him that way.  The lady I spoke to also offered to try to rehome the cats for me - they gave them to me about five years ago.  I'm not so sure about that - if I rent out the stables, the tenant will surely be happy to have Rodent Control Officers present and I'me sure the cats would prefer not to be moved.

I'm not going to post the list in all its glory here, as I'm quite certain that it will be ever-changing, right up to the last minute, but I'll share my "achievements" here :
  • Contact Letting Agent (will meet with them next week)
  • Book NCT (roadworthiness test) for Jeepy
  • Order Skip (being delivered today)
  • Go through my wardrobe (ouch)
That last one was painful, but I've gotten rid of seven bin-bags worth of clothes.  Wow.

It's a start.  Look out, kitchen cupboards, you're next!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Aero's Diary

...or more foot trouble.

It's been a busy week, with visitors, unpacking, emergency vet visits and hospital visits (not me).  Every day, I said "I will ride Flurry tomorrow and lunge Aero to see how he looks." Every day, something came up and Flurry remained unridden, Aero remained unlunged.

I was determined to do stuff with them on Friday.  While I was skipping out the paddock on Friday morning, I watched Aero moving around for a good while.  He looked ok walking, but at one point himself and Lilly had a little trot around and he was definitely lame - not hopping, but definitely lame.  I was pretty disheartened - this has been going on for weeks now.  I was back to thinking X-rays and serious veterinary investigations.

I was filling the water trough a little later on, and Aero came over for a chat.  I glanced down at the offending foot - what was that?
Goop running down from the coronary band near the heel - yippee!

I was now happy that it was indeed "just an abscess" and not navicular or some other horrible foot issue.  The abscess had finally burst, and now I had to to my level best to get as much pus out of his hoof as possible.  Forget about riding plans, it was time for some hot-tubbing, so the red bucket was filled with hot water and Epsom salts and Aero and I spent some quality time standing in the sun, while the stray pup (now named Dylan) lay in the shade of the old trailer and watched us.  I am his universe, he can't bear to leave my side, which is very sweet, but given his complete lack of horse sense and general ungainliness, he's something of a liability around the horses.  Peace reigned, though, Aero was his usual tolerant self, and Dylan was content to lie still so long as I didn't wander off.

Once I had finished hot-tubbing, I studied Aero's hoof.  There's a disturbing fissure in the wall of his hoof on the side where the infection came out.  It runs from the sole upwards, and almost looks as if someone was trying to saw a piece off.
I suspect that ultimately, a large chunk of wall will shear off here, presumably due to the abscess.

I put a poultice on the back of Aero's foot, wrapped it up and put one of the Cavallo Sport boots on to protect it.  I was going to bring Pepper in to keep Aero company overnight, but Flurry volunteered for companion duty - he came straight up to me when I went down to the paddock!  The two boys settled well, there was very little calling back and forth to Pepper and Lilly in the paddock overnight.

In the morning, there was a small amount of black pus on the poultice - I'd have been happier with more!  Anja had advised using Clean Trax to completely disinfect his hoof now that there was a small opening on it, so Aero got to stand in the stable for an hour, with a big blue bag on his leg, but first, I finally got to ride Flurry!  OMG, I was stiff!  OMG, he was stiff too - or maybe my stiffness was reflected in him.  I rode for about 45 minutes - it's a start!

Then it was Clean Trax time.
Flurry was very curious at first,
and made faces at the smell
but he eventually got bored and stopped watching.

Finally, we were finished and both boys could go out again.  Aero possibly looked a little less lame as he trotted off - I have my fingers crossed that this is the beginning of the end of the foot saga, but I suspect that fissure is going to cause some trouble.

The Latest Stray...

We live about three miles from the outskirts of Cork.  Anyone who lives close to a city will know what I'm talking about when I say we're a dumping ground for unwanted pets. Several times a year, there will be a new dog abandoned in our area.  For a long time this was most noticeable around Christmas, but these days it happens any time.

A year ago, I picked Cookie up from the road near our house.  Within days of us making the decision to keep her, a lovely, gentle, enormous greyhound walked up the drive, into the yard and lay down to sleep in front of the office.  So thin he could be described as skeletal and with what looked like a gunshot wound on his shoulder, what could we do?  Kick him out?  We fed him, watered him and contacted all the rescue agencies.  A specialist greyhound rescue charity took him in a couple of days later and we breathed a sigh of relief.

This is this year's summer arrival.
We think he's a little over six months - he has his permanent teeth.  He's a Doberman cross, our guesses on the other parent range from Labrador to German Shepherd to Great Dane.  He's a great big gentle giant of a puppy, painfully thin and lame in both front legs.

My neighbour fed him the first day he arrived in the area, then the next morning I was taking Cookie and Cinnamon out for their morning wee and the puppy followed us home - I swear I didn't encourage him!  He was my shadow for the entire day, while I skipped out the paddock, brought Aero in to treat his foot (there'll be more on that later) and generally did all the little jobs around the place.  He's now sleeping about three feet away from me while I write this - on the other side of the door, though, he is just too big and gawky to have in the house!

He's an absolute sweetheart, but his permanent home is not with us - our new landlord in France specifically said we can have Cookie and Cinny in the house, but no other pets.  So on Monday, we'll be onto the rescue organisations again.  I'm happy to foster him until we leave, but I'll keep hoping a permanent home turns up. I'm pretty sure whoever owned him is not going to come looking, though, and I wouldn't be too happy about them taking him back if they did turn up - this dog has been thin a long time, and I suspect the sore legs might be from insufficient food for his growth rate.

Fingers crossed that the right home comes along for him.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

What a Trip

We arrived back home late on Monday afternoon, did the usual unpacking and clothes washing jobs, checked up on Molly, the horses, cats and chickens (all well) and were then taken out to dinner by Granny (thanks Granny!).

When we got back, Cookie was in a big hurry to get out, so I dropped my bag in the back kitchen, where the dogs sleep, clipped on her lead, took her straight out and thought no more about my bag.

The following morning, the LSH was first up and took the dogs out.  I was up a short while later, and started having my breakfast.  After a few minutes, I became aware of some noise from the back kitchen - something plastic being rattled and chewed, presumably by Cookie.

"What on earth does she have" I wondered and for a moment I nearly ignored the noise, but something made me get up and check.

Cookie was in the dog bed, playing with something small and white... a pill bottle!  Shit, where the hell did she get that?  I picked it up - it was Cinnamon's heart medication, but completely empty.  Glancing around the room, I saw my bag lying in the middle of the floor, open, with a few bits and pieces lying around it (LSH later confirmed that it hadn't been there when he took the dogs out, so it had only just happened).  Cookie had opened the zip, taken out a few playthings, including the bottle of Vetmedin, opened the childproof (but clearly not dogproof) bottle top and scoffed the contents.  I knew for sure how many had been in it - I'd bought the 60-tablet pack in France seven days previously, fourteen tables had been given to Cinny, so Cookie had probably eaten 46 tablets.  Not good at all.

I rang Dave-the-Vet.  He sounded groggy.
"Dave, Cookie's eaten all of Cinnamon's heart tablets."
"Right... Cookie has eaten all of Cinnamon's heart tablets." Pause. "And you're in France."
(No, Dave, I don't expect you to fly out to treat my dog.... No, Martine, don't be a smartass, this is serious....)
"No, we're back since yesterday" was a much more sensible response, and elicited a rapid "I'll see you at the clinic in ten minutes."

As I got Cookie's leash, Cinnamon caught my eye, and I thought, well, there's no harm in taking her along as well, there's a chance she may have eaten some too.

As soon as I got to the clinic, Dave gave Cookie an injection.  "This is pretty instantaneous," he said, and told me to take her outside and walk around.  We waited... and waited... and waited, until he decided he'd better give her a bit more.

She was quite woozy while he was injecting her the second time, and he told me that the emetic drug is morphine based - Cookie was high!

The second dose had the desired effect, and we scrutinised the result.  Carambar wrappers, dental floss (good to know she's into oral hygiene), and tablet-coloured goop.  It didn't look like 46 tablets worth of goop, we agreed.  Presumably the tablets had scattered across the floor, and Someone Else may have eaten a share during the feeding frenzy that surely ensued.  Our gaze fell on the Small Brown Dog.

We'd better do her too, we agreed, so, despite her protests, she was duly injected and once more we waited.  And waited some more.  And decided she also needed a second shot.  I watched her watching Dave quizzically as he approached with the syringe.  I'm pretty sure she was seeing several Daves approaching - probably a good thing in her eyes, she adores him!

She eventually produced the goods, so to speak, with a significant amount of tablet-coloured goop.

There was nothing more to be done but keep an eye on them, both dogs were now empty and stoned.

"They'll probably sleep for the rest of the day," he said.  Yeah, right.

He didn't take into account the fact that some of the heart medication had entered their bloodstream.

They were high as kites with frantically pounding hearts for the rest of the day.  I did my best to keep them calm, but the slightest bit of excitement set them off, chasing each other, barking hysterically, running backwards and forwards around the kitchen.

By evening time they had calmed down, and presumably had the munchies.  I gave them a light snack to keep them going, praying that the emetic was well out of their system.  They ate normally the following morning, and proceeded to snooze for the rest of the day.

Crashed out is the phrase, I believe.

A lucky escape.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Diary of a Small Brown Dog

Saturday, July 7th
We were left to fend for ourselves once more this morning.  After breakfast, of course.  And after we’d done a brief perimeter patrol.  The humans said something about a market and not wanting to have dogs pulling out of them – I don’t know what they could possibly mean by that!
We don't mind being left behind so much now.  We climb onto the table where the humans eat their food and we can sit and look out of the window.  A lot of cars, people, dogs and even cats go by, but we scare them all away with our ferocious barking.  We are dangerous and they know it!
The humans must have felt guilty about leaving us, and they came back for us after a short while.  We all went off in the hot, stinky jeep.  We ended up in a place I remembered, the ground was very red, but it was much hotter this time.  It was nice, though, the red ground is interesting.  I like looking at it.
The humans had ice cream.  I tried hypnosis again.  I think I’m getting quite good at it now.  Ice cream is very nice.



Aw hell, I'll get it myself

Sunday, July 8th
Today was…different.  The humans went away for ages and ages, but they took Cookie with them.  And me? I got to stay in our “proper” house!  It was great!  The humans who are there now are really nice and I got lots of cuddles, plenty of food and (shhhhh!) I was allowed to cuddle up with them on the couch.  The cats and Poppy stayed out of my way all day, which was fine by me!
I'm now curled up in my bedroom with Poppy.  It's very late.  My humans are still missing.  I hope they are ok.

Monday, July 9th
I am still in our “proper” house.  No sign of Cookie and the humans, but I don't care anymore.  The humans here are great.  I think I will stay with them forever! 
Today I found a big box of dog toys – lovely chewy things and balls with fur on (well they used to have fur on, sorry Poppy) so I buried loads of them in my bed to keep forever.  Unfortunately, the humans spotted them and took them out.  I will have to work on my burying skills.

What’s that noise? Oh, it’s the jeep.  Damn, it’s the humans and Cookie.  I will have to pretend to be happy to see them.  Ok, here we go, ears pricked, tail wagging, sparkly eyes….

Tuesday, July 10th
We had a very quiet day today.  The humans said they went out “for a walk” but I don’t believe them – there is no way they would dare to go for a walk without us.  Cookie and I sat on the table and scared people away from our house all morning.  Then we did a very short perimeter patrol around the streets of Céreste late in the afternoon.  All was well.

Wednesday, July 11th
Another trip to the lake!  More swimming!  I love swimming now!
Cookie was not so keen, although she swam a bit at the start.  Then she stood on a rock and refused to move.  
I climbed up beside her to tell her how much fun I was having in the water, so she pushed me back in.  A bit cheeky, I think. 
The humans continued to try to encourage her into the water, but she suddenly pulled back and wriggled out of the harness.  What a clever trick!  I must try to figure it out!
Anyway, it seems she wanted to play chasing, not swimming.  She ran around and around, through the woods, down to the water, back up the little beach, leapt over a man who was lying in the sun (he was a bit surprised the first time, but got used to it after a few times), and back into the woods…. again and again and again. 
The humans were having so much fun with me that they refused to play chase with her.
She was a bit put out by this and redoubled her efforts, even climbing into a tree a little bit to try to entice them closer, but it still didn’t work.  I was clearly much more interesting than her, especially when one of the humans and I picked up a scent under some rocks.  I think it was lizard – maybe even one of the ones with no legs!  It was fascinating!  Even Cookie wanted to see what it was, so she came over too, but the fun ended quickly when She-human grabbed Cookie by the neck and said “Gotcha!”
They kept Cookie on a short leash after that.  Cookie was still laughing after all her fun, though.

Thursday, July 12th
We decided to stay at home and relax today.  I love the sun and the warmth now!  I like to lie on the balcony in the sun and get really hot, then I like to come back into the cool house and get cold again.

The humans got ice-creams later on.



or just hand it to me....

Yum!  I love it here now.  I hope we are staying here forever.

Friday, June 13th
I’ve got a really bad feeling.  The humans have been packing and tidying all day, so that there are no nice brown and white hairs to be seen anymore.  Maybe they are going away without us!  I’d miss them, but it would be ok if we could stay in our other house with the nice people there.
Later on, we were taken to a Vet.  I found the place where all the dog-food in the world is stored...

bags and bags of it!

I didn’t have enough time to open a bag, though, we had to go in to talk to the Vet.  He held the white bleeping wand over my head, looked in my eyes and ears  and mouth and held the cold coin tubing thing to my chest.  He talked to the humans about me having a heart murmur… I’m not sure what that is.  Cookie doesn’t have one, though.  Lucky me!
I remember previous Vet visits like this.  They were all followed by a long drive. Sigh.
I hope there won’t be any more prison cells on Ferryships.

Saturday, June 14th
Yes, there was a long drive ahead of us.  It wasn’t as hot as the last time though.  The humans put our bed in the middle part of the car and hung a thing on the window which blocked the sun.  I like to see out, though, but I could put my head behind it and look, so it was ok.
We slept a lot.

Then we arrived in the same place we stayed before, where all four of us slept in one room.
We ate with lots of other people.  I like it when we do that.  I work my hypnosis on the other people in the room to try to make them drop food.


Sometimes it works, but not today.

Sunday, June 15th.
More driving.  We slept.
Then, as I feared, incarceration in the Ferryship.  No, humans!  Don't go! We hate it here!
Where to now, I wonder?

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Horses' New Home

I had already decided that the horses would not be going back to La Florentine full time - not having an arena would just make life too difficult for me with two horses to look after.  I priced a couple of big establishments in the area - there's a very posh FFE (Fédération Française d'Equitation) approved place in Caseneuve, and another nice place in Buoux which is supposed to be very good.  Bigger unfortunately seems to mean "more expensive" too, so I had come to the conclusion that I would lodge the horses in La Florentine for a few months during the year, save a few quid and just do trekking for that time.

When we found out we wouldn't be renting La Belle Cour, I stopped thinking about finalising the horses' accommodation while we concentrated on finding somewhere for ourselves to live, although I kept my eyes peeled as we drove around the Provençal countryside, watching out for any signs of horse life.  I spotted lots of nice places, but they all turned out to be too far away.

Once we finalised the details of renting at Les Granons, though, I went into full "finding livery" mode.  The stables I had ear-marked before our visit, Caseneuve and Buoux, were ruled out straight away - they were much too far away from Les Granons.

I vaguely knew that there were stables near Reillanne, very close to Les Granons, so that was the first place we actually went to see.  It was at the end of a very long, narrow, winding lane, and seemed completely deserted, so after knocking on the door of the little house, we poked around a bit.  It was very basic, and arena-less, although there was a lunging ring.  The horses were kept in groups of two and three in small paddocks, they all had shelter of some sort, but you definitely got a sort of makeshift vibe about the place.  I'm not one to knock Makeshift - I'm a great believer in duct tape and baler twine - but the lack of arena meant it got a big NO.
cheval equitation provence sejour equestre vacances à cheval
Centre Equestre Pegase

From there, we carried on towards the town of Mane, about 15km from Les Granons, where I had seen a sign for a Centre Equestre at the side of the road.  Centre Equestre Pégase looked great!
Monsieur (son of the proprieter) greeted me politely and professionally, and introduced me to Madame, who was trimly efficient, smartly dressed in jodhs and a shirt.  Madame showed me around.  There were two nice big arenas on either side of the drive, a very well fenced lunging ring near the stables, the horses all looked in good condition and in general everything looked really smart.  There were plenty of other liveries and a very active Club Cheval - I would not be short of company!  The price was a lot cheaper than the places in Caseneuve and Buoux, even though it seemed just as good.  I was thinking YES! until I saw the paddocks for the livery horses - Flurry and Aero would be kept in a bare paddock, about 20x30 Meters (smaller than a small dressage arena) with a wooden field shelter.

One of the things which is essential for barefoot horses is movement, which is why living out works better for them than being stabled.  A bigger paddock is preferable - I knew this, after all, I blogged about it in "Our Paddock Paradise."  I was having trouble convincing myself that Centre Equestre Pégase wouldn't work out, though, as it seemed so perfect in every other way, so I posted my thoughts on Hay-Net, a really great horsey social network - think Facebook for horse people!  Carol, from, left a reply which put it in a nutshell "Small paddocks can be v. difficult to manage, they turn to mud really quickly in the wetter weather and can get really miserable. If I were you I'd put it on a short list and keep looking."  Keep looking?  Why not!  We still had three days left in Provence!

Back to the intenet, google "ecuries" "mane" and what pops up but Écuries de Mane, an FFE approved establishment with a Club Cheval, Poney Club, regular competitions in dressage, jumping and Trec, two outdoor arenas and one indoor - Wow!  But strangely, it mentioned nothing about Pension (livery).  It was a couple of km further on from Centre Equestre Pégase, so we set off to check it out in person - my French is really not up to phone calls!

We arrived in a yard where there were a lot of microscopic children preparing to ride a lot of microscopic ponies, supervised by a teenage girl.  She directed us towards "Madame" who was in the office.  The whole place had a nice vibe, the horses looked well and seemed to have nice big paddocks and the yard was neat and tidy.

Madame was rather large, dressed in a flowing smock and harem pants - quite unusual for a French lady!  She was quite désolée (I love that word, literally desolate, but it means "very sorry") to tell me that they didn't do livery at all, but she was genuinely interested in helping me.  Was I looking for outdoor livery or indoor?  Outdoor?  Well, this is the best place, she said, handing me a business card, it even has an arena, although it's a bit small, she added with an apologetic smile.  I looked at the card - the address was Reillanne - surely not the place we had already looked at?  No, Madam gave us directions, the livery yard was on the far side of Reillanne from Les Granons, so definitely a different place. 

We made our way straight there, and found it by the simple expedient of matching the picture on the card to a house we passed.  The high quality equestrian electric fencing was a bit of a giveaway, too.  We knocked on the door and called out Bonjour, but to no avail, so we had a little snoop around.  The barn was full of sweet smelling hay, the horses looked content and well-fed and the paddocks were ideal - at least a quarter of an acre, with loads of trees for shelter plus a timber field shelter in each.  But where was the arena?  Although the paddocks were ideal, "Arena" was number one on my list of requirements.

We called back the following day, at a different time, hoping to catch someone at home. Same story, it was completely deserted.  This time we snooped a bit more and found the arena!  Two, actually, there was a lunging ring too!  The main arena certainly wasn't small - it looks slightly bigger than a full-sized dressage arena, and they both had a great surface - grit and rubber granules.  There was a view towards the Alpes de Haute Provence to die for, too - magical!

It seemed perfect - good paddocks, good arenas and only ten minutes drive away from our new home.  We just had to find the owner, to find out the price and, most importantly, if she  could take two more horses, but time was running out - we were leaving Céreste in 36 hours.  I left a note in the mailbox, with my phone number and email address and we waited.
And waited.
And waited.

By mid-morning the next day, our very last day, I'd had enough of waiting.  I'm just going to have to muddle through a phone call, I said, so I girded my loins, prepared what I wanted to say in my head and rang.  I coped fine - she spoke really clearly and carefully, thank goodness.  No, she hadn't seen my note.  Yes, we could make an appointment.  Oh, you have to take your dogs to the vet this afternoon?  How about six, so? Ok!

So after I took the dogs to the vet for their de-worming (it has to be done before they are allowed back into Ireland) I made my way back to the yard.  This time the owner appeared immediately, dressed in jodhs and t-shirt.  My first impression was "young" and perhaps a little unsure of herself in dealing with the strange foreign lady who spoke French badly.

We introduced ourselves and she showed me around (of course I pretended I hadn't seen it all before!)  Here is the arena... the paddocks... she introduced me to the horses... yes, she has a few other liveries, yes they do a little competing but mostly trekking... yes, she could take my two... she is an instructor and could give me lessons if necessary...  She asked me about my horses and what I do with them, and she seemed to get a bit more confident talking to me, maybe she had been worried that we wouldn't be able to communicate at all. The price?  Cheaper again than Centre Equestre Pégase - woohoo!  She would build their field shelter once she knew for sure that the horses would be coming - did I think I would keep them there?

How do you say Hell Yeah! in French?

Friday, 13 July 2012

Diary of a Small Brown Dog

Thursday, June 28th
Cookie and I are once again incarcerated in the stinking bowels of the Ferryship.  What have we done to deserve this?  I can only assume that our humans are being detained in a similar manner.  And speaking of stinking bowels, didn't anyone discuss CONTROL with that bloodhound that was locked up in the cell beneath us.  ICK!

Friday, June 29th
We were released from prison - hooray!  A long drive ensued, but we've ended up in much nicer accommodation tonight - we have a whole room to share with our humans.  Dammit, why can't they understand that a large bed is essential for a small brown dog? 

Saturday, June 30th
After many long hours spent in the noisy, stinky, hot jeep, with occasional breaks to allow the humans fetch water for us, we arrived at our destination.  I knew at once where I was - this is where we spent the winter!  But our house is at the other end of the village - silly humans have brought us to the wrong house!  This one smells funny!  And there are no cats for Cookie to play with!

Sunday, July 1st
The house still smells funny, but the couch is nice and comfy to sleep on!  Nearly as good as a human bed!  It's getting nicely coated with brown and white hairs too - me and Cookie are doing our best to make it feel like home.  Speaking of home, this place (Céreste, the humans call it) has changed.  It's warmer but much much wetter.  It's pretty much just like our normal home where it rains all the time.

Monday, July 2nd
We were left behind!  Abandoned in a strange place! What could we do but bark and howl our despair out to the world?  Then the humans arrived back with "shopping" and all was well once again.  We even got them to take us for a walk later on - that's me, right at the bottom of the photo :
The rain here has stopped and it's warm.  Much warmer than I'm used to.  It's a bit tiring.

Tuesday, July 3rd
What a great start to the day!  We got out with the humans early and ran a perimeter patrol to the north of Céreste.  Well, I ran.  The humans and Cookie walked.  I had to stop and catch my breath sometimes, though.
And then... we were abandoned!  Again!  This is terrible.  What do they think they are doing?  
They came back.  Eventually.  I am a very unimpressed small brown dog.  

Wednesday, July 4th
We stuck with them for the whole day!  First of all we all went for a really great walk.  We ended up by a river, and I was going in for my usual paddle, when one of the humans spotted a ball.     
I like balls.  I like to rip off their green fur, although I have not yet managed to disembowel one - but I digress.
The human cleverly retrieved the ball, and then promptly threw it back into the water. Silly human!  What could I do?  I tried to paddle out to it but it was too deep and I found myself swimming.  Swimming is weird and a bit scarey - it's like you're walking but there's no ground underneath you.  Thoroughly un-natural.  I quickly looped back to the shore and assessed the situation.
I really wanted to retrieve that ball (even though I am not a retriever per se) so I tried from another angle...
 I ended up swimming...
but I was so close to the ball that I managed to grab it and swim back to shore with it!
Yes!  In my mouth!  I have never in all my life done that before!  I was so proud of myself and so happy to have rescued the ball!
The rest of the day was mostly spent in the noisy, stinky and rather hot jeep.  We did have one nice break though, we went to a Café where we are well known and were recognised immediately.  I spent most of lunchtime working on my hypnosis skills. 



It's not working.  I must be doing something wrong.

Thursday, July 5th
Another truly brilliant day! Yes, we spent a lot of time in the hot, stinky jeep, but we got a great walk in as well!
We ended up by a lake.
The water was so cool!
I got to practise swimming again.
I'm really starting to like it.
I even retrieved a stick.
It was great!
Cookie doesn't like it so much, though.  Ha! I am so much cooler than she is!

Friday, July 6th
Another great walk today!  This time it was a perimeter patrol to the East of Céreste.  The humans stopped for a food break along the way, and I tried hypnosis again.


It's starting to work!  They gave us both some nuts!  They were yummy!

The walk was pretty hot and there was no swimming today, so Cookie and I settled down to snooze the afternoon away in the cool house.  We didn't mind so much when the humans went out and left us.  Who wants to spend hours in a hot stinky jeep?  And anyway, this place is starting to smell pretty good now.  There's lots and lots of nice brown and white hairs all over the place now.

"A small brown dog is an essential piece of kit for giving perspective in photographs."  What can she possibly mean by that?
I spent the afternoon mulling this over in between naps. 
I still don't understand.