Combined Training


The Lovely S and I got out of bed more or less on time.

We did the usual stuff then left the house more or less on time.

We arrived at the yard on time.

I loaded the lorry.

Groomed a surprisingly mud-less Vin.

Put him in, gave him a haynet to munch on and we…

Left the yard early (shock horror!).

It didn’t rain (more shock horror!).

Arrived at Allenshill way ahead of schedule (so much shock horror that it defies description!).

Had a cup of tea from the excellent refreshment stand.

Watched a small group of horses working-in.

Walked the show jumping course.

Walked around to the dressage arena and watched three tests.

Got very confused because the first test we saw wasn’t the one I’d learnt!

Realised that that test belonged to an earlier ‘dressage only’ class.

Watched the first Prelim 18 competitor.

Watched the second, just to cement the test well and truly in my head.

Got confused all over again!

The second competitor rode a movement that I hadn’t learnt!

Dashed back to the lorry to check that I had learned the correct movements after all.

I had.


Got Vin out of the lorry, ran a body brush over him, tacked up.

Put my show jacket on, slipped the smart silk on to my hat.

Put on my riding boots and gloves.

Mounted up and walked in to the warm-up arena.

And began working in.

Vinnie (bless) was brilliant; laid back, supple, obedient.

Until, about 10 minutes away from our test…

I asked for a right-lead canter.

And he blew up.

Minor rocking horse action accompanied by a couple of bucks.

One of the other working-in combinations were so spooked by Vin spooking that the rider fell off!

I didn’t.

We got called forward and rode in to the arena.

I felt we executed our dressage test pretty damn well.

With one exception.

The second canter – right lead.

Yep, he had an issue with it again and let me know, again.

I asked three times for the correct canter lead and three times he told me where to go.

In the end I ignored the unasked-for counter canter and just resolved to finish the test.

Back at the lorry we swapped tack (jumping saddle for dressage saddle).

And began working in: canter-work in a forward jumping position.

Then rode in to the jumping arena and popped the practice fences a couple of times.

Announced we were ready and…

Went for it.

Vinnie jumped like a star (even if the star in question had a resemblance to a stag on speed).

No stops, no poles down, no crookedness, no hesitation, (in fact lots of quickness of the almost too variety).

I don’t know where we finished in the placings.

We had to leave Allenshill as soon as we’d jumped â- a prior commitment with Harry Potter.

But I do know that Vin was a total star.

We raised our Prelim 18 points by a further 20 on our last Prelim 18 outing – brilliant improvement.

I also know that today’s competition filled both of us with confidence and elevated our partnership to a new level of trust and understanding.

I just hope that the whole thing wasn’t too boring for The Lovely S who accompanied us.

Sixteen hands between your legs

It is a tradition (in my world anyway) to give one’s horse a gentle hack around the immediate countryside on the day before a competition.

You know, give your horse the opportunity to:
* Experience some gentle fun as he saunters through the village
* Frighten the living daylights out of motorists who, for some reason, find it incomprehensible that they might encounter a horse as they bomb through country lanes at stupidly ridiculous speeds in stupidly inappropriate vehicles
* Gawp at the flood damage
* Snigger at the things hanging on washing lines of remote cottages (oh yes he does, honest!)
* Spook, spin, starfish, get bug-eyed and startled by such horse-threatening unusual items as:
Birds (but I’ll admit that one in particular was an immensely large woodpigeon)
Cows (b*st*rds)
Cyclists (other b*st*rds)

Yet the aforementioned horse will remain completely calm when:
* asked to trot underneath two scary railway bridges
* a huge tractor goes past towing a long trailer carrying a combine harvester’s blades. Or (a few minutes later)
* we are passed by what (even to me) looks like the world’s largest combine harvester (it’s so large that we have to get off the lane!)

Horses, you see…

Very complex.

Anyway, to get back to my theme…

All these things are for the horse.

A hack – for the seriously competitive owner/rider – is a rare opportunity to:
* unwind a little
* ride for idle pleasure rather than for the pleasure of competing or preparing to compete
* receive some excellent mental therapy (horses are brilliant listeners, you should try it some time!)
* admire the wonderful English countryside
* do some wide-ranging thinking
* make some unlikely plans
* hatch a short story plot development that’s been incubating for a little while
* examine the newly-built barn conversions and wonder when, precisely, the brand new residents will realise they’re living in the middle of a working farm which also hosts a three-month-long shoot.

Hey ho.

Today was no exception.

Once we had returned to the yard I untacked, groomed, treated and turned out Big Vin.

Then I groomed and treated Beech.

Then set to the biggest tack-cleaning operation I’ve done in many moons:
Broke down Vin’s bridle
Broke down the jumping saddle
Broke down the dressage saddle
Then wet-cleaned
Then saddle-soaped
Then oiled
Then reassembled everything
And had a hot chocolate.

In amongst all of this hearty fun young Laura arrived.

Fresh-faced and not-very-tanned from her week in Gran Canaria.

We chatted.

She showed me some snaps.

And her tattoo (henna paint-job, it’ll be gone in a couple of weeks).

And some video clips.

Then I amazed her with my sole piece of trivia about the Canary Islands.

Then she went and amazed her mum with my sole piece of trivia about the Canary Islands.

See what an effect I have on people?

It’s a good job I wasn’t bullsh*tt*ng her!

I left the yard at 13.20, arrived back at the house at 13.40 via a quick stop at Morrisons.

As soon as I got in I vegged out.

Flumped on the couch and did…

I don’t know what.

Time passed.

Oh yeah.

I sent a text to one of the girls at the yard saying she could borrow my horsebox next weekend.

And I did some email stuff.


Then it was 17.00 and time for me to go and fetch The Lovely S.

And now it’s nearly 18.30.

I’ve still got to clean and polish my leather riding boots, but apart from that I’m ready for tomorrow.

Now then.

Just got to sort out tea.


How to cut your motoring bills


Car owner?

Want to reduce your motoring overheads?

Let me help you.

I guarantee that by following my four easy steps you can cut the cost of your motoring bill by a minimum of £205.

Probably more!

Step 1: Sell your car

Step 2: Take that money to a neighbouring country (because they drive on the same side of the road, The Republic of Ireland might be best. But if you fancy a challenge go to Spain where cars are significantly cheaper than the UK).

Step 3: Buy a newish, low mileage used car.

Step 4: Drive it back to this country.

Hey presto!

No more road tax.

As the law stands you have six months before you need to declare the vehicle.

That’s six months of tax-free motoring.

But hey, suppose you forgot to declare it?


Suppose you forgot to insure it?


That would be inexpensive motoring, wouldn’t it?

Now let’s not be mistaken about something.

The reason for this little rant is because I’ve just learned:

* local authorities don’t chase up parking fines where the vehicle that incurred the fine is a foreign-registered vehicle.


* the DVLA have no means of checking that any foreign-registered vehicle on British roads is taxed in its home country.


* the police have no means of checking that any foreign-registered vehicle on British roads is insured (how easy would it be for someone with a rudimentary knowledge of a foreign language and PC or Mac skills to knock up a dummy certificate?).

This is the 21st Century and we don’t have what seems to me to be rudimentary communications channels with all other countries in the Eurozone?



Combined training, Sunday


Dressage at 12.22 and show jumping as soon as we’ve changed tack and worked in.

Need to be at Allenshill at 11.00.

Which means leaving the yard at 10.15.

And that means arriving at the yard at 09.15…

Therefore, leaving the house about 08.45.

Ho hum.

So much for a Sunday lie-in.


Film news…

Got to see… 

Transformers (hey, I’ve seen four trailers for it; it looks brilliant!),


The Simpsons


The Bourne Ultimatum.

On Sunday The Lovely S and I are going to see the latest Harry Potter film.


Writing? Of course!

My friend is running a writing course.

A course for those wishing to improve their writing.

Style, technique, voice – the lot.

And she’s holding this course…

In Umbria, Italy.

Now come on people.

Doesn’t this sound good?

Trouble is, I don’t know if she’s got any spare places.

But if you’re interested, drop me a line.

I’ll ask for you.


This is the age of the train?

Try this commute, any websites you can think of.

Your journey is Bromsgrove to Swindon.

A. by Train:
= 3 hours
(Bromsgrove to Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street to Bristol Temple Meads
Bristol Temple Meads to Swindon)

B. by Car:
= 1½ hours
(A38 to M5
M5 to A419
A419 to Swindon)

Public transport being an alternative to car use?

I really don’t think so.


Book review: the book, the film, the t-shirt by Matt Beaumont

Front cover description: ‘a very funny book about very stupid people’



I laughed once during this book (top of page 139 if you’re interested).

But don’t think I didn’t like it.

I did.

I loved it – really!

It’s clever and very well written – and I can like and admire cleverness and good writing when I see it.

I loved the cleverness of the names, to give two examples:
1. A character called Norman The Cook (who my head instantly renamed ‘Fatboy Slim’).

2. Greg Fuller, owner of half of an Ad Agency. The balance of the company is owned by Max Scheidt (and the agency is called Fuller Scheidt, geddit?)

I also loved the cleverness of the telling:
Alternate scenes are told through the eyes of a different character. The resultant story comes from the minds of nine different narrators.

See what I mean?


The dialogue is good.

The stupid characters are stupidly believable.

The not-stupid characters are very realistic.

And, on the whole, likeable.

It’s just not the corset-tearingly funny novel that the blurb would have you think the book is going to be.

And while I’m talking about appearances not living up to expectations…

I’d advise Matt Beaumont to get his photo changed.

Doesn’t he know that the only balding, middle-aged men who sport two day’s growth and wear a huge ear-ring in one ear are commonly called ‘W*nkers’?

So there we are then.

the book, the film, the t-shirt by Matt Beaumont – who may or may not be a w*nker.

A not particularly funny romp through ad-land and commercial-land.

But well written and cleverly constructed.