Sticks and stones…

I have these two horses…

They’re lovely boys, a couple of real characters – and look almost like a matched pair.

Beech has been with me for about eight years.

I bought him for meat money – to save a good-looking ex-racehorse from being turned in to dogfood.

Which is kind of ironic really because in temperament he’s very similar to a dog; he loves me to bits, follows me around the field, likes to play – we play ‘tag’, and ‘chase’.

He likes to go out for a hack around the countryside and likes to school – flatwork and a bit of jumping, likes a little cross-country for fun too; he’s given up competing now though.

I retrained him from being a mentalist racehorse in to being a steady, controlled Eventer – and we had a couple of good seasons in the sport.

So he’s semi-retired now.

And on three legs.

Because a couple of weeks ago he got kicked by his companion; it wasn’t malicious and these accidents sometimes happen.


The vet rang me last night – 21.35!

She’d just had a set of x-rays developed and guess who is now showing a fracture in his leg?

Well OK, it’s not me so it must be…



So my poor boy is being forced to stay in during the grass peak months; at a time when he should be shovelling weight on he’s actually shedding it.

Dropping weight because he doesn’t like being ‘in’, doesn’t understand why everyone else is out 24/7 and he’s stuck in jail with no chance of parole.


We hope that the special Robert Jones (no relation) dressing he’s wearing, together with his enforced incarcaration,  will allow the bone to knit.

If it does then in a couple of months he can begin to be introduced to the great outdoors in a controlled way.

If it doesn’t knit…

I don’t want to think about that right now.


Anyway the other half of the bookend twins is Vin.

Vin’s much younger, half Beech’s age, and because he’s a recent addition to the family he’s still going through training to get him from ‘nutter ex-racehorse’ to ‘sensible’ Eventer.

Yep, Vin’s another challenge.


He doesn’t have half as much character as Beech – but Beech, it must be said, is exceptionally full of un-horselike, very humanlike behaviours.

What Vin does have is native talent.

Vin could go far in theEventing world, he has effortless ability, tremendous physical scope and a natural sense of balance that would shame most other horses I’ve ever met.

The trouble is what Vin doesn’t have is…

Common sense.

See? It’s swings and roundabouts.

Beech has wheelbarrow-loads of common sense, little ability and almost no sense of balance.

Vin has ability and balance equal to 10 to the power of Mexico’s overdraft but slightly less than a thimblefull of common sense.



Anyway Vin and I are out training tomorrow; cross-country schooling at Hilltop, Ledbury in Herefordshire – with William, my trainer.

And I’m starting to cack it.

It’s 19.30 and I’m starting to poo myself over a thing that’s not even going to start until 09.00 tomorrow morning.

Of course there’s a lot to be done tomorrow morning before the really scary stuff begins; I have to struggle out of bed for a start!

Then do bathroom stuff, lurch around the kitchen making tea and eating breakfast, getting appropriately dressed and driving to the yard.

Once there I’ll start the lorry up, pull it out of the parking bay, get it ready, load Vin’s tack and water, check everything we’ll need are in the correct places and make sure the human and equine first aid kits are fully supplied.

Then I’ll fetch Vin out of the field, groom him, load him in to the lorry and set off down the M5.

I didn’t always get this nervous about jumping cross-country – I should explain.

I broke my leg about six years ago.

Well, when I say I broke my leg what I mean is I broke my knee.

And tore my antecruciate ligament, postcruciate ligament, medialcruciate ligament and vaporourised the miniscal cartilige from the kneecap.

That happened while I was going cross country – on another horse, neither Beech nor Vin; Ash, if you want the perp’s name.

And since then, every time I’m less than 24 hours away from either going cross country or from competing in a full-on One Day, Two Day or Three Day Event…

I cack myself.

Right now – 19.34 Friday evening – the butterflies in my tummy are doing a fair impression of The Red Arrows.

Look, I know it’s going to be fun.

I know the moment we’ve popped over the first practice fence I’ll forget the stress of it all, settle down in to the rhythm of the sport and Vin and I will, for the duration of the clinic, become one single organism with two hearts, two heads, one-and-a-bit brains and six legs.


And we’ll both love the experience.

But right now?

Right now he’s over there in his field noshing his head off…

And I’m cacking it.


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