Diary of an Equine Mum

Saturday, 8 February 2014

So Long Blue: Why These Animals Grab Your Hearts

BLUE AGE 14
It was a very sad day in the Hobden house yesterday, as we have lost our beloved little Blue cat. We carry on in our lives for years on end with these furry bundles of fluff, just always being there... They sometimes drive us mad but they make us laugh too however when they suddenly depart, life doesn't quite seem to be the same....

I have never intentionally gone looking for kittens, they always seem to find me through friends.  Quite a few of my friends over the years have had kittens and I end up going round for a cuppa, and a coo and arrr over the kitties and then those fateful words come out of my mouth..."Oh go on then, I'll have one".

Blue came into our lives just like that. My friend Sally had a lovely sandy coloured cat called Blossom who had the most beautiful litter of kittens back in 1999 when my boys were three and four. Sally had seen Blue's dad (a big grey cat) all too briefly in her garden having a dalliance with Blossom and then if I remember rightly five kittens then turned up several weeks later. Sally's daughter who was three at the time, couldn't quite grasp the concept that they were not keeping all of Blossom's kittens and screamed the house down every time someone would come and collect the kitten to take home. She was the same with Blue, even though promises would be made that she could see Blue any time she liked. Ashleigh is now seventeen and we have reminded her on several occasions about this story!
Blue Always In The Festive Spirit






I haven't got any wild tales to tell you about Blue as she was generally a quiet little soul, never really giving us any trouble at all. She was a toughy though and would put up a fight if she needed to. I have had many cats over the years, some always up to something or trip to the vets, but not her. She was always, just there. She had just one visit to the vets that I can remember and that was an allergy to flea treatment. We changed the product and she was well again. Now that is fantastic for her 14 years! My son Billy adored her and she was always with him. He cannot remember life without her. She slept on his bed almost every night. 

You Sit Behind Me Harley!

Queen of Sheba

She would stand her ground as she was the quiet boss. Any new cat or dog that came in the household, she would put them in their place, and they all bowed down to her. 
You can sit there Diz but keep a distance!





BLUE AND HER FAMOUS SNORING!



She had recently been getting a bit doddery coming down the stairs and I was thinking that age was catching up with her. This week though she was bombing through the house like she was a kitten again! She was still fussing over her dinner as Stephen had bought the wrong flavour when he went shopping last weekend and she followed me round the house until I gave in to her. I then hot footed out to the shops and bought her favourite Purina Senior 7+!


The day Dizzee kitten arrived..not impressed!



Me and Stephen went out on Thursday night this week for a friends 50th birthday drinks. The weather was foul (as usual) and when we came home, Billy said to me straight away he couldn't find Blue. This was so unusual as she was always in and certainly wouldn't be out in gale force winds and rain. We searched the house and couldn't find her. I said she had probably popped out and would be back, but secretly I was fearing the worse. I woke up early yesterday and she still was not at home. I went and searched the garage and sheds...nothing. I took Harley for a walk thinking what was my next step in the search for her. I decided to do some notes and pass them to neighbours to check their outbuildings.

When we got back Harley went off in the garden and kept going under our thick hedge, then coming out to find me. He then went under the hedge again, and then out to find me. I then knew she was there... When I crept under the hedge there was Harley sitting quietly by her body. She was not curled up and I honestly think she had an instant heart attack. I am pretty sure it was quick and she did not suffer.

We buried her yesterday in bright sunshine in a spot in the garden that I can see clearly from the house. When the bluebells arrive in the spring, I will put some there as a constant memory of her. We are all pretty upset to see her go, especially me and Billy. She was a fab little cat, and one that can never be replaced. We will miss her immensely.

THE ONE AND ONLY BLUE




Monday, 27 January 2014

One Hand On The Reins and One Hand On The Cradle


How can you not smile and feel happy for Zara Phillips who became a mum recently to baby Mia. With the nation reading about another royal baby, it is no doubt giving us a lovely feel good factor. With Laura Tomlinson also announcing her pregnancy much has been written recently on how difficult it is to juggle motherhood with an equestrian career.

However what about the “every day” day rider? Zara and Laura will no doubt have a fool proof support network behind them enabling them to ride, school and maintain their horses and career. I have read many blog posts over the past few years where new mums have had to make a heart breaking decision whether to carry on with horse ownership or simply put their beloved hobby on hold while motherhood takes over. If you decide to battle on with having a horse then the so called “juggling act” becomes an impressive display from La Cirque du Soleil!

Having horses is exhausting at the best of times and also a huge financial commitment. Factor a baby in the mix and any normal person would question why you would have a horse in your life! Well it’s because we love them and to give up on our horses would be the absolute last resort. So what is the answer? What if you had to fit in working as well. It would all seem an absolute impossibility, surely? These mum’s are out there and struggling to keep all the juggling balls in the air! Trying to beg, borrow and steal childcare becomes an art and craft. When a few hours has been given then it’s a frantic dash to the yard, muck out, groom and then off on a high speed hack that Frankel would of been proud of… To get some equestrian help is always the answer but it can be difficult to try and find someone trustworthy and reliable to share your horse in time and money.

I decided to enter horse ownership when my boys were six and seven. It was a huge decision which I did not make lightly as I knew the arrival of my horse would make a massive impact on our family life. How was I going to fit in this 17.2 money machine and time taker into our already hectic routine? With two small boys and a business to run, I look back now and I must have been mad. I managed it but only just, with Olympic runs to the yard after work to muck out before rushing back to put a thrown together dinner on the table. My boys (who did not share my equestrian enthusiasm) spent many hours in the car parked at the yard when it was pouring down with rain in the holidays. The little money I had left was spent on magazines and games to entertain them and to stop their moans that they were, yet again, at the stables… I did feel guilty about it, especially exhausting babysitting favours when I had to sort out childcare in order to work or ride my horse. I also felt guilty about the amount of money that was spent on my hobby. It wasn’t just only the weekly requirements of hay, feed and livery it was also unexpected vets bills, rugs that needed replacing or saddles that needed reflocking…. Was I being selfish? That was a question that I did ask myself and I imagine every horse owner mother struggles with. But was it “the battle of the sexes” question, did the husbands or partners give up their hobby when the babies arrive? I imagine most did not. Controversial as it sounds, most woman are expected to give up their identity almost when becoming a mother. You become “Ben’s mum or Molly’s mum“ almost losing your individuality. By having some time away from motherhood and work doing the hobby that you love, works wonders for any frazzled mother psychologically.

So us every day horse owners who happen to be mothers too will battle on with our guilty pleasure. The years do pass by very quickly and my guilt has passed. My boys are now adults enjoying their own hobbies now. They sometimes ask after my horse, but it’s a rare occasion. I now have time to enjoy my hobby without syncing diaries with the school, work or my boy’s hectic social life. I have no regrets about fitting my horse into our family life. It has been extremely tough but worth it. You can continue to be a mother while being a horse owner too, it just needs some clever time and financial management and perhaps a crèche being opened at your local yard!

Please also visit www.hay.net.co.uk

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Harley and Me - The First Year With My Dog

Harley Age 16 Weeks
I was watching Harley scampering along on our afternoon walk and could see a family walking ahead with their children, one on a scooter. I called Harley and he came back to me, not instantly but he then came to heel. This time last year, my heart would lurch and mini panic would set in as I would watch my over exuberant terrier make a beeline for the tiny people, aiming to wipe them out with his excited greeting. Wow, we have come a long way in the last year….

Dad with Tyler his Border Terrier (2007)
I have had dogs in my life, but I have had a twenty odd year break from canine ownership. My dear dad was a huge dog lover, although my mum was yet to be converted. Eventually after nearly twenty years, she finally relented and “allowed” dad to have a dog. Within hours almost, Ross a ten week old black and white Springer Spaniel bounded into our lives. It was pure chaos and he was mad as a March hare, but a joy to have in our family. My mum then went on to have her own dog and bought Paddy a Cairn Terrier home to join Ross. I left home, married and had children but I always had cats to keep the family company as in my opinion, a home is not complete without some furry animal cohabiting! I bought my horse ten years ago who has had a huge impact on my life and as every horse owner knows the bond between you is one you can never replace.


Since moving to a more rural location in the last few years, my husband who was very anti-dogs shocked us all and said he thought it would be a good idea to have a dog live with us. Now "live with us" was in his mind, in a kennel in the garden, all year round. He was going to make our dog his new home complete with a run…or so he thought. We had long discussions about what sort of dog was going to fit in with us and we ruled out a rescue dog having two cats already. The dog had to be male and having two teenage sons, he had to be a “manly” dog, no fluff whatsoever! I don’t know what came over us, but we decided to get a terrier cross.



After much searching and researching, we decided on a black and tan Patterdale cross Jack Russell. Harley arrived in our lives about sixteen months ago now and what a whirlwind it has been. The day he came home and jumped on to my husband’s lap, was the day that puppy secured his warm bed indoors.... I had totally forgotten how consumed you get with a puppy and the first few months, my life seemed to revolve around his bowel movements or how many hours it was between pees! We were lucky with Harley that he cottoned on to toilet training well and within about 10 weeks of being with us, he had cracked it.

Harley's Favourite Place - With The Horses
Now walking him was a completely new challenge, mentally and physically. As he long legs grew…yes long legs (He’s parentage has been questioned as he almost has legs likes a whippet!) the more exercise he needed. Come rain, wind, snow and boiling hot sun my daily routine now is a 20 minute walk in the morning with a 45 minute walk in the afternoon. I find the people you meet fascinating when dog walking and how you can meet a total stranger and sometimes end up walking with them telling them almost your life story while watching your dog’s tearing around, doing laps of honour. It also has made me get to know my neighbours since moving to the area, as I’m always bumping into them when dog walking. I barely knew my neighbours in my previous home as I very rarely walked about in my neighbourhood. My fitness has improved no end and I love walking. There are days when I can do without it, but once I’m out I feel better. Harley in general is a super little dog and absolutely loves us to the point he is my stalker. I work from home, so I am around a lot and when I am not about he takes himself to his bed and waits…and waits. On my return I am greeted by him as if I have been to Australia and back!

He is generally a really good boy, but not an angel… We have had a few instances shall we say that left me red faced. Bounding up to a lady dressed all in cream when he has just tried to track a rabbit down in a quagmire of mud springs to mind. Taking a child’s football away and running like a greyhound on the winning straight is also makes the top ten whilst I’m apologising profusely to the parents of the screaming child. Hopping into the builders van at home when we were having building work and eating all their sandwiches – he loved cheese and ham by the way! He has managed to make some epic escapes that Steve McQueen would have been proud of. Thankfully we have blocked these escape routes so he is well and truly locked in his dog proof garden now. Another one of his favourite tricks when meeting other dogs is to literally high five the ones with a stick in their mouths and then hot foot off with the said stick as fast as his long legs will take him. Again the “I’m so sorry” routine comes from me when the pitiful dog looking at me as though Harley has taken food from their mouths.

Harley's First Trip To The Beach
You are probably reading this thinking I should of done some dog training to teach him some canine manners – I did! Honestly I did! His manners have improved and I have learnt to be one step ahead of him, almost knowing what his next move will be when I spot a rabbit ten paces ahead or hear the cluck of a pheasant in the distance. Yes he is gone…. I could have a whole cooked chicken in my pocket but that “value” treat will not stop my errant terrier on a mission!

HARLEY AND ME
Life would be extremely dull without him now and I cannot imagine our family with no Harley. I totally understand that dog/human bond and how bereft an owner feels when they are sadly taken from us through illness, accident or old age. I hope that day is many, many years away and I imagine I will have many “tails” to tell about my life with Harley. I look forward to thousands of miles of dog walks and being his companion.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Yet Another Year Flashes By....

A rare picture of Mr and Mrs Hobden!
I opened my blog page today and was horrified to see four posts in draft that I had started to write and never finished.... That is shocking behaviour for someone that runs a blogging network! I can only blame it on poor time management on my part and will correct this as soon as possible. Once I start typing a blog post I really enjoy it, its just making the time to sit down and do it. 



This year has been in general a good year. A few ups and downs on my part, but some friends around me have had a terrible year. You really don't know what is around the corner in life and watching some go through very worrying times, it makes you really appreciate what you have....


In June Miles had his leaving prom (pictured top left) which was quite sentimental really as it has been sad to think my children have now all left school. He had a great time and even us parents partied into the night at Sally's. A few days later we left for a week in boiling hot Rhodes which I think will be the last time we all go away together as a family... The boys bought along some friends too and we only saw them at dinner and the occasional breakfast when they surfaced before the dining room shut at 11am!


The summer has been spent living in a building site with major building work going on with some re-roofing, walls being knocked down, floors relaid, rewiring, new plumbing and a new kitchen. Thank goodness the fantastic summer went with us on the works as it made it all so much more bearable. I am now the lucky owner of a fab new kitchen which is a complete improvement on what you can see below!


I inherited some money when I lost my lovely dad a few years ago and wanted to buy something in memory of him so I invested in an Aga! We have bought a reconditioned one with new lids and resprayed in charcoal grey and I love it. It has totally changed the way I cook and I have kissed goodbye to my kettle, toaster and tumble dryer. She is a complete work horse and we now have heat  and it is nice not having to wear my body warmer on in the day like last winter!!

All the animals are well and Harley has now calmed down quite a bit. I love having him and he really has changed our lives for the better! Nothing like a dog to make you get off your backsides and walk out the house twice a day come rain, wind, snow or sunshine! I am definitely so much fitter - it must be the running after him when he decides to belt after those errant pheasants for three fields!


Zeb is really well but despite battling a bit of mud fever which is now under control, he is all good! My riding has taken a bit of a back seat due to many reasons but I have had a friend ride him out in the week which takes the pressure off me. We have now four horses at the yard which has taken some more time and my friend Sue is sadly battling cancer so extra man power has been needed at the stables.


Baby Rio came to the yard which my friend Bev decided to take him on after being orphaned losing his mother at 6 weeks. It certainly has been a big learning curve dealing with a youngster but a very enjoyable one. He has his moments which can be challenging but overall he is a well mannered lovely young colt.


The autumn has been busy with work and Haynet is becoming more of a job than a hobby. Again, it's a very enjoyable past time but changes are needed to take it forward. I hope 2014 will be a good and developing year for the network, so watch this space!


So we have just had Christmas which I simply cannot believe another one has flashed by. Billy turned 18 on Christmas Eve and again I was very sentimental about him becoming an adult. It almost feels like "job done" but I know that simply is not the case in this day and age! Billy has had a challenging year lets say with big ups and downs. College has been hard work and he decided in the summer that uni was not for him so A Level subjects were changed and now he is on course to do an apprenticeship in accounting next year. Anyway we celebrated Billy's 18th in style on Christmas Eve and both boys went to bed a little worse for wear. 


So in just a couple of days we say goodbye to 2013. I have lots on the horizon next year featuring work, rest and play! Life is definitely too short and we must make the most of it. I absolutely promise to keep you more up to date as I have really enjoyed writing this post. Blog posting should not be a chore and write when you want to write. Well I have decided that I will write more often.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

When Life Seems To Be A Military Operation....

The crowds and the walking @ Badminton!
So this weekend I am escaping... I haven't escaped for a while, in fact it's been a few years. With last years chaotic house move, going away was way down on the list of priorities. I'm off to Badminton Horse Trials for four days with friends, and no family in tow. I'm so looking forward to it but the countdown to the military operation in order for my household to run while I am away has started. It gets to the point where I sometimes wonder is it worth all the work! I have a huge list to do, I should be doing them now instead of writing this blog post....
The fab William Fox-Pitt who I will be rooting for!
I have work to catch up with and then do paperwork to cover when I'm away, I've got horses to sort and arrange meeting the farmer to arrange for a bale in the field for Zeb to munch while I'm gone. I've got to shop for the masses for easy to open food for the family to consume with ease. I've got to make sure the cats and dog have enough food with written instructions on how to feed them. I've got to arrange for Harley to be walked as Mr H is on crutches (torn ligaments, long laborious story, it needs a whole new blog post for that one!). The boys have a social life I was told, so walking the dog would be very tricky to fit this in.....  I've got washing and ironing to do by the ton not really for me but for the boys as they have work (uniform needed) and parties to attend.
Why do I do it, I hear some of you ask... because I'm a mum and probably a little bit of a control freak I suppose. It's normally domestic carnage upon my return so to have a plan in place makes it all so much easier!
So I head off with some friends on Friday for a totally horsey weekend in the Cotswolds. I will be mixing some business with pleasure meeting a few contacts to do with Haynet too. I am thinking of doing a stand with another company in the future so some market research is being done this weekend! We are staying with friends in an unofficial B&B capacity and we are thoroughly looked after and spoilt over the three nights we are staying there. I have robbed some money from the money tree and have a little list of necessities that I need from Premier Equine, Kate Negus and Joules!



Anyway must dash and stop talking and start "doing"! I will be back with all the news from Badminton very soon!

Sam

xx

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Winter Depression Has Lifted!

Harley First Time In The Snow
This was dear Harley only a few weeks ago - hard to believe when I am typing this with sunglasses on (must sort out a blind for the window!) with the temperature gage showing a positively tropical 17 deg at 6.30pm in  the evening!

It's been a very tough and long winter. Being in our new place which has not received any maintenance for some years has been a draughty and expensive house to heat in the last six months. Layer upon layer I have put on and we still fed the oil company and the log man twenty pound note after twenty pound note. I cannot write down what we have spent on fuel  this winter but I could have had a five star luxury break in Bermuda with the money! 
Zeb In His Winter Coat!


It's also been incredibly hard work with the horses this year. It's either been a frozen ice rink making riding impossible or monsoon wind and rain. I make no secret of it, I will not ride in damp conditions! Zeb has continued to settle over the last few months and I can honestly say he is now back to the old Zeb that I know and love. Moving has been an upheaval for all of us but I really did not take into account how it affects the animals in our lives!


Life has been super busy with work starting on the house with the front room now finished and a shower room upstairs which has been a god send. Having daily baths has been bit of a bind and also really time consuming! We have finally moved the office in the workshop outside and I am really thrilled with it!
Haynets New Little Office






The boys are fine and busy consumed with school and college as the last term starts with exams looming. Billy has found this years work with the A Levels quite tough as the workload is far higher than he has ever had to deal with before. We are off to college next week for a University meeting to start the process of applying for 2014..how scary! Billy has also been driving and has his theory test this week. I am dreading him driving when he passes his test. Do mums ever stop worrying?! He has also got a job part time at Herstmonceux Castle which he grumbled about at first but is now enjoying, especially with the pennies rolling in. He seem quite reluctant to part with them when I said he could now contribute towards his driving lessons and car tax - funny that!

Miles is leaving school in a months time and then he will have his GCSE's to do through May and June. He has been accepted to do a BTEC Engineering course for two years at college which we are really pleased about. 
The Beautiful South Downs Of Sussex

So Spring has sprung this week and my winter depression has definitely lifted. I was out today walking Harley with a tshirt on and he was shattered as it was the first time he has manically run about in this heat. I am very lucky the dog walks around here are just stunning with views towards the South Downs. It's amazing how the air just changes with a bit of warmth and sunshine. I have now got back in the saddle more frequently with the change of weather which has been great. Zeb has been a very good boy with no obvious spring nonsense (she says **touchwood**)!
Me and The Big Guy
A Fistful Of Horse Hair!
I have spent the last few days brushing and brushing and brushing his coat which is coming off in fistfuls.  You could honestly make a lovely horse hair mattress out of it! I even think Zeb has come out of a winter depression and I was watching him in the field today with the sun on his back, looking a very happy horse!

So I hope the summer is going to be kind to us this year because I think we all pretty much deserve a run of good weather. I have a lot going on in the next few months from Proms to Holidays, a trip to Badminton, Hickstead and Brightling for my horse fixes and then Hen Parties with an Alice and Wonderland theme among others!

I hope to keep up to date with all my goings on and will keep you posted with my trips out! Roll on summer of 2013!

Sam
x



Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Coughs, Colds And A Horse Meat Scandal

Well the last few weeks in this house has been full of the sounds of coughing, sniffing and generally moaning. We have spent half the weekly shopping budget on Lemsip and Sudafed and I am not sure they make a huge difference to be honest. Miles came home a few weeks ago feeling dreadful which developed into man flu, then Steve had the man flu and now I have a thick cold...which is what the true diagnosis is!

Trouble is I cannot take to my bed when I feel ill (like certain males in this house did), the cogs of the household wheel would fall off. So I put on my "martyr" badge and carry on....with work, the dog walking, horse mucking out and exercising, washing, being a taxi driver and the food shopping. Talking of which what we put in out trollies has been full on in the media and social networks this week with this dreadful horse meat scandal.
This scandal is very close to my heart being a horse lover and being married to a qualified butcher. The whole lesson of this whole sorry saga is the need and necessity to buy cheap food. My food bill like everyone's has soared over the last few years and to eat healthy and good locally sourced food is too expensive. This is why the beef lasgane in question is only £1.29 because it has not got any beef in it. If it had, it would be double the price. To be duped by the manufacturers that they are selling beef is down to them checking their supplier. 

Being a horse lover, I really have no problem in people eating horse meat, that is their choice. I personally wouldn't eat it, as it would be like me eating Zeb, or my cat or my dog. The whole issue of this scandal is the manufacturers making huge profits from their products lying through their teeth as to what is in them. However, I know that some families struggle to put food on the table because of the costs and to go to the butcher seems off limits with their budgets. My feelings are to try and go back to the good old days when a joint of meat should go further than the one roast, with cold meats used the next day and then whatever is left minced for the third. It may be more labour intensive but at least you know what you are eating and I think you would save money in the long run.

This also shows what happens when we import meat from abroad because it is cheaper. In this country we have strict guidelines with our meat production which I know is reflected in the costs when you have good quality, UK sourced meat. I hope our attitudes change with this and we all look more carefully at what we are buying. If we do change our buying habits then the need for cheap imported "meat" products will decline putting a stop to the dodgy practices and the awful animal welfare issues that have been seen in countries abroad that have been supply us with so called "beef".
The animal welfare that is around this scandal is particularly upsetting, especially for the much loved horse. I have read some very upsetting articles about this. Truly shocking....

Anyway must sign off, lots to do and I have got to do some food shopping today as the cupboards are bare. I will be very careful label watching today and thinking a bit more about what I will buy. I just hope when the furor of this dies down, our attitudes to processed meats and cheap meat products has changed.