This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......

Monday, 30 November 2009

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Vaulting Lesson with Rosie from Jive Pony!!!!

Rosie came here yesterday to give me my first ever vaulting lesson and it was brilliant - the best fun I've ever had on a horse!!!!! She is an incredible teacher- very enthusiastic and encouraging while making things like walking around the school standing on your horse's back seem like a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do!

Grace was a complete superstar and never turned a hair at anything. Her only fault was stopping if she got too worried about our antics. She used to be quite a spooky pony so she showed just how far she's come.

I had told Rosie that all I wanted to do was to be able to vault on at a walk, trot and canter but the truth is that was all I ever thought I'd be capable of. As it was we went through loads of vaulting positions including walking around the school with me standing on Grace's back, sitting on her neck with my legs crossed behind her ears, kneeling with one foot on the pad, and even a shoulder stand on her withers.

Unfortunately we ran out of battery time for the video before we got to the most impressive parts but I'm going to set up a roped off cone circle so I can practise on my own to my hearts content and get a little demo videoed of all the moves. I didn't quite get to the stage of being able to vault on unaided but apparently it's much easier at canter and looking at the videos I can see, watching Rosie and then myself, that I'm not diving forward and pivoting enough yet.

I loved this SO much and sitting in a saddle will never have quite the same appeal again. I have been high as a kite ever since, in spite of the weather!!! I just need to buy a vaulting roller now, and finding one is easier said than done, but I'm on the hunt!!!

What I'd really love, one day, is to have some sort of equine theatre here. I have myself down for some sort of comedy vaulting act, which I would love as I love making people laugh, so I'll have to work out exactly what my angle will be!!!!!

Rosie is going to come again when I've practised on my own a bit more and she's going to be at The Devil's Horsemens Christmas Pantos, so we are going to meet up with her again there.

We had such a good laugh and such a good time, Rosie is such a lovely, sweet person and such good fun. She dared me onwards with laughing, twinkling eyes which made me try things against my better judgement, which was fine because her judgement was spot on and she made it all seem surprisingly easy. I was hardly stiff at all today either, which was a big surprise.

Rosie was telling me about all the new and exciting ideas she and Rebecca have for next year's Jive Pony shows and I can hardly wait to see them again then. They both have young horses who will be coming into the shows one at a time so they will have even more adrenalin going than normal!!!!!!!!


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Having terrible trouble uploading videos, as you can see, although this one does work!!! Will try some more tomorrow!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Devil's Horsemen Medieval Banquet.

I took a party of 30 adults and 4 children to the Medieval Banquet at the Devil's horsemen's home base on Saturday night. It was as a way of beginning to thank them all for all that they've done for me and it was the most fantastic night of my life.

http://www.thedevilshorsemen.com/

When we went in we were announced by a 'fool' called Peterkin who just made the show. He introduced me and the 4 friends I walked through the door with as "four wanton ladies of easy virtue". When I said "thanks for that" he added hastily "but they're not cheap!".

He made loads of people stand up and do various embarrassing things but the revelation of the night was one of my farmer friends. He vaulted in over the high wall when called upon to go into the arena and was just SO adorable, helping Peterkin who pretended to be inexperienced on stilts and doing a mime run when called upon to catch him if he fell. He loved every second of it, as did his 7 year old son who was watching and told his 2 year old sister the next day that "daddy had to dance with a man on stilts." I told him the next day that he is totally wasted and should be on the stage.

We all laughed until we cried at Peterkin and the horse action had me just aching to join in. I would have vaulted the high wall too if anyone had offered me a go at jousting or garrocha!!!

One of my friends had to choose whether to be carried of over the shoulder of Daniel or Gerard Naprous and was in raptures over being carried off by Daniel. Personally I would rather have taken Peterkin home as I love being teased and made to laugh more than anything. It was a magical evening of a lifetime and I had some big hugs from my friends in return.

It's inspired me to get on with training my horses again and I rode Bella for the first time in a while today and we both loved every moment of it. We also did our first jump with me in the saddle together which she thoroughly enjoyed too. I did some in hand work with Kate, who is a little claustrophobic in the school still at times, and clipped Grace ready for my lesson with Rosie this weekend. I wanted to do something with Jack too but my farmer/actor friend brought me some haylage and it was the first time I've been able to talk to him on his own for ages, and I make the most of every opportunity I get to talk to both of them as they are my rocks, my solemates and my guardian angels still, even after all this time. I must have been very good in another lifetime to have deserved them.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Farm Animals for Films..

My two farmer friends said the other day that they've realised the way I get wildly over enthusiastic about new plans and ideas is my coping strategy and they're right as far as it goes but there is more to it than that. I do need lots of plans on the go to keep me believing in myself and in my ability to have a successful and fulfilling future but I also intend to turn as many of them as possible into reality.

I've also been told that I should concentrate on one thing at a time but I dread boredom more than anything and my plans should all fit together and compliment one another.

My latest idea is to set up an agency specialising on supplying farm animals for films and photo shoots. I've done two films with my sheep and I loved every moment of it but had to take charge on set and keep everyone calm and focused. I have always been very good at keeping calm under pressure and at keeping the people and animals around me calm too.

I was amazed at the haphazard way the animals were sourced for the films we worked on and have made enquiries from other people in the business and found out that this is the norm where farm animals are concerned. Considering the amount of time and money involved it's hard to believe that agents just arrange for an unseen animal to arrive on set without having any idea of what's going to arrive or how wild it will be but that has been absolutely my experience.

My plan would be to supply calm, well handled animals with calm, well mannered, patient, helpful and friendly handlers who would blend in and get the job done quietly and competently without fuss or melodrama. My sheep got standing ovations from cast and crew when they were in a film called "The Tenth Kingdom" because no-one could believe how obliging and easy to work with they were, and I was too.

I would so love to do more of this and to meet more of the fascinating people I met before. I have put out a few feelers and hope to get something going on a small scale by next spring.

This should fit in well with my meat sales, clicker training confidence building courses, dog agility, etc. especially with all the brilliant, competent, caring people I have here now who would help out as and when needed and whom I can trust implicitly.

Life is still full of endless opportunities for fun, laughter, friendships old and new and fulfillment for me. I am very, very lucky!

Photos of Pascoe and son, first at their old home and being loaded by my youthful helpers, and then meeting their new herd. Pascoe is now in with his new wives and has served one of them already. Some of my friends were laughing at the way he hid behind his son on arrival and cast aspersions on his manhood, so at least those rumours have been well and truly disproved!!!!





Thursday, 19 November 2009

My Clicker Training Article in Print!!!!

I've just found out that an article I wrote about clicker training my ponies is going to appear in the Christmas edition of Smallholder magazine!!!!!!!

I had a bad day yesterday, the first for months. It was because I was so upset that I can't show my lovely bull to David. All my friends came to see him, including my two farmer friends, and they were all very enthusiastic about him but I couldn't get past the fact that David was the one I most wanted to show him to; he would have been so proud to own him. This is just the lift I needed to get me back into positive thinking and motivating me to get on with training my ponies again, and in the Christmas edition too!!!!!!!

I sent loads of photos too but I wasn't wearing a hat, as usual, so I don't know if they'll use them, but seeing my first ever clicker training article in print........

I've just found a link to my one and only previous attempt at journalism, about my ewe appearing in a televison program, if anyone would like to read it;

http://www.smallholder.co.uk/shlivestock/shsheep/1666778.Meet_the_star_of_Eastenders___Helen_Wakefield_s_Oxford_Down_ewe_Kensworth_Flair_showed_quite_a_flair_for_acting_/

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Lovely Weekend.

I've had the loveliest weekend in spite of the awful weather on Saturday. The Chilli and Reflexology was a great success, Joy has remained perfectly happy and relaxed in the barn with my horses and her owner is absolutely delighted as it has always been her dream to see her happy to be inside in the winter, and I have spent most of the weekend with one of my farmer friends whose ability to stay upbeat and cheerful in the face of all adversity even exceeds my own.

I get really anxious these days if I can't keep people happy and smiling and he is a fantastic ally in this, as all he ever wants to do is to help people and make them happy with no thought for himself. He also has the wickedest sense of humour and it's impossible to stay serious for long when he's about. I love being around him and watching the natural, effortless ease with which he charms everyone he meets. It is my total privilege to know him and to be able to have him inspire me and to learn from him.

I have found a very small, light adult rider for Crystal and now have some purpose in trying to get her going properly. She starts off full of enthusiasm but then old habits and patterns start emerging and she begins to nap and get stubborn, which I intend to clicker train her out of. Her new rider is so tiny she rode her in the Inky Dinky saddle and loved it, and loved long striding, twinkle toed Crystal too!!

My decisions are slowly resolving themselves and I've decided to stick with the things that I enjoy the most and get most satisfaction from, and that's the things I have here. I don't really want to have to spend much time away from here, although drawing more people here with the dog agility, meat sales and clicker training will all be part of my plan, but I think the people I already have here plus my farmer friends are company enough on an everyday basis to keep loneliness at bay.

After Pascoe arrives on Tuesday I hope that I can begin to get life under control and start to do some proper work with my ponies again, including Kate who now follows me around without a leadrope and likes to stand with her head as close to mine as possible like Bella and Jack do. She reminds me so much of Bella and I just know she's going to be a superstar like her too.

I will take some photos of my newly rearranged horse barn and of Pascoe when I've picked him up on Tuesday. Everything is ready for him and I'm getting more excited at the prospect all the time, if a little apprehensive. The thought of me buying a bull, let alone looking after him single handed is just so mad compared to how my life used to be - but good mad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Decisions To Make.

I'm writing this is the middle of the night because I'm up keeping an eye on a claustrophobic horse who has to live out who I've taken into the barn with my horses as the weather is terrible - 60mph winds and heavy rain. I brought her in to try her in there after a text message just before midnight from her worried ex-owner whose beloved father is at home rapidly dying of cancer. She has not only found the time to worry about the horse but sent me a message today to say that the photo of me on Jack on my profile should be on the cover of a training DVD. I was so touched by that.

My horses have been in all day but are always so chilled out that so far she seems fine in there surrounded by them. It's getting a bit crowded in there now though with 7 horses and 2 goats!

I've got a few decisions to make. The school that we've been trying to fence has fought back every step of the way and it's in a place that I never really wanted it in the first place, as it's a spooky spot that many horses find hard to relax in, but dogs all love it in there. We've only managed to do the corner posts and along one side and I'm wondering if I should go with the flow and finish fencing it with dog proof plastic netting fencing, without trying to get anymore posts in, and think about another school for the horses in a different spot one day when I've earned enough money to pay for it. It will still be useable for the horses in the meantime and my farmer friend won't kill himself digging massive lumps of granite out to get each small post in!!!

I have had loads of enquiries from people wanting to move their horses here. We have such a brilliant atmosphere here, with everyone falling over themselves to help each other, that word is spreading. In theory I could find stabling and grazing for a few more but they'd have to walk quite a way to get to the grazing. I could also stick with what I've got and concentrate on other things now, like my confidence building courses using positive reinforcement and clicker training.

My loader tractor is a nightmare and completely unreliable despite many efforts by my farmer friends to fix it so I've sold it and two old tractors and am looking for a telehandler with a telescopic arm, which is purpose built for loader work and will make my life so much easier if I can find a reliable one.

I'm going to pick up Pascoe and son on Tuesday with an old friend who does horse and cattle transporting. I haven't seen him for years so we'll have loads of time to catch up. His wife of many, many years died a couple of years ago so we have a fair bit in common.

David's family business, which he left to his sister, is proving totally impractical for her to even try to manage herself and I can't find an agent to do it for her so I'm thinking of trying to do it myself. I'll have to do it for nothing as I'll have to learn as I go along but it shouldn't take up too much time and I'll learn loads about managing businesses and people along the way. She has two partners and none of them seem able to communicate with each other but they will all talk to me and make me feel wanted, appreciated and useful. My greatest fear in life has always been boredom so at least I should never suffer from that!!!!

A vet came yesterday and said how happy all the horses and people seem to be here, and, although he's only a horse vet now, he said that he and his friend, who is also now a horse only vet and who was a friend of ours and came to the funeral, they would both help out with any cattle veterinary work in their spare time, to keep their hands in, so to speak!!! He also wants to buy some beef when I have some.

We're having a Chilli and Reflexology night tonight with about 20 friends coming. I'm going to be dead on my feet by then, especially as my farmer friend is coming to do some work with me today and I've had no sleep so far, but it should be really good fun. I'm going back out to check on Joy, the horse, now then try and grab a couple of hours sleep!!!!!!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Dog Agility Day.

We had a trial run of the dog agility training this afternoon and it was fantastic fun and a great success. We had ten people plus our trainer who was just brilliant. She got us to introduce all the dogs to clicker training and even provided the clickers and the treats. She explained everything really well and had all the dogs doing a short course off the lead by the end of the session, even though only two of them had ever done anything like it before.

They were a very mixed bunch, as you will see from the photos. The Golden Retriever is mine but was borrowed by a friend who she doesn't know at all. Unfortunately there are no photos of me doing pairs with my two terriers as I was the camera woman. I didn't want to leave one of them out so trained the pair of them together and they showed real potential, especially my rather plump Jack Russell, Flora, who is food mad!!!!

Everyone had such a great time, dogs and trainer included. Our trainer, Kimberly, couldn't believe how good they all were and made us all feel very successful. Everyone is now eagerly awaiting the next session and we already have another four people who would like to join in next time!!!! That's all by word of mouth and all the agility clubs around here are full so I think that this one could really fly. It was also really lovely to do something that involved my own dogs for a change.

Here are the photos. The weather was very kind to us















Saturday, 7 November 2009

Meet Pascoe and Son!

This is Pascoe, my new Aberdeen Angus bull. He is four years old and a bit of a steal, I think!!! He is a very impressive sight - not too tall but massively built and very well muscled. He is also very quiet, as bulls go. His owner is really sad to sell him and would like to buy a carbon copy but now has his daughters in the herd to get in calf, so Pascoe has to go, luckily for me. David would have been so proud to own this bull.







Vegetarians read no further because I am going to start selling home produced, single suckled, naturally reared Aberdeen Angus beef from the freezer. It's the only way I can even hope to make four suckler cows pay for themselves, let alone make a profit, which I hope they will this way.

To this end I'm keeping this years calves to finish myself but the oldest is only eleven months old and I am impatient to get started so I also bought one of Pascoe's sons, who is nineteen months old and almost ready. I am booking him in for January, which is the earliest they can do him as there is only one abattoir left around here. I have also found a very good place to cut and pack where hanging beef for three weeks is standard, and it's very difficult to find somewhere that will hang it for so long as it slows up their throughput. David used to do a bit of this before and everyone always raved about the meat so I have to make sure I can keep up that standard.

I had the choice of four steers and no expert opinion on hand so I relied on my sheep showing days and judged them as I would a sheep. When I told the seller which one I wanted he looked really crestfallen, as he'd said that they were all the same price, and said he should have known I'd pick the best one. I was really chuffed but made sure he checked the ear number so I'll know I get the right one!!!!

He then asked my advice about whether I thought his heifers were big enough to put in calf yet and I was really flattered to be asked!!!!

If all of this sounds really mean and heartless I can only say that they would all be going for meat anyway but this way they will avoid going through at least one and probably two cattle markets in the process, and go straight from their here to the abattoir. If I were one of them I know which I would choose!

This is my steer. I just have to arrange transport home now and try to find a cheap source of corn to fatten him on. I often used to feed the fatteners before so I hope I know what I'm doing!!!!



Dog Agility tomorrow! I will try and get some photos.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Lots of News and Plans.

I've been even busier than usual lately. One of my farmer friends had last week off work to come ans help me fence the school but, after going with him to buy the fencing, getting the barn ready for the cattle to come in, plus having to dig some granite curbstones buried in the hardcore to get single fence posts in, we didn't get very far!!! However I drove the tractor and post hole auger to bore out the holes for the corner posts, so I had a great time!!!

I also had the pleasure of his company for a whole week and have had to adjust to spending time alone again now. He is an inspiration to work with as he is a driven, perfectionist, workaholic with a work ethic second to none, and always cheerful and positive. He also jogs everywhere between jobs and I've started to do that too, to get fitter for a special event coming up soon!!!

I'm going to look at an Aberdeen Angus bull at the weekend with a view to buying him to get the cows back in calf. It's not ideal timing wise but he sounds like a lovely, quiet bull at a reasonable price. I also have plans for marketing my own, home bred Aberdeen Angus beef which people here are really keen to help with. My two farmer friends aren't convinced about this one but they seem to think that I'm an unstoppable force at the moment!!!!

My loader tractor has been driving me mad as it's so unreliable and keeps breaking down or refusing to start, and I must have a reliable tractor to keep the cattle fed, so it looks as though I'm selling it and buying a materials handler with a telescopic arm! I've driven my friends Manitou and I love it to bits, so I'm really pleased that they're helping me with this and one may already be lined up.

We are having a practice dog agility afternoon on Sunday, with a trainer coming with some equipment. All the clubs around here are full and the people here are very keen. If it goes well we plan to start a dog agility and flyball club here. The plans are already in place and my own dogs could certainly do with the extra time and attention!!

My lodger has moved in and it's lovely to have his company too, plus his girlfriend's company at the weekends. She is a bit of a sole mate of mine and the wisest twenty year old you will ever meet.

I'm going out for a meal with some friends from the yard on Thursday night and we are having a reflexology and chili evening next weekend, then I'm taking a party of 34 people to a Medieval Banquet at The Devil's Horsemen's home base the weekend after, as a big thank you for all their kindness, work and help that they've given me.

Now comes the best bit of all!!!! Rosie, of Jive Pony fame, is coming here to give me a vaulting lesson on Grace!!!!!! I just want to be able to run alongside and vault on at a trot and a canter (just, she says!!!). Rosie has very kindly offered to make the long journey here with her equipment and wants to meet my ponies too. We haven't arranged when yet, as I was hoping we'd finish fencing the school first, but I don't think I can wait too much longer!!!!