Attention to every last detail!

It’s amazing what’s available if you know how to find it……Talisman rested after the competition and I had a week off training but that didn’t mean I had a rest from anything else. After a mountain of washing and cleaning for horse and rider, there was endless harrowing, rolling and topping to catch up on. I used to find hours on the quad bike boring (I almost dozed off on several occasions which wouldn’t have been good news) until I discovered the vast array of audio documentaries and dramas available to download. Now there is never a dull moment! The sun shone which was a bonus so, all in all, it turned out to be a very pleasant interlude – apart from muscle strain in my arms. It’s a big quad bike and towing heavy equipment having to turn on steep hills is much harder than you would think.

Spring has well and truly arrived in Wales! The weather is much kinder, so the horses are out most of the time at the moment which is far less work for me (hurray!) and the birds have returned from their winter sojourn in South Africa. I can’t imagine how they find their way back to this dot on the map! I am full of admiration for them but I DON’T want them nesting in my stables or outbuildings. They ‘bomb’ the horses mercilessly and everything else in sight, making an incredible mess. There are plenty of other barns nearby which they can use, so I don’t feel guilty putting nets and chicken wire around all the old ill-fitting doors and windows to stop them getting in. I love having them around but I don’t love their pooh, especially when it stains everything purple after they have eaten my fruit!

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the roof of the listed barn FINALLY got done which was a great relief as I had been waiting since last September. Skilled craftsmen are in short supply everywhere, it seems. It wasn’t just the slates that were replaced on half the roof. Most of the supporting timber was rotten and new oak beams and purlings had to be sourced and fitted too (the subject of another blog, “Who found who?”) However, the roof should now last at least another 100 years!

Next on the list of domestic improvements was also unplanned and arose from a chance encounter with a ‘neighbour’ (loose term for people who live within a several mile radius) in the local town. He had recently installed a biomass heating system which cost next to nothing so, naturally, my ears pricked up. I don’t use my oil fired central heating as it’s inefficient and guzzles oil, so apart from two rooms which have wood burners and the kitchen which has the Rayburn, the rest of the house is painfully cold when temperatures drop below zero (thermals are required, even in bed). So the thought of warmth was compelling.

It’s amazing what’s available if you know how to find it! Turns out I can get an interest free loan for most of the cost of the system and installation and I am also eligible for a Government payment which, over 7 years, virtually covers the overall cost. Plus the boiler comes inside a stunning stainless steel cooking range (which looks like a modern Rayburn).

As I can’t bear to part with my very ancient Rayburn, the new range will keep the back kitchen warm (yes, there are two kitchens in the house – don’t ask!) and provide extra cooking facilities. I also do my bit for the environment by converting to renewable energy. It’s a no-brainer! Hopefully, it will be installed at the end of the month. Then I will have to titillate (at low cost) bits of the very antiquated kitchen. Another project!

Talisman started work after his break earlier than expected but he had recovered quickly and looked great, demonstrating an abundance of surplus energy which I thought would be better channelled into something other than running around the field doing handstands! A few days of lunging were followed by a visit from physio’ Abigayle Williams. Working with the right professionals is such an education! One of the issues Abigalye previously pinpointed related to his saddle which was a bit too narrow in the gullet, pressing on the edges of Talisman’s spine and causing some soreness. Consequently, the saddle was sent away to be widened after the competition.

Abigayle was pleased with Talisman’s recovery and, this time, focused on his natural asymmetry (something we all suffer from, unfortunately). There isn’t much awry but every little bit counts over extreme distances in the sport of endurance. Obviously, correcting asymmetry is about making the horse as straight as possible but Abigayle also succinctly explained that “better straightness reduces stress on the forelimbs and improves hindlimb muscle development for optimum performance at minimum physical demand.” How obvious is that!? I hadn’t clocked that one. So Talisman is going in one direction on the walker and doing in-hand pole-work to strengthen his weaker hind leg before I ride him (in straight lines only), for the next five days. Then the 7 week fitness build-up begins for our next international 120K 2*, along with the ‘battle of the bulge’ as the boy has got a tad rotund on the new spring grass. Meanwhile Taz looks on and counts his blessings that his endurance career is over and he has morphed into a pampered pet!


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