Summer has evaporated following several weeks of never-ending rain. The ground is soggy, the horses are shedding their summer coats and sprouting fluffy winter ones and the long summer evenings have been replaced by dark wintry nights. I have been amazed by how quickly the seasons have changed this year but ‘one mustn’t grumble’ as we had a lovely summer.

The core work on the kitchen is complete which was followed by a painting frenzy undertaken by yours truly. I was a ‘decorating virgin’ before I bought this property and cut my teeth on the kitchen and living room a few days after moving in as I really couldn’t live with hospital green and crimson. Both rooms took six coats! The recent effort was a first attempt at painting cupboards and woodwork and I pray it’s the last! I worked out pretty quickly that you can’t just slap the paint on. It’s painstaking work and lying on the floor in a variety of agonising positions to get into all the nooks and crannies, front, back and sides, sporting a head torch and a mask and working late into the night is definitely not my idea of fun! BUT I am thrilled with the result. It’s amazing how you can transform a room by painting the woodwork. Just for good measure, I had ‘soft close’ hinges fitted to the cupboard doors so they no longer slam, which adds to the new look and feel.

I am in love with my two kitchens! The colours are fab (tiles and woodwork), the lighting works really well, the skylights are awesome with the added benefit of bringing the outside in, through scenery and sunsets and the ‘infinity’ mirror over the Rayburn is a constant surprise, or should I say shock! Next, I have to learn how to use a decorator’s gun ‘thingammy’ to fill the holes in the walls resulting from the electrical work and fitting of work tops before I can re-paint them. Finally, I aim to get creative and paint some designs on the walls in a few choice places. With all the usual daily activities it’s probably going to take another couple of months.

Meantime, there has been some ‘cat business’ going on outside. Yet another feral arrived a few months ago (I already had 5 in addition to ‘love of my life’ Bryngwn who was feral once but is domestic now). The new jet black ‘person’ was creating havoc with the other residents, so I set about trapping him or her with a view to taking them down to the vet for neutering. Despite my assurances to all that there was enough food to go round (and sufficient cat beds in the barn, for that matter), there was constant screaming and fisticuffs and, try as I may, I couldn’t get the interloper into the trap no matter how tasty the bait. The others exercised great restraint in resisting the tempting food (as they had all previously had the trap and neutering experience.

Finally, after two months of failed attempts I came out one morning to find the black ‘person’ in the trap. Hurray and huzzah! We hot-footed it to the vet and it turned out, he’s a boy – the first. He is very handsome and I have called him Lomax (the ferals are named after past owners of the property, which was once owned by a certain Lord Lomax!). I had a bit of a shock on the way home though when I realised Lomax had done a ‘Houdini’ and escaped from his cage and was leaping around the car free-range. We survived the journey (just!) and now, though there is still a bit of a stand-off and the odd scuffle, things are calming down as his testosterone level reduces. Apparently, it takes about a month.

On the horse front, Talisman’s re-training has begun. I am planning to have a year of getting him out and about to different competition environments to broaden his experience including dressage, jumping and showing. It has also been suggested that I try Working Equitation. I had never come across this sport but after watching video of a top rider perform one of the three phases of the competition* (which was pure poetry in motion), I think it would be an excellent discipline to aim towards at Advanced level.

Basically, it is dressage applied to the practicalities of a horse working on the land with cattle! It will require a transformation from Talisman’s ground covering endurance canter to a super-collected dressage canter and work has begun. I have concocted a variety of exercises using jump stands and poles in the school.

He can already perform some of the tasks required like side-stepping in walk, opening a gate and backing round a corner and can do flying changes (though not quite on demand), so that’s a start. Through his endurance training, he is strong enough in his body to take more collection and understands the half-halt but he is an arab afterall, so I will have to see how far I can transform his gait before deciding if we have a go at the sport which, by the way, is performed at top level with reins in one hand!

For the moment though, it’s refreshing to have something new to focus on and explore different ways of learning with Talisman. I also love the fact that because he is no longer training as hard (about 60% of his previous fitness level) he has surplus energy and is feeling very springy in his work and a little cheeky, as if he has a big smile on his face. Well, that makes two of us!


Pics: Talisman working in before starting his jumping training and having a first pop; Lomax eying up the other cat’s food; me and the boys; horse gymnasium; kitchen makeover.




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