Kitchen decorating is complete and while I never want to do battle with the flexible filler or wield a paint brush again, I do love the result. Two adjoining rooms make up the total kitchen space with an old Rayburn in the front area and a shiny new biomass boiler (which doubles as a cooker) in the rear. The rear kitchen also has new velux windows so the light is wonderful and it opens into the main living room which sports a wood burning stove. So the whole area truly is the heart of my home and it’s where I spend most of my indoor time. What a joy it is to have a warm, beautiful and utilitarian space. (Conversely, I am typing this in my office wearing sheepskin boots, a fur neck wrap and a long cardigan covering various layers of thermals, resembling ‘Michelin woman’! Well, it is the first sub-zero day today and I got soaked and cold riding!)
On the subject of riding, Talisman’s re-training is going well and he is now jumping a reasonably taxing grid which tests the grey matter (his jumping it and mine building it) and is a source of great fun for both of us. On the dressage side, we are consolidating lateral work and focusing on more collection and variety within the paces, including walk-canter-walk transitions which are a good excuse to have a buck. He can also now reverse around corners! We work in the school two days a week and hack two days. Even when we are doing jumping, the session is peppered with flat-work so I have his attention and any excitement is immediately discharged from the system with a little leg-yield, shoulder-in, or a halt.
This joy is countered by the sad news that Taz was put to sleep a couple of weeks ago. It was an agonising decision because the situation wasn’t as black and white as it would have been with, say, a broken leg or a twisted gut. It was complicated and a number of things were going wrong which, in the end, made it the right thing to do. Surprisingly, as he was only 13, he had become completely deaf over the last few months and his sight seemed erratic at times too.
He always had challenging skin (understatement!) including dreadful sarcoids which came and went and chronic sweetitch which meant zero tolerance to midges – this summer was the worst. Even covered from head to toe 24-7 for 365 days of the year and with various lotions, potions and supplements, he would regularly destroy his field in a bid to get away from flying insects and fling himself against any piece of fencing he could reach that wasn’t electrified, to scratch violently until his skin bled, destroying rugs and masks in the process.
More recently (and in the absence of any mud) he developed mud fever on his sensitive white hind leg which was on the verge of developing lymphangitis. All in all, I couldn’t keep him his skin under control anymore and make him sufficiently comfortable in his retirement. His life was one of constant agitation and his diminishing senses must have made it very lonely too.
I really struggled with making the decision to take a life away. It felt like a huge burden and the fact I had done this before sadly, didn’t help. The vet wasn’t interested in why she was putting a horse to sleep which I don’t think is a good thing, as it makes it too easy. I told her anyway as I felt she should know. In the end, however, the sun set on Taz’s life perfectly in a familiar spot on the yard with a lovely view.
He was complex in more ways that just his health but having purchased him (my first Arab) as a troubled 6 year old and re-started him, he moved seamlessly through the endurance ranks to international level and contested five 2*s (120K) being placed in one. He took all my strength to ride but was a terrifically brave and proud horse and exceeded my expectations. Through him, I learned about the sport enabling me to pick up with Talisman, where I left off with Taz. I will remember him for many things, not least for being the best equine ‘kisser’ I have ever owned.
So the problem then arose finding a companion for Talisman. A local charity had the perfect mare who I viewed in the field during a hurricane but when I went back to collect her, she resolutely refused to load! Having spent a few days on his own, Talisman was getting to the end of patience without a friend. Fortunately, I managed to find a very grand but geriatric cob, age 27, at short notice. As quiet as he might have been in a familiar environment, he was hugely stressed in a strange one and when things didn’t improve, I felt it was too much for him and he returned home.
I then located a 12 hh Welsh Section A gelding who had been rescued by a local riding centre after being badly neglected, some two years ago. He’s very cute and though he also struggled a bit to start, he is settling now and gets on extremely well with Talisman who, for the first time, has someone he is in charge of! However, I had been feeling things were not right with him and having done some research and spoken to my vet, I am pretty sure he has Cushings disease as he has a large number of the symptoms (though not the uneven coat which I would have recognised at once). So he will almost certainly have to be returned as I don’t want to be responsible for open-ended vet bills. This means I am on the hunt again. I didn’t imagine it would be such a challenge to find a friend for Talisman who would enjoy life in my ‘5*horse hotel’ but fourth time lucky, I sincerely hope!
Finally, I have trapped my 6th feral cat and whipped him off to the vet for neutering – another boy as it happens and the first ginger, who is yet to be named. I am now registered with the Cat Protection League for assistance with the ongoing cost of neutering the local feral population who have obviously put out on the CWW (Cat Worldwide Web) that I also run a pretty good ‘cat hotel’.
Pics: Intrepid warrior queen Elizabeth (feral wife of house cat Bryngywn) surveys her kingdom for mice; the happy couple; one of Talisman’s brain-teasers; awesome views on the top of the ridge out hacking; the newly painted barn matches the dramatic sky; Talisman and Bryngywn hang out together; Taz’s perfect sunset; Taz and I contesting a 1* (80K) which we completed in extreme weather; bowling along in a 2* (120K) using a double bridge with my reins and body weight to anchor Taz; setting off just after sunrise in another 2*; best kisser!