Much to our disappointment we won’t be opening in time for the spring half-term activities as no date has yet been confirmed from Boris as to when we may re-open. As a result my disappointed team decided to organise Zoom sessions instead, relating to the topic of each postponed activity.
The nub of this story was my coming to the realisation that I had been ear-marked to provide the cross-country demo with Amelia riding. This highly unwelcome news was followed up swiftly with instructions that I will not: swear, be controversial or wear my Ugg’s. What? For a whole hour I asked? From this comment and probably the realisation of the unlikeliness of me achieving these requirements, common sense prevailed and I am relieved to pass on it will now be carried out by the far more child-friendly Amelia championing the demo with Georgia and Ernie showing off their stuff.
OUR VERY OWN MARY POPPINS & SUPERMAN
Continuing with the Super Hero theme of one of our spring activities, I want to nominate two of our very own heroes.
The first has to be our remarkable coach Sally Spaarkogel aka Mary Poppins. We have already awarded her an umbrella for her unfailing and selfless support of everyone here, but on top of this is her equivalent of Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag – no matter what random item you are looking for, Sally suddenly produces it, from her car, her bag or her pocket. This includes such unexpected items as a hand saw, a Swiss Army knife (of course), a much needed piece of clothing, a set of dressage letters or whatever other wish you need to come true.
And the other Super Hero has to be our very own and recently landed Superman, Henry Lock, Georgia’s other half. Part of a local farming dynasty, Henry has come in like a whirlwind and sorted us all out in his ever cheerful, nothing is too much trouble attitude. And yes, this perfectness can sometimes get a little bit irritating too, but it is impossible not to warm to Henry, he is like a big loveable dog, although I am not too sure he will appreciate this analogy.
Superman came to the rescue this past week with the additional trial of a serious freeze being endured by GB. Our tiny team of just two yard staff, Georgia and Jazz, had to resort to filling multiple containers to take out to the fields as the troughs froze, including the refilling function, which was unsurprisingly taking hours. Henry/Superman went: “Hmmm”, flew off for a couple of hours and reappeared with two huge mobile water containers. With each container taking 1,000 litres of water, in no time at all Henry was chugging out to the fields in the telehandler efficiently refilling every water trough in record time – which he has repeated every day, twice a day due to the continuing freeze. There were huge sighs of relief and yes, I am going to get him the underpants.
To highlight just how unusually cold it has been in our usually more clement climate, being positioned in the cusp of the South Downs as we are, both outdoor arenas froze and remained frozen all week; something I cannot ever remember happening before during the last couple of decades since they have been installed.
SENSES OF ENTITLEMENT?
Along with these unusual times and unusual weather we have also had to deal with some pretty unusual behaviour too during the week before last. This involved a walker hot-footing it to our office, clambering through and ignoring a multitude of COVID-19 barriers and signage to keep people off the premises, so she could tell us immediately she had been bitten by one of the horses in the fields whilst making use of the public footpath. This was then followed by a hand-posted letter through the same office door (again ignoring and climbing over the COVID-19 barriers) to again insist the horse was removed from the field.
We did try and explain that this horse had been in this field for a year, he had never bitten anyone before and horses don’t just walk up to people and bite them. They are fundamentally timid animals and will only do this if cornered, threatened or if someone has been feeding them titbits, which will teach any horse to quickly start nipping, asking for more treats. And this has been one of the major problems during the Covid-19 lockdowns, our footpath has turned into the place-to-be and as I have mentioned before, the place is treated as another version of Longleat, but clearly with a lot more freedom judging by the way people go wherever they fancy and do whatever they please – which included feeding the horses – often with unsuitable produce.
However, this walker was not to be turned and insisted the horse had to be removed – so what are we supposed to do – put another horse in this field who has never bitten anyone before either?
It is an unfortunate fact that some members of the public do get aggressively territorial about their rights on footpaths, of which the landowner never seems to have any. No one (or animal) is going to stop them from exerting their rights, regardless of the practicality, such as bottomless mud or herds clustered around a gateway they need to pass through. Another example is walking a dog amongst livestock, which the walker is perfectly entitled to do providing it is a right of way, but is it sensible to?
Animals that graze (herbivores) are a species that are hunted by predators, therefore for safety thrive by living in herds. The whole group will become instantly wary of anything they perceive as being a potential predator, which is a category dogs and to a lesser degree, unknown humans will fall into. For example, if it is the breeding and/or birthing season, this can make animals sufficiently territorial themselves so that they will, and frequently do, aggressively chase walkers out of their fields.
Of course, known dangerous species such as bulls should not be in fields with a public right of way, but equally people should not walk in the countryside if they are not prepared to take the risk of meeting the unsupervised animals that belong there and possibly could behave unpredictably – no animal is predictable and even the most passive animal can be provoked to react in certain situations.
So, who has priority? The animals that need to live in the countryside, or the people who are making use of a public right of way which brings them into contact with these loose animals? An interesting question I for one would like to know the answer to.
On a similar subject, during this same week we belatedly discovered a trespassing (unknown) pony, owner plus various small jockeys (being taught by the handler we presume) making multiple use of our cross-country jumping lane in our woods – since October, it later transpired. Trespassing was a small issue against the gravity of the situation if said small pony and jockey met one of our lot thundering straight at them from the opposite direction.
On speaking to the owner of the pony, who said she was qualified but admitted unlicensed, which means she would also be uninsured. Her apologetic response was to promptly put up a scandalous post on social media that made us sound like the KGB – no mention of the reason why we had to call her of course. Any way she wisely took the post down but to replace it with another that then advised her account had been hacked. Really? The nearest I suspect we are ever going to get to an apology.
Or is this unusual behaviour just part of our unusual times? With all the riches we have at our finger tips, even here we are feeling the over-bearing oppression of the COVID-19 situation, plus the never-ending worry of course about how much longer we can survive with still no end in sight of this third lockdown, having already been economically clobbered by the previous two. But we are still here and we will fight on until our last breath. With our incredibly supportive clients, in particular our horse owners and loanees, plus vaccinations (human for a change) having already started amongst us; regardless of everything else that is and has been happening, we remain optimistic about the future.