Feeling nostalgic...

I was chatting to an old horsey friend last week and we spent a while reminiscing about our fond memories of growing up as horsey-mad children that would spend all day at the yard and come home covered head to toe in mud and ready for bed.

We spent ages chatting about our old trusty long Harry Hall rubber riding boots that weren't comfortable in the slightest unless you had socks on, and how the smell of hoof oil would follow us around wherever we went.

Ceaser and I - some 20 odd years ago!
We spoke about our favourite yard items from way back when, and those things we wish we had now. A fond memory of mine is getting an equine catalogue come through our letter box and spending hours upon hours trawling through it, circling everything we wanted and our ponies needed. 

I remember wanting Harry Hall everything! It was the brand everyone knew and loved and along with the words "Cottage Craft", would appear several times on my birthday and Christmas lists. If wasn't Harry Hall or Cottage Craft, it wasn't circled.

Nowadays we've lots of other great brands such as Masta, Caldene, Tottie and other various ones to add to our list, but there will always be something about trusty old Harry Hall and Cottage Craft. They remind me of hours spent in the saddle as a child, grooming my ponies to an inch of their life and having "whose pony is cleanest" competitions with my horsey-mad stable pals before tacking up and playing tag in the field upon ponies more patient than any we've met today.

It seems sad that we no longer have the catalogues we can sit and read for hours, but even as an adult I find myself on websites such as the Harry Hall one, looking for products I could need one day, or should add to my collection.

Without sounding like my grandma, the children of today don't realise how they lucky are to have such a wide variety of brands offering all sorts of equipment. When I was a child it was a girth in red, black, brown or white and that was it. Needless to say our jodhpurs came in beige, black or navy and that was about as far as our variety stretched. I remember the day I saw a pair of purple jodhpurs hanging on a tack shop rail - I think I stood there in amazement quickly noting them down on my Christmas list and telling my Grandad I "really needed them, so I could show my friends at the yard."

I often wish I could turn back time and go back just for one day.

Do you have any fond memories of back when you were a child? Share them - I'd love to read some of yours!



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The countdown for Hartpury is now on....!

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would get to ride at Hartpury for the Five Star Winter Championships! It still feels like a dream 

I’m beyond excited, obviously nervous about being the best I can be, and doing well - but ultimately I just want to trot down that centreline and enjoy it all, with a smile! 

Lots of prep now until the big day, and I’m hoping to get some special training down in Gloucester whilst I’m there - more on that at another time though. 

Entries are all done, camping booked, and we're almost ready! 

If anyone has any top tips on how to cope with the atmosphere (and nerves!), please let me know! 

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Back to it for 2019...

Wow, where has the time gone? It doesn't seem two minutes ago I was wrapping up for 2018 and pondering about the long winter break ahead. 

I took Ziggy out competing a couple of weeks ago for the first time since October and I’ve had him long enough to know by now that his first time out for the season is ALWAYS spooky! However Kate is always saying the spooks make him expressive so I was adamant to ride with it.

I drove to the competition freezing cold, with a headache and wondering what the heck I was doing in January going competing. I’d used a half day holiday from work for this. However, method in my madness, I wanted to get my qualifying scores for what I needed early on, so I could focus spring and summer with training. 

So for some unbeknown reason I decided to skip Prelim and start focussing on novices. So I’d entered two novices. Whilst driving I called myself a prat for doing that when I knew full well he’d be spooky!

Arrived at the venue in plenty of time, had a wander etc and then got on.
SPOOKY. arrogant!! As I got my foot in the stirrup he shot off and I’m clinging on..... I managed to hoist up and we jogged for the next 5 minutes... joy.

Finally he calmed down to start trotting and the problem with this venue is the small warm up that’s flappy. This didn’t help! So I warmed up best I could, doing some leg yields, transitions and making the best of a spooky pony! 

All of a sudden it was our turn for Novice 23. He went into the arena with his bum tucked under, whinnied, and I thought bloody hell! 

Two years ago we would’ve lost it there, but so proud of his one whinny then focussing on work. 

It actually felt quite nice. The energy I had allowed me to really ride quite deep in the seat and use my legs to guide him round, and into the corners. Felt some tension on the left rein with a bit of that nodding but a boot with the right leg sorted that! 

Medium trots I wanted to be careful not to push too much to push him into canter; felt some difference over the centreline then slowed him as it’s only “show some medium strides” - didn’t want to risk any more. 

Canters okay, medium canter Ziggy quite literally went “WAYYHAYYYYY!!” And so definitely showed a difference there!! 

Then onto novice 38, a championship novice test. Felt a bit silly for putting him in this so soon. He’s not ready, really! Lots of stuff he’s very green with at the moment. 

We lost one counter canter and I did one circle far too big but actually, I was thrilled with him. It’s a lot to ask from him but he was obedient, medium trots had some medium strides and the only struggle was left rein counter canter which is expected. 

He was so spooky today warming up though, flying everywhere, jumping as the sand hit his legs. He is a plonker at times. But if I take the positives from there I feel like I’m comping with it better. I went and spoke to the judge afterwards who remembers him from the green baby I first took into an intro class and she said the difference in him is amazing, but also how when you can see he just gets a bit hot, i ride him more now. Points from her to work on are medium trots and don’t let him go downhill. She said he’s very workman like though and his outline just doesn’t move in everything else

Absolutely thrilled and just beyond proud to have WON both his sections with 67.41% and 69.58%!! I completely didn’t expect that!!!
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Why you should take a trip to White Post Farm - The perplexed Aunty

I remember taking several trips to White Post Farm during my years growing up. The memories I have from spending endless days there holding snakes, feeding lambs and stroking ponies are very fond to me as they were spent with my grandparents who are now sadly no longer here.

You could guarantee we would visit at least once during every school holiday for several years and my Grandad and I would splash about in puddles, run to stroke the animals and talk about it for days, as my grandma looked on at us - usually wondering what mayhem we were about to cause.

I'd like to say its where my love for animals probably started, and now, with my own herd of different animals at home I often recall those precious memories.

So when last year, when I became an Aunty to Annie-May I vowed that's where we would go to spend our days getting her used to the animals and making our own memories for her to share with others later on in her life.

*

In the last few months since she's been able to walk we've visited twice already and what's great about Annie not being at school yet, it means we've visited during term time and practically had the entire farm to ourselves!

As you walk in to pay there's an option to buy some food for the animals, and at £1 a bag, its not a bad deal. My sister looked at me the first time questioning whether I'd be allowing Annie to hand the animals food. Erm of course, and so off we trotted with some two-legged, four-legged AND reindeer food - both of us quite dumb-founded that reindeers like to eat moss. Everyday's a school day...

Anyway, so as you get in, the first big decision is which way to turn! There's the bigger animals outside at grass, the duck pond, outdoor play, indoor play and then various animals inside - including the baby ones!

The first time we visited we headed over to the duck pond where Annie squealed and proceeded to try and copy what noise the ducks make as we stood feeding them. Even at 1 years old, she does quite a good duck impression!

Next we headed over to the outdoor animals to look at the goats, sheep, deer, and rather large pot bellied pig! My very girly and non-outdoors type sister looked rather uncomfortable as Annie and I found a large puddle and I taught her just how fun it is to jump up and down. My sister, looking very uncomfortable at the thought of Annie getting dirty now shouts "Sian, that's her new outdoor suit, she's going to get it mucky...!" Oh dear..

We spent absolutely ages outside, feeding the various animals, walking around the fields and Annie loved having the freedom to run into the mud, squeal as she ran away from us and interact with the various animals.

My favourite place is indoors, with all the mums-to-be and baby animals. The first time we went we saw some very pregnant looking animals, and were delighted when the second time we went back, we were treated to being able to watch some very cheeky young goats! One little guy kept jumping out of his pen, so Annie and I had great delight in picking him up for a cheeky cuddle. It took some serious will-power not to smuggle him in my jacket and take him home, he was absolutely adorable and so tame.

With the animals inside being a little smaller they're more appealing to the younger children and Annie eventually grew confident enough to feed the goats by herself - not bad for a one year old. I think we spent over half an hour taking the food out the bag, one-by-one and giving the same goat bits of food. He was rather gentle with Annie and had the patience of a saint, even when she wasn't quite giving him the food quick enough!

If you want a break from the animals (you crazy people!) then there's also the option to head on into another barn for the kids to enjoy some soft play and a couple of slides. I lost count of how many times Annie and I trudged up and down the slides as she kept wanting to go again. In the same breath, I don't think I've spent an hour in soft play for a while, but she loved it!

Then when you're all feeling a little peckish and need some hot food to warm you up, there's the option of heading into their cafe which serves a good option of both hot and cold food and drinks, to suit all ages, and at reasonable prices.

After dinner, the perfect place to head to whilst your food settles is into the fish section. Annie is obsessed with watching fish and every time she sees one will shout "SSSSHHH", so this is the perfect place for her to run about and watch all the fish she wants! Beware though - there's a slightly large snake in there, so if you're afraid, don't look behind you!

Overall, White Post Farm is a great day out for all ages. I think between us, my sister and I, plus Annie all had the same amount of fun! My only regret is not buying the year pass, but I wasn't aware it existed the first time I visited. However at just £9 for an adult, its well worth it! Next time we go though, we'll all be buying the years entry pass so we can go back and forth as many times as we want.

I must say, we're all rather excited about lambing season now and getting to feed the baby lambs!

For more information visit www.whitepostfarm.co.uk - we highly recommend it!



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"Annie May, are you eating a dog biscuit?" - The perplexed Aunty

Many of you have asked me over the last couple of weeks why I haven't written another instalment of 'The Perplexed Aunty'. You can find instalment one, two, three, and four by clicking those links!

So you're probably wondering where we are now? Well, Annie May is just over a year old and looking forward to her second Christmas. Just last week I took her to see Santa and as he asked what she wanted for Christmas I shouted "A PONY!!", only for my sister to give me the biggest disapproving look and tell Santa he had better not deliver a pony. The joke will be on her when on one Christmas Day in the future, a pony does arrive. What's even funnier is that I'll never let on to my sister when its going to be.

The last year has been a whirlwind. It's quite funny how this little person has us all wrapped around her two teeny little sticky fingers.

Lets talk about my sister managing to raise a little person. Long gone are the days where we can have a phone conversation without "Annie May" being screeched in my ear, because she's up to something she shouldn't be.

Just the other day our conversation went a little like this:

Terri-ann: "For goodness sake Sian, she's eating something!"

Me: "Eh?"

Terri-ann: "I haven't given her anything, so she's found something."

Me: "Well what is it?"

Terri-ann: "Annie May, what's in your mouth? Show me whats in your mouth? Can I have some please?"

....silence...

Terri-ann: "Ffs Sian, I think she's eating dog food. Annie May are you eating a dog biscuit?"

And it turns out the dog had decided to thank Annie for all the food she shares with her, by bringing Annie a dog biscuit in from the kitchen and dropping it at her feet.

(disclaimer: Annie's normal diet isn't dog biscuits...She usually prefers Ella's Kitchen.)

Anyway, moving on. Soft play. Gosh where do I start? Ever since I've been aware of the bugs and germs soft play holds, I've been hesitant and dubious about going near them. Apparently the balls in those ball pits are full of more poo and germs than anyone cares to think about. And so I vowed I'd never set foot in one again.

That was until we ventured to White Post Farm the week before Christmas and before I knew it I found myself removing my shoes and coat and following Annie May into the germ infected child maze.

I remember how fun it was to run around these as a kid, throwing yourself into the ball pits, dodging other children and bouncing on huge bouncy balls. All was going well, and I managed to momentarily forget about wanting to get out and anti-bac my hands until two things happened.

Lets pick apart the first problem I came up against. These maze's aren't made for adults, they're designed for kids, and whilst I still boast about the fact I can fit into some kids clothes, I found myself a bit unstuck for a minute.

Remember those swirly things that look like a car wash in the middle of soft play. You know the things you basically fling your body through and then roll out of? Yeah. I met one of those. Annie stood there waiting for me to go first, not even realising the gap was so tiny, I wondered how any human fitted through it. But she wanted to go through, and it was up to me to go first.

So, my head went through, and that's when I got caught. Now, I haven't got huge boobs, and some days I sit there and think "this top would really look nice with bigger ones", but today I was thankful for my fried eggs, because as I got half way to my chest I almost got stuck and my fried eggs became pancakes. How anyone else with a normal chest size would get through there is beyond me. Amen to the eggs!

Anyway, so I'm through to the car wash roller things and after convincing Annie to stick her head through the gap, I grabbed her arms and helped her through we were on our way up to the top.

Now, second issue. We came to the tunnel. Annie thought it was hilarious to sit half way in the tunnel and each time I went to come through or grab her she'd do something to stop me and let out the biggest giggle. So we played there and all was going fine, until I remember the worst thing about soft play.

Mum's, Dad's, Aunties, Uncles....anyone that went in that tunnel after Annie, and Annie, if you're reading this on your 18th birthday, I apologise....

I wasn't prepared for what came next. There's no air gaps in tunnels, and usually they smell of cheesy feet. Today, that was not the case.

She must have done the biggest poo whilst sat in that tunnel, because one minute I went from sticking my head in and feeling fine, to then sticking my head in and nearly gagging.

Me: "Have you done a poo Annie May?"

Giggle....

Me: "Annie May, lets go down and find mummy!"

Giggle again as she snatches her hand away

Me: Whilst trying not to barf, and not breathe through my nose... "Annie May come on, lets go to mummy for a minute"

And thankfully that time I managed to grab her, and for the entire 2 minutes it took me to negotiate everything backwards, including pancake time again, I breathed through my mouth. This being an Aunty lark is merely all about multitasking!

Anyway, so that's Annie May. Full of character, full of cheekiness and has us all wrapped around her little finger we'll do anything she wants us to! The last year has been full of fun, laughter and smiles. Each time I see her she's learnt something new and has new demands. Mum very quickly taught her to say "Up!" each time she wants picking up, so all we seem to hear is "Up" whilst two sticky hands are reaching out to us. Good job she's cute!

That's all for now. Have a good Christmas!

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Dressing up the Caldene Way!

If you're no stranger to my blog, you'll know by now that if I could be, I'd be wrapped up in a million layers on those cold and blustery winter days.

I LOVE warm clothes and I'm one of those people that can't walk past big scarves or thick jumpers whilst out shopping. If it's warm, hand me one right now!

So when Harry Hall asked if I'd be interested in trialling their Caldene Luna Women's Jacket, I don't think I could've replied any quicker begging for the opportunity.

It looked toasty warm and perfect for those chilly days down the yard, so what more could I ask for?

For the last 2 weeks I have practically lived in the jacket, and I promise I'm not exaggerating. It's one of those jackets that's great for nipping to the shops in, riding in, mucking out, or even going off shopping. It's stylish enough to wear with a pair of jeans but practical enough to hop on and go for a hack in. I'd definitely describe it as one of those jackets that simply ticks all the boxes.

What makes it so good?

I'm sure all of you reading this hate getting cold and wet and find that element of dealing with horses the worst. You're probably not the only one that looks on in envy at your friends Instagram as they're all wrapped up warm in front of a log fire in wooly slipper socks whilst you're battling with 500kg moody mare in sub zero temperatures. Oh to have a normal life...

The Caldene Luna Women's Jacket is showerproof so for me that deserves one big green tick already. Showerproof is an absolute must when dealing with horses. Especially on the days where hosing legs off is a necessity and you seem to end up more drenched than the horse. Don't you just LOVE winter?!

It's also got a 260gsm fill, so imagine those medium weight turnout and stable rugs you put on your trusty steed and often think "I wish I could crawl under there too!" - well now you have your own! No need to steal them to wrap around you as you sit at the yard having a coffee and a natter now - just pop your Caldene Jacket on and pass the coffee.

For me, a coat isn't good enough if I have to take it off whilst I ride. I'm always stretched for time, so I need something versatile that isn't too bulky to ride in, but is equally as adequate to turn out in on frosty mornings and for me, this coat did exactly what it said on the tin!

There's a 2 way centre front zip and rear riding vents so if you want to hop in the saddle then go ahead. And if you're horse is like mine and hates hoods flapping about as you ride, don't worry - the hood is detachable, meaning less spooks and more happy riding. Perfect!

Another aspect I noticed is the tight cuffs, which means no wind or rain can sneak down your arms as you're lifting hay nets or riding. I know that sounds dramatic but there's no worse feeling that chilly arms and the rest of you is toasty!

The only thing I would say is the cuffs are quite air-tight, so if you hate a tight feeling jacket on your arms and you want more movement then size up, but I prefer a tight fitting jacket so for me it was perfect.

Overall it's another thumbs up from me and a big green tick for everything that I could want in a winter jacket. Even better they're available in Black or Wineberry and available from size 8 upwards. Priced at £125 or £87.50 for One Club Members, why treat yourself to One Club membership too by clicking here?  

I'm wearing the black in a size 8 in the photos above and have teamed the jacket up with the Harry Hall Checked Breeches!
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