Well, how would YOU feel?

You’re watching the European Championships and cheering your team on.  Your country’s qualification spot for the Olympics depends on a clear round and then this happens.

Honestly, how would you feel?

Me?  I feel frustrated.  Furious.  Cheated.  I can’t imagine how Cian O’Connor and his team-mates feel.

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that our team as a whole have not performed to the best of their ability this week, but Good Luck was looking like a clear round – and he has not had many fences down since he arrived in O’Connor’s yard! This knock was crucial – the team missed out in Rio by less than half a point.

I have to admit to not having been a big fan of Cian O’Connor since the whole “Who’s taken the piss” incident in 2004, but this is sickening beyond belief.

I wish them luck with the appeal but I’m not holding my breath.

Who’s takin’ the piss now?

 

A Horsey Break

My mother is doing well after her hip operation.  She’s been doing so well that, on Friday, we decided I could take the day off.  Mind you, her home help came in anyway, so she wasn’t entirely abandoned for the whole day!

I took myself off to Millstreet for the international horse show.  Millstreet has been running for more than thirty years – I remember going there with the LSH back when we were childless.  It always amazed me to be rubbing shoulders with the show-jumping greats – Harvey Smith was a regular visitor, as were the Whitakers and all of the top Irish riders of the day.  Millstreet was always the week after the Dublin Horse Show, so a lot of the Big Name Riders would stay on and travel down to County Cork.

Nowadays, it’s a second string international show.  It counts towards the FEI rankings all right, but the top riders all have bigger fish to fry – European Championships at Aachen next week, for example.

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The International Arena

Nonetheless, and despite a very public falling out with the governing body of show-jumping in Ireland, Millstreet has continued to grow and develop.  There have always been ‘ordinary’ jumping classes running in parallel with the international show, and it was a highlight of our yearly calendar back when the kids were jumping but it’s even bigger and better than before.

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Looking out over three of the National Arenas

The last time we were there (2006 probably), Tansy had the lovely (but slightly crazy) Bella in 148cm pony classes and our handsome Aero in Young Rider classes, both jumping on grass if I remember rightly.

Now, every single arena has an artificial surface.  There were seven outdoor arenas in action the day I was there, plus the indoor arena.  And, for each competition arena, there’s a warm-up, so that actually makes SIXTEEN artificial surfaces, all on the go.  That’s a big improvement on the olden days for sure!  There is also a new marquee which runs the full length of the main arena, so you can stay out of the rain while you spectate.  And believe me, it will rain at Millstreet.

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It was raining at the far end of the arena but hadn’t quite reached us yet

To be prepared for all weathers, I’ve reverted to wearing layers.  A t-shirt, sweater, gilet, raincoat, umbrella and sunglasses covers all eventualities.  I forgot about the wind though, and I ended up buying a baseball cap to stop my hair from blowing all over the place.  Which brings me rather nicely to shopping!  After a few quiet years, the equestrian merchants are back in force at Millstreet and there was a good range of shops to browse through.

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Some of the shopping area

I wasn’t tempted.  Jodhpurs for twenty euros and a baseball cap is more my style.

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Mrs Bargain Basement

I really enjoyed my day.  I watched some jumping for a while with Naomi, first one of the National competitions…

DSCF1088…then an international Grand Prix qualifier in the main arena for a while.

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The main arena used to be more interesting, with a Derby bank, a double of grassed banks and Duggan’s Dyke, which involved jumping over a ditch, going up a slope, jumping a fence on top of the slope, coming back down and jumping out over a second ditch.  Tansy’s first pony, Lady Ivy, was eliminated here every time she met this fence – with her previous owners as well as with us!  She just didn’t like it!  She’d love the main arena now that it’s gone!

These days, they have to contend with a giant screen instead of Duggan’s Dyke.  It looks to me like this horse is watching how well he refuses :-D

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I met loads of people I knew in the afternoon and caught up with several old friends.  I finally got to see Denise’s little girls in action (Denise is the friend who looked after our elderly pony Pepper when we left).

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Pony holding duty. It’s been a while.

Her older girl, Hazel, was jumping three ponies – lucky girl! – in the under-10 class.

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First pony – Max

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Second pony – Crystal

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Third pony – Rio

Max and Crystal were through to the jump-off.

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Max in the jump-off

Max jumped clear, fast enough for third place, but Hazel lost her concentration with Crystal and had a fence down although it looked like her time would be better until she ran into problems.

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Going for a tight turn with Crystal

Max receiving his prize.

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Ribbons! And a saddle cloth from the sponsor, Equestrian World of Maynooth.

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It’s a family affair. Daddy on the right, little sister, little brother, Mammy’s blond hair and Grandad holding the bay pony that’s hidden at the back.

The younger girl, Emma, was jumping in the Newcomers and started off well, but unfortunately Max decided that a) he’d had enough and b) he didn’t have to do what a six year old said and c) if he stopped just so she’d fall off.

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Max and Emma before Max decided he’d finished

Poor Emma was very sad but she’ll live to fight another day.

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The next day, Hazel went even better and jumped two clear rounds with all three ponies, finishing 3rd and 5th.  They have high hopes for the young pony, Rio.

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Maybe he’ll be the one to take Hazel and Emma to the Dublin Horse Show…

Waifs and Strays

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I’ve been here two weeks today and I’m missing Provence – the LSH, the horses, the weather and the dogs.  Then I had one of my crazy notions.  Maybe I could foster a dog for a couple of weeks while I’m here?  At least  I wouldn’t be missing the dogs then!  I made sure Granny was ok with this, then I contacted the rescue where we had found Rosie and said I was available if they needed a short term foster.  They said that if anything suitable came up they’d be in touch.  I got the feeling I shouldn’t hold my breath, but at least I’d made the offer and I got back to work…

I’ve been doing an hour or two in my mother’s garden almost every day.  First of all, I weeded and replanted the flowerbed closest to the kitchen window – the one that annoyed me every time I sat down at the table.  It’s less annoying now.

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Then I turned my attention to the rose bed in the front garden.  This is the one I see whenever I’m at the kitchen sink.  It’s also the first thing that anyone sees when they drive in the gate, so it’s nice to have it looking well.  See all the green stuff in between the rose bushes?  That’s not meant to be there.  It’s all weeds.

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Now, I know it sounds pathetic, but I’ve been working on this bed for over a week now, and I’m only half way through it.

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The reason is all that green leafy stuff at the bottom.  It’s a plant called Perennial Sow Thistle.  It’s one of those pain-in-the-butt weeds that spreads out a mat of rhizomes four to six inches beneath the surface of the soil, so I am having to dig through the whole bed and try to pick out as much of the rhizomes as I can.  Otherwise, it will be back to square one in a couple of weeks.

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Yesterday (that was the day it didn’t rain) I was on my hands and knees in between the rose bushes, digging out roots with a trowel, when two little visitors came strolling up the drive as if they owned it.  One of them came over to say hello to me, the other carried on to investigate the back of the house.

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The Vistors

I wasn’t too bothered by their sudden appearance and I carried on working, expecting an embarrassed owner to follow them up the drive, or to start calling them from the road.

Half an hour later, it was clear that this wasn’t going to happen.  They were lovely little chaps; polite, friendly, curious and well looked after, but they had no collars or tags – where had they come from?  My mother didn’t recognise them, but surely they couldn’t have travelled far.  While I made lunch, she rang a few neighbours to see if anyone knew where the dogs could have come from, but she only found one person at home, who was as mystified as we were.  Maybe I would be fostering after all?

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We shut the dogs in while we ate lunch – the road in front of the house is dangerous and neither of us was happy with the idea them wandering along the road all by themselves.  They were as good as gold, settled down on a mat by the door and went to sleep.

After lunch, I settled down to do some detective work, calling door to door with the dogs in tow.  The very first people I called to were absolutely certain that they were not from any of the houses in the immediate vicinity.  The mystery deepened.  Was I going to be bringing two new dogs back to France?  I brought the dogs back to my mother’s house and took the car so I could call to houses further afield.

No luck with the first two people I met.  Then at the third house, the lady who answered (an old, old friend) said straight away “Yes!  A brown one and a black one?  I know where they’re from.”

Phew.  I would not be organising rabies shots and passports!

To make a long story short, the dog’s owner is new to the area.  She was off work sick and had let them out for a pee when they disappeared.  Well, she’s got the flu and an associated sore throat, so she couldn’t call them.  She had been up and down the road beside her house a few times, calling hoarsely, and was very relieved to see me at her door.

Dogs in need always have a way of finding me.  Even if I don’t officially foster while I’m here, I’ve done my bit.

DSCF1050Now, back to those roses.

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