Meet the Inmates Part 5 – Caline and Grisou

Caline and Grisou are the most insufferably photogenic residents at the farm.



They’re just so damn cute!



They’ve been living at the farm longer than any of the other residents.  Alexandrine inherited them along with her partner -“Love me, love my pony and donkey” sort of thing.

Grisou is the donkey, Caline is a miniature shetland mare.  It’s hard to know who the boss is – I’ve seen Caline push Grisou away from food, but I’ve also seen Grisou plaguing Caline unmercifully, with Caline putting up with his roughhousing, despite being clearly unimpressed.  She’s a tolerant little lady.  I’ve had to dose her with a painkiller a few times, and she just accepts it like a little trooper.  Grisou is less tolerant of human interference, but he can be bribed to tolerate foot-trimming and similar unpleasant things with a few carrots or a handful of barley.

For as long as I’ve been around, the two little munchkins shared a paddock with Victoire, an elderly TB mare.  But Victoire was put to sleep at the start of the summer – she was diagnosed with cancer a few months earlier, and her owners chose to call it a day before she started suffering with the heat and the flies.



So the two little guys have been on their own for about two months now, and it’s been the best thing for them.  They’ve moved into a smaller paddock, but their food and water are at opposite ends, so they are moving around much more than before.  Caline is laminitic, and the enforced exercise has done her the world of good.  She’s moving better than I’ve seen in ages, and hasn’t needed her painkiller dose for several weeks now.


Their new paddock is closer to the barn, and Grisou seems to enjoy keeping an eye on the comings and goings all day long.


Grisou in surveillance mode

No, really!!


“Asleep? Me? I knew you were there!”

They’re elderly.  I have no idea how old, but they’ve been around a long time.  I hope they’ll be around for a lot longer.

Two cuties.


Cute whiskery muzzles in the snow


Meet the Inmates Part 4 – Ayko and Valentine

While I feed the stabled horses, Valentine and Ayko wait impatiently, Valentine at the gate; Ayko keeping a respectful gap between them.  You can see straight away who the boss is with this pair!  They live right beside the barn, so they are next to be fed.


Valentine has already appeared in this blog a few times.  She made a minor appearance in my very first trip to spectate at a French dressage competition, which was also her very first outing.  Then there was the trip to a much bigger dressage competition in Aix and the weekend adventure when I went along as groom to the international centre at Vidauban.


Valentine and Alexandrine

Valentine is seven now.  She arrived at the farm to be broken for a client in 2013.  She was not a difficult horse, but it was clear straight away that she was very sensitive!  Not long after she ‘graduated’, she and her owner had a difference of opinion, with her owner unfortunately falling off and breaking her shoulder.  So she came back to Alexandrine, to continue her education while her owner recovered.  But her owner had a long hard think about things and decided that, with two small kids, she’d be better off with a ‘made’ horse rather than a youngster, so Valentine was put up for sale.  Alexandrine forms a bond with every horse she works with, and by now her connection with Valentine was huge!  So she did the logical thing, and bought her.  Much to everyone’s delight, really.

Valentine is officially Selle Francais, but in fact her breeding is pure Hannoverian, with the renowned Weltmeyer II appearing in her pedigree – he’s her paternal grandsire.  By one of those weird quirks of fate, she was born at Les Bayles, the very first Gite Equestre where Anne and I stopped when we did Le Big Trek.

Right now, while Alex continues to adjust to Life With Julia, Oriane is working with VaVa.  She’s been competing in dressage and showjumping competitions and attending lots of clinics and generally just learning loads from her.  In fact, she has learned so much that she has now been accepted into the instructor training course at Saumur!! Cool, eh?  So in the autumn, Oriane will head off for new adventures and Alexandrine will pick up the reins again.  She will surely be adjusted to Life With Julia at that stage.  Mind you, my two are in their twenties, and I’m still not sure I’ve adjusted to life with them.  It keeps CHANGING!

Anyway, now let me introduce Ayko.


Ayko is Oriane’s retired old boy.  He’s a 23 year old French trotter.  I wouldn’t have guessed it from his build – he seems quite chunky and solid, to me.  The only other ex-trotter I knew was very light-boned, but I guess there are many difference types, like with TBs.

Oriane has had him for eleven years.  She credits him with igniting her interest in training and managing difficult horses.  Which is to say, he was not a straightforward ride when she started out with him as a teenager!  He went from the racetrack to someone who did Spectacles Equestre and from there to Oriane.  He still couldn’t canter when she bought him, but he learned eventually!  Oh, and I forgot to mention that he was her first horse.  Yup, it could have been a disaster.  It wasn’t.

He went to Haras La Cense with his mom last year when she went to do her Equitation Ethologique diploma.  Now, he’s at the farm while Oriane provides the rest of the maternity cover for Alexandrine (yes, it takes two of us to replace her!).  He’s a sweet old boy who moves stiffly around his paddock, following Valentine wherever she goes – and ducking when she takes a swipe at him!

He and Oriane have just started to learn clicker training.  After one brief session, he understood that he was to ‘touch’ the flag.  So while the body may be rusty, the brain definitely is not!

He looks for a cuddle from me most days.  I’m happy to oblige with a tummy scratch or a good rub behind the ears.


Sometimes he seems a bit sad.


I wonder if he knows that his Girl has grown up and is moving on.


Chow time at last! Heads down and eating, while I hop into the Jeep to go feed the rest of the gang


And the word of the week is…

la Sécheresse


Reillanne has a big problem with water shortages this year.  By the middle of July, water levels were down to where they normally are by the end of August.  Our neighbouring village, Lincel, has no water at all, and we have yet to hit the busiest part of the tourist season.  Reillanne apparently needs to cut it’s water consumption by 50% in order to have any chance of the supply lasting through to the Autumn, when hopefully it will rain!  Frankly, I don’t see that happening, which means that, at the very least, the Mairie will start shutting the water off at certain times of the day and, at worst, we will end up with tankers delivering water to the village.  The last time this happened was in 1989.  These conditions are exceptional.


At the horse farm, we have a mix of automatic drinkers and large troughs.  The water comes from two enormous cisterns, which are filled by a combination of a bore-hole and rainwater, which has been non-existent for at least three months now.  Water is piped directly to the automatic drinkers (which are a really super-duper insulated non-freeze type, brilliant in the winter) but it gets delivered to the troughs by Yours Truly and Le Patrol.


Le (Nissan) Patrol, adapted as a tanker. I deliver about 2000 litres per week to thirsty horses with this.

Every morning, Georges climbs up the ladder to the top of the huge cisterns (rather him than me!) and checks the water level anxiously.  It stayed constant for ages, but then it slowly, slowly began to drop, one or two centimetres per day.  Today, it had dropped by a good 50cm – about a foot and a half.  That’s it.  The bore-hole has dried up.  Once we finish the water in the tanks, all of the horses’ water will have to be brought up the hill by tanker.  With twenty horses on-site and temperatures in the mid-thirties (mid-nineties Fahrenheit), that’s a lot of water.  And it can’t be drawn from the public water supply in the village; it will have to be taken from an agricultural source.

So la sécheresse is now part of my everyday vocabulary.

This is not something I ever had to worry about in Ireland!


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