Excuses, excuses…

I hadn’t ridden for over two weeks.

First of all I twanged my back, probably while trimming the horses’ feet.  Yes, I have a hoof stand.  No, I wasn’t using it.  No, I don’t expect sympathy.  ‘Nuff said, the bottom line was that I couldn’t even contemplate riding for over a week.

Then there’s the weather – oh god, I sound like someone making excuses… let me try to explain myself.  It’s now summertime.  Temperatures are regularly in the low 30s .  Flurry has never seen anything like this before – he is too young to have witnessed an Irish summer that didn’t consist of varying degress of rain.   Aero has never seen temperatures like this for such a sustained period.  In the middle of the day, they are visibly wilting, as they huddle with their companions under a tree (always a tree, never their field shelter – WHY?) swishing flies off each other.    The only option is to ride them in the early morning or the early evening.

And then there’s the flies.  We think we have flies on the British Isles.  Let me tell you, friends and neighbours, we don’t have flies.  Yeah, sure, there’s the odd horsefly, occasional bot-flies and of course we do have sweet-itch-provoking midges, but we have nothing like the flies they have here.  Swarms of small nuisance flies, squadrons of horse flies – little ones like we have at home and gigantic ones with massive green eyes which have the same modus operandi, bot flies droning around the horses’ nether regions looking for a spot to lay eggs and revolting mouches plats.   My poor Irish horses have never been subjected to anything like this before, and while Flurry endures it all with the stoic attitude I would expect from him, Aero, despite his fly rug,  is driven demented, especially when the mouches plats crawl up under his tail.

Flies, like the heat, are less bad first thing in the morning.  I’m willing to get up at stupid o’ clock to ride, really I am.  But therein lies another problem.  We have one vehicle shared among four people, seeing as we decided not to drive The Heap (in the interest of health, safety and a desire to see our sixties).  Ash had to be dropped to work for 8AM on Monday and Thursday.  The LSH had a photo shoot in Céreste on Tuesday, starting at 9.30AM.  We were all sick on Wednesday and dared not stray too far from the loo.  The dogs were were neglected all week, so they were given a good long walk early on Friday morning.   I had promised to bring pavlova to a lunch party on Saturday, so I had to get up at 7am to make it.

I was completely out of mornings, but the good thing is, there’s always another morning on the way and finally, on Sunday morning, the LSH and I made it up to the horses and rode.  We were about an hour later than planned (too much sleepin’ goin’ on…) and the flies were bad enough, but it was a nice ride for all that.

Aero had been shaking his head violently from the minute I saw him in the field to when I put a fly bonnet on him.  It was like flicking a switch.  Instant calm.

We sprayed them both with Alexandrine’s home-made fly spray, which is just lavender oil and water.  We all smelled lovely and it kept the flies at bay for a while.

We went through the fields at the side of the farm.  Now that the hay has been cut, we had a long, long trot through the hay field.  We would have cantered but the LSH wasn’t happy with his stirrups.

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The hayfield is the narrow strip of green on the left, between the woods and the lavender

We rode along the top of the ridge for a while, with Aero becoming increasingly agitated by the flies, so eventually we both pulled leafy branches and used them as fly swatters while we rode.

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Aero’s fly bonnet and bouncy mane!

We did a little detour just to ride through a lavender field, which meant we ended up riding through a field of Clary Sage as well.

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Clary Sage

Clary Sage is used as an essential oil.  It fosters clear thinking.

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The LSH and Flurry breathing in the clear thinking

Wouldn’t it be nice to ride through a field of clear thinking every morning?

We turned the boys out after dressing a relieved Aero in his fly rug (he’s torn it! Agh.  Must bring needle & thread next time!) and drove back to Reillanne, passing this lot on the way :

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Twenty Porsche 911s, going for a drive.  I’d rather have one of them than The Heap.

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Maybe some day…

By 10.30am, we were installed on the terrace of the Café du Cours, looking out over Reillanne market and waiting for our beers.

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Not a bad morning’s work!

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