Favourites on Friday - Liam's Stable Adventures

I’ve been meaning to do a post about Liam … more of a tribute really, as I am so proud of him.

He was working 3 days a week at the stables, with 2 young … females.  I was going to say ‘ladies’, but as you’ll see, their behaviour was far from ladylike.  To begin with, the 3 of them got on really well, and I was happy that he was making a new set of friends.  They even came to his last band concert in the summer to show their support.  Soon after that, however, for reasons still unknown to Liam, they started to change.

I won’t name names, instead I’ll call them A and G; A is about 21 now, I think, and G is 18, just a couple of months older than Liam.  He didn’t tell me straightaway when things started to go sour.  But I noticed that he was getting less and less enthusiastic about going to work.  He mentioned a few things, usually in the car on the way home, about how annoying he found them.  But he also talked about some funny stuff.  One thing I myself found off-putting was their preferred topic of conversation, which I usually heard snippets of while waiting for Liam to finish – boys (obviously, given their age) and sex.  Lots of sex!  And clubbing, and drinking.  Again, lots of drinking.  Which, at the end of the day, was none of my business.

Then Liam started to tell me more - the scolding (!) for turning up 40 minutes late, with them insisting he had to start work at 08:00, even though Richard (boss) said his work hours were 08:30 – 16:30, because he knew the drive took me about 40 minutes, sometimes longer, depending on the traffic.  They belittled his work, especially around horses, regardless of the number of times he said that, unlike them, he hasn’t had much experience around horses – as far as they were concerned, that was no excuse, he should just know!  They compared him unfavourably to guys they fancied, in front of him … In front of me, however, both A and G behaved ever so sweetly.

For Liam, the worst part was to do with one of the horses he was especially fond of, and she seemed to be quite fond of him too.  He’d spend time with her, and found her presence calming.  She belongs to Richard’s ex-wife (all get on amicably) who would always tell Liam to keep an eye on her horse, and look after her in the lady's absence.  A and G started to ‘forbid’ Liam to go anywhere near the horse, trying to stop him spending time with her … A said if he didn’t listen to her, she would make his life very difficult.  He wanted to know how, but she couldn’t give him an answer so just repeated that she would make his life difficult.

Anyway, the bullying got to the point where he phoned me, which he never does when he’s at work, only ever texts.  He was in tears, and just wanted help to calm down.  He said he’d finish his day at work, and I said I’d get there earlier.  We had a long talk on the way home.  He hadn’t told Richard because he was trying to work it out himself, and he didn’t want me to say anything to them either.  As things were getting worse, he decided he wanted to leave.  And I didn’t talk him out of it.  This was back in September.

I know he could have spoken to Richard about it, but I thought he’d been through enough, so I phoned Richard and explained the situation.  Interestingly, he wasn’t surprised as the girls, especially G, apparently had a bit of a reputation.  Liam, bless him, said he’d work the Friday, and that would be his last day, and Richard was fine with that.  Nothing was said to A and G about Liam leaving, until the end of the day when he said ‘bye, telling them that he was leaving.  Talk about surprised!  They had no idea why, and when he finally told them, they turned it right around, and said he couldn’t take criticism.  At no point did they think they’d anything wrong.

I was particularly angry with them as their behaviour had put Liam off working at stables.  So, after about 2 weeks of Liam wondering what jobs to apply for, he finally realised that he still wanted to work with horses.  We were perusing other stables when, out of the blue, Liam got a call from Richard asking if he’d like to return to the stables, and that both girls had left.  Well … !!

Richard said that after Liam left, A and G knew that Richard was angry with them.  Gradually, the truth leaked out … some of the other girlies who helped at the stables admitted that they’d stopped coming around so much because they didn’t like A and G’s behaviour; people who came for lessons weren’t impressed with them; other people who helped out at the stables or boarded their horses there didn’t really like them either.  So, it looks as if Liam had done Richard a favour.

Liam started back mid-October, and now works with 2 ladies, and he works 5 days – Mon and Thurs mornings, and all day Tues, Wed and Fridays.  And he loves it!  Vicky, who’s there full-time, is wonderful, and so is Hayley, the other lady who only works the mornings.  They’re both in their early 30s, have small children, and are just so very nice.  Liam especially likes Vicky – he says she’s sometimes like a mother-figure, and other times like an older sister.  And she looks out for him, which, of course, I adore her for.  They both know the ‘story’ of why Liam left, and he’s found them supportive.  Especially as he still sees G sometimes; she keeps her horses at the stables over the road from where he works.  But no words have been exchanged.

Without any fuss, Richard has given him more responsibilities.  Vicky and Hayley have school-age kids, and need to get the school run out of the way before work.  So Liam is the first one there, he opens up and is responsible for giving all the horses their breakfast – about 17 of them.  He moves horses between fields on his own – riding bareback and leading 2 or 3.  He does a walk-out with a young, disabled man (with his carers accompanying them).  Goes into a field full of horses to ‘catch’ one ... One time the mist was so heavy, he couldn’t see too far ahead of him, and stood there, unimpressed, as he had to find and get a grey horse!  And there are about 5 or so grey horses in that field!  And yesterday, the horse he had to get was lying, flat out, in the field, enjoying the sun!

I am very proud of my young man.  There was a time he wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to a goose, needed to have either me or Gordon around as moral support.  But the way he’s handled himself … I don’t think I would have handled it as well.  And Gordon – who was all for going to the stables himself and giving A and G a sound telling-off – he’s rather proud of his brother too.

I do believe, where both my wonderful sons are concerned, I have nothing to worry about.

Favourites on Friday - Horses in Spain

This is footage from a couple of years ago when we’d had our horse holiday in Spain.  Back then, I hadn’t worked out how to get my videos onto the blog *blush*

I took this on our last day there.  First, the horses’ breakfasts are laid out, then they’re let out of their various paddocks, and they bring themselves in, ready to chow down … I decided not to delete the sound even though our voices are on it – Gordon, Liam and me – because I like the music that’s playing, and the sound of the horses running in.  The guys, Tony and Jeff, always had music on while working around the place.  This is Ray Charles with ‘Mess Around’ and ‘It Should Have Been Me’.

As you can hear Liam explaining – he’d get up early every morning to help Jeff ready the feeds – all the horses know where their eating space is, but they still try their luck.  The reason some eat straight off the ground and don’t have buckets is because when they did have buckets, they’d pick them up and toss the food everywhere!!  So, no buckets.

This will, most probably, be the last post for this year, I may do a Christmas one, maybe another book review, depends on how I feel …

Favourites on Friday - Proud Mummy Moment ... lots of them :)

Liam’s been doing really well, helping out at the stables every Friday.  For someone who, like his mother, struggles to get out of bed in the mornings, he’s been good about getting up without a fuss, despite working hard at band practice Thursday evenings.  Even when the weather’s been really foul – cold, wet, windy – he’s never once said he’d rather not go.  And when he’s there, he does whatever job he’s given and performs it to the best of his ability.  If he hasn’t finished his assigned job when I turn up to fetch him home, he carries on till he’s finished, and then asks if there’s anything else they need him to do; he doesn’t just up and leave.

Not having had a riding lesson since before Christmas, he’s, so far, had 2 this month.  After his first lesson, he said it didn’t feel as if he hadn’t ridden for months, it felt that familiar to him.  Up till now, he’s only ridden mares, but for these 2 lessons, he’s ridden a sweet-looking bay gelding called Perry.  Liam said he’s a nice ride, but requires a little coaxing to get him going. 

I wish I’d gone to see Liam during his second lesson, which was on Tuesday – first time ever, he jumped a course!!  Before now, he’s only done one jump before slowing down, turning, and coming back to jump the same one again.  But, on Tuesday, he set off in sitting trot and jumped 3 cross-poles, maintaining the trot between each jump!  Not bad for someone who hasn’t been on a horse for about 6 months :)  And, even though Perry’s a bit of reluctant jumper, Liam said he didn’t find it difficult to get him to tackle the jumps.  I am so proud of my boy!

Bonus for working hard - time to fuss the horses afterwards!  (Apologies for 'darkness' of photos, didn't want to use the flash)

Andalusians in Spain

The reason I didn’t blog last week was because we were in Spain, enjoying my special birthday present from Neil – a horsey holiday!!

I’ve had my eye on this holiday for the longest time and, when Neil asked me what I wanted for my 50th, after much dithering, mentioned this and he agreed.  The company I used, Unicorn Trails, specialise in worldwide horse holidays and are brilliant – they arrange everything, including travel insurance (which includes ‘horse-riding’ cover) and flights, if required.  The lady I dealt with, Danni, was amazingly helpful and no question was deemed too trivial.  We left for our holiday on Monday, and returned Friday evening.

The owners of the holiday place, Los Olivillos, Donna and Tony, renovated the ‘finca’ (farmhouse) that came with the property so it could be used as holiday accommodation.  They have 13 horses, including a colt, and they’re all Andalusians.

Not only was this our first time in Spain (though I think Neil may have been, briefly, while in the Navy), it was also our first time using a budget airline … the infamous Ryanair.  OMG!! Talk about charging for every flipping thing!!!  The only good thing – they fly from Bournemouth Airport, which is about a 15-minute drive for us.

The flight was ok as flights go, and we arrived on time.  Instead of hiring a car, we opted to be met by Jeff, who helps run Los Olivillos, together with Donna and Tony.  He’s a lovely, white-haired gent who used to work with horses, mainly in the racing circuit, in the UK.  The journey was about 1.5 hours and the surrounding scenery was breathtaking … it’s all so vast compared to anything in the UK.

Los Olivillos is situated in the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Mountains Nature Reserve, to the east of Malaga, and the last part of our journey up the mountains was extremely off-road – very bumpy and nerve-wracking!  Never been so glad to arrive at a destination.  Tumbled out of the car and saw the most glorious scene as the setting sun lit up the mountains.

Tony showed us around the finca ... 2 double bedrooms, a single room, a bathroom, kitchen and small lounge area.  A side door by the lounge opens up to amazing views of the mountains, and a path leads to the garden with swimming pool and orange trees.

Entrance to finca...

... opens straight onto double bedroom 

Curtained doorway to smaller double bedroom

Curtained doorway to single bedroom with single bed, which Gordon insisted on having!

Door to bathroom; bathroom ceiling (the other ceilings are similar)

Gorgeous picture in bathroom

Open the side door to this amazing view!

Path leading to garden... and back to side door

Garden with swimming pool

Orange trees in garden

The middle and bottom row are pictures of their horses

Because of our location, all meals are included in the price, and there was no stinting on anything.  Everything was superb.  They grow their own vegetables, Donna bakes bread, makes jam – fig, also passionfruit and banana jam, which was lip-smackingly yummy!  Apart from boiled eggs Tuesday & Friday, each meal was different.  We had our meals with them, in their kitchen, and were made to feel very much a part of their family.  Oh, their son, Ricky, was there too; he’d come out to Spain for a month or so, and was still there almost 6 months later!  Don’t blame him …

Next morning, Liam and I got ready for our first ride, with Donna leading us.  I had a handsome bay called Huerfano, which means ‘orphan’ as his mother had died when he was 5 days old.  They’d hand-reared him, and he loves people!  As usual, I had to fight my ‘mounting-up’ issues, but they were so patient with me … very reassuring, and didn’t make me feel at all silly.  Glad to report that I mounted up without looking a fool.  At 16.2hh, Huerfano’s the biggest horse I’ve been on.  Liam’s horse was a pretty grey mare, Alma; of course, he mounted up with no drama at all.

These horses require minimum contact, so of course there was Liam and me constantly adjusting our reins, asking Donna if we were holding them properly … This trail ride was different from the word go – the terrain was steep, rocky, sheer drops, streams … very exhilarating.  We made our way to a place called El Acebuchal, the lost village.  It was involved in the Spanish Civil War, and these mountains were one of the last places to hold out against Franco.  To stop the rebels using the village for supplies, the residents were made to leave, which they finally did in 1949, and the place fell to ruin.  15 years ago, in 1998, one of the original families decided to move back, and gradually the place was restored.

The bar

We stopped at the bar for drinks and cake.  The owner of the bar is the son of the couple who started the renovations in 1998.  It felt wonderful, tying up the horses at rings meant just for that purpose, and sitting under the canopy, shaded from the sun.  When it came time to leave, there was a low wall we could use as a mounting block, and I got on with no problems.  As Liam was mounting up, it occurred to me that I had yet to break out my camera; I’d been so taken with the scenery and the actual ride before that I hadn’t thought to take pictures!

View from the back of Huerfano

Liam on Alma

Can't really see it, but its a steep drop off the edge!

Donna in front of me

On the ride back, we passed a few groups of walkers; one guy even stopped to take pictures of Liam and me!  As Donna said, we’d become tourist attractions *lol* Everything was going swimmingly, and we were about 15 minutes from home; just past the stream, Donna suggested a short canter.  I decided to take leave of my senses, and agreed – don’t ask me why, my cantering is total pants, and I haven’t had a proper lesson at it in about a year!  I didn’t prepare, didn’t shorten the reins … off we went, Donna and Liam ahead of me, doing great, me doing not-so-great … and I fell off.

Landed sideways, head did not touch the ground, but my left butt cheek took the brunt of it – Ouch!  Donna was brilliant – she looked after me so well; Liam was a star, stayed strong, reassured me (he’s usually quite emotional).  Thing is, in the mountains, phone reception is quite sporadic, and Donna couldn’t get a phone signal.  When I finally managed to get to my feet, with Liam’s help – Donna wouldn’t let me rush it, but insisted I take my time – I came over all light-headed … not sure if I passed out, but next thing I knew, I was on my back with Donna telling me I had to get up.  She helped me over to a rock, and I sat with my head between my legs.  Anyway, she got her neighbour who was just at the top of the path to take me back in his car, while his brother led Alma home, and she led Huerfano back.  Her neighbour, Antonio, didn’t speak a word of English but his kindness and generosity spoke volumes to me.

I, of course, felt very silly, convinced I’d ruined the holiday and wasted Neil’s money – let’s just be dramatic about the whole thing!  But at dinner, Tony welcomed me to the ‘falling-off-the-horse’ club (this, to date, is my 3rd fall) and recounted a few instances when he’d come a cropper.

Next day, I felt stiff and still sore, but decided to get back on.  I was surprised that I didn’t feel worried about mounting up, just wanted to see if I could because I couldn’t lift my legs very high.  I had a different horse, Nina, a grey mare, about 15.2hh (Biscuit’s height) – as Tony said, not so far to fall!  And had Jeff, Ricky and Liam all helping me get on, which I managed to do – yaay!  Jeff was leading us, and off we went, Liam on Alma again.  Apart from tensing up each time Nina so much as attempted a trot, I felt ok.  We rode past where I’d fallen off, and a little way beyond.  I was fine on level ground and going uphill, but found downhill difficult and uncomfortable.  After about 30mins, we headed home.  With Liam standing ready to catch me if I stumbled, Ricky holding Nina, and Jeff standing by Nina, I managed to dismount quite smoothly – double-yaay!

I didn’t ride again after that, as I thought I’d better have my back checked out by my osteopath first, and didn’t want to aggravate anything and not be able to manage our flight home.  On Thursday, Jeff took Neil and the boys down to Competa – I was hoping I’d be ok for that, but didn’t go as I was feeling queasy and icky; I think it was because of the ibuprofen I’d been taking, and I don’t usually take much in the way of meds.  But Gordon took lots of pictures for me, and he and Liam bought me a beautiful turquoise necklace.

View of Competa from car park

Church of La Asuncion, built 1505

Interior of the church

On their return from Competa

View of Los Olivillos; on their way back from Competa

Apart from my airhead moment, we had a wonderful time, and I’m glad we went.  The weather was amazing … couldn’t believe we were baking in the sun, in November!  Neil enjoyed himself immensely, doing lots of walking; he even walked to El Acebuchal – almost a 3 hour round trip!!  Why?  Because there was wild boar on the menu!  Our only disappointment was we didn’t see an eagle … though Neil did, much to our disgust *lol*

Sunset - 5th Nov

Sunset - 7th Nov

I especially liked how Jeff took Liam under his ing, and showed him horse-related stuff.  Liam helped get the horses’ breakfast ready in the mornings, and went with Jeff to feed the 2-year-old colt, who didn’t eat with the others but stayed in his paddock as he rather fancied himself.  I think my favourite part was watching the horses come up for breakfast – Jeff and Liam would put the food out, then Jeff would go and let each group out of their respective paddocks, and they would come galloping/trotting up themselves, heading for their places … though some would try their luck and go to the place right by the gate before being reminded where they really should be.

Huerfano leading the breakfast charge

The 2 year old colt

We’re all agreed, we’re definitely going back; when we do, I plan on doing things properly and sensibly!

Huerfano and me