Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Custom Pack Rigging are a Canadian company that specialises in all aspects of packhorse equipment and has - thankfully - designed a saddle that is fully adjustable and can therefore be made to fit any horse, pony (okay, not one as small as Dazzy), donkey, mule
Many thanks and thanks to the Long Riders' Guild for allowing us to do the first part of the trial!
Sunday, 14 August 2011
Alas, we are home again - and have been for a little while. It's not easy to write when you are mentally still lost somewhere along the countless lanes we saw, while physically in something like your normal life again. Work is getting back to normal, though with its normal summer low and the ponies are having a well earned break, so there isn't much to do. I've taken to studying Welsh - which I had decided while still on the way - to fill the remaining time. Another language is at least a little challenge now that I can't spend all day walking.
So what happened with our trip?
Well, on the day we spent with the Hereford cows, Artax must have rolled in thistles or nettles or something similar and got a rash and lots of strange round spots on the left side of his neck. They did not seem to itch or hurt, so we continued. Then, the next morning, he had a very swollen nose. Again it did not seem to bother him and he ate and drank normally, so I put some anti-inflammatory cream on it and was happy to see it quite a bit better within a few hours, though it took several days to go down to almost normal again. We went on for two more days to the place with the friendly donkey who offered to wash the dishes and had a day off there, then did the short trip of just 14 miles over to Elizabeth's; that's the place with the outdoor shower from the beginning of our trip.
The next day Artax decided to get yet another thing - his left eye was swollen. Not much, it was only around the eye, the eye was the normal colour, nothing was inflamed and, again, it did not seem to bother him. I finally spoke to a vet, who was very reassuring. He said not to worry, to put some tea on the eye and just watch things. Apparently lots of horses were having allergic reactions to flies. Whether the tea helped or not, his eye was good the next day - only to swell up again in the evening, but again it was fine in the morning and then stayed like that.
So... in this situation... with just about six days to go to get home... I wondered whether we should do it or be really responsible and give it a miss. Elizabeth had just bought a new horse box and was quite eager to try it... and so it happened that we decided to drive the ponies home... very responsible...
Anyway, who knows what was actually wrong with Artax, but it cannot have been anything serious. Maybe he just felt his nineteen years a little bit.
And what do we learn from all this?
Well, the trip was AMAZING, I enjoyed very nearly every single moment of it and hope to bore my grandchildren with the stories one day. As you will have seen from our stories, long rides are a very simple activity. When you are well prepared, have well trained animals and a little portion of luck to go with it, nothing dramatic or especially exciting happens. That's the wonderful thing about it - the simplicity. You just wake up in the morning and have exactly two jobs for the day: take care of the team and walk. It's physically demanding, but mentally relaxing.
An enormous THANK YOU to everybody who helped us on the way or just simply stopped for a friendly chat along the way.
Thank you for the hundreds of pounds in donations that were given to me on the way and through the Just Giving Website. Of course the website is still open for more donations :o)
The pages are:
www.justgiving.com/ridearoundbritain for Compassion in World Farming
And thank you again to our sponsors for their invaluable supplies!
Maggie would hardly have managed the journey without her RuffWear dog boots. She did not need them full-time like the ponies, but every few days for the first five weeks until her pads were sufficiently hardened off. Of course they are also good for dogs that do not get so much exercise, but have hurt a paw or have to go out on salted roads in the winter. Yes, they really do stay on the paws well! Maggie was also kindly given a backpack that was fantastic for her to carry her own doggie essentials around during the day. She accepted that perfectly and was happy to take a bit of weight. Then there was of course also the collapsible food bowl that lasted the whole trip and came back still looking like new - great quality!
The Satmap GPS was clearly the thing that made the difference on this trip, and made following the route a pleasure that required hardly any thought or attention. With a GPS you simply know exactly where you are at any moment and can therefore easily find the correct turnings without checking the landscape or counting junctions you pass and it simply doesn't let you get lost! It is completely stress-free navigation. I had spare batteries with me to last around 10 days at any time, that is five sets. Though I never used more than three of them as we almost always found places where I was able to charge the gadgets. The 1:200,000 map pages I had in Dino's luggage for emergencies were not needed a single time. Instead of dozens of OS maps, we just got away with one small unit that spent the trip glued to my side as my constant reference point. As a little extra, it was of course nice to know exactly how far we had been in a day.
Saturday, 6 August 2011
Thursday, 21 July 2011
About two hours from out destination, we were met by our host for the night together with a couple of friends. Barrie did the kind taxi service by car, Coral came along to have a ride on Artax and Andy – that´s the one who you might have noticed riding in a photo from about week three – came along for the walk and a bit of ride himself. It was really nice to walk in company again after about seven weeks without! I still clearly prefer no company to bad company, but to walk along and be able to have a conversation on the way is really nice.
The next day was just relaxing. I slept in a while longer in my nice cosy luxury bed and hung around reading, chatting, on the computer and meeting Andy´s friends. It was nice and really interesting. I´ve met and learnt so much about travellers on the way and have so much respect for their lifestyle. It´s such a pity that society in general seems to have got it so totally wrong and misunderstands these people just because they decide to not fulfil what is deemed “normal”.
The night in the lorry was very comfortable. I invited Maggie up onto the bed, but she clearly preferred a more important position and went into the passenger seat which is the side of the car she normally lies on when I leave her alone in my car.
I decided to not correct them there and then, so we set off in the late morning and had a nice walk down to Craven Arms. There were a lot more horse places and less crops, though we did come past some very sadistic people´s strawberry fields where they were cruel enough to grow acres and acres of strawberries, but didn´t have a stand where they might have sold me some of them. Torture, true torture!
Dazzy decided to venture out between the cows to get some grass while the others had to hang around to have their saddles off, but soon decided to return to his big protectors when about half of the cows took off after him.
We had a lovely evening once again and I could have a real clean in the bath and slept well, though quite late.
We set off at ten o'clock and on a different route than we had used for the way north. Before we had gone a longer way up the Welsh/English border and then turned off towards the Peak District in Melverly. It was alright, but I hadn't liked the amount of traffic on the roads and it hadn't been possible to completely avoid large roads, which we normally manage. Also, there was a place I was quite eager to miss as it was quite wild for a rather long time and the field the ponies had been on was on a very steep hill. I had put the tent up on a little piece of the neighbour's lawn, the only flat place in the area and had had to lift all the luggage over the barbed wire fence and get the boys ready on the steep hill... noooooo. And, they had actually all had a bit of a stomach problem for a good part of the next day... So, we went directly south-west from Sambrook, which took us a few miles south of Shrewsbury instead of north and west of it.
We came past a horse place, asked and were allowed to stay. The ponies got a lovely little field, the gear went in a stable, I got the living part of the horse lorry to stay in with Maggie and was able to use the shower. The people actually had to go out very shortly after our arrival, but were so nice and trusting that they left me on my own in and around their house to use the shower in their absence. Really kind of them and the clean-up was very much appreciated after a few days without the benefit of hot running water. Thank you!
We got ready, I plugged the laptop in to charge in the meantime and then went to say goodbye. There was a change overnight, though I had heard nothing of it. The evening before there had been just one bull in one of the stables; In the morning at just after six o'clock, there were suddenly seven new ones and the car was still parked in the yard with the trailer. And I thought I was an early riser!
It turned out, however, that the police had called in at one in the morning because said seven bulls had got out of their field and were in somebody's garden. While the owners rushed to collect them, the police had kindly taken control of the situation and put their “Do not cross this line” tape around the scene. I imagine the bulls can read as they stayed behind it. So why is it that some people are called “stupid cow” if they are actually clever enough to read and follow police instructions? Hmmmm, don't know.
They enjoyed their old field again that had just been growing since our last visit almost eight weeks before and they filled their tummies as full as they possibly could. Dazzy actually looks almost like a normal fat Shetland pony in the mornings (besides the few ribs shimmering through the fur on his big tummy. But by the evening he has normally returned to his normal self after not eating much during the day.
Saturday, 9 July 2011
Friday, 8 July 2011
On the whole it was a good day with little showers lasting anything between a few seconds and five minutes, but never anything really wetting.
We went throught he centre of Stone again, which the ponies of course didn't mind and managed to stop off at a little shop to get a couple of things we needed. Maggie got a denta stick, which will hopefully do her teeth some good and make her breath a little fresher and the ponies could enjoy some grass next to the shop.
For the first time since one bad experience on my last long ride, I had left 10 of the 12 boots on the ponies' hooves over night and was of course constantly slightly nervous about it. The paddock they had spent the night in was very small, though it had loads of grass, so I had felt safe that they would have no reason to make any sudden movements, let alone be able to race around and the boots would be fine... and they were! Lovely! That saved quite a lot of time in the morning.
A little bit of rain, sweet rain in the morning kept us comfortably inside having a long and tasty breakfast between packing the luggage and getting the horses ready. I am sure they were very happy about their extra time on the field with the sheep eating grass and regularly enjoying the sheep's vitamin/mineral bucket. I must check the ingredients of horse licks compared to cattle and sheep licks, but wouldn't mind betting they are close to identical, but at an amazing price difference.
Does anybody here know more?
Oh dear, so there is me up bright and early to get ready for another nice double day; the boxes are packed, I get out the scale – wow, only 15.5 kg, great! Don't know how I did it, but great! It took some sorting back and forth to have both boxes exactly the same – strange, as they always had the same stuff in each side, so weighing them was only a formality most days – but 15.5kg was still a great thing.
Then I looked around, and what should be next to me? Yes! The tent! Still standing! Grrrrr! So we got back to the usual 17kg after all. Do other people do things like that?
We set off at 9.30 on a beautiful day again, took a short cut up the hill, then spent a while on the official Pennine Bridleway, took another shorter route and avoided going straight past the house we had stayed at last time and finally got onto the High Peak trail, an old railway line that has been converted into a cycle/bridle/walking path. Here the ponies decided to raise the speed and spent the last coule of miles annoyingly trying to go faster than a normal walking speed. What disappointment when I took them past the field they had been on last time to go down and ask whether and where we could stay at the farm.
The field we had been on last time was not usable this time as there were four caravans on it, but the ponies could stay with the sheep right by the farm and I put my tent up on a little bit of beautifully flat lawn where it would have been perfect for cooking without any danger of the stove falling over inside the tent... if I had indeed had to cook.
They had made hay that week and the bales were ready to be stacked the day we stayed there, so it was nice to be at least a bit of use – but much less than I would have liked with the bales weighing about 25-30kg each (wow!). Thankfully there were so many able people around that they managed fine with an invalid when it came to the second and third trailers full.
And what did the weather do? Yes, nothing! The rain that was the reason they had got the hay in in a hurry and had been my excuse for taking the day off actually hardly came and then not until quite late in the evening... why anybody ever trusts the weather forecast, I really don't know!
They were happy to be back, I found a more or less flat spot for the tent, the owner of the field's little pony was happy to have Dino back as a neighbour as they had taken a great liking to each other the last time they had met and I was invited in for a tasty dinner of baked potatoe with butter, grated cheese and beams – yum!
I was quite surprised at just how quickly the day went by and we arrived at our hosts' house at about six o'clock, happy to be at our place of rest and with the ponies happy to get some good grass on a field they knew and loved. We had a nice quiet evening and went to bed early in order to be fit for another double day in the morning.
We went past a chippy in Haworth and I couldn't help asking what sort of fat they made their chips in – ugh, beef dripping! How can anybody want to eat them? Or what has animal fat got to do with cooking vegetables? I think I ate some non veggie chips by accident a while ago and they were really not nice at all. I couldn't finish the small portion... and that clearly means there was something not right; I usually finish a very big portion without any trouble. But I felt sick after those doubtful ones. In any case, the lady at the shop said there was a place in Oxenhope where they used vegetable fat, so we did a little detour to go there, found the place, checked the smell, got suspicious and, of course, they also used stupid beef dripping – yuck!
When we got to the place where we had intended to stay, it looked a little strange and I knew the people would have only got back from their holiday that day, if indeed they were there at all, so we decided to continue, taking a slightly shorter route in the process. We were in luck; on the way north, there had been nobody in at the first place where we had wanted to stay, but this time it was full of life and we were made very welcome at once. The ponies got a field, the luggage could go inside a stable and Maggie and I stayed inside the stable that night instead of putting up the tent. Yes, I remember my vow to never ever sleep anywhere outside without the tent around me again, but it was a clean and possibly recently washed out stable, so it seemed harmless and we had a good night in it with the horse rugs on the ground underneath my airbed and Dino's saddle pad for Maggie. Luckily I didn't see the friendly spider next to the bed till the morning when I had already packed up most of the stuff.
Not having had a day off since a day into Scotland, we decided it was time and Carole was so kind as to offer us to stay longer if we wanted. I was a little undecided in the morning as the forecast was still good for the week and weekend, but not so good as of the new week and I really wanted to get through the Pennines before the rain set in, which would surely hit the hills hardest, probably especially the ones I planned to cross. But the miles since the last break decided me and we made up our minds to stay.
I got a shower in the morning and then all of my clothes were even washed. The jeans remain ridiculously loose now, or rather more so than before, but I feel more comfortable and Artax and I have less to carry around, so that is a definite plus.
I spent the majority of the day reading and just relaxing while Maggie could also rest her paws when she wasn't caught up playing catch with Beth, the playful resident Labrador.