Saturday, September 15, 2007

Coldblow revisited.........

Coldblow – again! 10th to 15th September 2007

Well last year was such a success that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go again so Sharon and I booked to take the boys back to Coldblow Farm in Detling for a week.

We booked to arrive on Monday 10th September and initially hoped that Chris would be able to join us for a day and evening so she could accompany us on a ride and have a few bevies with us at the cottage. Well, Chris didn’t manage the ride on account of the girls being at school and it looked like we might get even more company – read on for the details!

Having ridden the BBAG ride on the Sunday (see previous post) saddles and bridles stayed on board the lorry and once we got back we started to get everything else loaded so that we were almost ready to load the horses and go on the Monday morning.

As only girls can do, we did the good old Sainsbury’s shop on Sunday afternoon and came back to the yard with so much food and drink (non-alcoholic of course) anyone would have thought we were going for a month! So, having a mini panic attack I decided to take everything out of the lorry that wasn’t essential - “we don’t need this sponge do we?” – just in case the weight was a bit OTT once we were loaded. Completely ridiculous but it’s a Sarah thing – you wouldn’t understand.

So, we were surprisingly organised and set off (on time – hurrah!) at 11am on Monday. Oh, lest I forget – organised yes, knackered yes! Sharon had the really intelligent idea of completely clearing out her stable in the morning so guess who got roped into that?

The drive down was easy, fairly quiet and this time we didn’t go wrong. Just before 1pm we arrived and led two very chilled out horses into their stables. The lovely big barn was all ours for the week so we chose two lovely huge stables....

....and wandered off to check the fences before turning the horses out in their own big field.

In Herbie’s case, he could have the luxury of being bootless for a week because he and Coy are not likely to play or mess about together, so no sexy porn star look -naked except for black boots , get it? ;-)

The fences were fine, no loose stakes or anything but there was another small problem.


Sugar the Sheep.

Not entirely sure she should be there we checked with Dora who told us she was fine but lonely. Her mate Pickle died the day after they were both sheared and they were organising to put her back with a flock as soon as possible, Foot and Mouth movement restrictions permitting.

Turning the horses out with Sugar was hysterical. Neither one of the boys knew what to make of her and she kept running off into the bushes whenever they came near. We left them alone and set about unpacking the lorry. It’s only when we had to take it all out that we realised quite how much stuff we had, but within an hour we were unpacked and sitting outside our cottage watching the ponies in the field with a glass of red in our hand – oh, and texting everyone to tell them what we were doing whilst they were hard at work! I know, it’s a bit unkind but they all do it so why not!?

Every now and again both the boys would canter off toward the bushes, tails high, when they caught sight of Sugar, then leg it back the other way before settling down to eat again. Poor little Sugar was terrified!

After a busy weekend for them and us, we gave the boys the Monday off and brought them in from the field at about 7:30pm with bulging bellies and a lovely dinner to look forward to – except with Coy still being on a diet his was yummy but didn’t last as long!

One of the wonderful things about being away with the boys is that there is no need to drive anywhere. When your normal day is to load the car with work and horsey clothes, drive to the stables, then on to the station, do a day’s work, then back to the station drive to the stables, ride, feed, then drive home; it’s just so wonderful to have everything with you and not have to go anywhere – except on horses of course – so after feeding the boys and putting them to bed it was quite a novelty to wander back to the cottage and just sit there – again! – not having to do anything, go anywhere or organise anything – bliss! Dinner and more wine followed.............YUM!

Tuesday morning we fed the horses, turned them out, mucked out and set about working out a route for a nice long ride.

Dora and co have set up another TROT ride since last year so we settled on the Rattlesnake ride (if you don’t know what I mean you should have read last year’s blog so there) which we extended to take in the new off road ride which had beautiful views over the River Thames.

One thing that was really noticeable from the beginning of the ride was how much more chilled out Herbs was compared to last year when every hedge or garden wall had something scary behind it. This time, wandering along the road Herbs was really relaxed so he is obviously growing up!

The Rattlesnake part of the ride was stony as we expected and we didn’t get any chances to canter as the ground was so hard but at the top of the hill Mrs Map Reader (moi) took over to try to connect this part of the ride with the TROT part. We went wrong twice – but I knew we did so that’s ok :-)and finally found the gates we needed. Some mad woman was off wandering with a baby and a dog whilst leaving another load of dogs (must have been 30 of them, it sounded like it) in the back of a van in cages yelling their heads off right next to where we needed to ride, so once she came back, lobbed the baby in the back of the van and buggered off, we could continue.

The TROT ride isn’t extensive but a lovely welcome addition to the ride, and the boys got to stare out cows and freak at sheep so some good experience there! Coy nearly galloped off backwards down the hill when the sheep came running in our direction to get out of our way – mad, but that’s sheep for you. whoever said they were intelligent?

Of course no ride would be complete without a trip to the Hook and Hatchet so we made our way to the pub at the end of the ride for a well earned beer or two and some crisps for the horses. The weather was beautiful, lovely and dry but not too hot and after a short 30 minute ride we wandered into the yard at about 5pm, untacked the sweaty horses and turned them out for a couple of hours more grazing whilst we had a GnT.

It was a wonderful ride to start us off and the evening routine was another joyous combination of horses, dinner and vino with NO driving – bliss.

I was fairly snap happy on the day so here are the results:


Time to tackle the underpass, be afraid, be very afraid.

We’ve done it once so we can do it again. That’s the attitude. Nice and confident.


A nice long route was planned for today, taking in two lovely underpasses beneath the M20. The ride down involved walking over some loggy things that are set at each end of a bridlepath to stop motorbikes etc. going down. Last year it was an effort to get Coy over these as they were for some reason ridiculously scary but this year he proved how much he has grown up too as he didn’t even seem to notice they were there.

The first underpass was very uninviting and both the horses froze when we asked them to walk underneath. After a few moments we decided to walk under in hand as they were becoming quite beside themselves with worry. Herbs was naughtily walking backwards when I asked him forwards and Coy was rooted to the spot so there was no point in forcing them.

From the other side, we made our way along another bridlepath which had a small log on the ground between two sections. To the left of this was a pallet up the bank and right alongside the log was a scary flower pot.

I asked Herbs forwards and all I was rewarded with was walking backwards again, little sod. This seems to be a new way of dealing with something scary and its only when they start doing it that you realise how hard it is to make them walk forwards against their will. I fought and fought and the whole thing ended up being a battle of wills. I was certainly not going to give up because, for one, walking backwards isn’t acceptable, and secondly, the objects in the way were not THAT scary – goodness me we’ve seen worse loads of times.

I think if Herbs had got his way his ideal would have just been to back off enough times that I let Coy go first – I think he just couldn’t be bothered to be the brave one. I wasn’t having it so after a while I managed to get him past everything quite nicely whilst proclaiming quite loudly that he was a complete tart.

Coy followed us along a nice bridleway that sloped downwards slightly and at the end it seemed compulsory to turn and canter back up it as the ground was so hard everywhere and you just never knew when you’d get another opportunity. It’s amazing how short these stretches are when you canter – we reached the end in no time!

A short ride through Bearsted and we spotted The Oak on the Green, nicely situated for a pint or two before the ride back. We planned a different route home and cut across a field (permitted!) for a nice canter before finding the underpass that would take us back over the other side of the motorway again. This direction and bridge was rather more inviting as it wasn’t as dark and I’m pleased that Herbs didn’t really think much before just wandering underneath. Yippee!

Then we had a nice canter along the Water Lane bridlepath, then walked through the lanes and up a steep hill to extend the ride onto the paths that come out opposite Coldblow Farm.

Now this bit was tricky because the map was quite clear but the land wasn’t. If only those people that spend so much time making sure maps are accurate would spend as much time making the land fit the maps we would be fine but oh no, signposts are completely unnecessary! A few wrong turns later we found what we were looking for, a rundown old shack with dogs yelling their heads off. Nice.

According to Dora it is dogs that make this route little used but she described a small path with a fence one side which the dogs would leap up at and a big fat tree the other, nicely placed to wallop your knee on so we knew we were in the right place.

As luck would have it the dogs couldn’t get to the fence but the fence was corrugated and the light was shining on it so whilst not being bothered at all about the horrendous noise the dogs were making Herbs was too blinking scared to go past the scary shining lights – such a weed/wooss (how the hell DO you spell that?/tart - so we had the walking backwards routine again which made his mother rather cross! Needless to say, after borrowing Sharon's crop and being a little threatening he did walk down the scary scary track in the lead despite it taking a little while to get him to “WALK FORWARDS!”

The spritely Sharon did a bit of fence repair a little farther on and we returned to the farm in one piece and having thoroughly enjoyed our day quite a few hours later!
We got company on Wednesday when two other girls, Nina and Mel turned up with their horses Max and Harry. They were camping and their horses living out so we moved our boys to a different paddock so that they were nearer theirs whilst they grazed overnight. They were a bit looney too so we got on well!


No grazing for the boys Wednesday evening as we were back so late so Thursday we took a plod in the other direction for a ride through the woods then onto the Hook and Hatchet for chill out time. The ponies had worked so hard the last two days we thought it only fair to have a bit of a breather, and Chris was due to visit with the girls so we didn’t want to get back too late.

As it was they arrived as we were untacking so we turned the ponies out and then got the BBQ going before bringing them back in for bed. The girls had school Friday morning so Chris had to take them back home but promised to come back Friday evening with Gina for a boozy night and left with a lovely long shopping list.


Sharon felt less than perfect in the morning - AND IT WASN'T ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE FOOD! but we set off for a reasonably long ride and thought we’d just see how we got on. We hadn’t intended to stay Friday night but on account of the girls coming down we booked to stay for longer so it seemed only right to get another long ride in.

We worked out a route than gave us as many cantering opportunities as possible (not that we're speed freaks) and set off once again for the underpass – albeit the nice one. Hey? We’re experts. No dramas this time, the horses took it relatively in their stride and we headed back down to The Oak on the Green.

It was kill or cure for Sharon and she felt surprisingly better afterwards – work that one out!

The ride back was lovely, long soft canters with chilled out horses and a perfect end to a perfect week.

The riding at Coldblow isn’t the best in the world but then I reckon you would go a long way before you found somewhere that offered such wonderful facilities (and pubs!) as well as all off road riding.

Our horses are very used to roads and in fact the drivers in the Detling area are so considerate and the roads so quiet it is far less stressful than negotiating the roads at home.

The grazing at Coldblow is lovely, we have a cottage to ourselves and Dora, Jeff and the team are very relaxed so it’s a very easy break for us. They have a lovely sand school but we didn’t use it once which is nothing short of a miracle considering what we’d be doing at home, and I truly believe the horses enjoyed the break just as much as we did.

On that point, Herbs continued his relaxed mood all week and he really was a different horse to ride compared with last year. At the grand age of 9 I suppose the effort of taking him to so many new places over the last few months has paid off and he is relaxing more in new situations – bless – he’s just getting cheeky with the backwards thing!

That about does it for an account of the holiday, with one exception – the party.

We knew that drinking with Gina would be a new kind of experience but I don’t think any of us was really prepared it. Here are the highlights....

1. Decided to take pictures of all of us wearing glasses and a stern expression – go figure (Chris couldn’t do it) ...
2. Decided to ---- --- ---- -- and take pictures of our ---- anyone good at hangman? – Oh, Chris? I still have that picture, sorry, I couldn’t find the delete button ;-)
3. Sarah and Gina chased each other around the cottage and fell over in a heap on the floor
4. Gina kept topping up Jeff’s wine glass (he’d only come out of the house to check on the chickens) and ended up making him sick
5. Jeff’s daughter rang him to find out if he was ok as he had left the house hours ago
6. Dora thought it was the unpasteurised soft cheese that Jeff ate before bed that made him ill ;-)
7. Gina dropped a massive plate of salad onto the floor outside then jumped in it several times
8. Chris spent all evening tell me she loved me and trying to delete aforementioned picture – but was too pissed to succeed
9. Sharon was so smashed she missed her mouth with a marshmallow and kept asking us to get her something but we couldn’t understand what she wanted so just ignored her and left her alone to mumble. Finally found out she wanted a quilt
10. Chris and Sharon tried to put the sofa bed together when drunk – hopeless
11. I was Little Miss Perfect all evening as I was driving the lorry the following day so didn’t drink too much and I didn’t do anything stupid and no-one will ever know if I’m telling the truth or not because I’m the only one who can edit this blog so there
12. Gina and Chris said Sharon and I could have a lie in the next day and they would put the boys out

Finally, the evening ended at 5am with everyone crashing out and doing lots of snoring.

The fun continued the following day:

1. Gina and Chris DIDN'T put the boys out - yeah what a surprise!
2. Gina was nearly sick whilst mucking out and had to keep sticking her head out the door for fresh air.
3. Chris was rough, rough, rough
4. Sharon just looked vacant most of the day and had the cheek to fall asleep on the way home – so much for co-pilot!

We arrived back at the yard at about 5pm. Knackered but safe, and settled the horses into their lovely familiar beds. We all had a great time and I think half the yard wants to come next year!

Maybe we can sneak in another visit in the Spring????.............

Here are the rest of the pics...........