Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow! Monday, Jan 7 2008 

Much like the UK, we were forecast some snow last week. It came, looked temporarily impressive, but left rather fast. The horrific temperatures of last week have past (incidently, for anyone who remembers my blog entry where my fiance and his family rushed out to find a stuck boat; the temperature at the beach that evening due to the windchill was -21 degrees!) and with the slight warming, all the water system at the stables thawed. Temporarily at least, the great bucket shortage of 2008 has passed. Incidently, for anyone interested, the little mare next door who was frantically attempting to drink at light speed last week now has her own pink bucket. To be perfectly honest I’m rather jealous and now understand the bucket-stealing ideas that may have been plagueing other liveries; although where they were considering such actions in reflection of the bucket shortage in all local tack stores – I was just downright jealous of her pink bucket.

This morning looked grey and miserable and it had clearly rained overnight. Out of nowhere, the weather has taken a bit of a turn. After promising myself that I would start to collect more photographs, I ran outside to snap some piccies of the current snowfall. I’m even going to track it during the day (assuming it stays).

Immediatly out of the back door..

This one is taken looking out towards the neighbouring fields, just beyond them is another livery yard (not where I keep Jack though)

Snow!

This one is taken looking out towards the forest (home to some funky, HUGE eagles) and the beach (yep, the trees run right down to the beach), not that you can see much…

Towards the forest and beach

Over the patio

I know the quality isn’t great but its from a phone camera. Perhaps if my determination to document every moment of my life (interesting or otherwise) continues, I may have to harass my poor fiance for a camera!

Yesterday’s visit to the stables went by with very little entertainment really. A trip to the local supermarket afterwards however, yielded much to be excited about! We went in search of modelling clay which needless to say, we didn’t find. I did wander off to investigate the tinned food situation thought and behold (!) there were tins of spaghetti and sausages! Due to the fact that there weren’t that many, I insisted on throwing them all into the basket, coming away with 11 tins! (Can you imagine what the girl on the check outs must have thought.)

In other victorious news, the search for the modelling clay was also concluded today and my fiance returned from town (incidently, he wouldn’t take me with him which Im very unhappy about) with 9 bars of modelling clay; one in every colour they have. Pretty good timing considering that the weather has put me off from venturing out of the house today and my new career as a modelling clay sculptress can commence.

Blog updates have been slightly slow over the weekend and for that I apologise. Instead I’ve been working on some more serious stuff, particularly focusing on the use of rollkur in modern training methods and Im hoping the first part of that will be making an appearance today or tomorrow. (I know, I know, you’d much rather be reading stories of the strange habits of the Danes but Ive promised myself for a long time that I’d collect together my views on certain modern training methodologies and publicise them online.)

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A New Collection Saturday, Jan 5 2008 

Quite typically of most girls, I have a weakness for all things sparkly, much to the upset of my fiance. I was actually introduced to this jewelry by my mum who has been collecting it for a while now. When I was home for a week in Novemeber, I was flicking through a magazine and spotted a charm bracelet I raher liked and pointed it out to her. She disappeared off upstairs and came down with a bracelet to show me (this is never a good thing!)

There was my first introduction to Pandora jewelry and I spent the period of time between returning to Denmark and Christmas *begging* my fiance to get me one.

The concept is pretty simple… you choose a bracelet and add beads over time to signify particularly times or significant things in your life. The beads come in either silver, gold or a mix of and recently they’ve also added a collection of coloured glass beads to add interest. The result is a seriously chunky and eye catching piece of jewelry and Im now completly hooked on collecting them!

You can read about them here:-

http://www.pandorauk.com/

They release special edition beads that they only produce a limited number of and once they’re sold thats it. They also withdraw the beads after so long to ensure they remain collectable.

I got mine for Christmas and friends and family were kind enough to buy me numerous beads to attach to it. So far, my collection stands at:-

Collection

All quite significant to me now. My fiance got me the heart (aaw), the Christmas tree (special edition), the teapot (I may drink a fair bit of tea…), the bunny (good luck charm for my darling bunny who was diagnosed with myxamatosis just before Christmas but is still battling on strong) and the bee (friends call me hive queen!!). My fiance’s parents got me the horse (obvious), the dragon (i play fantasy pc games) and the glass bead (i adore pink!). Boyfriends brother got me the four leaf clover and the ghost (long story involving a horror night) and finally, my dad bought me the Christmas present (another limited edition one)

Family Time?! Screw It! I Wanna Shop! Saturday, Jan 5 2008 

Ok, so Saturday’s are generally Jack’s day off and due to the distance between us and where he’s kept, I tend not to see him. (Fear not welfare people, he’s on full livery!). Its a chance for myself and my fiance to spend some time together as he works all week and has a pretty long commute time.

Last night, I had a light bulb moment where I decided I NEEDED to buy modelling clay. I have these moments quite frequently and once something is in my head, it needs to happen there and then. This has, in the past, been responsible for such incidents as having my hair coloured red and black. Patience is a virtue?? Pffft, no, it’s not for me; things have to happen there and then.

So yes, back to last night, my fiance (quite stupidly on his part) sent me a link to some pictures of models that an Asian girl has been making. These are models of fantasy characters in an online game Ive played for a while (I try not to mention this often, its a sad and tragic waste of much of my time). The minute I saw them, I was hit with flashbacks of childhood summers spent modelling things out of “Fimo” – you know, the plastacine stuff you bake in the oven so it goes hard?

So yes, 10 o clock last night I was overcome with a strong desire for modelling clay. Now, there’s something you need to understand about Denmark. This country is technologically advanced – much more so than the UK. People here had super fast broadband lines when the UK populace were still excited about ISDN. They recycle everything, wireless connections are everywhere. In other respects, it feels like the UK rolled back to 30 years ago. So, this leads me to today’s rant; shop opening hours. Once again, I have to stress, Im from the UK. We can shop at just about anytime! I lived within 30 minutes of Meadowhall Shopping Centre (or Meadowhell as it’s affectionatly known). From 10 am in a morning til 10pm at night, I could shop and let me stress, I love to shop. Have a craving for pizza at 3am in the morning? No problem, Tescos and Asda were both 24/7 and I should add, we have in the past, done our food shopping at around that time.

Back to Denmark – remembering again that I mentioned my fiance works all week and due to my lack of driving skills in this country, I don’t like going into town on my own (not to mention he’s the bank anyway). This leaves us two days, Saturday and Sunday, to shop. Mmmmmhmmm, “plenty!” I hear you yell. Not quite. Firstly, Sundays are out. No shops are open on Sundays except the odd small food store which will possibly stay open until 4pm. All the stores in town are closed. All the stores in the nearest large city are closed. Once again, “no problem!” I hear you saying, “you have all Saturday afterall.” Think again. The shops in Denmark open at 10am on a Saturday and, get this, they close at 1pm. Thats right, you have a massive 3 hours in which to accomplish your entire week of shopping before the shops throw you out. The reasoning behind this is that people working weekends has a detrimental effect on peoples’ family lives.

Now, this is a good time to inform people that the stereotypes of the Danes and their beer are completly accurate. These people are drinkers. Television is not a big thing in Denmark at all. People rarely bother with it and certainly not to the extent that the Brits do. They have fewer channels and much of what is shown are old US shows. Like the UK, Fridays and Saturday evenings are prime socialising nights and the younger people hit the town bars to drink. Drinking over here usually involves drinking games. Indeed, bars in Denmark are quite a daunting place when you aren’t used to them. There are many games involving dice throwing, yelling and glass banging on tables. The Danes also seem to have a strange compulsion to say “Cheers!” (or as it is here “Skol!”) at least once every two minutes, usually accompanied by more yelling and glass banging. (Incidently, this phenomenom is the same when eating a meal at a home, much to my annoyance as I seem to spend a good 60% of my meal times, refilling my glass to ensure I can partake in the regular round of “cheers!” – equally annoying is the fact that I spend the rest of my time needing to wee because I end up drinking so damn much). Moving on…

Consequently, Saturdays are frequently heavy hangover days. Alas, remember that if you need to buy *anything*, you have to get up early.

So yes, at 10pm last night, I had a burning desire for modelling clay. My tortured fiance tends to just go along with these phases I have. Theres no point in fighting because I have a tantrum and sulk to rival any 3 year old. We spent the evening watching some new DvDs and by the time we got to bed, it was 3am. Stupidly, I never thought to set my alarm.

Fast forward a few hours and I woke up and nudged my fiance asking what time it was.

“5 past 12”
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! I wanted to go to toooown! I need clay!”
*Mumble*
“Reckon we can make it?!”
“Haha – no”
“God damnit!”

After a good 5 minutes of complaining, I insisted he got up anyway as I wanted to go buy lunch and thankfully at least, the food stores manage to stay open til 4.

So yea, its nearly 3 pm now and Im grumpy. I mean, im REALLY grumpy. I wanted my modelling clay and now I have to wait til next Saturday; assuming of course we manage to wake up early enough to get into town, find parking and reach the shops. Did I mention how bad the parking is here? In all honesty, I think its another “family time” stunt. It’s pretty logical really – if you can’t park, you have to go home right? I have never seen a town with so few parking spaces. What’s worse (and this REALLY annoys me), the ones that are usually free are the 15 minute parking spots. 15 minutes! What in God’s name are you meant to do in 15 minutes. Of course, my fiance realises the advantages of this for him and frequently claims that there will be no other free spaces and we’ll have to just be fast.

As it happens, I’m lucky this week…. He’s working from home on Monday so I will have to wait until then for my modelling clay. I’ll spend all weekend being extremely prickly over this though.

I was about to bring this to a close when I was flooded with another wave of rage that annoyed me today. I mentioned that I kicked my boyfriend out of the bed so we could go and buy lunch, right?

Ok – food here.

The Danes eat a lot of bread. Breakfast is usually bread with *something* on it… pâté, soft cheeses, hard cheeses whatever – its bread with stuff on it. Lunch; thats usually bread with, you guessed it, something on it. Again, pâtés, cheeses, eggs, fish.. various other things (note, never butter).

Now, this annoys me. It’s not that I dislike bread (although Im not a lover of the “black” bread they eat here), but for me, theres only so much bread you can eat. In addition to this, I hate their soft cheeses which usually have lumps of shrimp in them. In the UK, lunch for me was often soup, some form of tinned rubbish on toast or noodles perhaps. Oh yes, Im the Queen of junk food.

Denmark is void of junk food. The most advanced you might manage would be a frozen pizza. Baked beans are treated as the food of the devil. Imagine then, how elated I was to discover large tins of spaghetti and small sausages at our local shop last week. Elated to the point that I think we bought 12 of these tins. Part of my UK life had returned; rejoice! I had tinned spaghetti on toast!

Off we went this morning; myself already incredibly grumpy from being robbed of my modelling clay (I’m not letting this drop. Someone will pay for this). We arrived at the store and I proceeded to throw biscuits and chocolate into the basket. I wandered over to the shelves that hold my newly discovered tins of loveliness….. empty. Whats going on?! What is this?!

“They’ve sold out” muttered the boyfriend
“OH YOU THINK?! FOR GOD SAKE WHATS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTY?!”
“Cant you have soup”

I looked with disappointment at the ONE variety of Heinz soup (tomato) sat on the shelves. I didn’t feel like soup but its the closest thing I was going to find to remind me of home today.

“FINE!”

So yea, its 3 pm and after being denied both my modelling clay (I was going to model the most exquisite dragon!), and my tinned spaghetti, Im feeling pretty foul. I settled for noodles for my lunch – a different type! They still fall short of anything I could find in the UK.. I’d sell my grandmother for a pot noodle right now. The only vaguely good thing about today is that it’s only 1 degrees outside so Im hoping that perhaps the automatic drinkers at the stables have thawed out and the national bucket crisis may pass. Incidently, I realised something last night. On Thursday when the drinkers first froze, the little coloured mare next door to Jack had a drinking bucket in her stable. Yesterday, said bucket was missing and the grooms were left attempting to plug the hole in her food bucket with their fingers in order to let her drink.

Where had her bucket gone?! More images of liveries tip-toeing around the yard looking for water buckets crept into my head. Perhaps Jack’s water bucket is in imminent danger. Perhaps I SHOULD go and see him today and make sure no one has stolen his bucket! The words of Chris the groom are still ringing through my ears..

“Sparrow bucket – sparrow allowed water!”

What if he no longer has a bucket?! This national shortage can drive people to the strangest behaviour afterall and horse owners are already unstable at the best of times.

So, now I have to battle with my own dilemma about whether I should go and check the where abouts of Jack’s bucket and ensure he has water should the drinkers have not thawed…. and it’s cold… and I dont have my clay and I dont have my spaghetti.

Life out here is tough.

The Rest of the Asylum Saturday, Jan 5 2008 

Dedicating a little corner of this to the other animals in my life. First up, my beautiful husky, Dina.

Puppy

Couple of Months Ago

Aaaaaaaaaaaaw

My lovely rottweiler lady who we sadly lost last summer, not long after having arrived in Denmark. I miss her so much.

Couple of weeks before we lost her..

International Dressage In Summer 07 Saturday, Jan 5 2008 

As requested by a few people, here are some pictures Ive managed to find of a couple of the international shows hosted at our yard over the summer. Enjoy 😀

Dressage 07

Dressage 07

Dressage 07

Dressage 07

Finally, not of the dressage but rather the Trakhener gradings:-

Grading 07

A Battle and a Break Through. Saturday, Jan 5 2008 

Most riders will agree that this sport is a rollercoaster of a journey. There are huge highs when it feels like everything you have been working on comes together and then the massive lows where it feels like you’re banging your head against a brick wall. The “problem” with our sport is that we’re working with living animals and while people do often underestimate their intelligence, they unarguably have moods and instincts that can interfere with what we may ask of them.

Over the last week, Jack has been a real battle to ride. He has an awful habbit of leaping forwards and running for a few strides when he either has too much energy, when he’s put into an unfamiliar setting and is nervous or when he’s just being downright argumentative.

These episodes can be rather drammatic as he’s a very quick and flexible horse. He also despises his mouth being messed with so pulling him up in an effective but none confrontational way can be challenging. For this reason, he has always been trained to slow and stop with a thigh aid as opposed to any kind of rein aid.

Today, he was being challenging to say the least. No sooner had I gotten onboard than he was pretending to spook at monsters in the corner of the arena, although in his defense it was terribly windy today and although we were indoors, the wind was making rather crazy noises and rattling the doors.

Warming up was a battle, he was evading any contact on his mouth initially, hollowing, dropping behind the leg and threatening with bunny hops whenever my leg was applied. I spent quite a lot of time in walk with him today, trying to get him to stretch and just relax a little which worked well but never the less, as soon as we moved into trot he tensed up.

He had a couple of “spook and run episodes” and contrary to my normal reaction, I was pulling him up quite strong today. Ive had a very rude awakening recently about a fault with my outside hand and being the horse he is, Jack will exploit any weaknesses he finds. This was leading to problems on circles where he would duck and run out of his outside shoulder.

I spent a good 20 minutes in trot today, checking my outside hand constantly, being quite firm with him through my leg and really focussing on trying to get him to just relax and stretch down a little bit. He finally started to do this but after a disturbance outside upset him, he was tensing yet again. In a final effort to make him listen to me, I picked him up much more than I usually would without first doing a lot of long and low work (note long and low, not low and curled in!) Luckily for me, after some initial arguments and attempts to evade my outside hand yet again, he settled down, admitted defeat and produced some super work with a really nice relaxed frame and, whats more, some correct circles without a hint of losing him through his outside shoulder.

I was so pleased with him, to the point of being quite emotional as we really do seem to have had an argumentative time recently (most of which was my fault for a) not working him enough over Christmas and b) being a tad too soft on him when he was trying to avoid work) and for the first time in quite a while, I was actually pleased with my own riding.

Once again, Im reminded of how much this horse has taught me. Everything I know is challenged on an almost day to day basis and unless Im riding correctly, his work is poor; he is very unforgiving but at the same time, this is exactly what Ive always wanted – a teacher that will really pull to pieces every fault I have.

He’s due one day off over the weekend although that is somewhat weather dependent (it’s been too windy for the horse walker to have been used this week so Im trying to make up for the lack of this also). I do however feel that we crossed a major hurdle today; one where I actually told him in quite clear terms that he couldn’t always get away with what he wanted and I wouldn’t always give into him. Usually after such sessions, our work is back on track for quite some time 😀

The recent problem with my outside hand (on the right rein), has resulted in some poor shoulder in work which Im also hoping to focus on more now that I seem to be getting more of a grip (no pun intended) on that rather significant problem!

Breeds of Yard Owner. Warmblood or Native for the Good of the Sport? Friday, Jan 4 2008 

Horsey people are a very special breed. Anyone who lives with them and yet isn’t involved with the sport themselves will acknowledge this. For the majority of equine owners, livery yards are a necessity as, despite common belief, most of us don’t live in halls with the ponies in the back garden. Livery yards are much more than “a place to keep the horse” at best they are a microcosm of human society and at worse, a social minefield of cliques. At a later point, I’ll discuss the horse owners themselves (only the ignorant can place them all into one category, those involved in the equestrian world know that mostly, the different “types” of owner are in a permanent state of war with each other). For now, we’ll focus on those individuals at the top of the ladder in terms of the social structure that is the livery yard; the yard owners.

The Old Families

Equine Equivalent – Irish Draughts

You get the hands on owners who have clearly spent a life time with horses and not always for the better. These people are often afflicted with a permanent bow legged state. They’ll proudly proclaim how they were born on a horse! Yes, they often look like they were! You’ll find them at all times of the day or night with bits of straw and shavings stuck to their hair (frequently hard to spot as often “hair” is used in the loosest of terms to describe a kind of evolutionary reaction to being outside so often, in which the hair takes on the resemblence of straw itself. Make up is often replaced with random smudges of dirt or worse. Manicures are replaced with a thick layer of horse-coat grease which is penetrated by no substance known to man but sadly, turns the nails a slightly yellowish colour rivalled only by the nicotine stained fingers of chain smokers; no need for a Chanel nail protector here. Perfume is simply out of the question through fear of confusing the horses as to who the person is.

Frequently behind the scenes will be a very horsey family; usually a mother that puts the fear of God into everyone who meets her and has an opinion and a method for every horsey related issue. Often also a father resigned to a retirement spent dealing with all odd jobs that may crop up on the yard. How successfully these are dealt with varies greatly but regardless, hiring in professional help is not an option. Liveries soon become used to light bulbs taking months to replace, water taps not actually connected to the mains supply, fencing in dire need of repair and yards resembling ice rinks because “salt will crack the concrete!”

These families usually all live in the same house despite the daughter (and now owner) usually being well into her 30s or beyond. The mother usually takes on the role of accountant and has the job of chasing the wretched liveries for payment. Frequently their are arguments within the family that everyone liverying on the yard gets dragged into.

As riders, these people usually have a style all of their own. They have a stickability earned over years of badly behaved horses and can arguably sit on anything. Riding it is a different matter. Flatwork is often deemed as over rated nonsense for those with no guts to jump. Show jumping requires talent but over fences that “fall” where as in “my day if you hit a fence you would no about it!” No, often the only disciplines deserving of respect are eventing, hunting and point to pointing. These people naturally went through the Pony Club and have frequently taught as part of them in adulthood.

The Reluctant

Equine Equivalent – Thoroughbreds

At the opposite end of the scale are the yard owners who delogate everything, very efficiently, to a member of staff; thus avoiding every minor duty. They’re rarely seen before noon most days, at which point they daudle onto the yard looking for a horse to ride and acting shocked if the staff have already ridden them all by this point (despite the fact that they’re under the strictest instructions to begin the exercising at 9pm sharp.) These yard owners often live either offsite (they need a life you know!) or have a yard manager and staff living onsite to ensure that they aren’t disturbed out of hours. In hours are arguable also as they have often retreated to their santuaries prior to most of the liveries arriving to tend to their horses and, as was mentioned before, are rarely seen on the yard priot to around lunch time. If living onsite, notices can often be found pinned to their doors informing people not to disturb them and respect that they are allowed a life away from the yard! These yard owners are frequently not seen firsthand by the liveries for months on end and become as mythical a creature as a mountain dragon. Tales of their adventures are frequently recounted by the staff, but rarely seen by anyone. They are, of course, amazing riders of international standard if only they had the a) money or b) time to concentrate truely on their chosen discipline.

The Farmers

Equine Equivalent – Cobs

A further type of yard owner are the farmers or retired farmers. Frequently these are gentlemen of a certain age with an excess amount of land, unused cattle sheds and no real use of them. Being the shrewd business men they are, the natural conclusion is to open a livery yard. Often these people have no experience with horses but assume as they have four legs and hooves, they should be close enough to cattle for there to be no problem. As such, stables are often assembled by tying five bar gates together with wire and propping them up inside large cow sheds. Sileage would be the usual forage of choice and it is nothing but an annoyance to them that those damn finicky horse owners seem to object to it, prefering instead the more expensive options of haylage and hay. This, of course, doesn’t prevent them from at least attempting to pass sileage off as haylage to any unsuspecting owners. Their four legged boarders are usually referred to as “oss” or on some occasions “mare” (if approproiate sex of course). In recongnition of their four legged boarders being flight animals, they duely equip themselves to handle all possible reluctance by said animals with the phrase “gerrup there oss!”

Occasionally, these people do indeed have a history of an involvement in horses, frequently with the chosen discipline being show jumping. They can regularly regail their liveries with tales of competing against Harvey Smith and frequently, solutions to various ridden problems are accompanied by “‘Arvey once ad an oss just like that un and ee’d….” followed by long detailed instructions involving cattle prods, spiked jumping poles or lunging whips. Vets are a rareity on these yards with 99% of all injuries being dealt with by salt water and antiseptic cream. They prefer feeding straights, many of which might be home produced as you never know what is in these new fandled foods! Supplements are unheard of with the exception of perhaps a tea spoon of epsom salts to aid digestion. They are firm believers that their liveries should be fed and mucked out before daylight and anyone failing to do so, regardless of the reason, just isn’t dedicated enough.

These yards are usually patrolled by at least one boarder collie and a number of jack russels, most of which are usually very vocal, frequently anti social and are often seen stealing grooming brushes, gloves and other miscellaneous objects left within reach. As with the other livery type, these yards often feature a battle ass wife with a limp to match her husband and who’s wrath is feared countywide.

The Nouveaux

Equine Equivalent – English WBs, Irish Sports Horses, Anything Native Crossed with a TB

This is a relatively new form of livery yard owner. These are the people who believe a livery business can be run as a profitable organisation and intend to apply everything that they earned at business school. Often, these people are in charge of huge, modern establishments; frequently specialising in equine rehabilitation of all kinds (spiritual, physical and schooling related). These premises will play home to equine hydrotherapy units, equissage machines, swimming pools and solariums. They have multiple arenas, trot up areas, assessment rooms and smithing areas (fully equipped with a very threatening looking forge and farrier specialising in corrective farriery). These places smell more like surgical units than stables. Every strand of hay or straw and spec of dirt or dust is swept away multiples time a day to ensure no area is harbouring bacteria. Where as most stables are stained with years of the unfortunate things that horses do, these stables are amazingly white.

They are usually associated with the most prestigious equine surgeries in the area manned by vets that can find something wrong with any presented animal. Livery owners frequently find themselves in fear of riding their horses incase passing members of staff spot a bi-lateral lameness or mechanical problem that they never knew existed. Horses are turned out into individually sectioned paddocks of small sizes to minimise the amount of running around they can do – afterall, this could lead to unnecessary injuries or lameness. All horses are equipped with professional sports medicine boots on all four legs and over reach boots on the front. Any advancements in body armour will be seen here first.

Grooms will perform even the most mundane tasks strictly in accordance with the BHS guidelines. Turning out horses requires a hat, gloves and suitable footwear and only one horse may be led by each groom. The yard is fully equipped with machines that lift and transport shavings bales (dust extracted of course) and feed bags while staff attend monthly staff safety courses.

Livery contracts resemble the yellow pages and cover every possible eventuality from death of the horse owner through to nuclear attack of the country and there is a thorough and practiced plan for all.

The Modern Competitive

Equine Equivalent – Danish, Dutch, German Warmbloods

Another quite recent edition to the livery world; these owners are frequently either foreign or trained and highly influenced by foreign riders. These places are run like military regimes with their equine residents daily routines planned down to every last detail. Here, equine nutritionists design individual diets to cater for the residents and the feed room resembles a tackshop display of supplements and additives. As such, making feeds can take upto an hour out of a groom’s day, but these yards follow a strict 1 groom to 2 horses ratio so there are staff aplenty to cover this problem.

The tackrooms resemble bondage stores with an astonishing number of leather straps designed to tie, raise and fix any part of the horse. Here you will find harbridges, pessoa systems, bungees, draw reins and side reins (both fixed and elasticated of course)They have enough bits to open a bit bank all of which are polished daily by the army of staff (twice daily if they misbehave). The saddles can all clearly be identified as Prestige, Pessoa or Passier and any “new” range of saddle will be met with scepticism unless it has a suitably foreign sounding name.

Here you will find horses and ponies worth more than most peoples’ houses. All of these undoubtedly have a track record as long as your christmas card list of countries they have represented, teams they have been in, nationals and internationals they have won and riders they gave their “break” to. The horses go out in individually fenced paddocks of post and reil fencing protected by electric cords, for the maximum of an hour per day. They’re booted, bandaged and rugged to the extent that bar areas of these horses are rarely seen (keep in mind sun bleaches coats, mud irritates skin, weeds can cause skin allergies, flies bite, and dirt and grass both stain). All these horses have headcollars with name plates displaying their competition names and matching day rugs made in the yard’s official colours.

The staff on these yards are highly trained and are far more likely to be physically beaten if they perform a mistake than their much more irreplaceable steeds. These people are a catwalk for pikeur and cavallow. Breeches (no jodhpurs here daaaaaaaahrling) are coordinated with gillets and matching knee high socks, Konig boots are worn on a day to day basis and spurs are a permanent attachment to these. Their clothes posesse a certain mystical mud repelling property found nowhere else in the equestrian world and which are the wonder of every other horse owner. They can name every muscle in both the equine and human body by its most technical term and know exactly how each of these should be acting during ridden exercise.

Most of the horses will wear more jewelry than your average person owns with diamond encrusted browbands, bandages, side reins and saddle cloths all being common place. The yards all play home to equine masseurs, chiropractors, physios, osteos spiritual healers, whisperers, podiatrists, farriers, nutritionists and vets; many of whom, like the yard owner, will be foreign.

Screams from the arenas of “Leg leg leg GUT!!!! Ja gut!!!” are commonplace to the point of becoming background noise and you certainly can’t be considered anything more than a novice until you can conduct all your lessons in fluent German.

Me vs Danish Roads; Ding Ding! And the Under-Valued Bucket Friday, Jan 4 2008 

Ok firstly, I will admit that I am not the world’s best driver. I started lessons at 17 as most people do… I got my first car for my 18th birthday and had still not passed my test at this point. It was the following summer before I passed (18 months after starting lessons) and it took me four attempts. To make matters worse, I’m not a confident driver; particularly when it comes to snow, ice and wintery conditions.

The weather here over the last couple of days has been cold… damnit, it’s been freezing. It’s taking cold to a whole new level that I really don’t need to experience. I’ll hold my hands up here. When I stuck my head out of the door this morning, my initial thought was “hahaha, yea. Im staying in.” My horse is on full livery, I dont work, I’m not moving! Then one of those awful sinking thoughts that all horse owners will admit to passed over me… the “what if”. What if he’s not been on the horse walker as it’s too windy… what if he’s not been turned out in the indoor school… what if the automatic drinkers still haven’t thawed!

After wrapping up like michellin man, I set off to see Jack.

Now, I can be a bit slow at times or rather, Im blonde. It took me a good 5 minutes of driving along before I realised something was odd. The roads were bright. They’d changed colour! I was pondering this for some time before I noticed the next odd thing. They weren’t just bright, they were stripey.

I finally had a lightbulb moment where I realised, the roads were frosty – very frosty! Infact, the sun catching a reflection on part of them revealed worse; they were icey! Now, I’m from the UK. If there is a hint of cold weather there, everything gets gritted. Im from the country where the first site of a snowflake nation wide results in a massive wave of people turning on their radios to find out if the buses have stopped running, if the trains have stopped or if the schools are closing. Much more than a flurry and the country grinds to a halt and everyone goes home and admits defeat. Realising how icey the roads were literally made me want to pull over, get out and yell “THERE IS SNOW ON YOUR ROADS!!!” At this point, I was astounded to the point that I wanted to take pictures. Yes I know, I’m writing about being astonished over the road conditions and my first bright idea is to take photos while driving. Of course, the fact that the sun was shining directly onto the roads and that my camera is far from powerful (being in the back of a phone), meant that the pictures are less than impressive… so frankly, you’ll just have to go with me when I say they were bad!

I arrived at the stables whimpering to myself over the cold and was just battling my lack of enthusiasm to ride when my fiance called. I voiced by disgust over the road conditions obviously!

“You have winter tyres”
“Well, are they going to save me?”
“Yes, obviously… hence they’re called winter tyres”

I was just about to embark on a massive lecture about how, unless they have mini blow torches hidden in the treads which help to clear a path through the deathly ice I wasn’t interested, but sadly (for me), he had to cut the conversation short as he was going out.

Seriously, winter tyres… Around November time, everyone here changes their tyres for “winter tyres”. They sound impressive don’t they? Are you picturing tracter tyres or chain clad tyres? Yea… they’re normal tyres with a bit more tread (so I’m told.. and yes, I had to be told).

Aaaaanyway thats just about my only complaint for today. *Just about* 😉

Automatic drinkers – fabulous things! No more dragging heavy buckets around, ending up with more water down your legs than in the bucket (and no one except horse riders understands the horridness of wet jodhpurs), no more horses running out of water in the middle of the night, no more tipped buckets and wet beds! Fabulous; until they freeze. Picture this – a yard of around 50 horses all used to using automatic drinkers. We have, perhaps, 5 buckets on the yard. This is the second day of temperatures of around -5 and -6 degrees… do you see where this is going?

While I was at the stables yesterday, I was aware of a really annoying clicking sound. Almost like someone was continuously smacking two plastic objects together. My curiosity led me to find out who and three stables down was a horse stood at the back of his stable pressing the lever on his drinker.. over and over again. I went to check Jack’s drinker and sure enough it was frozen solid. Looking over at the mare next door to Jack, she was staring fixatedly at her drinker while balancing on three legs. The fourth leg was being waved madly in the air as she was apparently saying “please” to the very frozen and uncooperative drinking machine. This, annoyingly, meant I had to drive all the way home to get his old water bucket and then head all the way back. Upon returning, I checked it was ok to put him a bucket in.

“Jack’s drinker is frozen… can i put a bucket in with him?”
“Yes yes, sparrow drink”
“Drinkers frozen?!”
“Yes, drinkers frozen and the mare next door is thirsty but I let her drink from Jacks bucket before I left it with him”
“No! Drinkers frozen! This NOT good!”

I went up today to find his bucket half full so assumed someone had been filling them as his drinker was still frozen solid. As lunch time approached, a rather comical scene played out.

“Jack has bucket – allowed water”
(person proceeds to fill his bucket)
“Yes, thankyou”
“Lucky Jack – those with buckets allowed water”
“Cant we get more buckets?”
“Shop no got”
“It doesnt have buckets?”
“No, owners bought last two yesterday – no buckets left. Need more buckets!”
(I suddenly became very happy that Jack’s name was scrawled all over his bucket in bright pink nail varnish as it seemed they were becoming a rather valuable commodity and images of stealthy liveries sneaking around and stealing buckets was starting to creep into my head)

This of course led me to wondering what about those poor horses without. Next thing there was yelling in the barn telling the two trainees to put water into all the feedbowls when the horses had eaten lunch. This apparently had to be done “pronto pronto!”

One of the trainees reached the little mare next door and started pouring the water into her feed bowl. A multitude of expletives commenced and I turned round to see a very focused little mare trying to drink as fast as she possibly could, while water flooded out of her stable. Evidently, she had a hole in her food bowl. There was a lot of yelling backwards and forwards along the corridor until the second trainee appeared and went into her stable; placed his finger into the hole in her food bowl and stood there while the first trainee filled it. Now, keeping in mind it was around -5 degrees and the water was cold. Those two trainees stood there for a good ten minutes, one pouring, one with his finger in the hole while the little mare drank.

While Im impressed about the lengths they went to to ensure she drank, surely there would have been a better solution to this! Im back at home sat in the warm and pondering as to how many times today, those two trainees will stand in that stable allowing the mare to drink while losing all feeling in their fingers. Life as a groom in denmark is a tough business it seems.

Finally, Jack had a young girl who took care of him. She’d let him loose in the indoor schools or take him for walks for a small amount of money extra per month. She was invaluable to me as I cant be up twice a day to ensure he’s out enough. We even went to the lengths of buying her a Christmas present.

After having not seen her for a few days, I asked the boy with his finger inserted into the hole filled feed bowl, where she was.

” Lisbeth! Lisette stoppet!”
“Stoppet?! Stoppet doesnt sound good. She quit?!”
“Cant tell you in the English – friend will”

Along came a young girl from the other end of the yard.

“She no work here anymore, she gone.”
‘”Oh! Do we know why?”
“No, she gone home and not coming back”

This wasn’t good. Jack really needed someone to let him loose in the arenas as he can be sharp at the best of times. After speaking to the chief rider, I was sent in search of Markus (pronounced in a rather Eldorado style Markoooooooooooooooooooos – apologies to those who don’t remember that show). He agree’d to take over responsibility for Jack’s daily turnout and seemed rather shocked that we were willing to pay him to do so. I ensured Jack’s headcollar, leadrope and turnout carpet were outside his stable and thanked Markus again before saying goodbye. (Incidently, this carpet business is quite catchy. Im tempted to go into business producing a new range of carpets for the modern day horse. I could even make underblankets and market them as Underlay! (yea i know… but it amused me))

“No problem! I’ll look after Jack the Maniac! Goodbye!”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And so ends another day and another rant.

Incidently, just as Im linking this blog to a forum there is much shouting in the house. My fiance frantically started putting on his shoes and I’m left looking around wondering what on earth all the yelling is about.

“Be back soon – I have to go help my mom. The boat is stuck on the land”
“The boat is what?!”

You got it… its freezing cold, blowing gale force winds and they’re off searching for a stuck boat. These people are crazy…

The Stables – Scandinavian Style Thursday, Jan 3 2008 

When we decided to emigrate, where to livery Jack was a huge concern for me. Our ultimate aim in moving, was to buy our own yard and have the horses at home but initially, this wasn’t practical.

We settled on a yard about 20 minutes away from where we’re living offering full livery. It’s been an eventful few months adjusting to the differences… Much less turnout, more traditional feeding methods and the like all left Jack and I feeling rather alien!

While Im terribly poor at remembering to take pictures, here are a few which will hopefully serve as a guided tour to our new life.

The equestrian centre itself lays nestled in the grounds of a Danish gothic castle. The current owner has had a lifelong passion for horses and is a well known dressage rider and trainer.

The Castle

The centre itself boasts impressive facilities with two indoor arenas (one olympic size with a cafe and viewing area overlooking it), one smaller; three outdoor arenas (one of which has a full set of showjumps), a horse walker (THE MACHINE (!)), a solarium, a washroom, heated tackroom and off road hacking on tracks around the grounds of the castle.

The small indoor arena (nope thats not me!):-

Small Indoor

This is, however, Jack:-

Relaxing In The Small Indoor

The main outdoor (this is used for dressage only and the main competition arena for the outdoor dressage competitions, of which the yard holds numerous national and international level events):-

Main Outdoor

Main Outdoor From a Distance

The stables are all indoors in an American barn type setting:-

The Stables

Jack’s Stable

Crazy Snow Shovel Wielding Danes with Carpets Thursday, Jan 3 2008 

Ive just got home after a slightly amusing couple of hours at the stables and thought id share

Firstly – its cold here today. Id seen the forcast which said -4 and about -14 with the wind chill. Head out in my little car DREADING driving over the bridge to the next island (where horsey is kept). I passed a gas station with a huge display showing the temperature.. -9 degrees; whaaaaaaaaaat?!

Arrived at the yard pretty much set on the idea of lunging because well, it’s freezing! We have quite high winds, its snowing a LOT although not settling much atm.

On the yard was the head rider armed with his bright orange snow shovel; wielding it somewhat like a weapon. Wrapped up like eskimos next to him were his two trainee riders; both quite young guys one of who doesnt speak amazing danish.

“NO SNOW! ZER WEEL BEE NO SNOW ON MY YARD!” was what the head rider was roughly yelling while running up and down like a gopher on speed manically shovelling the tiniest bits of snow (the yard had clearly been gritted… very little was settling on it but he has slight OC issues ;p)

As i was skuttling past, said head rider (allan) came over to me and explained in very broken english that the large indoor arena was out of bounds for an hour or so due to him giving a demo on working horses from the ground.

At this point he asked what was wrong with me (it was freeeeeeeezing, i had tears rolling down my face from the wind) and i mumbled and whined about the cold. He laughed and wandered off. (Ive already been dubbed the strange english girl who fed her horse rubbish, and treated it funny… they’re a little protective about how they do their horses here )

I grabbed a cavesson and lunge line and went to see jack, who was flat out snoring and looked as though he’d created some kind of nesting system in his bed (probably to keep warm). Dragged horsey out of bed and put cavesson on. At this point the snow was getting heavier and i could still hear very military style “NO SNOW! NO SNOW!” being yelled outside accompanied by a shuffling of feet which i assume was the two half terrified trainee riders.

Being the soft sap i am, i figured stripping horsey of all rugs to lunge, even indoors, was mean so i went and grabbed the outer shell of his duo which had been on the rug warmer / dryer thingie over night.

Rug on, horse ready, off we went.

“You no turn horse out today”
“Not turning out, lunging”
“Why horse carpet on?!”
“Like, its -9!! he gets cold”

By this time, id lost all feeling in my fingers and toes, probably had mascara streaming down my cheeks as my eyes were still running and just wanted to get this over with as fast as possible.

“Still cold?”
“Yes, im bloody freezing”
“Gief horse”
“Huh?”
“Gief horse! Markus, take girl, warm up” (oo er!)
“Why no sidereins on horse?”
“Cos i dont like them…”
“Fine, need more string”
“String?”
“Yes! Another string!” (At this point he was shaking the lunge line in his hands and out of nowhere, one of the manic shovel wielding guys appeared with a second lunge line)

Markus (the second of the shovel wielding duo) then shuffled me off to the cafe which over looks the arena and promptly found me a hot chocolate.

Allan was lunging jack and, much to my surprise, nattering away in danish while doing so. It was at this point i realised his demonstration had commenced and somehow, my horse had become part of it. He lunged him for a while with the rug on, before removing and doing some harder work. Then through the rug back on and summoned me down.

Id still not thawed out tbh and had no clue what he’d just been using jack for.

“Sparrow back”
(Jack has picked up the nickname jack sparrow for some bizarre reason)
“thanks.. What were you talking about in the demo?”
“Providing service to full livery”

I did my best at this point not to giggle.

“Markus! take horse, put carpets on”

(We’re back to the carpets again, are you noticing?)

He then turned back to me and said “see you in march when denmark thaws. Goodbye!” turned on his heel and marched off (collecting his bright orange snow shovel on the way to attack the tiny scattering that had accumulated at the entrance to the large indoor arena)

Anyway, im back home, thawing out a little but waiting for OH to come home and start the wood burner. Hopefully its going to be getting warmer here again tomorrow ;p

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