Horse or Garden?

It’s so easy to be over-optimistic isn’t it?  In our corner of South West France, spring is always stop/go.  The first little bulbs show their pretty faces and you start thinking better weather is just around the corner……..

So when the sun shone bright today after a grey, chilly week, I consigned the thermal vests to the washing machine, left the long johns in the drawer and put on a T-shirt!

Fine weather: usual dilemma.  Horse or garden? 

Whenever I’ve just ridden Pom, I’m usually buoyed up with enthusiasm to build on something that went right or try to turn around something that was downright frustrating.  Or just full of fresh air and good humour from time spent out in the countryside.  And always the added time spent with him reinforces that precious contact and understanding between us.

But if a couple of days go by and our schooling area’s too soggy, or the rain is threatening again or there’s no one around to hack out with, I’m appalled to find myself putting things off;  waiting for the horses to come back up from the far reaches of the field, the sun to put in an appearance, someone to call………… and when the weather does turn fine, feeling guilty that I’m not doing something practical, useful or just soothingly repetitive in the garden.


(A short sidetrack)   When I bought Pom a year last November, my ambition was for us to get as good as we could at dressage (for our own, non-competitive pleasure – well mine, at least), but I’ve become completely stalled.  I don’t have a trailer and though I could borrow one, I don’t have the correct driving licence to tow one (called a “Permis E”, costs about 1000 euros to train for) so I’m unable, easily, to get to a riding club or school with an indoor manège and instructor.  I found a good instructor to come here but her availability and practicable ground/weather conditions seem hardly ever to coincide!

Truth be told, neither Pom nor I are expert enough to be sure we’re not compounding our mistakes on our own; we do need a motivating, guiding spirit.  I have taken lessons since living in France, at three separate establishments with vast intervals in between, but I’ve been unlucky enough to be in group classes given by over-disciplinarian instructors.  All male, coincidentally.  I’m no way sexist, but I do respond better when trainers (m or f) explain rather than bark orders, army-style.  This approach is particularly hard going when terms I’m used to in English aren’t as familiar in French, so I just look slower on the uptake and try the instructor’s patience!

Now I’m sounding, even to myself, as though I need to “get a grip” and set a goal!  If I’m not going to go down the same meandering route as I did with my old horse, Aly, I must get myself motivated and transported. (Sidetrack over for the moment)


As it happens, today’s dilemma was more or less decided when I discovered Pom had cast a shoe!

The dreaded LIST for work that needs doing/finishing around the house and garden fills most of a closely written A4 sheet.  But at the top of the “most urgent” sub-LIST (on a smaller sheet for the purposes of morale) were some got-to-do-before-the-sap-rises jobs.  I got out the secateurs and the ladders and prepared to trim back the Virginia creeper that covers most of one wall of the house and threatens every year to scramble over the roof.

Whilst I pretend to be a fairly organised person, I am shamefully easily sidetracked, by one of the horses whinnying or the post arriving or robin reminding me to put out some food….

When I’d fed the birds and collected the post I heard the Pie doing his piglet squealing impersonation and checked behind the barn to see if all was well.  The others had high-tailed it down the three terraced levels and the Pie had all the haynets to himself and a big smile on his face.  The Pie in winter is a one-horse Flokati rug – with the odd brown patch.

Seeing the white patch where he’d been having a good, hair-shedding roll, I took out a curry comb to give him a helping hand (and provide some luxury nesting material for the birds).  The Pie is my husband’s horse, who elected domicile here (as the tax man puts it) after escaping from our neighbours so often they let him stay on with my Aly and then bowed to the inevitable and let us buy him.

I don’t often get to chat to the Pie on my own, but with Pom and Aly out of sight I set to work covering us both in loose white hair – it looks from the pic. as if he’s shed pounds!

In the end, the Virginia creeper got pruned, a clematis in a frost-cracked pot got an up-grade to an imperishable and quite convincing fake terracotta number and the pebble pond outside the bathroom window had a quick overhaul.  As it’s quite shallow, the water was already warm and large tadpoles wriggled about as I hauled out handfuls of cotton-wool-like pondweed and trimmed back the frost-browned reeds.  To give myself an incentive to keep up the good work, the photo below is how it should look in high summer!

I’d love to know how other horse and garden lovers deal with their dilemma…. Cav’a

(And because “procrastination” should probably be my middle name – I mis-typed “muddle” there, how apt – today’s soundtrack is Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”.  Please search it out if you haven’t heard it before, you would need a heart of stone to be unmoved!)

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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3 Responses to Horse or Garden?

  1. ptigris213 says:

    Hi, Stella,

    I read your post regarding hunters. I also note that you are trying to restore your land.
    Funny, how we seem to be so alike in many ways. I have a degree in Environmental Science, and I specialize in restoration.Currently I volunteer to help remove invasive plants from a 1000 acre praire remnant behind my property. One of the plants we are fighting (among the many) are Himalayan blackberry. (others are English Ivy, Scotch broom, gorse (oh my god, gorse), teasel, thistles of all sorts, etc).

    In some cases, we’ve found that the very best way to clear weeds from a property is to bring in goats. There’s several folks here who hire out their goats to eat the weeds. They do a fabulous job, and the keepers are very happy to make sure they don’t eat your roses, fruit trees, etc. They do this by sectioning off the areas you DON’T want eaten with electric fencing. It’s cheap, easily moved around and the goats seem to respect it.

    The other problem, though, is, as you have noted, rabbits and deer. I have to admit, I hate rabbits. They will destroy your flowers and eat all your chard. We also have to worry about elk (red deer or stag in Europe). To a lesser degree, crows, raccoons, and possums also will do a number on your garden.

    I am lucky, though, that we have a lot of predators here. Over the years, I’ve put up barn owl boxes and encouraged the hawks to stick around. Consequently, I don’t have much problem with rodents and voles, and the hawks take off the rabbits in good enough numbers that they aren’t too much of a problem.
    I’m not a hunter, per se, although I do like venison. Here in America, you can hunt on public lands, with a license, although we have lots of poachers who can’t be bothered to pay the little bit of money it takes to buy a license. Usually they are felons who aren’t allowed to have guns in the first place. If they are caught, which is seldom, the judge lets them off with a slap on the wrist.

    Hunters control most of the deer here, because we’ve destroyed the predators such as cougars and wolves.
    Our hunters are like yours. It isn’t so much the hunt, it’s the testosterone fueled culture that drives it. You have to have a BIG rifle, big enough to bring down a Tyrannosaur. You have to have a great big truck to tote that four wheeled ATV (or quad, as they’re called here). You have to have a 36 foot camper to stay in, and the generator to run the TV, microwave, refrigerator, etc. Of course, you must have beer, lots of it. You cannot unload a gun, you must empty it by shooting it until it’s empty.
    And, then, we have the enterprising men who don’t hunt, but do cater to hunters. They will put up a beer tent in the forest, and fill it with lights, televisions, poker tables, beer coolers, a BBQ grill, etc. And a little further down the road, there’s another form of deer hunting, this time it’s spelled ‘dear”. The Russian hookers set up a tent and then tend to ‘business’. (prostitution is illegal in all but one state in America, and this isn’t one of them. So they stay in the shadows).

    However, I have to tell you, that, although I can skin, gut, clean, and butcher a deer, I have learned that I can’t bring myself to shoot one. I just can’t. Even if he’s in my garden eating my chard, I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger. One day my husband and I were sitting on our back porch, and here came two does and a handsome buck, fully intending to snack on my apple trees. And not the scruffy ones, the apples that no one wants to eat, no….they were going for my Liberty’s, oh gosh, the best tasting apple in the world. I couldn’t stand it. I clapped my hands and they merely stopped and looked at the porch. I swear, we could have hit them with a rolled up piece of paper. I said, shoo, deer, and they still ignored me. Finally, I stood up and said, You know, I really don’t want you eating my APPLES! They walked off about ten feet. Then they stopped, because they knew we were about to go to bed. Of course, they weren’t going to let an APE tell them what they may eat or not!

    Sigh. Sorry. Another long, rambling comment.


  2. Pingback: The honeymoon is over « The Horsemaster

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