As told to Gayle Carline
Hello, my name is Snoopy and I am a horse. I live in a barn with other horses, including my mom. I have another mom, Gayle. I call her MomToo.
Every year MomToo gets all of her people and animals together and I hear clicking noises. Then everyone talks about a Christmas picture and asks her about a letter. I guess she writes about us and what we did all year.
Nobody ever asks me to write a letter. Here is what I would say if they did:
This year was fun. I got to eat hay every morning and every night. It was good. Auntie Niki and MomToo rode me. Auntie Niki is better at it. MomToo says that's because she's a trainer. I don't know what that word means, but I know she has real good balance and doesn't pull on my face.
MomToo tries hard, though. Sometimes it's fun to get an idea in the middle of my lesson and try to run. I think it's funny, but MomToo never laughs.
I also think it's funny to grab the halter away from MomToo and shake it. Most things are fun to grab and shake. MomToo gets kinda mad sometimes, but I know she loves me.
This year we went to horse shows. I tried my best, even when there was interesting things to look at, or when I was tired. I like shows. Sometimes I try to say hello to the judges while I'm being ridden around the arena. Sometimes they put trees on the course and I try to eat them. It all makes me happy.
Our last show was a special one. I showed every day for the judges. MomToo and I were very tired, but when I heard the judges say we were Top 20, it was good. I got lots of treats and MomToo got lots of shiny stuff.
The only thing missing was that I wish I had more apples and carrots and peppermints. I never have enough of those.
I don't know much about Christmas and people holidays, but I know that this is the time of year when I get candy canes. So I wish you all Happy Candy Canes Month!
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
|Riding out last summer|
I’m probably going to come across as super superficial, but that's ok because there are plenty of other aspects of my personality that don’t strike me as such. Let’s just call this part of my lighter side. Life’s too short, and all that jazz isn’t any fun without a little touch of color. Besides, I don’t really like jazz, unless it’s been bubblified by someone like, well, Michael Buble. Ok, so my musical tastes are superficial, too...
"When in a hole, stop digging," I hear someone saying.
But I’m not even digging, I’m just telling the truth. I love Michael Buble. Among other artists, of course (I wrote “Mucho Caliente!” with Ricky Martin in mind). Mainly, I like my music to be musical. Humm-alongable. Sing-alongable. I like a good tune, not a schizophrenic freak-out. But that’s just me. My husband enjoys all that senseless tromboning and bungled double bassing. When he plays it I tend to roll my eyes and go bake a cake. Our terrain d’entente is the ambient chill-out genre, which makes our son roll his eyes and turn up his iPod. You can’t please everyone.
Which brings me back to what pleases me. I’ve always been into clothes and fashion, as well as into horses. Since I spend a good part of my day with my horse, and that I rarely wear anything other than jeans and a nice t-shirt or sweater (depending on the season) when I’m not with my horse, it’s strikes me as perfectly normal to want to look nice when I’m with my horse. And, basically, if I’m not at the stables, I’m either at home or at the supermarket. Which is perfectly fine with me.
What I particularly enjoy is matching what Qrac wears to what I wear, if only by way of subtle detail. For example, Qrac has an off-white saddlepad edged with a tiny ribbon of leopard print. I think there’s also a touch of gold braid involved in the edging as well. Yep, it’s pretty fancy. It’s Italian. While I don’t think many horses could pull off this look without looking totally OTT, I think Qrac manages it perfectly. Put me into this particular equation wearing my super discreetly patterned brown jodhpurs with an off white techno-top and – tah-dah! – my leopard-print belt, and you’ve got a fashion victim on horseback! So I get teased. And maybe that look is not so subtle. Pff!
|Qrac wears Marta Morgan|
|Note the subtle leopard trim...|
The thing is, Qrac has a lot of saddlepads. A LOT. In fact, my horse has so many that my husband says I should open a saddlepad museum, and give guided tours to raise money towards, errr, more saddlepads.
Imagine: “Step this way, madam. Now, on your right you can admire what appears to be a simple white RG competition model. However, if you look closely you will notice a discreet sprinkling of Swarovski elements adorning the bottom back rim. This particular saddlepad can be traced back to Francesca and Qrac’s somewhat diffident, while also memorably explosive, first meandering (incidentally, oh how we exploded and meandered!) in the dressage show ring.
|Our first show, a fiesta of meandering explosiveness.|
Qrac wears RG
And on your left, beginning to look slightly worn in, you have the lovely, far more blingy white Equiline show pad, marking the beginning of a slightly more confident, if not altogether successful, period of competing.
Qrac wears Equiline
Moving on now, let’s admire this fabulous white and black Marta Morgan mega-bling marvel of Swarovski handiwork. Note the intricate design worked into the black Swarovski detailing. This saddlepad represents a milestone in Francesca and Qrac’s showing career as it was worn at the Vidauban showgrounds in the south of France, and, as such, marks the couple’s first foray into the international dressage scene (ah-hum… yeah, well, sort of… It was out of Switzerland, anyway.).”
|Our "international début" in Vidauban, France.|
Qrac wears Marta Morgan
You probably get the gist. And I haven’t even touched on all the coloured ones Qrac gets to model. Randomly chosen from my selection, let me show you:
1) The blue and white gingham. Fresh looking, don’t you think? By RG. Tricky to combine with outfits; stray from blue and white and you’re teetering on the borders of tacky territory.
|Qrac wears RG|
2) The brown and hot pink. I think Qrac looks great in this one, it’s easy and fun to match my clothes with. Also, I love pink.
|Qrac wears RG|
3) The general purpose grey. Easy to coordinate with just about anything.
|Qrac wears RG|
4) The burgundy Swarowski-embellished velvet by Marta Morgan, sometimes worn with matching bandages. I’ve coordinated it with a burgundy sleeveless vest worn over navy blue jodhpurs and techno-shirt. So regal!
|Qrac wears Burgundy Swarovski-embellished Marta Morgan|
|Regal or what?!|
5) A piled up portion of my saddlepad museum. There are more at the stables… Qrac looks great in red, too. And green. And beige. And ivory. Not to mention multiple shades of grey.
|A portion of the saddlepad museum.|
So there you have it. Some people collect butterflies. My sister collects porcelain ducks and fish. My friend Victoria collects just about everything. When I was a little girl, a kindly great-aunt once tried to get my pulse hyped-up over stamp collecting. Hmmmm.
I think collecting saddlepads is far more fun.
How about you? What do you collect?
Thursday, December 4, 2014
By Francesca Prescott
|Photo by Aurore Biron|
One year ago, Ecurie de la Ruche*, the stables where Qrac lives, inaugurated its new facilities. Previously a small, cosy village-stable with comfortable but basic facilities for 15 horses, La Ruche
morphed into a top class, high-tech, super chic, state of the art equestrian paradise for 50 lucky steeds.
Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been absent from this blog for twelve months, before finally reappearing last week. Well, the main reason for my absence is that despite the stables being a four minute drive from my house instead of the 45 minutes it took me to get to Qrac’s previous residence, I seem to spend even more time partaking in horse related activities than I used to. It’s now so easy to go backwards and forwards to the stables that I practically live there. Also, I really appreciate being able to check on Qrac more than just once a day, to change a blanket if necessary, to pick out his feet if he’s been in the field, reassure myself that he’s ok if I have the slightest doubt about anything.
|Qrac enjoying his terrace. He was lighter in the summer!|
And I’m a happy lady, because La Ruche is a great place for humans, too. The atmosphere is great, everyone gets along, and everywhere is always spotlessly clean without anyone coming across as obsessive compulsive about picking up a fleck of horse poo, or a strand of horse hair or anything. People just get on with things, generally clean up after themselves, and there is genuine mutual respect and friendship in the air. We even have Happy Hour every Friday afternoon as of approximately 5 o’clock until approximately goodness knows what time, with giggles aplenty! I love it! I think we all do.
So last Saturday, we all celebrated one year of Rucharian bliss (Rucharians being the inhabitants of La Ruche, of course) with a Christmas competition. I think I have two extra wrinkles on either side of my mouth from an excess of smiling all day long. Seriously, it was a blast.
|Concentration! Photo Aurore Biron|
My partner, Antoine M., later rode a very nice clear-round, taking his time around the course so as not to wind-up his excitable Chicos Boy, and we ended up in 5th place. We were both so happy you’d have thought we’d won the Olympics or the World Games or something, high-fiving one another over and over! A fun detail was that the prize-giving ceremony took place on horseback, which was a first for me, and Qrac and I loved galloping around the indoor arena with our ribbon trailing from his bridle while the crowd cheered. Such fun!
|Antoine M. and Chicos Boy going for it!|
Photo Isabelle Von Wattenwyl
|Did we win the Olympics or something?!|
|Antoine M. and Chicos Boy|
But the fun wasn’t over yet, because one of our fellow Rucharians had prepared an in-hand presentation to music, with her horse doing all sorts of cool tricks, such as Spanish walk, curtseying, and lying down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch her show since I was already back on Qrac, warming up in the outside arena with my friend Josephine and her beautiful black Oldenburg, Swarowski, for our pas-de-deux.
Josephine and I had hummed and hahed about doing a pas-de-deux at the competition for quite some time. Believe me, if we’d realised how difficult riding side-by-side to music would turn out to be, we’d have done a lot less humming and hahing and a lot more practising. Basically, we finally got it together ten days beforehand, and only practised the choreography four or five times, the first attempt being complete pandemonium, our horses becoming demented with excitement! We considered calling the whole thing off, but since we’d already bought our outfits, throwing in the towel struck us as a bit of a waste. Besides, we liked what we were going to wear, we loved the music we’d chosen (Ricky Martin’s new single, Adios), and the horses looked amazing side-by-side, so on we toiled, prancing and and sweating, determined to produce something vaguely decent and fun to watch. Things went a little more smoothly the second time we ran through our (very basic) choreography, and we enjoyed ourselves, particularly during the final bit where we passaged (or attempted to!) down the centre line side-by-side to Ricky’s infectious Latino beat.
Anyway, so late last Saturday afternoon, Josephine and I wriggled into our red jodhpurs, put on our white shirts with the frilly black-edged ruffles down the front, and our little black cropped jackets. We clipped on our long blonde swishy ponytails, inserted our big gold dangly-jangly hooped earrings, and put on our wide-brimmed, Spanish-style black hats. We had initially planned on wearing bright red lipstick, too, but we didn’t get around to applying it as everything was all a bit of a mad rush. Our friend Aurore, who had drawn up our choreography, quickly threaded red ribbon through Qrac and Swarowski’s plaited manes. Both horses looked amazing. Actually, if I may say so myself, I think Josephine and I looked pretty amazing too!
However, once we were riding around outside, warming up, I soon realised that there was no way my hat was going to stay on, despite having secured it under my chin with red ribbon. It was far too big and kept on flopping down in front of my eyes, preventing me from seeing where I was going. Also, as soon as I asked Qrac to canter, the wide brim caught in the wind and the hat blew off backwards. My husband handed it back to me twice, but I knew we’d have to make last minute adjustments to our presentation. Josephine’s hat was a smaller size than mine and seemed to be staying on fine, so she was a bit disappointed when I suggested we throw them off theatrically when we saluted, but had to agree it was the best way to start the show.
|Help! I can't see!!!|
|Our swishy pony-tails!|
|What comes next...?!|
An excellent cheese raclette for 74 people ensued, with oodles of atmosphere and plenty of wine. As the evening wound down and numbers dwindled, a group of us thought it would be fun to have a bit of a boogie. Driving was out of the question, so someone suggested we go across the road to her house. Off we went, cranking up the music, shaking our booties until we could shake them no more.
What struck me particularly, as well as the rest of the people I’ve spoken to about their impressions of Saturday, was the infectious enthusiasm and camaraderie that buzzed around the place, despite the low-lying cloud and the cold and the bone-marinating humidity. It was a genuinely happy day. Call me mushy, but the entire event seemed infused with love and generosity, both on the part of the tireless and charismatic Kilchherr family who own the premises, and on the part all those attending, be they participants or spectators. Everyone lent a hand, baking, putting up jumps, measuring and laying out the temporary dressage arena within the huge indoor school, poop-scooping, buying food, setting up the sound system, taking photos, cleaning up, decorating, giving riding advice when things weren’t going to plan in the warm-up arena, announcing riders and horses over the loudspeaker, scraping raclettes, scooping potatoes, making desserts. It was a team effort, everyone was really into it, making it a very special day that will be remembered for a very long time.
I hope we can do it again soon!
*FYI, “La Ruche” is French for “the beehive”. Hence the buzz!
PS: The photos of Josephine and I during our pas-de-deux were made by Josephine's husband from screenshots of the video of our mesmerising performance. You see, we were so mesmerising that nobody remembered to take any photos of us!
PS: The photos of Josephine and I during our pas-de-deux were made by Josephine's husband from screenshots of the video of our mesmerising performance. You see, we were so mesmerising that nobody remembered to take any photos of us!
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
by Laura Crum
As some of you may know, my husband died recently of a rare and aggressive form of cancer. We were together for seventeen years and had a very happy marriage and a good life and I will always be grateful for that. But this is a time of overwhelming grief for me.
I've decided to try to keep going with the series of posts about how I developed my little property, because one of the few things that still engages me a bit and brings me some small comfort is tending this place, which Andy and I both loved and which bears everywhere the signs of our devotion to it and our fondness for the process of creating the kind of home that we both wanted.
I wrote the following installment awhile ago, and have not really finished it or polished it, but I'm putting it up today just as a way to get started again. I appreciate any kind thoughts and prayers sent my way, but have not got much heart for interacting on the internet (or anywhere else) right now, so forgive me if I don't respond.
The Next Step
Those of you who have purchased real estate will know how convoluted the next step of my process was. I called the number on the old and crooked real estate sign outside the gate of the place I’d stumbled upon. It was not a local office. I described the property I had seen and they said they had no record of it. I said their sign was there. They said they would call me back. They did not. I called them again. This went on for days.
But eventually they “remembered” that oh yes, they had listed this property for a client. It had been on the market for a year and no one had shown any interest in it. They had just forgotten about it.
At this point I chose myself a pleasant guy for a real estate agent, and I had him contact the other office. Things went quicker after that. We got permission to walk the property lines and my agent looked up the title. A few problems presented themselves.
There are always problems when it comes to buying real estate, it seems. I am not going to go into the particular problems we had here, because they are, quite frankly, not very interesting to write or read about. I will just say that it took time to work through them, but we did. I never wavered in my conviction that this was the property I wanted. The price was reasonable. It was also all the money I could possibly come up with. There would be nothing left over for building a house.
I know that some people would have taken out a loan, built a house, and still be paying off their mortgage, twenty years later. I am not those people. I never wanted to be in that kind of debt. Instead I sat down and thought about what I really wanted to do with the property. I spent time with this. Almost a year.
I owned my property and I visited it almost every day. Mostly I just sat and stared at it from various vantage points. Should the barn go here? Or here? Where could I have a riding ring? Where should the house go?
The property was not a blank slate. It was only two and a half acres of land, but there was plenty of topography to it. There was much to consider when siting the house, barn, corrals and riding ring—to name my original primary objectives. A year was not too much time to think this through.
There is so much that seems to be ignored when many people develop a property. Where will the sun come from at different times of day, what exactly can be seen from this spot or this spot? I paid attention. After a year I understood many things about the land I had bought.
I knew that I wanted the house site to be at the back of the little cup-shaped bowl that formed the rear acre of the property. This was the most private spot. From here one could not see another house—from any angle. And this privacy was what I wanted. The little round hollow in the hills faced south and would get good mid-day sun and winter sunshine. I knew that the only practical spot for a riding ring was in the middle of the bowl. Thus the barn and horse corrals would be built on the lower slope of the property, in the grove of liveoaks.
After sorting these things out, the next step was to bring in the bulldozer. Because there was no level ground—just a gentle, constant slope. And houses, as well as riding rings, benefit from some level ground. Not to mention the driveway petered out about halfway up the hill. So the bulldozer was employed to create a house site and a level riding ring, as well as to finish the driveway. Thus we embarked on the creation of my small horse property.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
We move them to their home across the street when cold weather rears its head, our own pasture grass is depleted and the farmer switches his calves from the field to their winter barn. At the neighbors, my two plump horses have fifteen acres to graze, so though I visit every day to grain and check on them, I only need to feed hay when snow is on the ground. Even then, they pick at the hay. The grass is still green under the white blanket, and they much prefer digging through snow to get to it. (Unlike cattle that do not dig.) They have a stream that never freezes and a huge run-in shed big enough for ten horses so there is no biting and crowding each other. If I do want to ride, there's fifty acres to amble across. All this only costs me $50 a month for two. (Yes, I know how expensive boarding has gotten and I am very appreciative.)
The only tough time is when there is deep snow. But then I strap on my snowshoes and head over, stopping to pick up the neighbor's mail and shovel their walk. We've had blizzards where I've had to dig out the barn door, but except for that, it's super ideal in every way for human and horses. If I was a competitive rider who needed an indoor arena, this set up would not work. Alas, that was a long time ago. Now the dogs (in their coats) and I walk the fields each time I go over to grain the horses, which is an added bonus. Except for brushing burrs and checking for injuries, the horses are almost care-free. The only hitch is that the neighbors are getting older, and I worry that one day they will sell their farm to an 'outsider' who doesn't like our arrangement.
Until then I will be thankful for my winter horses and their great home. How's winter for your horses? Do you spend more time 'chipping' ice and slogging through mud and snow than riding?
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
|Qrac de la Font|
photo by Aurore Biron
You know that saying about there being one super special horse in a rider’s lifetime? I’m trying to work out whether I believe it's true. So far, I’ve had five horses in my life, and every single one of them has been super special to me in their own way.
Amanda and I parted ways after about seven years, sometime after I’d left the split-personalitied, insult-hurling teacher and taken up with a rosy-cheeked, charmingly bossy, super high-energy dressage diva. She helped me take Amanda as far as possible in the dressage arena, and when the work became too demanding for the mare, found me with a massive young Dutch gelding called Monty. Amanda went to live in Holland where she had a baby, and then enjoyed a long and happy retirement.
My partnership with Monty didn’t last very long. The poor darling came into my life at a time when I seemed to be particularly accident prone (double fracture with a torsion in my right leg, followed by a shattered humeral head, both injuries sustained within twelve months of each other, the second - basically a shattered shoulder - caused by a particularly nasty fall from Monty), so we never really had the opportunity to bond. Also, my children were little, and I seemed to spend my days rushing around, trying to fit about twenty-four hours into twelve. Anyway, to cut a long and boring story short, I decided to quit riding altogether. My high-energy dressage diva trainer took Monty back, and I spent the next seven years horseless, which weirdly enough for someone as horse crazy as me, went down fine. I did lots of other things during those years, including write a couple of books, one of which was published, while the others are still floating around in my hard-drive, waiting to be finished or tweaked.
While I went about doing all those other things, my daughter gradually grew into a horse-freak just like me. A couple of tepee-housed, super cool pony camps in Ibiza during the summer holidays hotwired her passion, and it didn’t take much convincing to get me to sign her up for riding lessons once school resumed. Watching her lessons rekindled my horse addiction, and before we knew it we were horse shopping in Germany. Kwintus, a 15-year-old KWPN PSG schoolmaster arrived in Switzerland by lorry a few weeks later.
|Kwintus and Olivia|
We couldn’t have bought a better horse for my then 15-year-old daughter. Kwintus, now happily retired, was the perfect gentleman, an absolute teddy-bear, the type of horse you might consider bringing home to sit on the couch to eat chocolate biscuits and watch television with (he had a great sense of humour, so would probably have enjoyed shows like “Modern Family”!). He was also an old pro in the dressage arena, puffing himself up at the first sight of a braid elastic. (“Extend the trot down the diagonal? No probs, honey, I got this!”) Kwintus won Olivia first place in their first ever competition with close to 70%, a dizzying score for Switzerland where judges tend not to dish out 7s willy nilly.
Kwintus also got me back in the saddle, re-established my confidence, and gave me a pretty good idea about what riding a decent level of dressage should feel like. He wowed both my daughter and I with wonderfully straight, perfectly rhythmical tempi-changes (up to the two’s), nice pirouettes and half-passes, movements neither of us had ever experienced before. Kwintus was definitely a very special horse with an enormous heart who would just give, and give, and give. He’d probably given so much before we bought him that within a couple of years he started showing signs of arthritis in his neck, which made him trip over every so often. We treated the problem once or twice with infiltrations to keep him comfortable, but when he turned 18 and my daughter went off to University in England, I made the decision to retire him. He deserved it. If ever a horse was loved, Kwintus was, not only by my daughter and I, but also by one of his previous owners who still regularly asks after him.
Retiring Kwintus was tough on me. Not only had I lost my horse, but I’d also watched my daughter go off to University in a land faraway across the sea. Ok, so Cornwall isn’t all that far from Switzerland if you compare it to the distance between, say, New York and San Francisco, but, believe me, you can get from New York to San Francisco far more easily and quickly than you can get from Geneva to Falmouth. Last Christmas it took my daughter three days to get home! Ok, so there were wild storms and electric cuts and floods and flight cancellations involved, but still. Getting to the “wall of Corn” is by no means straightforward.
But I digress. Basically, with my daughter gone and no horse to ride I got very sad, and so after a while my husband got fed up with my moping and said, “for goodness sake, Cesca, go and buy yourself another horse before you drive me mental.” Or words to that effect.
There’s nothing like horse-shopping to cheer up a horse-crazy empty-nester-menopausal misery guts. A few months later my trainer and I took a trip to the South of France where I fell for a beautiful dark bay Lusitano stallion, Qrac de la Font.
|Qrac and me, September 2014|
I would never have been able to buy a horse like Qrac if I hadn’t had the experience of a horse like Kwintus beforehand. Even so, riding him was, initially, quite a challenge. There were moments when I really had to breathe deep, stay calm and dig deep for my courage. For a seven-year-old, Qrac had very little work and could be quite a handful. He’s an emotional horse, he’s super sensitive, and his spins to the left are legendary! I had him gelded a year and a half after buying him, and never regretted taking that decision (I wrote about it here on the blog at the time).
Qrac makes me smile every single day. He’s my sunshine, my daily treat. He’s a challenge, a work in constant progress, a silly billy, a very clever boy. As my daughter puts it, he’s my “best thing” and I have withdrawals if I don’t go and see him every day. I worry about him, think about him, play dress up with him (he has a vast collection of blingy saddle blankets), and fuss over him like a crazy person. The progress we’ve made in the three and a half years we’ve been together makes me very proud because what we’ve achieved, we’ve achieved without any outside help apart from really good trainers on the ground.
I’ve loved all my horses, but there’s definitely something special about my relationship with Qrac, just as there was something special about my daughter’s relationship with Kwintus.
It bothers me to say that Qrac is the super special horse of my lifetime because it somehow feels like I’m betraying the other horses I owned, downplaying all the great times I shared with them, belittling the amazing things each of them brought to me. So in a very zany conclusion, I’m tempted to say that thinking about my previous horses is a bit like thinking about old boyfriends; some suited me more than others, but I had strong feelings for them all.
And that I deeply love the one I’m with.
Or something like that!
Do you know what I mean? Do you or did you once have a super special horse?