I've had my horse Arty since he was 4 years old, which was way back in 1991, I had been diagnosed with epilepsy and had to sell the car.
In an effort to hit back at the world and anyone who said ''don't be silly'' I decided I would buy another horse. I happened to meet an old friend of mine Glyn Holland and he said ''I have just the horse for you!'' How right he was. I tried out this gangly 4yr old and while cantering along Glynn says, don't worry there is a Jack Russell hanging onto his tail! Back in the stable Arty then went on to grab my gold earring, chew it and spit it out! I was hooked. When he first came home I still couldn't drive so to see to him or go riding I cycled to the field with his saddle strapped to my back like some sort of odd Turtle.
Eventually I was back on the road and decided that the way forward was with a trailer, I bought a twin axle rear load one. Our first outing was to act as a mounted runner at a Vale of Usk Riding club event at Dingestow. It was foul weather, wet and windy. He was a lunatic, or rather I was for taking a green 4 year old there in the first place! When it came to hometime he would not load, no way no how. I ended up hacking him home. Deep joy.
We have been through a lot together, a trailer accident from which he walked away unscathed, hunting and him having brake failure on top of the mountain, scaring me witless over X/C, struggling to remember dressage tests, him walking in front of me and stopping me leaving the field when I was really sad and bawling my eyes out, him trying to climb over a wall via the muck heap and Janet and I spending ages digging the silly devil out, him dumping me out through the side door when he didn't like any jump (my weak riding really!) many good and some not so good times.
I haven’t ridden him since 2006 – busy lanes, no one to ride with, busy in work – then he developed arthritis in his knee and was retired. This last winter (2012/13 has been particularly hard – for everyone.
A week ago we went up to the field to put the boys away for the night and saw Arty lying down in the field, obviously unable to get up. It’s that horrible gut wrenching, stomach churning feeling, “Is this it?” His arthritic near fore was underneath him and he couldn’t get enough purchase on the ground to get up. Luckily there were 3 of us and we managed to push him up enough that he could. Once up he was fine except for one stiff leg and his poorly knee which was hot and swollen. Four days later he did it again and I really began to think that ‘I would have to do the right thing.’
It made me realise that I have NEVER done a proper portrait shoot of him. NEVER had any nice pics of me and him together. How sad would that be to lose him with only mobile phone pics as a memory?
So, Zoe came up in March 2014 and did a brilliant shoot for me. Me and my pal Arty. I had a lovely album done and love looking at it.
Arty Part two
Winter 2014/15 was hard for Arty, despite all the food I could shovel into him, his metabolism had changed and he went to look very poor indeed. Spring finally arrived and he gradually improved and had more meat on him and a lovely gloss to his coat. However his arthritis didn't improve, moving became more difficult for him and my wonderful farrier Steve had to support Arty to do his feet. He was always bright in his self, vocal when we appeared and always finished his food with relish. I washed him in June and he was so bright, trying to trot around the field. However he got more stiff and sore, I would video him and watch each time that he was finding it harder to move. Each time we (Steve & I) went to feed him we would hope for some sort of miracle recovery - it never happened. No supplements helped.
Then I saw on Facebook that a friend of mine had a stallion who was ill and that an animal communicator had been in touch. It gave me the idea to try the same, I have several friends with different abilities and whether you think it hocus pocus (as hubby does) or not I am open minded. One said that she felt the horse was confused as to why he couldn't do what he used to. Another felt pain in his knee, hip and head. Another said that he knew I was sad and worried and that he wanted to go. I found the knowledge comforting and although it didn't help me with any decision it made me think further and deeper. Why was I keeping him going on when he was clearly in pain? What happens with winter fast approaching? He was still enjoying his food, still greeting me with a whicker and a bright eye. But - he would be in his field shelter and it was obvious that he didn't know which foot to put down first to turn around. Then when I compared videos from the first to the last I knew it had to be now. while he was still enjoying his food, while he was still happy.
I asked for Gareth Poulton who I work with at www.stablesphotography.co.uk to come out and do a farewell photoshoot of us. So on Tuesday 18th August the boys and my friend Ros came out to Arty's field. It was nice light which wrapped around well and armed with carrots and apples I led Arty step by very painful step to a favourite spot. I fully expected to be crying the whole time but it was really lovely, Arty enjoyed it and so did I. Fairplay to Gareth he did a brilliant job. When we were done Ros produced a bottle of Champagne and some strawberries, we toasted Arty.
I had arranged for the vet - Rod Fisher - to come at 11am on Wednesday 19th. The weather was wet. Arty came down for breakfast which was demolished at speed, then he had seconds. What was odd was that he was walking so much better than last night, still limping, still painful but definitely easier. I videoed it. We talked over with Rod what had led to the decision then I caught Arty and led him to a corner of the field, I'm damned if he didn't walk ahead of me, like he wanted to.
Rod explained kindly what would happen and inserted the needle in my baby's neck, he was eating apples at the time. 15 seconds later he sat down bum first, then lay down and went to sleep. His eyes changed. His muzzle still warm I stroked it and couldn't believe that a 24 year partnership was over. He had helped me through depression, helped me through bad times and now it was my turn. It may have been the right thing for him but I felt like a murderer.
Anyway, it's done. I am now looking forward to seeing all the photos taken and then getting an album and lots of new pictures for my walls of a special character with a great sense of humour.
Love n slush
We went up to the local Goytre Arms on Friday and sat by some friends of ours Julia Horton and Dean Goddard. I was aware that Jules was representing Great Britain at Dressage in August and that she was doing Dressage to Music as part of it. To do this is not easy as there are set movements that have to be carried out at specified times and set to music that matches the steps of the horse. No mean feat by any stretch of the imagination. Once you have your music - which you have to get licensed, you have to cut and paste it and put it all in one stream in specialised software which you buy out of your own pocket, learn how to use and then spend hour upon hour getting it all together. So as you can imagine Jules was pretty stressed. We volunteered to help with the music and helped her finish it all off today. We didn't do much, she had struggled through and done most of it on her own. We weren't able to play the video at the same time as the music but there is time to play with that again.
What did strike me was watching her dedication as she rode the test, several times, in the pouring rain while Dean filmed it. Day in day out she struggles to keep three horses going and herself going. Read more of Jules background on here Stockpin Chic who sponsor her. What I haven't mentioned is that Jules is a Para Rider, before you continue read about her on the Stockpin Chic page.
When Jules goes away next to Bishop Burton, Yorkshire it will be just her and 'Joycie' her horse. For a week. Representing her country. Great Britain. She does not have any funding. She pays for fuel, stabling, entry fees, GB flags for the saddle pad, horse feed, her feed (hopefully.)
Notice that there is no mention of her accommodation - she is sleeping rough in the horse trailer. If you have read her background you know how hard this will be.
I want to help a little bit more so thought I would put this out there to you guys. How can we help this lady and her horse represent our country in a little more comfort?
Stables Photography sponsors Jules and will help in any way possible.
Look, I'm never going to have a way with words or be able to captivate my audience but I am going to continue to scribble on the off chance that you enjoy it. I have blogged on and off on various blogs but the one on our brand new posh web site at www.stablesphotography.co.uk well to be honest I don't like it. It's not Wendy friendly. It's 9pm, it's Sunday and Crufts is on. I just want to get this new blog up and running. Is this the final blog? Nah, I doubt it. Will I start to put in some useful, entertaining stuff - of ourse I will!
Briefly Stables Photography has been open since last July. Good times, bad times but we have survived. We specialise in quality family portraits. We are cheerful but not cheap. We provide quality and skill from first to last, everything we do is hand finished. I take equine portraits that have raised the odd tear or two and I am looking now to do the same for my Ladies Only side of the business. Empowering Portraits of Women designed to give you a lift, make you like yourself a little bit more.