Howick Horse Trials and a Wales weekend

The Flying Wing Man!

The long Easter Bank Holiday weekend saw me heading to South Wales to see my horse loving friends, the Budds of Trem Hafren.  Tiri Budd was competing on her handsome 10 year old horse Barney, ‘Wing Man’ Budd, in the Howick Horse trials which were being held at a local farm near Chepstow. Due to our reliably inclement weather, all other eventing in England had been cancelled this weekend, but the plucky team at Howick refused to be deterred. Yes, the ground was wet and heavy with the consistency of plasticine, but no matter. Barney’s shoes were tooled up with mean looking studs, screwed in with a spanner which help to grip the heavy ground. Very War Horse.  It can never be fun to be kicked by a horse but to be kicked by a horse weaponised in this fashion would be especially undesirable.

First, screw in your studs
Tiri and Barney danced through the dressage ahead of the competition, sailed through the show jumping (only four faults) and cracked the cross country, finishing only just in second place! I fondly surmised that Barney’s stable name ‘Wing Man’ may have had something to do with a Top Gun connection, but in fact no – it traces back to his horsey parentage as his sire was called ‘Winged Love’ and his sire in turn,  ‘In the Wings.’  Barney is probably about 7/8ths thoroughbred (I have it on good authority) and is actually from first class racing stock. He is related to Derby winners, Mill Reef, Shirley Heights and Nijinsky and there was certainly no dawdling around the course from him.
Do you know who I am?
As well as their blood line, horses’ names can also reveal the more creative side of their owners. I perused the list of competitors. More mundane sobriquets included ‘Misty Love’ and ‘Doris the Second,’ but I did like ‘Foxley’s Pudding and Pie,’ ‘Treliver Dilly the Pink,’ ‘Pebbly Knight of the Realm’ and ‘Miss Angelina Ballerina’ which all sounded a lot more fun. The fences too, always have names to conjure with. The Pheasant Feeder, the Naf complex, the Airowear Splash (water jump) and the Wychanger Flying Finish.
A spotted competitor
After his sterling efforts, Barney was rewarded with a net of hay and a spray down with some cold water. We had a hot drink from Mr Van Coffee. There is no sign of our British love affair with the horse dying out here. Horsey folk on the whole are not couch potato people. However, the rise in obesity has not passed the horse world by. There were some certainly some solid citizens ricocheting around the course and you do wonder how these animals take off over five foot fences fly through the air and land safely with such a burden aboard.
I’m going left, right?
A study found a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of health problems such as back pain and lameness. A rider shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of their horse apparently.

I digress. Back at the ranch Hockey the dog remains gripped by his lifelong obsession with sticks. Finding sticks, biting sticks, getting someone to throw the sticks, running after the sticks, bringing the sticks back. You get the idea. If only life was so simple.

Can’t you see my stick needs throwing?

Stella the Labrador prefers cuddles to sticks, and showed more promise across the doggy agility course had I set up on a previous visit. Hockey can not concentrate at all unless a stick is involved somewhere.

How loveable am I?

The chickens were strutting about in the Poultry’s Republic of Chickenopolis. Egg production is now in full swing and there certainly looked like some Trade Union activity going on in there to me. Let’s hope Bank Holiday omelettes aren’t held up by a flash strike.

Minutes of the previous meeting, apologies for absence..

As the weekend progressed, the great British weather had a sudden change of heart. Spring was busting out all over and the temperature had soared to a heady 17 degrees centigrade. I had a lovely ride through the woods on D (real name Derek) the elder statesmen of the yard, and a suitably stable mount for an intermittent equestrian such as myself. The next day we went for a walk along the coast to Black Rock picnic site. A magnificent view is afforded here of the second M4 motorway suspension Bridge crossing the Severn estuary. At 456 metres long, it’s quite a feat of engineering and was looking rather fetching in the hazy sunshine. The estuary has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world and you can visibly see the tide racing out at speed which I imagine makes it rather a dangerous proposition for any water related activity.

The bridge to the other side

Fishermen of old used to stand in the water up to their waists with triangular ‘Lave’ nets which they used to scoop up the Salmon as they rushed along with the outgoing tide. Tricky. 
The weekend drew to a close and I returned to my Northern Erie on the interminable train of tedium which takes five hours from Bristol to Newcastle. On the bright side, it is ideal for catching up on that book you have been meaning to get around to reading..

A winning smile from Barney’s girl.