Holiday

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Once we were safely home from Bonheiden the horses had their shoes off and Askeaton joined Heidi & Riri in their beautiful field on the forest while Emma and Kvint went out in the field at home. We’ve always struggled to get Emma to settle in the field, but with Kvint to boss about she seemed very happy, and he seemed very relaxed too. We took the opportunity to have five days in Santorini, to gear ourselves up for the final wedding preparations and a long, cold winter of horses! We stayed in the village of Imerovigli on the Caldera side of the island which has the most breathtaking views of the volcano and the towns of Thira and Oia. Our little hotel, the Avaton Resort and Spa, was absolutely lovely and right on the footpath that runs from Thira to Oia, so very easy for us to explore.

 View from our room

View from our room

The weather was actually a little bit chilly and windy, so it suited us very well to be on the move and exploring. The first day we walked into the capital, Thira, which was an easy one a half hour walk on a good path. Thira was beautiful, if a little bit spoilt by the enormous cruise ships moored in the harbour, but tourism is the main industry so they are great for the island. Anyway we certainly felt we deserved a nice lunch and had a leisurely walk back to the hotel for a nice swim.  

 The Path to Thira

The Path to Thira

 Slightly predictable playlist at the open air cinema

Slightly predictable playlist at the open air cinema

Feeling quite heroic after coping so brilliantly with the walk into Thira, we decided to tackle the two and a half hour walk to Oia the next day. This was a very different sort of walk. The lovely paved footpath ran out very quickly and it was a very steep and pebbly path. However it was quite fabulously beautiful, and worth any climb to see the beautiful little churches at the top of the steepest hills. I am not quite sure why the churches are so incredibly challenging to climb to. Mark’s theory is that they are closer to God at the top of the mountain, and having googled this, that is broadly speaking true - dating from pre-christian times when divine beings were presumed to live in the heavens.

 The way to Oia

The way to Oia

 Hill top church

Hill top church

 And we walked right to the end of the photo!

And we walked right to the end of the photo!

We arrived in Oia definitely deserving a lunch, and both reluctantly admitting that we probably weren’t going to walk back. We had a lovely walk round this beautiful, and quite exclusive little town, and then joined the bus queue. The queue was very long, and the first bus didn’t stop because it was already full - so we found a couple of very friendly faces and shared a taxi back to Imerovigli - which was strangely cheaper than the bus anyway.

 Mark on Perissa Beach

Mark on Perissa Beach

On Wednesday we hired a car for a couple of days and were able to visit a few of the beaches on the other side of the island. We spent a lovely morning on Perissa Beach before having lunch in the ancient town of Pyrgos. There was an interesting moment trying to do a hill start in the hire car that didn’t seem to have a functioning hand-brake - luckily Mark is much stronger than me, so he was able to get it to work a bit. We visited the lovely Red Beach, and the Monastry at the highest point of the island before having supper on the beach.

 View from the Monastry

View from the Monastry

 Monastry

Monastry

Friday was our last day, more lovely beach time, and our last beautiful sunset before travelling home.

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I always love to be home. It’s lovely to see Twiglet and Steff and Camilla had done a brilliant job of looking after the horses and finishing painting the yard, which looked so smart. Having horses in it for 10 days means that they’ve already scraped off some of the paint, but it still looks very good.

 Yard looking very smart.

Yard looking very smart.

I lasted exactly one day without riding once I got home. With all our horses still out I went and helped a bit with the exercising at Breen Equestrian. I had a lovely week riding Shane’s good horses while he and Chloe were in Florida. Golden Hawk, Canya Makan, Colmar, Clyde VA and Laith - all so lovely. I had a great time hacking round the showground looking at all the wonderful new developments. I might have to go cross-country schooling just to try them out - I have been thinking Kvint might be a candidate for the Derby in Le Touquet, so he certainly needs to practice getting his feet wet!

All our horses came in on Monday. The babies were retrieved from Ashdown Forest and pretended they had never been in stables before, and Kvint, Vinnie and Emma came in from the field like the old hands they are. Heidi and Riri certainly put on good rodeos on the lunge, but they were all good to hack out, and they have now had shoes on, teeth done, everybody is clipped and they are all getting ready to go out and about in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile Sophie and Alex’s wedding is only a heartbeat away. The marquee has gone up this morning, and I am busy cooking away to feed all the helpers who will be passing through the house next week.

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Equestrian Blogger of the Year Awards

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I was really, and very pleasantly, surprised to wake up this morning to find I am a finalist in The Equestrian Blogger of the Year Awards 2018.  

I started writing a blog mainly because I love writing. At school I was definitely steered down the maths and science route, I have a science degree and I happily confess to a very real fascination with statistics and a love of graphs.  But I do love to write, my father was a great storyteller - instead of reading a bedtime story he would tell us a history story - and maybe this was the start. I used to love writing letters, and when I was away backpacking in India and the Far East I would have two of those lovely blue aerogrammes on the go: one for my family and one for Mark.  Every day I would jot down my news, and impressions of the sights and sounds in my day, and when the lovely, crinkly, blue aerogramme was full I would post it and start the next one. In every new town my first visit was to the post office to pick up my mail from the Post Restante box. Sadly those days are gone, email is great - but those letters with news that was a fortnight old were so exciting, and my only contact with home for three months. 

My second reason for blogging was to show what a perfectly ordinary middle-aged woman could achieve at least some of her dreams. Before we were grown-ups, girl friends, wives and mothers we were all girls with dreams. In the gap between child-rearing and old age I wanted to try to pursue my dream of being a proper rider. 

Obviously I’ve needed a great deal of help with this journey. Firstly from Mark who has willingly and mostly smilingly come along for the ride, and from Anna and Sophie who spent quite a lot of their formative years not only riding, but also living in pretty basic lorries and tents, and who know a great deal more about public showers than most of their contemporaries.  Secondly to those who have made the dream real. Jo Marsh-Smith taught me how to give horses a great start on the flat, and to treat each one as an individual, and guided my return to competitive riding, and pushed it forward. Then I when I switched from Eventing to show jumping I went for a lesson with Shane Breen. I was so inspired by that first lesson that Shane has been stuck with this slightly ancient and temperamental pupil for 12 years. The journey has been literally incredible, I don’t think anyone else would have helped me, and pushed me so much, or have made me believe I could actually do it. Shane will always be top of my list for advice, but he is so busy now and going to the best shows in the world. David Simpson, who worked for Shane for seven years has bravely taken me on now - so watch this space. I have a great team at home with Steff and Camilla, and great professional help from Cinder Hill Veterinary Clinic & Sussex Equine Hospital, fabulous farriers in the Casserly’s, a great equine chiropractor in Caitlin McCaffery and very generous sponsors: Saracen Horse Feeds, MacWet Gloves and Just Equine, and help from Horse Pilot  

Without the horses there would have been no journey.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to ride some lovely horses, but the two stand-outs are Mossfort, who gave me my first taste of international competition, albeit in eventing, and Doonaveeragh Emma, who is my horse of a lifetime. She came to me as an unbroken three year old and she has been brave, honest, kind, competitive and so forgiving. I have some lovely younger horses to ride and hopefully the future looks exciting.

It’s been great fun, and seriously hard work, and I’ve been incredibly lucky in many ways. In all sports there are many more lows than highs, but I would do it all, and more again anytime.  

Thank you all for reading, 

 

Sarah