In Which Megan Does Not Get On With Monday

I’ve always wondered why everyone hates Mondays so much.

Honestly, I’ve never seen it as a problem. Monday has not offended me before. Sure it’s the first day after the weekend but in my line of work, weekends are never really much of an issue seeing as we don’t really get them! My weeks are a little weird and less than structured so, Monday gets blurred in with Tuesday and Saturday and all the other days.

Today has, however, provoked me to a level of grumbling I have not felt for a while. If having to get up when I was utterly not ready is not enough of a rubbish aspect to the day, I have managed to end it with many more hurts than normal.

Along with the usual aches and stiffness, I have added extra injuries to my list today. While rescuing a lamb which had its head stuck in our fence, I managed to rip three nails. Oh, I hear you cry, what calamity. Broken nails, oh my god that is so totally like the worst thing ever. Don’t worry, I appreciate the humour in it. I am not usually the sort of girl who worries about a broken nail. But these hurt like little buggars because I didn’t just “break a nail“, I have split three nails so low down they’ve actually caught the skin underneath. So they sting and sting and ouch! Put something of a downer on my good deed, I must say.

Later on in the day, having recovered from the sore fingers, I found myself being head-butted quite ferociously by one of the boys as we brought them in. He decided to be somewhat obnoxious as we came through a gate and chucked his head straight at my face, leaving me with tears streaming down my face and blood trickling from my lip. So I am now sporting a very attractive purple fat lip. Never have I felt more feminine than I do at this moment, with my swollen lip and mangled fingers. I am, in short, a mess at present.

It’s a shame to feel quite so battered and bruised this evening as Daisy and I had a rather nice weekend. After mucking out the stables on Saturday, we were invited to go along to Badminton Horse Trials for the afternoon. One of Laura’s lovely clients very kindly offered me a place to park at her house as she lives a two minute walk from where everything was taking place. I was delighted by this, as parking cost something like £12, so saving money was a win. If that wasn’t nice enough, she then told me that there was a pass I could use. It was so unexpected and I couldn’t have been more grateful for her generosity! Once we were in, we took to wandering the expanse of stalls and shops and crowds. As it was cross-country day, it was extremely busy but I didn’t mind too much. Daisy was quite excited but only managed to trip up a few people and did get admiring looks and comments everywhere we went. We met up with Laura and Frosty after a bit and I tried some different gins at Frosty’s stand, Gundog Gin (go look it up, buy some, it’s truly delicious. I recommend the Rhubarb!) We then met up with a few others at one of the fences and took to walking along the course, watching the different jumps as riders came through. Some of them were real heart-in-mouth moments, and we were only spectating! I’m sticking with dressage. Much safer!!

I also ended up meeting a girl that I feel I’ve known for ages but had actually never met before. We know each other through Eclipse, in Ireland, and our mutual friends there. Our timing has always been off, however, and we’ve missed each other by a few days each time our paths could have crossed. So to have her face appear in front of me asking “Hello, are you Megan?” was both weird and normal at the same time. I knew who she was straight away and it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t have some to say hello, and it was only when I went to introduce her to the people I was with that I realised how weird it sounded to say “This is Iris, I know her through Ireland but I’ve never met her before!” It was really cool to actually meet her in person though.

Sunday was my day off, as going to Badminton was instead of my usual half day on a Friday. After a leisurely morning of not having to hear my alarm (although a stallion shouting his head off and dog decided to whine were unwelcome substitutes), I went to Crickley Hill Country Park with the Dot. We met up with Tillie and Ségolène for a lovely sunshiney walk and then lunch at The Air Balloon pub. Yes, that Air Balloon, the one everyone hates by proxy because of the roundabout it represents! I had managed to book a dog friendly table thanks to a very helpful member of staff, so Daisy was able to come with us and charm staff and customers alike. She had bar staff bringing her bowls of water and people coming in to get a drink and ending up getting a cuddle instead!

Daisy excelled herself this weekend. I’m very proud. I hope that when we go to our training class this week, she continues to show herself (and me) in a positive light and that I can tell Linda that our hard work and perseverance is paying off.

I do so love her.

So much!

Oops

I did it again…

Yes, that’s a Britney Spears reference. No, I’m not going to apologise for it!

What I am referring to here, of course, is the fact that I promised to write more and then left it two months before I actually wrote anything. I am rubbish. I am also very busy but I know you won’t accept excuses like that.

In the time since I made promises I couldn’t keep (yeah, I’m that girl) I have settled into my new flat with Daisy and made headway with my new job. Laura and I have finally got things sorted to resemble some kind of routine/organisation. The horses are all happy and settled in their stables and on the whole everything is running smoothly.

We’ve had a couple of blips of course. Going to a show and ending up stuck on the slip road to the A417 for 3 hours because Laura put petrol in her diesel lorry; Donald jumping out of the field and runnning amok because his friend was being ridden; a tree splitting in the stormy weather the other day and half coming down across the path. Little things like that. But generally speaking, we’re doing okay here at Laura Wollen Dressage.

I’ve been home to see my parents a couple of times (much to Ruby and Tilly’s delight when Daisy came wriggling through the door) which was nice. They had a new kitchen fitted recently so the last time I was home it was a little chaotic as things were still being finished off. Like painting the walls, skirting boards, unloading boxes etc. But there was wine. So that was nice. They came to visit me as well a few weeks back, with the girls. Daisy enjoyed showing them where all the best places to sniff are and eventually we managed to even settle them down in the flat despite Ruby nose whistling pretty much 100% of the time. Daisy was so excited when my dad walked up the stairs it was really quite funny. I thought she was going to fall down them, she wiggled around so much!

I’ve also seen Kelly, although not as much as I should have given how close by she lives. I popped up to her place for a glass of wine and some garlic bread. Sky was extremely tolerant of Daisy invading her space, stealing her toys and basically waltzing into the limelight. Bless. I keep meaning to arrange to see her again, but then I forget! I’m a terrible friend sometimes.

I’ve been doing a lot more riding again since being here. I’ve had Donald and Ben to tick over with (although hopefully both will be moving on soon) which has been good for getting my fitness back on track. I’d forgotten how much work goes into riding a horse properly, and doing it more than once seemed impossible! I’m feeling stronger again now though, like I can actually get off one horse and on another without needing to sit down for an hour!

Hacking days are great, as Laura seems to think it’s funny to give me all the slightly tense horses to take out. I think (hopefully?) it’s because she knows I’ll just stay relaxed and quiet and encourage the horse to chill out too. Generally I end up laughing on reflex, which as we all know causes your body to relax anyway. So I’ve had some interesting hacks recently. And I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to stretch horses for Laura occasionally. Which is really quite nice as it’s a rare opportunity for me to ride extremely nice dressage horses in a constructive environment. Laura even gives me some tuition at the same time to help me get the feel of the horse and improve my general riding. Last time I really enjoyed doing canter/trot/canter transitions and allowing myself to work out the exact moment that the horse was going to come back to trot to allow me to rise with it straight away in a controlled and collected manner rather than being thrown into it. It also helped coming back to a more balanced and rhythmical trot from the first stride rather than having to work really hard to regain it later.

Riding horses like that and learning how things can feel when the horse is working properly is quite amazing. Getting the tuition from Laura is awesome, and although my legs felt pretty achey the day after it’s pretty great to have the sense that I’m starting to improve as a rider again.

I am lucky, as these horses are all nice and genuine characters. They are sweet natured and gentle, but they are still competition horses and have a certain level of high maintenance about them. The fact that they have such pleasant demeanours is what makes them good to work with. There is a fairly nice balance between the highly strung moments and the chilled out snuggle time. It means I don’t worry too much about getting injured on a regular basis (apart from the clumsiness inflicted stuff) and I know that nothing Laura asks me to do with them is going to be overly scary or unfeasible. They might have their YeeHaa moments, but they’re not malicious or deliberately threatening with it. Such a relief for me!

And Daisy is still my joy. Even when she’s in trouble (which she was the other night, big time) I still adore her. She’s almost 9 months old now, and apart from the odd moment is an extremely good girl. We’ve started going to a dog class on a Tuesday evening. We did our first one last week and although she was a bit exciteable she did pretty well. She did the recall perfectly first time, which I was absolutely not expecting. I thought we’d have a ping pong moment as she bounced from dog to dog across the hall. But she turned and ran straight to me, ears streaming behind her. Such a good girl! Hopefully she’ll be a little more settled next time (yeah right) and we’ll achieve even more. I think it’s great for her though as it’s quite an intense environment and she has to focus really hard. Which must be really difficult for such a young dog surrounded by other young dogs and lots of very exciting people and such. I’m proud of her, she’s such a sweetheart and she’s having to adapt to so much all at once. Considering the way I’ve basically plunged her in with no warning to all this stuff, she’s coming on brilliantly. And she’s so beautiful.

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Anyway, that’s all for today I think. Not much else to report. Oh, I have a new phone! It’s shiny and I like it because it’s new. Now I really have told you everything.

Toodles.

Resurrection?

This is not a ghost story!

The past few months have passed me by in a rather rapid manner. I am struggling to comprehend the reality facing me; it’s 2017, I’m 27 this year and so much has changed. Again. I haven’t written anything since September. I was resurrected at the start of the year. Not in a weird creepy ghosty way or even a Jesus way. I just remembered, suddenly, that I had this blog and that I enjoy writing it. So, allons y…

2016. Media would have you believe it was the worst year ever to curse mankind with its presence. So many well-loved celebrities died and I must admit I was deeply saddened by several of them. Alan Rickman in particular. Being honest, I can’t really say it was the most fantastic year I have ever experienced, but there were certainly good points amongst the bad.
My personal highlight last year was the addition of a certain spotty puppy to my life. Miss Daisy Dot joined me in August and has been a constant source of joy, frustration and warm grumbly cuddles ever since. She is now seven months old, getting naughtier by the day and I can’t wait to enjoy her company in the years to come. She’s an absolute babe and I adore her.

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A sad day in November brought the news that my parents had to say goodbye to my childhood dog. Dear Saffi had been unwell since July and after managing so well on her medication for so long, finally got to the point where she needed to let go. It was extremely sad and I think we are all still recovering from her loss as she was such an important, fluffy, smelly (to the point of almost suffocating us by the end), guggy, astonishingly pretty and gorgeously affectionate part of our family for thirteen long years. Making that kind of decision is never an easy thing but I feel that my parents did it right and managed to find the balance between giving her a wonderful life until the point that they couldn’t, and being able to understand that although it was harder for us to let her go, it would have been unfair on her to make her carry on.

Apart from getting a puppy, I have moved around a few times and changed my direction. Not away from horses, just placing my feet with different ones. I left my job with the Devils Horsemen in June, taking a position in Peterborough. In late November I realised it was not the thing I wanted to continue doing, and made the decision to move on again. Yardandgroom is not my favourite website. I hate job searching. And yet I had put myself in that position, so search I did. There were several adverts which took my fancy but I was reluctant to actually set the ball rolling with any of them. One in particular interested me and something about it rang bells in my head. Out of curiosity, I found myself messaging someone I had worked for part-time before starting with the Devils,
“I’ve just seen a really nice advert. Sounded a bit like you, thought that would be a bit weird…”
She got back to me the same evening, “Oh yes that is me! Are you interested?”, and away we went. So it is with great excitement that I look forward to starting work with Laura Wollen Dressage in the next week. We are actually moving to a yard in Ampney Crucis, near Cirencester, next weekend. Yay.

Although leaving two jobs in one year and moving back home for a bit were not exactly good points, I certainly could not have the opportunities I now have without them. Coming to live in Malvern for a short while again was not exactly a negative either. It has been nice to have the time to regain my sense of self, catch my breath and enjoy my puppy without any pressure. Daisy bonded well with Ruby and Tilly (my parents dogs) and my parents have both said that having her around has changed the absence of Saff in a good way. Although they miss her, Daisy coming in has changed the focus of home life in a way that means no-one really has time to dwell on the Saffi shaped hole and has kept the dog count at three which, although it’s a different dog, feels less strange than only having two. She has been a healing distraction for everyone and I think she knows it. She has this tendency to come and flop her head on you when you need it most. And she smells warm and biscuity and her ears are too big for her head and they’re so soft. Sorry. I’ll stop.

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Riding wise, I do not have a great deal to regale you with. I continued riding as and when I was required to at the Devils but did not progress any further. When I moved to Peterborough I had two geldings to exercise, and although they hacked a lot, I was also able to do a little bit of jumping (something I hadn’t done in a veeeeery long time). I also lunged a fair bit which was nice to re-visit as I’ve always quite enjoyed it. Being able to watch the horse working and see what the muscles are doing and how the horse is using itself has always been fascinating to me.
I am really looking forward to working with the horses Laura has. They are all dressage horses and they’re all rather gorgeous. It’s funny how I have met so many different horses and some of them still strike that kind of awe and humility in me. These guys are a bit like that. It’s not just that they’re not small horses. They have something there, a power, a strength, a presence. It makes me feel honoured to be around them and it is a true privilege to work with them.

In an odd twist of fate, I have found out that in my new home I will be living just down the road from a previous instructor and friend, Kelly. I knew she had moved to the Cotswolds area but when she said it was the very same place it seemed almost a little too coincidental. Ampney Crucis is hardly a big place, nor is it the centre of the equine world and yet there we are, Kelly lives there and I’m moving there. I am delighted to have someone so fantastic so close. Not only will it mean fewer lonely evenings as I’m sure I can coerce her into going to the pub, but it will also give Daisy someone new to meet and run with; Kelly’s beautiful girl, Sky. New friends! How exciting.

I cannot say that 2016 was the best, nor the worst year of my life to this point. I have left it with the loveliest softest sweetest little spotty dog you ever could want. That makes me happy. My family are, as ever, supporting me in my new endeavour and I am excited to start the adventures that 2017 has to offer.

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With regard to resolutions, I did not make any as such. I am not going to join the gym, because my job will be physically demanding enough. I am not going to give up alcohol or chocolate because I will, without a shadow of a doubt, need it! I am not going to try and lose weight, be kinder, wear more red or change my hairstyle. I am not going to change. Instead, I make these promises, half promises and vague ideas to myself if nothing else:

+ I will make sure Daisy is healthy and happy, whatever may happen.
+ I will be the best groom that I can be for Laura in this next stage of her journey.
+ I will try to write more regularly.
+ I will not dismiss the idea of having something resembling a social life.
+ I will start baking again, probably sporadically but it’ll be something.
+ I will let go more easily and more often. In the last year I have learned how important letting go can be, and I have got better at it. I will continue to let go, whether that be of negativity, stress or my own personal worries.
+ I will offer more sunshine. At various points throughout my life, I have been called Little Miss Sunshine. My mum, grandparents, friends parents, employers, friends and friends of friends I’ve only met once, have all at some point or other said it either to my face or about me. I know that when I am in a good mood and smiling, I am capable of radiating happiness to those around me. I would like to regain that ability as I feel I have let it gather a little too much dust. I will try to be Little Miss Sunshine a bit more than I have been of late.
+ I will cuddle my puppy and pull her ears and kiss her nose and hold her paws at every opportunity I get. This is a solemn vow. You cannot love a dog too much, not ever. Their capacity for loving us knows no limits, so why should ours?!

That’ll do donkey. That’ll do.

Ducks In A Row

You cannot fail a test you are not taking

One of the things I find most difficult about society, and perhaps the world in general, is the expectation that we should all have a plan. I do not know if this is an actual thing or whether it is just something perceived to be there by those of us who feel watched. There just seems to be this overwhelming shadow hanging up there that says “what are you doing with your life?”

The reason I find this difficult is because, amongst other things, I cannot answer that question with any semblance of clarity or confidence. I end up feeling insecure and indignant that anyone should have the right to put me that position. Having that feeling that you cannot live up to the expectations of society can leave you feeling more than a little bleak. Like you’re failing a test you didn’t even know you were taking.

I am prone to overthinking things. On occasion my thoughts have been known to wander down paths I’d really rather not explore. So you can imagine how feeling like a failed member of the world could affect me and the hundreds and thousands and millions of other people in that same position.

Stop. Don’t panic. There is, somewhere, a light to be found. Sit down, put your feet up and take a sip of tea. I’ll help you find it. You see, I then get to thinking “why?” Perhaps it’s the last residual philosophical brain cells trying to cling onto their place in my head, but I find myself questioning this expectation. The general consensus “you should have an idea, a plan, a goal” is, as far as I’m concerned, a big pile horse poop. In reply I scream “WHY??” Go on, tell me why.

No one can, because there really is no answer to that question. There is no reason in this entire universe that I should have my shit together. None of us really have any real cause to.

“But what are you going to do with your life?”

Well, my dears, I think the best thing any of us can ever do with our lives is to simply live them. That means every day. I do not want to waste today or tomorrow by worrying about whether I am achieving something that will make a difference in ten years. Because over the next 3652 days(there will be 2 leap years in the next 10) I will make a lot of decisions and do a lot of things. I cannot know what impact they will have down the line so perhaps my time would be better spent living the days that are rather than fretting over those which are not yet.

Life is not a test.

There, I found your light. Here, grab it and hold it close. Let it soak in through your skin like the sunlight. It will nurture you from the inside and remind you in the toughest and most terrible of times that you are doing okay. You cannot fail because there is no grade boundary, no mark scheme. No test at all.

I am 26 years old. I have changed my mind countless times and am likely to do so countless more. I have worked a number of different jobs and experienced a variety of industries and environments. I have lost family, friends and pets. I have fallen in love and let it go. I have been rejected, disliked and bullied, accepted, praised, loved and respected. Three weeks ago I got a puppy of my own and I have learnt a new selfless unconditional all-encompassing love I had not experienced before. I do not know what I am doing with my life. I do not know what I am going to do with it either. Some days I am a cluttered clumsy mess of a woman. I must definitely do not have my shit together. But I am not failing.

I was once tricked into the mindset that it was very important to study hard and get a good job to earn good money and eat well and have a family and a happy life. I say tricked, but no one duped me. It was just the way my brain processed things at the time I was told to start making decisions about “my future”. I am glad, in a way, that I then went on to study philosophy as it reminded me to ask that all important “why?” It helped me realise that I did not want those things. At least, not for those reasons. I wanted to study because I love to learn new and interesting things. I want to work because I like to be doing but I wanted to find work I enjoyed whether or not it paid a lot.

And so although I question myself on a daily basis as to what I am doing with my life, I do not mind so much that I cannot answer. I find it harder when other people ask as that societal pressure rears its head, real or not. The expectations come crashing through the door uninvited and shake my confidence again. I hope that one day I have a hazy silhouette of an idea of what I’m doing but if I never do then I can at least say I never did in the first place.

I may never manage to get my ducks in a row, so to speak, but maybe my ducks are not meant to line up so neatly. Or maybe the puppy ran through and scattered them again…

And That’s A Wrap

It never gets any easier.

Driving away from people you care about is not an easy task and it doesn’t seem to matter how many times you do it; it always feels the same. Somehow it always manages to break my heart a little. I don’t know if it’s the thought that I might never see those people again, or simply the action of leaving people behind as I drive away, but something about it really gets me.

I’ve done it a few times now. When I finished my job at the college yard and I drove away after my last day ready to head to Ireland the following day, I felt that strange heartache as I accelerated up the road. Before that when I’d worked my final shift at Malvern St James and drove home, dropping my supervisor off at her house as I always used to, there it was; that weird pull that made me think about the fact I would probably never do that trip again.

Then I left a whole country to go home. I drove away from people I loved and it totally shattered me. That was definitely one of the hardest drives I’ve ever done, that trip from Kerry to my hotel before catching the ferry the next morning. It took some time to piece myself back together after that, to have the patience to rebuild the bits of me that had chipped away. But I got there.

And now I have done it again. Last night I left The Devils Horsemen. Having completed my notice period, the date finally came for me to pack my things into my little car (quite the squeeze I can tell you!) and head off to pastures new once more. It has not been easy to say goodbye to so many amazing people.

I do not like goodbye. It is a very final word and I think it is that finality which hurts me. Because I do not know for certain whether I will see those people again, and saying “goodbye” with such strength suggests I won’t. Which would be a genuine shame, as I have made some good friends and care a lot about them. It is always much harder than we initially think it will be to stay in touch with people, busy working lives give little time for the people who are not present.

I know for sure that I will miss my friends from the Devils. It is true that in that kind of living situation, you forge friendships out of convenience and necessity. Nevertheless, given time those friendships become something more real, something you will actually miss. I am a realistic kind of person. I do not know how successsful I will be in maintaining those friendships because my history at such endeavours shows me to be pretty rubbish at it. I shall try, however, as despite initially being friendships of convenience, I have come to appreciate each and every person that I met through the Devils. And after a year of living with them, working with them and drinking them, I should think they are worth it!

I will miss the horses too. Particularly the ones with which I had snuggles and fun rides and quiet moments on set. Epa, the ultimate cuddler, will be sorely missed of an evening. I used to have a lovely little cuddle every night on my way to my room when he was stabled there. Lovely darling of a horse despite his special moments. Benzel Bear and his gorgeous characterful face will leave a little hole in my heart. I have nothing but love for that horse. Something about him just makes me adore him. I could list and list the horses that I love, but I won’t. Instead I shall just remember the joy of riding some of them and the peace that came from being with them during those quieter moments. I am glad that I am coming away still with that understanding of why I love working with these animals.

This past year has been a total whirlwind of crazy, stressful, frustrating, wonderful, surreal, beautiful experiences. I have had the opportunity to ride as a double on film sets, perform in live shows and salute audiences as one of The Devils Horsemen (something I’d wanted to do since I first saw them perform). I have had low times, seen horses die, plotted the death of people out of utter frustration, and nearly packed my bags in the night. And I have had the highest of good times, enjoying the company of my friends and co-workers, riding some extremely special horses and being totally blown away by the totally unique and abnormal lifestyle I was immersed in.

I cannot say I regret a single day of it. Not one moment. My decision to leave came as a bit of a surprise to me, but I followed my instincts on it. I am the kind of person that needs to walk away from something before it goes sour, at the point at which I have those first feelings of “hum, I don’t know if I want to be here anymore.” If I don’t, I fall into a downward spiral of depression and resentment at the work I’m doing. I end up hating the job, the people and even the horses. I did not want to do that again, so I made the decision before I got to that point. My gut told me it was time to move on and find new opportunities, so that is exactly what I have done.

Those of you that know me will be aware of my considerable lack of emotional response sometimes. Suffice it to say, I was able to give everyone a hug (brief but heartfelt) and drive away without really feeling anything. It did strike me as strange to leave my room so empty, to have my car so full and to have everyone wishing me good luck as I got into my car. Maybe I lied earlier, maybe it does get easier. Perhaps I have driven away from enough people now that my soul just accepts it as an inevitable event. Who knows?!

For now, I am almost out of words. It only remains for me to send a quick message to my friends that I have just driven away from.

You are wonderful. Every single one of you. I thank you for you friendship and for your quirks and your individual selves. I hope you never stop being who you are. I will miss you, all of you. I am glad I got to know you, even a little bit, that I worked with you and drank with you and shared some of this completely insane place with you. I have gained from knowing each of you, whether or not you realise that, and I will take that forward with me. I will not forget you crazy bunch. I hope that you will not forget me too quickly either. I do not know whether I will see you again, but if I do I’ll bring the wine if you bring some gossip and a few beers. I love you guys.

I am delighted that for a year of my life I was well and truly a Devils Horseman (Hey!)
I have nothing further to add.

Megs out.