Win­ter life-savers

When the rain is driv­ing down and it’s dark at 4pm, you may won­der why you’re still com­pet­ing in the depths of win­ter. But th­ese stoic char­ac­ters of­fer a glim­mer of hope, says Cather­ine Austen

Horse & Hound - - Contents - H&H

The stoic char­ac­ters we would strug­gle with­out at win­ter shows

THE BURGER VAN MULTI-TASKER

JEAN runs Freez­ing Farm EC’s burger van on au­topi­lot. She can flip a fried egg, make a flat white and cut a piece of car­rot cake si­mul­ta­ne­ously while cal­cu­lat­ing your change. This does mean that she al­ways gives you onions, de­spite you shout­ing NO ONIONS in an­swer to her ques­tion ev­ery time. But the tra­di­tional onion scrape-off is a Freez­ing Farm tra­di­tion and well worth it. Jean’s por­tions of cheesy chips are mas­sive, she’ll do the egg in your break­fast bap as runny or hard as you like, the sausages ac­tu­ally con­tain meat and the brown­ies are amaz­ing. She’s the only per­son at Freez­ing Farm wear­ing a T-shirt in Jan­uary; it’s pretty hot in that van.

THE SHOWJUMP­ING WARM-UP QUEEN

IN the sev­enth cir­cle of hell, oth­er­wise known as an in­door showjump­ing warm-up, Lisa is queen. She has been a showjump­ing groom for 15 years, and no one is faster with a flat cup. She can put a fence up or down in a frac­tion of a sec­ond; any­one fum­bling in a pan­icky way and drop­ping the cup earns a cold, con­de­scend­ing stare. No one dares cut in front of her rider into the prac­tice fence; she’ll prob­a­bly deck their groom. She’s got four horses here — the three her rider isn’t cur­rently sit­ting on are stand­ing pa­tiently in the cor­ner be­ing held by Lisa’s five-year-old daugh­ter. They won’t put a foot out of line — Lisa has eyes in the back of her head and doesn’t brook bad be­hav­iour.

THE SUP­PORT­IVE HUS­BAND

NEIL is a nice man. He has ab­so­lutely no in­ter­est in horses, but is kind enough to be­lieve that hus­bands and wives should sup­port each other in their hob­bies. Hence he spends most week­ends at Freez­ing Farm EC in the win­ter, wait­ing five hours for his wife Jenny to jump in the Bri­tish Novice. He reads The Tele­graph from cover to cover, re­fold­ing it and put­ting it down to hold Jenny’s horse while she walks the course, and pa­tiently re­verses all her friends’ trail­ers for them. He lis­tens to Jenny re­liv­ing ev­ery yard of her two rounds sev­eral times on the way home, then un­packs her kit and cleans her tack while Jenny fusses over Tiger, telling him what a good boy he was only to have three down. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be time th­ese days for Neil’s own hobby, cy­cling — the road bike is buried some­where in the garage be­neath a pile of num­nahs.

THE COL­LECT­ING RING SAINT

MAR­ION should, ac­tu­ally, get a dame­hood in the New Year’s Hon­ours List. She man­ages to act as Freez­ing Farm EC’s col­lect­ing ring stew­ard with­out ever re­ceiv­ing death threats or in­deed mur­der­ing any­one her­self. She some­how ac­com­mo­dates the lo­cal dealer, who has 10 on the lorry, all jump­ing new­com­ers, with one set of tack be­tween them, yet makes sure poor ner­vous Jenny Flut­ter doesn’t con­tin­u­ally miss her turn, shoved out and cut up by pushier riders. Forty Marl­boro Gold a day re­ally isn’t that much, con­sid­er­ing — lo­cal “big-time” riders of­ten bring her back du­tyfree, which isn’t re­ally a bribe, more of a to­ken of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

‘No one dares cut in front of her rider into the prac­tice fence; she’ll prob­a­bly deck their groom’

THE SOFT TOUCH

THE thing about Daisy is that she’s a soft touch — and ev­ery­one knows it. She’s never late to the yard to do her horse; she’d hate the thought of him hav­ing to wait while other horses are be­ing fed, or not hav­ing ex­actly the right rugs on for each change of tem­per­a­ture. So ev­ery­one else at her livery yard is al­ways tex­ting her, say­ing, “Stuck at work — could you just… feed Molly/get Foxy in/hold Jerry for the vet?” Daisy sighs and al­ways texts back, “Of course”. Out she trudges into the dark, rainy night to catch Foxy. It flashes across her mind that Foxy’s owner might be set­tling down in front of the telly, know­ing per­fectly well that Daisy will never say no be­cause she’d hate the thought that Foxy might have to spend the night out, but feels guilty and dis­misses it.

The vet is an hour late, so Daisy thinks that she may as well sweep the whole yard, empty the bins and get to­mor­row morn­ing’s feeds ready while she waits.

THE FROZEN MOTHER

WHY, won­ders Alice, did she let In­dia be­come so keen on dres­sage? If only she had been quicker to get rid of that hor­rid lit­tle 12.2hh that kept stop­ping and dump­ing her. Then In­dia would have gone hunt­ing with the Old Blankshire with all her Pony Club mates ev­ery Satur­day, and Alice could have driven round in a cosy car with her fel­low non-rid­ing mums, eat­ing fruit­cake and hav­ing the odd swig of port. But no. She’s at Freez­ing Farm EC yet again, watch­ing In­dia warm up her pony for the 60-starter pre­lim 18. It’s then a three-hour wait for the novice 21. Through bit­ter, numb­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Alice has grad­u­ally ac­cu­mu­lated a po­lar wardrobe of which Ran­ulph Fi­ennes would be proud — only the tip of her nose is ex­posed. But if In­dia does show any signs of tal­ent with this new, eye-wa­ter­ingly ex­pen­sive Ger­man dres­sage pony, Alice is mak­ing damn sure they get to go on the Sun­shine Tour, the only-slightly-cloudy Tour and any wretched Tour that isn’t in Eng­land in Jan­uary.

Onions? Yes, no, maybe? No mat­ter — your or­der may be un­pre­dictable, but the burger van multi-tasker is a show stal­wart, pro­vid­ing warmth and a ‘healthy’ dose of chips as needed

mustn’t grum­ble — the sup­port­ive hus­band is happy to pro­vide back-up and pe­ruse the pa­per while his other half pur­sues her com­pet­i­tive dreams

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