Monday, 4 September 2017

Coming back to life..

I'm just SO going to walk soon, I'm really on the brink of it!
I've perfected just about every form of chair dancing this weekend & taken it to the MAX!
Yesterday it felt strong, today was going to be THE day - but now it feels over worked and painful.
Funny as well as fortunate that we can block out the joys of normal life and accept a new state quite readily, or is that just me? Or is it just because it's temporary?
So I've grown accustomed to being in valid - yes, that's what we call it!
I only realised that when I was disgusted at the Spanish word 'Menosvalido' translating to less valid which isn't quite as bad as our simply not valid at all! 

The perks (no washing up, no housework, no poo picking etc etc) are short lived. Sitting around watching films, going on facebook, smoking, it becomes an acceptable way of life, you find some happiness, some relief as pain subsides..
Then boredom boredom boredom
..but thankfully in my case the realisation that I will walk again, I will ride again & I will dance!

Oh to ride my horse! Or simply to groom him, be with him, watch him working nicely on the long reins..
As I said before its been difficult to spend any time with Rayo in the last 3 months, but the other day we had a fabulous morning.. 

A trimming session for Rayo developed into a lovely horsey event with our Spanish trimmer Dani doing the work which was overseen by Rachel our local lady with the knowledge and passion for healthy hooves.. Rayo has underun back feet and contracted fronts (with thrush).. These problems had been on the mend prior to our departure in May, but of course after three months of nothing going on, his feet have grown, the angle is still showing improvement on his hinds, but his front frogs have closed up again with a thrush infection..
With Rayo being worked on and separated from the others I could actually spend some time close up and enjoyed watching the bustle of stooped bodies discussing and working away on each foot.
So what has struck me is that with this forced rest Rayo has had, it's kind of like I have a blank canvas to work with & to work up to our departure in April..
Sitting around here, I've had time to reflect on mine and Rayo's partnership, not that it's ever been a bad one, but there is always more to learn..
So, I want to bring him back into work in a more conscious manner, rather than just hopping on and building up through time in the saddle..I've been reading loads & want to combine some things that have struck a chord with me.
I'm planning a more holistic approach, I can start now or very soon, just spending time sitting near him and building on our connection, trying to feel a oneness with him.. 

Meantime, we've got his feet going in the right direction, his frogs are opening up now quite quickly as the thrush clears.
His back is like newborn, I'm keen to build his muscles before I get on, whilst taking a further step towards bringing his head down, not just in walk and trot as I've managed so far, but to keep that roundness through canter on both reins..
When he came to me, Rayo didn't know how to walk, he was a perfect prancer for the Spanish fiesta's, head high, back concave, his canter was impossible to sit to.. Come to think of it he only felt right at full gallop, perhaps that's why he loves it so (that point has only just struck me!) being the only time he isn't being compromised. Interesting.
Anyway so he's come a long way already since then, and now I have the opportunity to take it further.
I'd like to go bitless, something that seems - and has proven to be - impossible up until now.
I'm really not convinced this is possible, but I'm going to work a bit differently with him, cool my bottom, and see where we get to. 

So after the initial togetherness thing, I'm going to develop a place where Rayo can feel relaxed, I mean within, a place that I can help him find any time.
I want us to have a connection like an Avatar with his horse or bird. How apt that I've had a bird connection too!
So phase one will be easy, it's hard to describe the pure pleasure one has by just sitting, watching and being with your horse.

Meanwhile Rayo is the fattest I've ever known him, I think he's a bit bored too, as he is the one to lead the galloping frolics they enjoy some evenings when the heat drops..and last night he cheekily zapped back out of the gate when they were brought in at supper time!

Good job we postponed the wedding, the pair of us are a comedy sketch, him with his stick & me on my crutches, I do often feel the need to point out to people that we are actually both pretty good riders!

It's almond time now so I have a productive use at last! Mark knocks them off the tree and I take the husks off..hopefully the price is good this year.
The nuts are humungus! All down to horse manure - a generous pile under each tree..

Up until now, Mark still beats me in our 1 crutch across the kitchen floor para-olympics, but I am gaining..

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Bird Whispering

Well I really feel there's not alot to entertain you with.. I'm obviously not doing an awful lot!
However, word has spread amongst the local bird population and I have had fledglings lining up at my bedroom door!
Literally, the other night there was one waiting for me and then in the morning, another one was there! These two were house martin or perhaps swallow babies, already feathered but only able to flutter downwards (hence ending up at my bedroom door as its downstairs).
We put them back into their nest and left them hopefully to it, whilst keeping a close eye on the movements of our 3 cats..
Through my limited experience I could tell they weren't ready to fly properly but the parents clearly didn't agree and came and went calling and flying away encouraging their babies to follow..
After finding them several times on the floor again, I put them into our birdcage and hung it close to the nest with the babies inside and the door open, but sadly later on we found one dead and the other almost hanging from it's feet clamped on to the cage doorway..
Up until this point I had been careful not to take the babies directly under my wing knowing that I was still on the rebound from my last affair, reminding myself that the babies were better off with bird parents, but at this point I decided it was time for auntie Niki, the bird whisperer, to step in.
I righteously brought the remaining baby in and revived it with a very diluted saline solution using a soaked cotton bud and dragging it around the sides of its beak.. It remained lying down in a flopped position all afternoon but gradually regained strength by evening when I began to almost force feed it, opening its mouth gently and putting a dead fly down its throat.
It's always a surprise when you find your patient still alive in the morning and throughout the next day it began feeding voluntarily, I could hardly keep up with it's needs, trying to kill flies has varying results, clapping your hands just above them can work every time, but sometimes it doesn't work any time and I seemed to be getting worse at it rather than better!
The next day, Mark pointed out that the parents were still flying in and out of the back room looking for baby, so I decided to set up the cage with its door shut in the back room on a pully system so that I could continue to feed it.
The family reunion was a lovely sight and to my amazement after a couple of hours from my hidden view point I saw the parents feeding baby through the bars of the cage!
Happy to be able to give up my haphazard fly hunting occupation I have since left them to it and will open the cage door when baby is ready to take to the wing!

Remember I'm doing all this stealth work on crutches, perhaps amusing to imagine me watching from various hide outs standing on one leg until I have to break cover and go to sit down.
Regarding my leg, which I'm thoroughly bored with dragging around, I have had two panicked hospital trips both caused by unqualified but well meaning medical staff, both verbally horrified by the state of the bones in my leg! One being the local doctor and the other the X-ray man.
PLEASE! I really am better off not knowing! Though I did actually catch a glimpse of the X-ray myself and it does look a bit messy.
I have been reassured by the specialists that it is doing really well, they say I can put weight on it now and almost told me off for not having done so already!
I am trying, its the mind that gets in the way.. A good trick is to shorten the crutches, making ground contact unavoidable and weight bearing more likely.
Marks foot too is still painful and swollen, he can walk with a limp, but now and again he makes a wrong move and sets it back. Of course he is having to do all the chores and be at my beck and call (possibly his worst nightmare!), but he is doing a splendid job.
People have said, if you two can get through this you can get through anything - well so far, so good!

The horses, by the way, are enjoying a summer break, fat and lazy, all day spent in the stable out of the sun, free range for whatever grass they can find in the evenings & in their paddock over night.
I miss them, you just have to give them up when you have a bad injury, its not wise to go in their midst on crutches, not because they are bad horses or anything, but they bicker sometimes, or just move each other around and one just can't move quick enough on one leg..

Right, I'm off to try and walk again...

The photos show the horses in the stable staying out of the Sun.. 

And a rather artistic photo of baby bird with mother bird swooping down to encourage baby to fly.. Today, baby flew away! 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

What reason?

Its a shambles up there! I once nearly wrote a book, maybe I'll finish it one day (don't nick my story anyone) but those fate operators are just as messed up as we are...

We're riding to England! we're not riding to England, I'm really fit! I break a leg, I saved a bird! I didn't save a bird.
I gave it 3 weeks of life - it flew! It got killed by the cat.

Small consolation (mainly for Mark) that the morning after HE left the door open allowing the cat to get in, the front door had been pushed in by the dogs before either of us got up, meaning that the cat would have got birdy the next day anyway.
She was in a bird cage for her protection, but the cat must have jumped up on to it, breaking the loop which hung off the ceiling, bringing it all crashing down and breaking the base off..
Poor birdy was nowhere to be seen, we never found her or her feathers..I hear sparrows outside and still go out to whistle for her...
It is possible that she got away somehow and is out there flying with her friends between the trees...ojala!

A bit more about birdy before I close that chapter..
She turned very quickly from that ugly bald thing into a beautiful soft feathered friend, she gave me so much joy! Her eyes opening, feathers growing, her first preening, perching and then her first flight, all within a little more than two weeks!
When I whistled, she chirped back, she learned to swing, jump and fly from perch to perch with amazing agility! Two or three times a day, we closed the door, pulled the curtains and turned the lights on so that she could fly safely about the house, often returning to land on my nose, not surprisingly the most perch like feature on my face (& possibly in the room!).
She was nearly ready to go free, not quite feeding herself and not yet able to fly far without losing altitude.
Just a few more days would have been enough... So sad.

So back to the 2000 mile aisle, as Mark said, we did 200 of them..
The next 1800 we plan to do next year!!
We've postponed the wedding, we're keeping Lorna and we're going to do it all next year!!!
None of our purchases and preparations will be wasted! We can go back to that wonderful place called freedom! The open road! The adventure! Every day new and different! Just us and the horses.

Just have to wait out summer and winter...
..and learn to walk again..
..and get back on the horse..
..and forgive Mark for birdy..

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The 200 mile aisle

  "Looks like a black cat done crossed our trail....."

  Everyone's heard of cold feet, but broken feet for both bride and groom, if I was a superstitious man i might think it wise to stay a bachelor... I mean, bad luck comes in threes, whats next ...? But luckily I'm a fairly rational man, and I will trust in my guardian angel, whose obviously been on a months holiday, to protect me against the trials and tribulations to come ...

  So that was the 200mileaisle and full of ups and downs it certainly was. We didn't even make it out of andalucia, we were about 20kms south of the border, just outside the lovely town of Galera when we hit the end of the road. The earlier rain had been a rare treat, but it was this combined with the grey clay that led to Rayo losing his footing, and my fiance's leg being sandwiched between a rock and 400kilos of falling horse.

   A second before I'm happy as Larry, just left Antonios bar musica el puente, where they do the best fish and chips this side of the costa del sol and a great cold beer, atop my nag with a couple of kms easy riding to go till camp, then I see Rayo scrabbling for his feet for a couple of seconds and then go thumping down on my loved ones leg, Nikki immediately shouted "I'VE BROKEN MY LEG" as Rayo was getting back to his feet. I'm straight off Tio and hobbling over to her hoping, praying, that somehow this is gonna be ok, that the ground softs, that nikki falls well, that we would somehow get away with it, that this is not in the script, that the power of love was too strong to let anything bad happen, that thats not fair, and above all and overriding all of these.... that my fiance was wrong. It wasn't broken, a little bruised maybe. I knew she knew, she knows her body almost as well as I do, so when I got to her and held her and looked her in the eye I knew it was over ..

   Still its an improvement on the last time I saw nikki fall off a horse which was 4 years ago and again I was behind her when she dived off the side of Rayo at full pelt straight into a concrete gutter and didn't move. Again I was straight off Tio and ran over to nikkis crumpled body and this time there were no shouts. At best she was out cold, at worst ..? after 30 seconds she made a noise (errrrrrrrrrrh) and rolled her eyes, looked frighteningly absent! But after another couple of mins she seemed to be aware, and finally understood what had happened to her at the end of the 40 minute journey to the medical centre ..Apart from concussion, a broken rib was the damage, and a vision in my mind that will never leave me, much like the one above, and which makes me wince every time it rears its ugly head.
  So where was I? In the middle of nowhere with a broken fiance, 3 horses, and a busted foot, don't panic, just ring an ambulance, explain where we are (to at least 3 different departments)in a foreign language, feed nikki brandy,          commandeer all passing campasinos para ayuder, wait, dont panic, keep nikki talking and drinking brandy, more phone calls, wait, don't panic, wait.. Hallellujah here it comes and now the comedy sketch can begin, its such a blur I can't remember if there were 4 or 5 but i'm sure 2 of them where on there first day, at least thats how it seemed. Nikki managed to tell them what they needed to do and up and into the ambulance she went, a quick kiss goodbye and she was gone. There I was with 3 horses, a busted foot, and a hugely heavy heart, and no brandy.
  Time to saddle up and head south, I got on Tio painfully with Lorna on a line and Rayo following which didn't work too well as he just wanted to eat, so off again with Rayo tethered to Lorna's pack and that worked fine. Had a bit of good luck in finding a wild bit of land just out of town with plenty of grass. The horses had been great throughout the whole drama and continued in that vain whilst I untacked them all slowly. Had enough daylight to set up the fence, the tent and get water..At this point the body was good and tired, but the mind, that was a different thing..Luckily I had a good book and lay in bed reading till the eyelids got so heavy that sleep was inevitable.. Then woke up early to a deflated bed, physically and mentally, and endured that first moment of waking after a disaster when your mind has to convince you that yes that did happen..

   Spent the morning staying busy waiting for help to arrive from home, which it did in the early afternoon in the guise of Debbie and Matteus. The lorry was coming to take the nags home 6ish so nothing for it but to retire to bar el puente for a cold one and tell Antonio the news. He was suitably aghast and filled my hip flask gratis. Then back with the lorry to load the horses which thankfully passed without incident until the driver wanted the money. I had next to none and assured him he would be paid at the other end. Next entailed your standard andalucian, hot men, fiery exchange of words which if you saw in England you'd expect the fists to be flying at any moment, but not here. We agreed to disagree, he left with the horses and I kept my cash due to the intervention of a bit of female charm a la Debbie.

  So now an hour in a car heading south to Baza hospital to see my bionic fiance .....................................................

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Back home but not where the heart is...

It hadn't rained atall on Mark and the horses, the fish tank didn't exist and the nurse wasn't that beautiful either.
But everything else, sadly, was real.
Our journey was over, for now at least...After feeling so great, after being so free!
My initial fears having been set to rest, things were going soo well. Never had I thought this would happen!
It was a tiny accident with a few unlucky factors that broke my leg! Shit Shit Shit.
The scene goes over and over in my head and I flinch and have to slap something.
Even as I'd sat waiting for the ambulance, I'd worked out how long until the wedding and how long a broken leg would take to heal.
I had already figured out that we could still get the horses to England and have our planned honeymoon return, but how to let go of our dream ride there?  

For now, for me, pain, and the hope of it getting less takes over my future and its all that matters, in some ways that makes it easier for me, than for Mark. 

Returning home was solemn, seeing all our wall lists bought tears, Mark tore them down.
Rayo, who I'd been wanting to see and touch all week hardly even cocked an ear when I went to the gate!
Jessy whined and howled as she does, telling us off for leaving, and she did uncharacteristically lick my face, but she too was already assured of her food and security without us.

So weird, all change, reset.

The next morning my spirits were lifted and life was taken over by the arrival of my daughter Poppy and sister Rachel, they cleaned, cooked,  shopped, and cuddled me.
These few days were fraught with agonising pain, but we talked alot and laughed loads - Im so glad they came!

Huge void.

Days punctuated only with pill popping and visits to the loo, every other day a momentous outing to get my bandages re done, such an alter existence...I have to get on, so I fill all my time working out ideas, costs and possibilities for plan B.
Life on the trail was cheap, horses eating grass, us eating little, all living alot.
Life now, expensive, horses eating hay,
us eating alot more, alive but not really living.

Next trip to Cadiar for my bandaging brought me a new raison d'etre.
Hannah, my neighbour and chaffuer spotted a fledgling on the road outside the bar and the barman went for a dustpan and brush to clear it away..
I looked down at it, bald, ugly and awkwardly walking on all fours on the tarmac, its kind of embarrassing to do around here, and I never thought it possible to hand raise a new chick, but it looked strong, quite determined in its vigour and I'm so bored, all I can do is sit.
I hopped over, scooped it up and wrapped it with tissue paper.

I googled it, then tried it, soaked the cat biscuits, tapped its beak with the morsel on tweezers...It took a while but soon began to eat greedily!

In my inner search for fate's reason as to why I broke my leg, I muse the idea of my broken leg = a birds life.. Given the choice in advance I'd say F*** you birdy! But that aside, I like to believe that all lives on this planet are equal. 

How apt that the bird will fly when I can walk..

Mark is supposed to be publishing before me, but he hasn't managed to put the words together yet..

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Our left feet

I knew it was broken because of the waggle, I said so, and as i clutched my leg I heard it click (Ew) and hoped I'd popped the bone back..
Rayo had a muddy side, but he was fine and all three horses just stood still for the first half an hour.
Mark rang an ambulance, so difficult for him to explain in Spanish what had happened and where we were..
Meanwhile, I just held my leg together, drank brandy from the hip flask and smoked a fag. Feeling myself hyper-ventilating, calming myself, panicking, calming, becoming more and more desperate every minute for help to arrive, it was bearable if I held it still, but my body was aching and giving up the position I was forced to stay in. I wrapped a lunge rein in a figure of eight around leg and foot and held my toes up towards me.
I could only slightly shift my weight from one buttock to the other..
Mark was frantic, he kept having to call different numbers and explain things again and again and he hates phones. The horses stood.
The ambulance arrived after about 45 minutes and naturally I expected the team to just take over the scene with calm efficiency..
Well, they were all very nice but couldn't get the stretcher to click together underneath me, they tried to maneuver my boot off while Mark jumped in to cut the laces! Me crying out ' LA PIERNA - LA PIE !!! '
They had a leg stabiliser but with no foot bit, so it waggled again with every jolt of mounting the ambulance.. 'OW! OOW!
Inside I received the (begged for) pain killer and the hour long journey to hospital began, the nurse holding a folded blanket around my foot in an attempt to stop it rocking with the bumps on the track.
Mark had leaned in to kiss me as we left and was then faced with 3 horses, alone with a walking stick in the middle of nowhere..
On arrival at hospital, looking back now it was comical!
A young (rather handsome and very smiley) man came out with the trolley to transfer my stretcher from the ambulance..
I rolled out of the back doors into thin air! he looked down to check linkeage with my under carriage, then up at me with an uncertain but hopeful look..I looked down, then up at him, with an uncertain but hopeful look.. 
Perhaps it was his first time?
He pulled and I moved, thankfully he got it right.
He breathed out, and so did I.
Corridor, ceilings, lights, doors, and into a room.
Clothes cut off, electrode things slapped on everywhere! questions asked and answered.
A nurse came in with a massive fibre glass L shaped leg thing - Yes!!
But the doctor said 'not that one, where's the softer pink one?'
'I threw it away yesterday',
'It was covered with blood',
'Well, nevermind, retrieve it if you can and line it with something'.
She returned with it, truly a much better fit for me and more comfy looking - hey ho.. I guess they thought I couldn't understand!!
Electrodes off, drips on, X-ray's, nods, and away to my hospital bed (with a help button) to reflect on my own for the night.
My phone had been packed in my belongings bag, along with chopped up boots, chaps, leggins and knickers!
Clearly I was fucked. No riding for weeks or months.
There seemed to be a fish tank somewhere in the room, or was it raining? All night I felt for Mark and the horses, out there in the pouring rain..
I didn't sleep,  but of course I was kind of only semi-conscious.

Early morning off to surgery, down there in the green room I was greeted by the most beautiful nurse ever (more beautiful than Gerda, I thought).
With a soft smile, her face fresh as a childs, her pony tail to her bum, I almost told her, thinking that would be ok..
She asked if family knew I was here in surgery, then rang Mark to tell him. She glided away, or I glided away..
I heard the sound of serious mechanics going on behind the green screen, quite a struggle infact, like trying to line up and fix a car wishbone arm. With power tools.
By contrast, I had strange amphibian dreams and awoke thinking I had a sort of Dr who type mutation, but I was elated and immediately felt right in the left leg.
I had thick bandaging from my mid thigh to toes..with a pin from my knee to my ankle, they didn't do a plaster cast. (I had mixed feelings re that, as it felt so vulnerable, but now Im glad I can work at moving the joints).
Mark arrived that evening with our neighbour Mathius, and friend Debbie.
Nice to see them all, but still a bit noddy, I learnt that the horses had been transported home safely and Mark would stay with me.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Loving it

On the edge of Castillar, next to the river, shade amoungst the poplars, dense green grass, we found paradise 5.
The horses were a little over exuberant when we unleashed them in the almost finished fenced area, naughty Tio spotting a bit I hadn't closed off launched himself up a terrace, fast followed by Rayo, both bucking and squeeling!  Buggers, as if they didn't have enough grass and space in the area I was making them, no, they preferred small fresh almond trees on the terrace above!  Horrors! Managed to catch and bring them back down quickly, but not before they'd had a succulent branch or two.

Mmm it was Sunday, this was a nice spot, two days riding, one days rest, seems ok, then we can shop in Castillar tomorrow.
Clearly we weren't pushing the horses!
These glampsites often lure us into relaxation... But with Mark still 'cojo'(lame)...& we're on holiday!

After climbing the short hill up to town for the imperative evenings litro, I came happily back down to camp, wearing shorts and my utility belt, I was feeling fit and Lara Croftish. My back had held up and I had passed through into strong mode. (Humour me!)

The next day we went back up to town to do some shopping, Mark painfully slow, limping along with his stick.. I teased him!
Then in the afternoon we took the horses over the other side of the track for more variety pickings..we then took them to the river to drink and have a splash..
Baked beans supper and we prepared things ready to break camp first thing.
Come morning the clockwork preparations we're all undertaken in the shade which made things much more pleasant.
We headed up through Castillar stopping for a coffee and refilling water containers from the fuente.
Admirers, when questioning our plans, faces agog.. Francia!? Inglaterra!!!???
Having done so much riding in the full heat of day, it was refreshing that it rained, we donned our rain cape coats which did a great job keeping us and most of our two horses reasonably dry and comfortable.
Lorna's pack was wateroroof too,  though we soon realised that our sleeping bags tied either side of the top bag, were drenched!
Still I thought, (normally being a fair weather only girl) this is OK, I can do this.
Again for a while we followed a narrow, little used tarmac road, the going was easy, Rayo had a full set of boots on as I wanted to give his soles a rest, the other two barefoot.
We found some nice grassy stops en route and enjoyed seeing the various cave houses, common to areas in Spain with the sandstone rock landscape, all individually designed, intriguing us as we passed by...
On arrival at Galera on route to Huesca, we stopped in a really friendly bar for lunch.. Fish and chips!! Loverly!
We chatted a while with the barman who loved horses and then had to move the horses aside for a customer who was too scared to even drive his car past them!!
Heading on towards Huesca, we had a taj of road work then over the motorway, thankfully a bridge.
Turned left on to a track between farm land with grassy banks to snack on, my mouth almost waters at the sight of it!
We let them graze here and there whilst vaguely looking for a suitable night spot, I hopped off to fill some water at an asequia waterfall and thats the last time Ive walked since.
A little further on there was a warning that tragically didn't change fate, Rayo slipped on a ramp but just about kept his footing..
I trust him totally on the most precarious terrain.
Minutes later I instinctively guided him to the side of the track that was less stoney, there was a slight camber, there was on old stone wall to our left.. In a second where hooves desperately grappled for purchase Rayo slapped down on to his side,  I felt my lower left leg waggle oddly, Rayo straight up on to his feet, me screaming on the ground holding foot to leg..

This isn't the end of our story.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mission just about possible

Sometimes it feels like I'm Indiana Jones, on a mission that is a constant search. Picking up clues wherever you can find them and all against the clock.
I guess that feeling will pass as we realise survival regularly on the road.
We have been in paradise again for the last few days, but let's go back a bit first.
After Ferreira we rode to Calahonda,  on our map it's called Cacalahonda which is more apt.
We weren't planning to stay there but as we passed through, we came upon a tethered stallion, very handsome, so I don't blame her wanting to show off, but when she started strutting her stuff, Mark lost hold on her lead rope, (it happens).
The huge ungainly pack on her back didn't stop her doing a perfect extended trot with suspended elevation, tail pointing straight up.
This performance was executed in a large field of wheat ready for cropping.
The worst happened, the pack began listing and with every stride fell further to one side, things were flying out in all directions, then she galloped full pelt! By now Tio was trying to join in and Mark was nearly unseated.
I was off by this point and making calming woah noises which I'm sure couldn't be heard, but I knew she would  stop, she has sense and she isn't one to panic. The pack was under her belly as she came to a halt.
I undid the girth and with my handy penknife I cut the belly strap from which the whole lot was hanging.
Amazingly nobody else seemed to have noticed the fiasco, even though the field was a big open area like a stage for all to see!
We picked up some of the debris and put her all back together again.
This might not have happened if the girth was tighter, which we will have to do..
Being on evening alert already, we had spotted a couple of possible camping areas, so we went back to have a look. We spoke to some old boys about a grassy area we had noticed and they said it would probably be ok but told me where to find and ask the owner, he wasn't home, but a neighbour too told me it would be fine, so we unpacked and settled in.
Just as we were relaxing and darkness was setting in, a voice out of nowhere with a big dog alongside came marching into camp, this man wasn't very agreeable and charged us 50e for the night! 
He had us over a barrell, we had to pay.
Jeez, we suggested a bed, shower and breakfast ought to be included in that price, but he said he'd call the guardia, so hey ho, lesson​ learnt.
Next day we  packed and set off fairly promptly, we had to search the field for the rest of our belongings on the way and we found everything bar the benzl benzoate (for Tio's sweetitch). 
So on we went towards Charches,  crossing a huge windy plain full of windmills and the largest thermo solar park in Europe.. It was incredibly windy but that effectively cooled the sun.
Soon we came upon our third horsey hazzard!
We passed a farm with a tethered donkey and a loose horse. Well, any horse prefers horse company and the mare (thankfully) followed us the whole 10 kilometres to town.
You might think we could have returned her and tied her up but a) You expect her to turn for home herself at a certain point, and b) Having obviously passed this certain point its a long way back,  and c) She had no halter,  and d) We have 3 horses already between us and Mark cant walk.
In Chartres we caused a stir, everyone was lovely bar the owner of the mare who gave us hell.
We had a couple of beers, chatted to the locals and were given directions on route for a place where we could stay the night.
Cortijo la fragua was 5k up the mountain track and provided us with a fenced in grassy garden with picnic tables and chairs, water points and a beautiful big covered terrace to camp in - not to mention a massive pool with a natural shower beside it!
We decided it would take more than one night for the horses to clean up the area, so settled in to paradise number 3.
Onward a few days later, us cleaner, the horses fatter, all refreshed.
A long hard days ride, strike that.
Arriving on the edge of Baza at dusk, no sign of grass or water.
We have no food either and its Sunday.
AND Mark had no fags!!!!
You can imagine how pleasant things were.
We passed a shepherd with his goat herd and I thought to ask him something, didn't, regretted it, then got a second chance.
I spotted a massive pile of new forage up a side road, asked around and was directed to the returning shepherd and said goats.
He was our saviour, sold us forage,  gave us water and we set up camp on a (nasty) bit of scrubland nearby.
Settled the horses and made it to a bar restaurant for dinner (and fags!).
In the morning we made for a quick departure but it still got really hot before we were ready, I had a minor breakdown saying I couldn't  go on, but after smoking a fag myself I felt much better, sorry family and friends, I have finally blown it. A holiday perk, just until the wedding, night, honeymoon, return trip...until Im home & thats it.
Cheerfully riding on and puffing away we had to do the first part of this leg through town. Rayo the brave heading the convoy, high viz's on.
We had an important shopping list to accomplish and not alot of time, this was when I had the Indiana Jones feeling, bear in mind Mark still can't walk, so I have to find and bring everything (This includes water for horses & last nights hay, which I put on Rayo's back).
Finding the right shops in a new town knowing legless Mark is minding 3 horses on a street corner is stressy.
Mission accomplished, we're on our way again.
Mark promises a lake, grass, a bar and hot springs at our next stop and though it was a long ride, mostly tarmac, he was spot on,  here we rested at paradise 4.
After making a huge electric fence paddock we took the horses down to the lake where they wallowed like hippos..
I got on Rayo bareback and he strode into the water and when the ground ran out he began to swim!!  Something I've always wanted to do,  it was beautiful, he seemed to take huge strides lunging upwards and forwards, rising and sinking into the water.. Another special moment with my horse, Ok, you can walk a dog etc,  but when you're on a horse and doing something really together,  sharing the same experience, its wonderful, like when we're galloping full speed.
I know Rayo has been in the sea before and it was like, he showed me, and he gave me the joy.
We had a lovely few days, basking in shade, eating in the restaurant & drinking G & T. (that bit was with Mark by the way!).
Well, that was a long'un! I wanted to catch us up to the present so I can write more 'in the moment'.
I also want to put more than two photos but it doesn't seem possible on here, so I'll be sending extras to go on our facebook page.
Ciao fa now..

Technical failure.

Hello folks, I'm most upset and annoyed that my last epic blog has been in the state of 'publishing' for nearly a week now! 
There are more updates lined up and Im waiting to send them each in turn.
Our trip certainly has had some thrills and spills, more than yet you know, but stay with us..
Coming soon...

Monday, 29 May 2017

Living it

The horses are beginning to accept this life, they know to eat when they can - and drink when given. Oh yes and you can lead a horse to water and... Well, sometimes!
Rayo has accepted the route ahead rather than wanting to turn around, they are all keeping weight on and muscling up.
Leaving paradise 4 wasn't easy especially because Mark dropped a scoot boot and we had to go back for it!
Still there seemed plenty of time to arrive in Benamaural to watch football.
Yes, the F.A.cup final cannot be missed.
It was clear that Marks last few days route planning and timing had more to do with the match than anything else!
We arrived at a bar on the edge of town in plenty of time, it was about 4pm..Mark immediately​ with his mobile on the wifi, swearing away!
There was a children's party there so the horses got loads of attention.
After a beer I decided I'd go for a walk about to sus out a night spot,  footy would end at 8.30 leaving us little time to set up camp etc, so off I went in the direction of the riverbed..A 20 minute amble found a couple of good possibilities so I headed back to the bar.
Mark was head down in the FA cup final, as usual commenting and directing the match in his loud northern accent he only uses for football - wierd.
Meanwhile the horses were eating tree bark and the rustic fencing they were tied to..
Thankfully Arsenal were winning and when the other team went down to 10 men,  Mark conceded to give up the poor quality viewing and we left to set up camp.
Very careful now not to take the slightest risk of grazing used land,  we settled for 3 small terraces near to the river that were obviously neglected.
I tethered Rayo and Lorna and made Tio a small paddock, collected water enough for them to have their fill and by then Mark had the tent up and the dinner cooking!
We are becoming a well oiled machine in these respects.
We tend to arrange the tack and supplies into a semi-circle around the tent giving us a sort of living area and keeping things tidy, and on occasions that we both leave camp, or at night, we cover the semi-circle with our horse rugs.
Dinner was lush, camping food is always yummy, even if basic, probably because we're always starving!
We had a good nights sleep as this night the bed I'd say was airbubble level.
(Though our last camp was heavenly,  the bed was going downhill sideways - in Marks favour i.e. he likes it when Im all over him in the morning)
The one night stops are hard work, rush to set up. Eat. Sleep. Rush to get up. Pack up. Tack up,  sometimes without breakfast or coffee and we haven't managed it yet in less than 3 hours.
Lorna has come to accept her loading these days very well, considering her inexperience, she is brilliant, she has good common sense and doesn't think about moving around while we load her up.
The 'Chiara Caligari Super Saddlebags' have proved wonderful!!
Loading only happens once all the bags are weighed.
Then Mark has to lift and I have to fix the clasp, leave one side hanging on that, then do the same on the other side. Then the rear and centre velcro and clips are secured over the saddle. Next the top bag goes on which is then tied, pulled tighter, tied, pulled tighter until the whole 3 bag banana shaped bundle is high and centred.
Any move on her part during those precarious stages would be disastrous, she knows that, and she stands.
Our two steeds are tacked up before Lorna, so she doesn't have to wait long.
When the pack is well balanced, we cover a good distance, if its not, it can be very slow going. I must dismount and remount umpteen times, moving items to alter weight or/and tying up one side or the other, its rarely correctable, first fix precision is the key.
We had a good days riding, sadly at the moment, mainly on C roads, but the horses like the tarmac surface.
Of course we mostly walk, but if the pack is stable, we all enjoy moving on in a jolly trot.
The scenery is almost always beautiful, Spain is a beautiful country. Unless you are on a long wide plain, generally the sights vary keeping you happily quietly entertained, or prompting conversation about the lives and times of the local communities,  history is before your eyes in Spain,  ruins, old caminos, roads, terracing, asequias, all still there even if long abandoned.
We can't stop at every bar! But there are so many friendly looking groups of locals sitting outside with kids marvelling at the "Caballos", that it's hard not to.
The men always know their horses (or like to think they do), always with the "muy noble" but no shoes???
Invariably after my shoes v barefoot explanation, they start telling me what I've just told them and how much better horses are with no shoes!!!
Talking of equipment, horse comfort etc. The saddlepads purchased from "Tienda de raid" based in Orgiva, have proven to be invaluable.
Not a rub or mark on their backs to worry about, the thickness and size of the pads give you complete confidence in spreading weight evenly and keeping any of the bags etc from touching the horses bodies. Sweat is minimal and they are simple to clean and dry in minutes.
The scoot boots fit really well and the horses get comfort from them, especially on the typical 'pistas' here that are compacted by cars but have a loose stoney surface which can really hurt the horses soles.
Also on such a long journey they will reduce the chance of over wearing,  plus we use cornicrecine liberally to promote growth.
The bar we do finally stop at in the mid afternoon (on a sunday) has a very handy shop in the back room.
A cold beer and tapas is perfect.
The horses have a little sleep.
They get their refreshment stops too, we never pass a good bit of grass without letting them have a snack.
The friendly landlady tells us of an alternative and scenic track route to Castillar, our next destination.
Oh happy days! = Chiara

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Over the hill and far away..

I feel like I'm in another country! For no reason other than having passed through 'La puerta de la Ragua'.
Fortunately, our friend (& would be 2nd night host) Antonio, found us in the bar in Laroles and at the last minute, on his advice, we changed our route up to the pass, the planned route is apparently impossible for horses.
The ride was pretty,  the horses going well, though Rayo, leading, constantly veered left hoping for the path home :(..
As we actually passed through the door of the 'Ragua' (means?) We were being persued at high speed by a herd of horses, desperate to avoid a stallion attemping to mount our Lorna and our pack! We went into panic mode, Lorna didn't want to flee, all the horses wanted to do was play! The wild ones snorting and bucking beside us, we made our escape thankfully as the herd realised they were beyond their safety zone.
As we descended the grass was scarce,  as has become habitual at this time of day, from 5pm onwards we're on the lookout for a good stop, by this time we have made sure all our water bottles are full and we have enough food for an evening meal.
Grass is the one thing we must find.
Herds of cows live on these high slopes keeping the grass short and they terrify Rayo, though he's not scared of much else.
All feeling tired and hungry now, on a distant slope we see a ruined cortijo which seems to have plenty of green around it and no cows.
On arrival it seems ok so we quickly un tack the horses and set up camp.
Rayo walks straight through the electric fence! It's not on because the panel had no sun..So thats it, Rayo on a tether.
It was a cold night.
In the morning we packed up quickly, the horses were clearly not quite satisfied with the nights grazing and were inpatient to move on.
So far we have managed to carry their usual sugarbeat and grain mix which we soak at night & they have for breakfast.
The path ahead was lovely,  narrowing into a barranco as we continued,  it was a relief to hear water down in the ravine & we filled up at the first opportunity.
We had a slight problem at one point fitting Lorna through a narrow gap and though she tried hard to judge her new width accurately,  a stub on a trew tore a side pocket - Nooo!
(Sorry Chiara!! - Promptly sewn up at the next stop).
A glorious few days rest followed.

Extremes of hardship and heaven..
Sitting on my blow up sofa chair, feet up (on Mark's tripod seat), the sound of the river rushing by, the horses heads invisible in long lush grass, birds singing, all sorts of winged insects buzzing,  we have beers and bubbly cooling in the rivers waterfall, plus Mark's foot is there being massaged by the torrent attached to Mark sitting at the riverside amounst the trees..
I can hear his music playing behind the sounds of nature and now and again Marks dulcet tones break out as he sings along.
My legs are tanning from the ankles up as the sun moves over the toldo.

My contented mood isn't least because I have just been on a shop run to the beautiful village of Ferreira, with Rayo un encumbered with the usual saddlebags.
Rayo is one who knows and he goes. Other horses may not do what he does.
Happy and free, on the way back we indulged in a gallop, though bottles were clanking and fruit was squishing.
Our connection is magical.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

A small miracle

Whilst we have been in radio silence I have been curing my foot in the healing melt water from the sierra (high mountains).Not quite alpujarran agua but the next best thing, same water just the other side of the Sierra. And as if I'd been bathing in eau de Lourdes I have been miraculously(almost) cured .I can now walk with the aid of a walking stick (courtesy of Barney)without my big silly surgical boot(courtesy of Craigs skip diving) and can get on the horse solo.So as I sit drinking my estrella galicia I feel like a normal person again and I've got a big smile on my face....
And that's the hard bit done , getting out of the valley is always the longest mile, lots of stress and a few harsh words but the 3 day stop has done all of us the world of good. The horses had a super feed up , me and nix had some quality time , and our 'sister' Debbie bought us my coffee rocket(how I've missed you) and the Scoot boots which the Spanish customs have finally released (for an arm and a leg) and which fit a treat .All the horses are booted today and all seem very well suited.
So northwards we go, huge love to all friends and family who have made this possible, give someone a big cuddle today, love m(Ferreira, Andalucia)

Here's a photo of Tio doing the Camel mount, now obselete!

Friday, 19 May 2017

The 6 P's

Our departure from home was momentarily sad only because there was no time for tears.

Even so, the moments I spent with our old dog Jessy are forever imprinted in my I made her stay on her bed, she was crying, she had known it was coming for days,  her eyes were flickering as she could hardly look at me, close as a dog can get to tears, I made sure she could feel my love but was unable to assure her we'll be back..

Our first stretch to Cadiar simmered and boiled over with stress..The pack kept listing to one side or the other which meant we had to stop frustratingly several times, (Im eager to point out that the bags are great but I hadn't weighed the top one properly).

We arrived late but the San Isidro (our farewell) procession in Cadiar was fitting, joined by close friends on their horses and downing a few beers with everyone else was great fun if also quite emotional. .

After all that pandemonium, as we peeled off the procession dusk was upon us and we were suddenly alone. . It was wonderful!
Head torches on hats, walking easily together, just the crunch of riverbed stones beneath twelve hooves & some funky R & B keeping time..
We arrived at our first nights stop in Yator disgracefully late at 11pm.. But our hosts Mark & Pat were unflustered and after helping us untack and settle the horses, we had a delicious home made snack  - & I really mean home made! - & then sat in their conservatory just loving the comfort, relaxation and chatter.
We had a good - if not shortish - nights sleep, were incredibly slow to pack and left the following day at 2pm!

This time Lorna's pack stayed straight, the ride up past Montenegro was steep and it was hot..
There were some great grass and water stops for the horses but we we're starving!
We stopped in Yegen for a welcome tostada, generously made by Loranne at bar El Tinao even though it wasn't food hours. .
Also thanks to Loranne I have a little compact mirror! Can't believe I forgot to bring one!?

As was so rightly pointed out by one if our followers, Mr Kelly, one must prepare thoroughly..How does it go? Proper preparation prevents p*** poor performance!
Mmmmm, well I'd still like to say we did prepare well & infact so many things we thought about and did bring have already been invaluable.  But just a small thing I didn't prepare well for was our 2nd nights stop, which we completely missed as I didn't make sure if its location & the big trouble was, we only discovered this at about 8.30 pm!
So I am in tears (especially because it was my fault) as we rode away from Mairena towards Laroles.
I needn't have felt such despair as we did have Deb & Steve's place on standby. .and what should we find just around the corner but a half built abandoned cortijo with knee high grass and a water tap!
We settled the horses quickly and easily,  there was a super veranda at the back if the house where we put up the tent and set about cooking our dinner in the conveniently built seating and table area..

Coming up next - over the hill and out of 'Las Alpujarras!

P.s. The two pics, on the road & Rayo looking back at Lujar from our 2nd nights stop..
(Photos will improve as soon as my new mobile is configured.)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Waking thoughts

Early morning, two days to go..
Actually scared !!!
Some of the most important papers/items that I have been working on getting for months, may just arrive tomorrow.
On Saturday Im going to leave my beautiful home I love, the security I often need to come back to..and the dogs that love us sooo much and have no idea that we will come back in 4 months.
Can I cope with life on the road again? Daily home searching and making, un-making and repacking..
Negative things don't always come to mind unless they're pointed out to me.
How will I manage with the extra work load especially with my back?
- and inspite of the wonderful help from Gofundme and Jamie giving Mark a sitting down days work,  we are still setting off with minimal money.
Mark can ride but he can't walk! It seems ludicrous to think about leaving now!
But if we don't, we will miss the grass for the horses and the summer heat will become impossible.
Ommmmm comes to mind, best not to precieve ( my phone tells me that's not a word, but I beg to differ! )
Stay naive, up in the clouds, riding the wave, living in the now!
Positive things to note :
Mark will get better.
The hours in the saddle will be the easiest hours for us in the current circumstances, so keep on movin'...
Neurotic Niki and Hop along Cassidy T minus 48 hours and counting. .

Friday, 5 May 2017

Heroic or Stupid?!

He actually did it! Got on his horse and rode!

Tio pranced around our "short ride" like he was about to race in the Lobrasan Stakes! - Hardly walked a step & mostly sideways, ran Mark under trees and nearly backed off the cliff, infact he tried every trick in his book to go faster than a jog..
It was terrifying to watch,  but alls well that ends well..phew!
I think Tio could sense Marks fragility & bubbled up a bit under the unusually tense reins..oh plus! It was really windy!

Rayo was a dream, he's so well and fit now, as usual full of beans but I have noticed how much easier he is for me when I'm leading Lorna too.

So, big smiles on our faces (but a slightly puffy foot), bodes well for our departure a week tomorrow..fingers crossed.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

How not to prepare for a 2000mile horse trek ..

 The intended here putting my best foot forward, but alas still with the aid of crutches... as a good friend of mine's grandad used to say "you can't always sometimes tell whats least expected most!"

 Its now almost 3 weeks since I fractured my heel in 3 places when i decided to dismount from a moving horse , whilst wearing cheap boot trainers that not only got stuck in the stirrup , causing me to land with all my weight on one foot , but also whose sole seems to be designed to increase the chances of said injury .

  So its been a time of pills n potions , and foot up , and today marks the first day i can stand up without crutches and I'm hoping to get on Tio tomorrow and be walking with one stick at the weekend . Then hit the trail the following weekend possibly via the fiesta de San Isidro in Cadiar , and get a wig on to get through Andalucia and Murcia (about 400km) before it gets any hotter (and drier) . I've been praying for rain obviously  but we've only had one days worth throughout my convalescence .

   The horses all look great and are on grass all day every day . Iris and Emil , the young adults of Lobrasan have been taking Tio out for me so he's still really fit and ready to go at the drop of a hat ...

    The Scoot Boots (boots for barefoot horses) are still stuck in Spanish customs, bearing in mind that Scoot Boots (from Australia) are sponsoring us, hence the boots aren't costing us anything, customs and excise are charging us import tax and VAT which in total means we've got to pay 50% tax on the retail value of the boots which were actually a gift. Big thanks to Scoot Boots and vice versa to the authorities.

     Now the good news, Luis and Melinda, part of the Spanish go fund me team, like our story so much that they have donated 1000€ to our go fund me account, so a huge thanks to you both and to our guardian angel.

      The saddle bags are finished and fantastic, Chiara Calegari has done us and Lorna (and herself) proud. Big thanks Chiara seamstress extraordinaire !
      So in effect we are still waiting for the Scoot Boots before we can go, meaning me and my left foot aren't holding us up; the System is. As Brother Culture would say "the only good system is a sound system" peace and love M.

       Heres a picture of my foot as of today , not bad eh .

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


We have had a major set back! Tragically/annoyingly/most inconveniently, Mark has cracked his heel bone!!?!?
He instinctively (but stupidly) jumped from the horse rather than hit the tree and landed heavily on his heel..
Having jumped myself from my horse Rayo a few years ago as he galloped out of control on a cliff edge, knocking myself out and breaking a rib, we have now both learnt first hand that you are safer staying on !!
Coulda, shoulda, woulda,  dont change anything so we are doing everything in our power to facilitate a fast recovery.
Mark has a massive half boot, velcro strapped, stabilising thing that he reckons he'll fit in a stirrup as the show must go on.
But I  reality we can't leave on Sunday as planned.. we are gutted..

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Super Saddlebags!

Another exciting progression is the making of our bespoke saddlebags! 
Here you can see how they are coming along - we had a test fitting at the weekend with all horsey friends looking on and helping decide on height, positioning etc..
Really handsome and super functional.
Made by our lovely neighbour Chiara, you know where to come for yours!


This is the kind of stuff we need to find on route! A lovely grass stop on our way back from Taffys after the Endurance race.
Me in the saddle again, back fine! & Rayo sounder than a pound!! 
Thank heavens.
Back home now with frantic final listing and doing!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Raid

Hey friends! 
Sorry its all gone a bit iratic! Lots going on and up and down like a yo-yo!
The Raid, pronounced "Rayid" is the Spanish name for an endurance race...
Our friends put on this one annually so we always take part, always until now that is, just before the weekend I hurt my back - Nooooo! How now???
Then - after the weekend Rayo has suffered a blow, perhaps a kick to his pastern and is LAME! Never been lame in the 4 years he's been with us.
Now it's Wednesday,  we can feel lucky that both him and I are almost 100% again.. (100% in my case probably only something to aspire to).
So lucky Mark (even though he's only the groom) got to ride both horses in the event!!
Perfect fun for my cowboy.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Intended here with a few reflections on the past weeks  ..
most importantly all three horses r in very good form and getting plenty fresh grass and lots of exercise trekking up and down the mountains of las alpujarras and today i rode my tio 15km up the contraviesa to taffy and shauns where there is an endurance race on saturday morn of 20 or 40 km and tomorrow im riding rayo leading lorna another 15km up the...and then possibly racing 2 horses saturday..
Thats the upside ..and the reason for all this riding is that my intended has done her back in whilst clearing a balsa earlier this week so no riding for nikki for a while .. hopefully she will see the chiropractor de Timar forthwith ... and thats the downside..
pre bad back this was the state of play...lorna the packhorse is a diamond and can do the job for us..we love her..we've bought a huge 3 horse lorry in england which will be ferrying the 5 of us over the channel  .. she looks a beauty and the to be brother in law Julian who knows about these things reckons shes a good old girl , and she's resting now at the end of the 2000mileaisle ... i've got my maps covering the spain portion of the gr7 up to Andorra ,bought for us by our friend and neighbour Hannah , and im drawing the route onto the maps using the gr7 waymarked route on viewranger so feeling quite confident about the orienteering (although we always get lost)but i still have no new phone for using with gps/google earth so i see a sharp learning curve on the road ...i've been downloading plenty toonz so we have fresh sounds for the trail and a few audio books including don quixote which seems apt....i've started using a hackamore bridle on tio which is bitless i.e. he's got nothing in his mouth and its working great for both of us and im really happy about that .. our friend and neighbour Chiara is busy making the saddle bags for us ..bespoke all the way  ...nikki just finished the amazon order for cooker,powerbank,speaker,solar panel,memory card,shovel..all should be here next week con surtae..internet shopping is a stressful business  ...just phones to sort now ..maybe a trip to all in all things goin well and stress levels rising steadily......i will leave u with a photo of our 2 fantastic boys regarding the falling andalucian sun..

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Not long now!

6 weeks and counting!
Still sooo much to do!!
Lots of things coming together but not quite achieved..
Some things taking longer than expected and we're having to breathe and count slowly..

We are now 5 instead of 4 on every ride, Lorna is getting fit, she has now settled in and has passed through the 'shy, careful, newcomer' stage, into the 'if I try this and see what happens' stage...
Carrots are useful and so is Mark.
Tio and Lorna seem well matched in pace.
Rayo and Lorna would be ok if I was Elastigirl.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

What shall we call her?

Sorry for the long delay with this one, I've been waiting for us to come to a conclusion on this:-

Girl? Red? Mare? Pretty?

These are the most common names for horses in the Alpujarras you know?!
Yes, 'Blanca' (white), 'Torda' (grey), 'Chica/o' (girl/boy), 'Guapa/o' (pretty) & 'Yegua' (mare) are the norm..'Tio' Mark's horse means 'Uncle' and 'Rayo' my boy has a super corny name that sounds fine if you're English, means lightening!

So, we've been through the lot here and she is beginning to get confused! Starting with 'Rosie', 'Africa' &  'Savanna', then various goddesses of various things, most appropriately 'Juno' or 'Hera'  being the Roman/Greek goddesses of marriage! 

We then thought about how we actually got the money to buy her and Mark proposed 'Lorna', being the name of his Nana who sadly passed away last year...So yes, I like it, it suits her.

May the spirit of Nana live on, she was a strong, hard working lady and was always beautifully turned out.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Bringing the Golden girl home.

It was only when I was telling my brother "Its a 3 day ride to go and fetch her" that I realised how riding distance has changed for us over the years, we didn't even consider getting transport!

Mark went with Tio, whilst I drove there, to assist and bring supplies, and back, to feed the rest of the horses and animals at home - several times.

So this girl, sweet as you like, followed Mark & Tio, from her remote mountain top home, without question, down & up (it wasn't up then down!) some of the most difficult terrain we are ever likely to encounter on our 2000 miles! Also passing through Orgiva town, where we experienced an unusual spike of heavy traffic including coaches & lorries (air brakes hissing), bread vans beeping etc etc!!

Even spreading the return over two days was hard work for an unfit horse - AND the weather turned bad..

Perhaps Mark will elaborate as he rode and led all the way, but theres no doubt that we couldn't have hoped for a better nature from our golden girl.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


As Wynkyn de Worde said in his fifteen points of a good horse (1496)...

A good horse sholde have three propyrtees of a man, three of a woman, three of a foxe, three of a hare, and three of an Asse.
Of a man. Bolde, Proude, and Hardye.
Of a woman. Fayre-breasted, Faire of haire, and easy to move. (!!)
Of a foxe. A fair taylle, short eers, with a good trotte.
Of a hare. A grate eye, a dry head, and well rennynge.
Of an asse. A bygge chynn, a flat legge, and a good hoof.

My Tio has sixteen, along with the above, he has one propyrtee of a Scotch!
He was born in Scotland but is of Spanish blood..

13 years young, 15.2hh, grey gelding..

Past winner of the Lobrasan Stakes and the Alpujarran Raid.


So, let me tell you about my fab boy - the horse of course!

'Rayo' is a 9 year old bay 'Tres sangres' (3 blood - arab/spanish/thoroughbred), so basically a mongrel of very good source!

He is bonkers! But in a very predictable way - LETS GO FASTER! 

I have never ridden a horse with such go and stamina, quite astounding.

I love him dearly but he's not an affectionate horse, sadly my love often feels unrequited...but the special times are all the more special for their rarity!

Here's a fab photo...

This photo, by the way, was taken (by my good friend and fellow trekker Nadia P Wilson) at 'Siete Lagunas', just below the summit of Mulhacen, the highest mountain in Spain.

See how he is looking upwards in anticipation - that's my boy!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Losing my cool..

YES! YES! YES! (I have got out of bed- don't worry!)
I have called him!

We HAVE got a pack horse!

& she is no ordinary horse - like Paco said she is Oro puro...

Pure gold...& great feet too (did I mention?)

He only came down 50 euros but hey ho! It's only 11.15 now, didn't manage to wait til midday.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Gambling for the Golden Girl

So out of Paco's horses, one stood way out, the criteria being: not too big, compact, easy going nature & very importantly, easy to sell on as it will stay in the UK and we won't have long to home it.
 She's not just lovely to look at, she gets about like a mountain goat! It's not easy to act like you're not interested when you really are, but for the sake of getting a bargain...
... 8am Friday, thinking about the golden girl! I'm going to ring today and make the offer, we MUST have her! I've managed to stay cool for 48 hours in an attempt to scare Paco into dropping the price.  She's already peanuts but we have such limited funds. It's stupidly frightening! Did our sums last night and its a bit justo to say the least... 
Also I'm waking early these days and thinking (well, worrying) about the time left to get passports done etc.  But it is OK, there's still time!
OK, I'm going to ring him at 11.00... or maybe I can cope til midday? Then I'll go to market and celebrate with a beer and a fag probably (even though I don't smoke any more)! 
Please let us have her!!

So here's our wall at 2 months to go..

We've got a big fat super confident green line on the map following the GR7 through Spain, and notes showing places where people have generously offered for us to stay on the way. We got a wonderful response after posting our plans on the facebook page 'Horse owners in Spain!
Mark has also plotted a proposed route through France which continues along the GR7, but I think its quite a long way round so we obviously need a discussion...
It's good to have a big visible list to refer and add to, we both have a poor memory (but for different reasons). The wedding (dress), if you can see it, is right at the bottom of the list ..obviously not a priority - yet!
So now to start ticking things off... 
El Lorrito:
We think we've decided on getting:
a) an English lorry (more scope, cheaper and less red tape); and 
b) a 7.5t or at least one that can take 3 horses (a lorry then).
So I'm looking with renewed vigour and inundating my brother in the UK with lorry links..
Oh, hang on a minute, no.. Mark now says we should get a 3.5t because it'll be easier to drive, guess that's true..(el lorrito after all then).

The Pack-Horse:
I've rung a guy called Paco and we're going to see potential pack-horses on Wednesday.  Ojala we'll find a good one...

We've got plenty of time haven't we??!!!

[Apologies for the small font... technical hitches - we are learning on the go!]

So here we are, our wall filled with maps and lists, people keep scaring me with comments like 'how many weeks now til you go?' Weeks? you mean months! Actually dare I say, two and a half months is about right, still sounds OK, but when it's less than two months it becomes weeks and then I'll be stressy, especially if we haven't got certain key things sorted, like having the packhorse/ mule! 

So I'm busy looking for a suitable packhorse, and on Wednesday I'm going to see a few .. what fun! I'm also searching like mad for the lorrito (that's a small lorry). Trying to get one set up early as our safety net, but actually we should only need to get across the channel. It's fun looking for a two horse lorry with possibly room for a bed, even though we're limited with just a 3000 Euro budget. 

Mark is the navigator, he's plotting the route, getting to know Google Maps, blogs and websites..finding and losing things, swearing a lot.. 
He's doing that and I'm doing this, now and again he or I will enthusiastically quote something interesting from our findings, but we aren't really listening to one another cos we're too engrossed, we just make an appropriate response noise without looking up.