Equine Trials of Transportation


Many horse owners compete which means transporting horses all over the country. Whether it be to your local agricultural show or to the many all year round venues hosting affiliated and unaffiliated competitions. I do and have done both for many years and therefore have travelled horses all over the country.

There are various means of travelling horses. Trailers, usually holding two horses. Small 3.5t vans which again carry two horses. Larger means of transport are 7.5t lorries which can carry three horses and anything over that is an HGV. To drive an HGV you need to pass a theory and practicle test which is expensive putting many people off and if you passed your driving test after the 1st January 1997 you have to sit a test to drive a 7.5t lorry.

Fortunately or maybe unfortunately Im old enough to have passed my test before 1997 and during my competitive career with horses I have used various different methods to travel horses. First I used a trailer, as most riders do when they start out. A trailer is the least expensive and most popular method but not without their hazzards!

My first horse did not like the trailer, he wouldnt even put his front feet on the ramp to start with. We, my father and I would spend hours trying to coax him in. This ment an early start in the morning because you never knew just how long the process would take. Once loaded we would head off to that days competition knowing full well that we would have to load him again to come home.

We were always the last to leave the show ground. Many a good deed was done by various helpers at shows, who would provide long ropes and the occaisional brush as encouragment to get the horse in the trailer. Heading home after one particular show we were suddenly aware of people pointing as we drove past. My father stopped the Land Rover and I got out to find the horse had untied himself and turn around, happily hanging his head over the back ramp… and thats how he travelled home!

Another trailer incident with my next horse who was a young show jumper – driving en route to a show through a local town and again people were pointing and laughing. I got out the car with dread to find he had kicked down the ramp and was standing there very pleased with himself. Fortunately he decided it better staying in the trailer!


Our next mode of transport was a very old Ford 7.5t lorry. This was 1984 so when I say old, I mean even for 1984 it was old! It had a wooden body which carried 3 horses plus a very basic living area with a bench seat which folded to a bed, a sink, cupboard and luton which was the other bed. But I loved it! My 15 year old self felt very important to have a lorry! It came with me when I left home to become a working pupil and was my home for a couple of months before the ‘luxury’ caravan, in the summer I may add.

We travelled up and down the country, my dad driving. One particular trip we were heading to Yorkshire in late February 1985, this trip included driving over the infamous A66 and of course it was snowing! It was a long difficult drive but we arrived late in the day, in darkness. After the horses were unloaded fed and settled I entered the living to find the luton covered in snow! The front vent had flipped open (obviously on the A66) there was snow everywhere. My dad slept in the cab that night while I took the fold down bed in the living accomodation. I’ll can still see dads grey slightly blue face haha!

Another adventure south when we transported a young horse for my boss again to Yorkshire and on the way back picking up the new rider/working pupil Andrew and his horses, who was to live and work the same yard as me. All good across the A66 phew! Get to Scotch Corner and VOSA have a spot check. Of course we were pulled in.

Brakes non exsistent, two bald tyres and the icing on the cake, we were over weight… with only one horse in the back!! I hot footed it over to the Scotch Corner hotel to buy fags (unbeknown to my father) and got chatting to a random guy. He was going to Wetherby and after telling my dad I got in his car and we headed off. Yes I got in a total strangers car….

A very scary hour and a bit later we were at Rufforth Park. Orange Volvo driver had tried to grope me several times. Of course you’d never do that these days. I wonder what my dad was thinking letting his 16yr old daughter go off with a complete stranger. I guess back then we didnt think much of it or were as aware of the dangers as we are now.

With my dad and the horse still stranded at Scotch Corner a driver and lorry were dispatched from Rufforth to get them and an SOS phone call to my boss who immediately set off from Scotland to rescuse us all and drive me, my dad, Andrew, his horses and furniture back home to Scotland.

We got home at 3.30am, what a day that truned out to be. And Andrew? Well thats another story ……

Equines : The Show Season Begins

Three weeks ago I decided our first compeition would be a local Working Hunter show. At first I was excited at the thought of competing again, Ive done it since the age of thirteen and the start of each show season is something I look forward to but this year was different.

This year I had to factor in IC. Ive had it for years but after a failed procedure at the end of 2012 I am now using catheters. Not the easiest task at the best of times never mind in a show field portaloo! So, my initial excitement turned into anxiety. How was I going to cope away from home for the whole day?

Finlay the four legged is not the best traveller so show season has its trials and tribulations. But to his credit he always loads and gives his very best in the show ring. Thats why I love him, he finds some things in life a bit stressful but he still tries his heart out. His birthday was the 14th of March where he turned the grand old age of 12! But still acts like a four year old, another of his endearing qualities!

Saturday the 16th of March was Show day. Im one of those people who plan… every last detail, every last possible problem is thought through. I have to be meticulous these days to cope with IC although I do admit I have become a little OCD in my advancing years! So, Saturday morning was planned, how long to muck out, how long to groom, clean and plait Finlays mane and tail etc I had packed the lorry with tack and rugs the previous day to save time. I had my catheters and mirror (required to see) a packed lunch and a flask of coffee. All set to go!

Once Finlay was ready (horses always come first) I changed into my competition gear got him loaded onto the lorry and off we went. The first show of the season. I was apprehensive, not about the competion but how IC would affect the day.

We won our first class! Even though Finlay was very anxious he pulled it off in the ring, what a superstar. And the IC? I didnt think about it for a whole two hours!  

IC : Good Day Bad Day.

You never know when you wake up in the morning what kind of day lies ahead. Could be good or bad you wont know until you get there.

One thing  is certain I will always wake up in pain and today was no different. In fact today has been particularly bad, I ate something last night which is normally on my ‘safe’ list. I did notice that it tasted more spicey than usual and questioned whether I should eat it but I went ahead anyway. Big mistake!

I woke up at 7am this morning with pain levels at 7 ( levels go from 1 – 10) I used a catheter and went back to bed for an hour. Voiding the bladder does not take the pain away, it may ease for a while but Im never pain free.  By 9am I was in the bathroom again, another catheter. After taking my youngest to nursery I headed to the yard.

Id been at the stables for maybe an hour when the pain was becoming unbearable. There is a toilet at the yard but I didnt have any catheters with me so I tried the ‘conventional’ method of just going to the loo like normal people. Didnt really work, gave me some relief for about 30 mins but I knew I had to get home.

The afternoon was not much better. Now feeling exhausted and a bit sorry for myself. Ive done my usual comfort eating which only adds to my low self esteem. Oh dear, this is all a bit doom and gloom… tomorrrow will be better, wont it?.  

IC : Five Years On.

In december 2012 my Consultant suggested a procedure that would ease my IC pain. This pain comes and goes throughout the day but is normally worse first thing in the morning. It is also horrendous when hormones fluctuate and also if I eat or drink the wrong thing. So the thought of not having the daily pain really appealed to me!

There was a down side and that was being unable to void the bladder normally and needing to use catheters. I weighed this up carefully but not having pain was so tempting.

That was the 28th of Dec 2012. Two and a half months later I still have daily pain, in fact its worse than ever and I now take Tramadol (which has its own side effects) Things I could do before have now become difficult. Ive not, so far, actually used a bathroom outside my own house yet. I have to use a mirror when catheterising so I can see what Im doing and if the bathroom light is not bright I simply can not see!

Catheters come in individual sterilised packs. Once opened it must be inserted into the urethra without coming into contact with anything else, including any other part of that area of the body. So self catheterising without a mirror is really difficult. Ive often fumbled and had to discard the catheter in case I give myself an infection.

Infection rates are high when self catheterising, fortunately I have so far avoided any infection. I have to use a catheter up to six times a day…. this is my life.

My consultant did not inform me of the possibilities. He did not tell me that there was a chance it wouldnt work and that I may be worse off. That procedure was supposed to be the start of a new life for me. A life where I could do normal things, eat normal things drink normal things and most of all be pain free. It all seems like a distant dream now.

So where does this leave me? The Botox should wear off in time which means the bladder may start working again. But as it seems the bladder is even more sensitive post op will I ever get back to where I was? Funny how Id settle for that now instead of hoping for a pain free life. Id settle for just going back to the way I was two and a half months ago.  

I wish Id never agreed to it. The last two months have been hell and at times I feel Im running out of coping mechanisms. I cant work and in the process of applying for some kind of benefit (the name escapes me) where I will have an interview with ATOS. I wont get it, even my GP said I wouldnt. I dont look ill, I have no outward signs of the pain Im in. So how will I support my family?

I am very lucky to have two wonderful sons and a beautiful horse but my savings have run out and Im living on (financial) borrowed time. Will there ever be a cure for IC or is this my life for the forseable future……..


Equines : The Competition Years & Leaving Home.


In March 1985 and just sixteen (and two weeks)  my show jumping career had put paid to any academic future. My father gave me an ultimatum, I either stuck in at school and sat my exams or I got a job. Step forward John W my trainer of the last 12 months. A position of working pupil had become available at his yard and this opportunity was too good to turn down. I never liked school anyway!

My father agreed, reluctantly, and I was about to leave home for the first time. Back then it never occured to me how hard the next few years would be. I was a confident, head strong teenager who thought she knew everything… well dont we all at that age?! I had been competing at Senior level BSJA (BS) for over a year and all I wanted to do was ride horses and win! Who ever said its about taking part that counts? No, its about the winning! My sixteen year old self was very competitive and I guess deep down Im still that same sixteen year old girl.

So off we went to my new job and new home me and Tec about to start the greatest adventure. His new home was a competition and producers yard mine was a 20 year old caravan you couldnt swing a cat in. It did have a light in it and a small dodgey gas heater, in fact my first abode for one month was our old wooden lorry. Thank goodness it was nearly summer!

The big bad world didnt seem that bad to me! I worked six and a half days a week, lived in a derilict caravan all for 20 quid a week which was spent on fags and mars bars! We had 14 horses on the yard of varying ages and levels. As I was the youngest and smallest I was put on all the nutters that came over from Ireland, a baptisim of fire Id say! I also rode the grade A’s which was amazing.

We competed every weekend either at home or in England it was a busy life. Tec was progressing well and now regularly jumping Grade C’s. During one busy weekend where we had two shows running over the Friday Saturday and Sunday I was given the biggest test. We had jumped the Friday at Rowallan taking two lorries with 7 horses we got home around 7 pm after all horses had been sorted brushed and fed etc John said get Taxman out you’re jumping him tomorrow at Muirmill in the Young Riders Qualifier for HOYS. What???!!!!!  It was now after 9pm and after competing all day and grooming for John and his partner I was knackered but tacked up Grade A, Taxman and got in the school.

I might point out at this juncture I had never ridden this horse before and was about to jump him in  HOYS qualifier! I warmed him up, he was light and balanced with such a powerful canter. After I popped him over a couple of fences (3.3ft 3.6ft 3.9ft) Then John whacked them up, I was horrified. Id never jumped this horse before and here I was coming down to a double of monster fences! I couldnt show my nerves, John didnt go in for emotions and stuff. Taxman ballooned it, nearly jumping me out the saddle. Right, John said, your jumping him tomorrow put him away and get to bed.

I did jump the next day at the Home International, Muirmill, we came third and didnt qualify but I knew John was really pleased and that was enough for me. Id proven to him I could do it!

We had a successful year, John sold on many good horses, my Dad bought me another novice and I met my first love (of the two legged variety) I grew up pretty fast, aquired a Jack Russell when the other groom left asking me to look after him for two days… she never came back, got regular bollockings for being thrown off nutjobs, survived on mash potato and gravy everynight (Johns partner couldnt cook) oh, and shhhh… the odd vodka and lemonade 😉

I cant say I loved every minute of it as at times it was real hard nitty gritty tough going for my 16 year old head. But I wouldnt change a thing. I  had such respect( and fear of the bollockings) for John that all I wanted to do was succeed.  There were no airs and graces back then, it was more workman like than what I see at shows today. No fancy lorries, no designer gear and no bling (thank god) We just got on with it……………. It was the making of us.

Equines : The Competition Years (84/85)

Following on from Equines : My First Horse we are now in March 1984.

I had just turned 15 when Burntec arrived. He was a 16.2hh 5 year old TBxID and ever so slightly bonkers! Tec was a bit of a handful for a 15 year old girl who’d spent the last couple of years with and very polite 15hh eventer so to say it was a shock was an understatement!

Tec came from a professional yard not far from my house the plan was that we would be under the supervision of John with regular lessons. I was so excited my friends were still riding ponies and here was me with this big horse, a horse that Graham Fletcher had wanted to buy. We got in there first!

My first year with Tec was interesting! He started napping and didnt want to hack out which proved a problem as I didnt have any where to school or jump and used my friends place along the road. He would reverse, spin and worst of all rear. Strangely I was never frightened, the bravery of youth perhaps? I was as stubborn as him and eventually we got over the napping business. Although it did return in the ring later on.

I worked away with Tec having regular lessons with the professional. I was in my fourth year at school or should I say I was supposed to be in my fourth year at school. After the summer holidays of that year I was competing every weekend and frequently travelling to England to compete. The shows down south were usually three day competitions over Friday Saturday and Sundays so with two day travelling either side I was regularly absent from school on Fridays and Mondays. In fact I was regularly absent full stop, I wasn’t a model student and played truant from school on a weekly basis. School never interested me all I wanted to do was ride and compete.

My father bought a 7.5t lorry this was after Tec had kicked the back ramp down on the trailer while in transit, we had a few odd looks driving along with the ramp down! The lorry was an old Ford with wooden body but I loved it! We were travelling a lot so it was great to have a lorry.

My first year with Tec was a learning curve but we consitantly improved and were jumping Newcomers easily. Back then we jumped on grass, yes grass! Some show jumpers these days have never seen the stuff , what with all the artificial surfaces we have now. But it was grass back then and mud, lots of it! We had one indoor arena which held competitions, in 1984 that was unusal. Even then it was tiny and the warm up a complete bog in winter.

In March 1985 I left school having hardly attened that year I didnt see the point and my professsional trainer had offered me a job as a working pupil. My father soon realised it was a losing battle to suggest I stay at school.  I should probably add at this point I was an unruly teenager who thought she knew everything.

But I always worked hard with my horses….In March 1985, only just turned 16 years old, the real work and the real world were just around the corner, the steepest learning curve of all was about to begin.