It was very impressive. It was agreed we would have an individual stable for the winter months and hay and straw storage also the use of the paddocks in the summer months and all owners were responsible for keeping the yard and stables spotless
Mr Harding the owner was a really nice man. He went away to work out a price based on the things Sheila thought she would want.
He came back and said if Sheila would like to help out with the upkeep of the paddocks and see to the tack room he would only charge us £10 per week and unless things changed we could have use of a stable all year round, we were very impressed with this price and Sheila readily agreed to the extra work. We agreed to move in the following Saturday.
Saturday soon came round, we picked up my Dad and the kids and off we went to load Outlaw and move him to his new home. He went in the box really well just a slight hesitation, we thanked Trina for her help and said we were sorry to be going but that we would still come and do the riding for the disabled.
We got to the new stables and offloaded Outlaw he looked really good with his red bandages and blanket Sheila had done him proud. He had been allocated a really nice stable on the main yard. He soon settled in once given his hay. The other people at the yard were really friendly and came and introduced themselves to us. My Dad really liked it it seemed so relaxed.
The travelling to the yard was still a long way for Sheila if it wasn’t possible for either Mike or I to give her a lift but we were usually able to pick her up and stick her bike in the car.
Another couple of weeks and it would be the summer holidays and Sheila had already decided she would spend most of it at the yard. She was now having private lessons and her and Outlaw was doing amazingly well, a real partnership. Neither Lesley or Stephen were keen to ride him I think he was too big for Lesley she was nervous and Steve was just not interested.
We had two dogs Angel our Great Dane and Candy a mongrel we had had for about 5 yrs., Angel was a fairly new addition, and she was my best friend. Sheila used to take Candy to the yard she used to run alongside Sheila on Outlaw and she and Outlaw became good friends. We took Angel on rare occasions as she didn’t care for the horses much.
Candy had had 2 sets of puppies the first set was 6 pups and the second 5 pups and a lady who lived a couple of doors away and her daughter asked if they could see the pups of the first litter. Guess what she put in orders for 5 of them, she had two Aunties who wanted one each and she wanted one and the other two went to various relatives of theirs. We knew who the father was as Candy brought him home. Mrs Fairbrother the lady who wanted the pups, therefore, knew how big the pups would be. The other pup went to a friend of Sheila`s. The next litter about a year later, three of those again went to the relatives of Mrs Fairbrother. Steve was playing with the pups one day and Mike said he had kicked the puppy and hit him so hard it knocked him to the floor. Obviously Steve had not done that but Mike didn’t wait for explanations he just lashed out. I was at work but needless to say we had words when I found out what had happened.
Mike bought a long wheel base land rover and a double horse box ,it was really smart, we needed this as Sheila was now starting to compete in earnest. In the winter she wanted to do lots of hunter trials.
My Dad bought a beautiful saddle and numnah and I bought a bridle and martingale and a couple of new bits.
We all found the new yard was great we could do what we wanted as long as everything was kept neat and tidy, the owner more or less gave everybody a free reign. The private lessons were really good to watch as you could see the improvement with both Sheila and Outlaw.
Mike had been busy kitting out the land rover we had a cooker and all sorts of bits and bobs to enable us to cook a meal at the shows we were anticipating going to. During the winter it would be so cold we would need food to warm us up.
We went to our first show with Outlaw in Chesham, my Dad and Steve came with us. Outlaw boxed really well. A couple of other people from the yard went also; we soon became good friends with them. The weather was really warm
It was a show jumping show and we really had little idea how Outlaw and Sheila were going to do but in the first round they came second and Sheila got a blue rosette Outlaw jumped beautifully. We were using this show to just see how well both rider and horse performed together, as a relationship has to be built i.e. trust each other and know each others limitations. They went on to do another three rounds and received a first and two second places.
The done thing when you get rosettes is to hang them on the windscreen of the land rover. Showing off really but Sheila was so proud. My Dad had really enjoyed the day and said he would like to go again. He particularly enjoyed watching the presentations to the winners, he was so proud of Sheila she really had no fear at all.
We were soon on our way back to the yard now the hard work would begin. Outlaw had to be groomed and fed and his stable mucked out. Mike had to clean the horse-box ready for next weekend. We had shows arranged for the next four weeks, we were going to be busy but this is what it means when you have an ambitious child.
The work didn’t stop there, all the tack had to be cleaned and saddle soaped. Then it was dinner to be cooked, thank goodness the kids were on holiday otherwise it would mean ironing the school clothes for the three of them. Housework was very low on the agenda there just didn’t seem enough hours in the weekends.
Mike took Sheila to the yard before he went to work on the Monday and I had agreed to pick her up after work about 5.00pm. She took a packed lunch and was going to meet up with Sally and Jilly to go for a hack through Ashridge Estate I was a bit worried but they were very sensible girls at least I now knew she had a trustworthy horse. When I went to pick her up she said they had had a lovely time jumping fallen trees and having a really exciting time. She said Outlaw got on with twummy and Sally’s horse whose name escapes me and did everything that was asked of him.
She had already groomed and fed Outlaw so I walked with her to put him in the field, it was too hot for him to be stabled, he loved it in the field, as soon as Sheila took off his head collar he took off like a rocket….slight exaggeration. He galloped twice around the field kicking up his heels and then rolled from side to side on the ground; this was a sure sign of a very happy horse. Sheila and Outlaw were real buddies they had mutual respect, he would do whatever she asked as he new she new what he was capable of. Trust between horse and rider is what every rider hopes to achieve if they are worth their salt.
I noticed a young girl standing on the other side of the yard with a nice iron grey pony, she looked a bit lost, I asked Sheila if she was new she said she hadn’t seen her before. Sheila and I went over to her and asked if she was ok. She said this was her first day at the yard and didn’t quite know where she should be We introduced ourselves she said her name was Ann Custance and I said are you any relation to Pete Custance she looked so shocked and said he was her brother. I said I knew him really well as I worked with him at B.S.I. and he was always talking about his sister.
From then on Sheila and she became really good friends they were always together. Ann didn’t compete at all as her pony wasn’t up to it neither was Ann she was ok riding him around the paddocks but didn’t take him out.
Sheila and Outlaw went from strength to strength they won loads of events and through the winter, hunter trials and cross country, there was no stopping them It was hard work on Mike and my part as we worked all day Monday to Friday then Saturday was spent getting Outlaw and all his tack ready for the shows on Sundays. Mike was a bus driver so sometimes he had to work on Saturdays but always managed to get Sundays off as he had to drive the land rover and horsebox I didn’t feel confident to do that. This didn’t leave me much time for washing, ironing and housework I’m afraid everything got neglected including Lesley and Stephen, they chose not to come to the shows, which was fine but I did feel guilty.
Lesley had not been well for a couple of days she had tummy pains and felt sick I took her to the doctors and she said she thought she had appendicitis and that I had to take her straight to the hospital which she said was St Albans. Lesley and I was scared, the doctor had said her not being well for a couple of days she didn’t want to risk it perforating.
I had never been to St.Albans hospital before so was not at all sure where to go. I parked the car and asked a nurse how to get to a particular ward. She sent us up a load of stairs, which was horrendous for Lesley as she was in such pain. I explained to this nurse but she said this was the only way. We got there eventually and the sister on the ward saw that Lesley was in a pretty bad state and got her in a bed before taking any details.
Lesley was scheduled to have her operation at 3.00pm it was now 2.00pm they said it was an emergency now. In those days 1978 parents were not allowed to stay with their children and I was told to ring about 5.00pm to see how she was and if they thought she was ok we could visit at 7.00pm if not it would be 2.00pm the next afternoon. I was worried sick.