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In The Country Magazine
In The Country Lifestyle

Down at the yard: progress update

It feels like an age yet again since I wrote to you all. Life is a baffling concept, and time is even more so. It feels as if there is never enough, yet there is always the same amount of hours in each day, week or year (except leap years!). Though many of you will agree I am sure, that time has seemingly dragged during the various lockdowns on many occasions, as if the days seem never ending. And yet, I have spent much of my days during the past three months working hard to breathe life back into a rundown stable yard where I spent much of my childhood.

Today, on my first Thursday off (wow!) since starting the yard, I have this morning sat in bed cocooned in my dressing gown, with a comforting fresh cup of tea in my favourite Cornishware mug, my laptop rested on my thighs so I can type away at this for you. It is important to reflect on your progress, in all aspects of life, but often life just whizzes by too fast for us to stop and take stock as often as we should. So, today, I wanted to share with you the progress so far down at Littleheath Stables.

The yard before I took it on, abandoned and looking lonely…

What started as an ambitious passion project, needing A LOT of work, with next to no budget, minimal business planning and a whole-heap of headstrong horse-enthusiast has now been transformed into an up and running, full-up livery yard where I am finding myself falling in love with horses all over again. For so long I had been fitting my horse around my life you know? Not taking time to really be with him or ride, that always came after everything else. Sure, the basics were always covered, he was fed, brushed and looked after daily but nothing really went beyond that, why? Because I was ‘too busy’. I was ALWAYS in a rush, only riding IF I had time, typically the ‘scatty’ one on the yard, making fleeting visits in the afternoon if I had work on, whereas now – I don’t think he knows what’s hit him and I am a much happier in myself, but also happier with the kind of owner I am to him.

With pesky and stubborn brambles almost everywhere you looked, ivy having wound it’s way around an astonishing number of posts and between cracks and crevices, rubbish and broken rails left behind by the previous tenant along with the presence of a looming muck heap that had been left in the paddock nearest the yard. It was safe to say, I had my work cut out for me…

The sand school…

What once had been a sand school had been left to ruin, ponies had been turned out in it as the grass had grown over the sand. Corners of the arena were held together by pallets and baling twine. Any person with a decent business head would likely have said absolutely not… and I believe there were a few people who did after they’d viewed it. Though to me, this was the place I fell in love with horses, it saddened me to see it left in such a sorry state and in some bizarre way, I almost felt I owed it to the stables to repair, tidy and refresh it once again.

With yards and yards of wire removed from broken fences, some of which the grass had grown over, an impressive amount of pressure washing, hours of painting and a lot of nails, the yard was beginning to take shape, thanks to sheer grit, determination and the help of some good friends.

I could go on and on, as have hundreds of photos of the process, but long story short, three months later and though still a work in progress, we now have 10 horses, soon to be 12 happily settled at the yard. Having learnt so many new skills like operating a petrol powered post rammer, or putting up the panelling and insulation in the tack room, to learning how to use a drill – these past few months have been life affirming for me. And whilst, there are mornings when I’d rather pull the covers up over my head, press snooze and go back to sleep, the yard has become my happy place and knowing (and seeing) the results of the hard work, battered and cut fingers, bruised limbs and tired faces is so incredibly rewarding.

I’ve found some wonderful liveries, so to see them enjoying the yard, or riding in the sand school which I’ve worked so hard to bring back to life is special too, plus I get to take care of their adorable ponies and horses too! What more could you want?

One of my liveries enjoying a walk in the school as the sun sets.

I’ll leave it there, but I wanted to update you all on what I have been up to recently and what my world has been looking like during this crazy time. In between the yard and basic survival stuff, I have been looking at and making plans for In The Country over this coming year, so please just bear with me a little bit longer whilst I finalise these.

Until next time…
Stay safe and well,
Lots of love,

hollie-ella

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