Hillcrest Stableyard Stories

 

  Hello,

My name is Sarah and I’d like to tell you about all the exciting things we do here at Hillcrest.

 First let me show you around the yard.....

It’s a very old farm with lots of stone buildings.  The first one you come to is Rosie’s old toolshed shelter, well, it used to be Mr Wilkinson’s toolshed until Rosie arrived one winter’s night and took it over.  Since her foal was born in there she absolutely refuses to move into a bigger stable so poor Mr Wilkinson has had to build himself a new workshop.

Then there’s the single stable.  Flash lives there next to the double stable belonging to Jigsaw and Copper.  That’s quite a useful building because one end of it is a small tack area with a saddle rack which saves running backwards and forwards to the tack room.  Sometimes we keep feed in there too, and bedding - it’s much easier than getting it from the barn every time. The stables are big and roomy and they all have haynet hooks and tethering rings.

Next we have the three stable block where the mares, Muffin, Toffee and Domino live.  I think that’s Toffee looking over the stable door.  This block has got a tack and feed area too.  Beside that is the tackroom proper, all fitted out with shelves and saddle racks and bridle hooks and the notice board where Mrs Wilkinson puts up messages and reminders of things she has to do.Then there’s the big barn which is used for all sorts of things.  The foals run around in there in bad weather - though luckily they never try to climb the ladder into the hayloft.  The jumps are stored in here over the winter and we’ve even had the odd foal born in the barn.  Outside is the mounting block and the water tap and hose.  At the back there’s a door set high in the wall and a hook for hauling up bales of hay or straw or sacks of feed straight into the loft.  The big double doors are useful too.  We can even keep the tractor in there out of the weather.

Now meet the ponies.....

Flash has to be first because he’s quite sure he’s the best thing on the yard.  He’s a sixteen hand eventer who belongs to Mrs Wilkinson’s niece.  She’s working abroad at the moment, so he’s staying with us at Hillcrest.  He does everything;  X-country, 3-day events and showjumping.  He’s snow white with a silver mane and tail and flashing dark eyes - a very handsome boy.  He’s definitely a star and he knows it.  His tack is all by Country Craft and he arrived with a whole collection of vitamins and supplements to make sure he looks his very best in the ring.Then we have Jigsaw and Copper, two fourteen hand geldings who came to the stables from a circus. Can you find their picture? They are both very naughty but really rather fun.  they know every trick in the book, whether it’s opening other stable doors and letting all the other ponies out, jumping out of every field they’re put in, or just generally creating havoc.  I ride them every day and Copper and I have just got onto the Prince Phillip Cup Team for our branch of the Pony Club.

 Muffin, Toffee and Domino are Mrs Wilkinson’s three fourteen hand brood mares. Domino is a pretty dapple gray and her foal Festival is just like her.  Muffin is a dark bay and so is her colt foal Jack, while Toffee and her filly foal, Fudge are, well, Fudge and Toffee coloured.  We all love having the mares and foals around,  It’s great to watch them growing up;  they’re all so different and so are their mothers.  Domino is very proud of Festival and very possessive;  she won’t let her out of her sight. 

Toffee is a very sensible mum and takes the whole business very calmly, while Jack leads Muffin a terrible time.  She never knows where he is or what he’s getting up to, and she spends most of the time tearing around calling to him, convinced he’s up to some mischief.  She’s usually right. Can you find a picture of him?

 Then there’s Goldie.  Mrs Wilkinson’s little girl Amy has just started to ride and Goldie is her very own palomino pony.  Goldie had a foal last year called Honey, and she looks after Amy rather like she fussed over her. Amy thinks she is in charge, but Goldie knows better.  Mrs Wilkinson is just happy that she is absolutely bomb-proof and happy to put up with Amy tugging her around.  One day soon they hope to try a leading-rein class and I have an awful feeling I know who will be asked to do the leading.

Then we come to little Rosie.  She’s the mare Mrs Wilkinson rescued a couple of winters ago.  We brought her home in quite a state and as we had nowhere to put her, Mr Wilkinson cleared all his tools out of the old shed and we made a bed for the little mare in there.  Little did we know what would happen a few months later, but that’s another story that I’ll tell you sometime.  Anyway, Rosie stayed and she’s there to this day.   You can see a picture of her with her baby, Secret, aren’t they sweet?   

There are lots of other ponies on the yard, Vinney, the showpony who belongs to Marie-Claire, a french girl who goes to the local boarding school, Midnight and her foal Jet, Kanga and baby Roo, not to mention Mrs Wilkinson’s four matching driving ponies, Ginger, Pepper, Cinnamon and Nutmeg - she calls them her Spice Girls.

With so many ponies to look after.....

The vet is a regular visitor to Hillcrest.  Usually it’s for something routine like ‘flu and tetanus injections, or something exciting like the birth of a foal, and only very rarely for anything worrying.  Our vet is Tom Barton and he’s really good at his job.  When something goes really wrong it’s very comforting to see his big box full of things to diagnose and cure just about everything you can think of..  There’s a photo in here somewhere of the night Rosie’s baby was born, can you find it?.  You can see the hot water bottle we tucked around the foal, and there I am doing my bit with the storm lantern while Mr Barton is just about to give the foal its first bottle feed.  The senior partner vet, Mr Phillips usually stays in the surgery where they have an animal rescue centre too so its usually Mr Barton who comes out on call.

Then there’s the Farrier...

He’s been shoeing the ponies at Hillcrest for as long as I can remember.  He’s a very jolly man and everyone just calls him Bert.  I love watching him making the shoes and searching in his box to find just the right tool to trim a yearling’s hooves or rasp a newly shod hoof down to a smooth finish.  Sometimes  he comes out to the yard, but now and again we take horses to his forge.  I could watch him shoeing for hours. Can you find the picture of Bert’s Forge? 

Grooming the ponies...

Is my favourite job.  Whether we’re just going out for a hack or if we’re about to go into the ring for a championship, I like to feel they’re all looking their very best.Most of them are very good and really enjoy the attention.  Jigsaw hates getting his ears wet and Toffee tries to eat the brushes, but on the whole it isn’t a difficult job.   Last Christmas Mum and Dad bought me a super new grooming box and some new tools to replace the ones which were wearing out.  It’s great.  It holds all my brushes, the mane comb, sponge. hoofpick, stable rubber, tail bandage saddlesoap and wentzel thread, so I always know where everything is.  It’s even got my name on it! I couldn’t wait to try it out on Christmas morning, so poor Copper was hurried outfor a hack before he’d quite finished eating his special Christmas breakfast.  Never mind, he loves going out, and he did rather make up for it at tea-time.Can you find a picture of my grooming box?

 Looking after the ponies and keeping the yard tidy....

Is very hard work.  I wouldn’t like to count how many mangers, shovels, forks and skips we have here at Hillcrest.  Big galvanised field buckets for the paddocks, rubber stable buckets in three different colours with feedbowls and hook-on mangers to match, and shallow metal feedbowls for foals so it’s harder for them to tip them up and scatter the feed in their beds.  Then there are all the mucking-out tools;  a whole army of forks and skips, brooms and shovels for straw and shavings beds.  It takes ages to muck out all those stables, especially when Amy insists on being given a ride  in the wheelbarrow! (can you find her picture?)  Ponies need to be fed, and our feedroom is full of sacks of Mix, Nuts, Bran, Chaff, Barley and Oats, crates of carrots and apples and of course lots of hay to keep those haynets filled.

Flash really started something when he arrived on the yard with a full range of feed supplements and vitamins.  Mrs Wilkinson was so impressed by the way they improved the horse’s general health that she uses them now on all the ponies on the yard.  They must taste good because all the ponies really like them when they’re added to their feed.  They’re all in tubs with a scoop for measuring. There’s Startright, a vitamin and mineral supplement to encourage healthy bones and teeth, Whizz, a tonic to give extra energy to ponies who are competing hard, Coolit, to calm down over-excitable ponies; Soothit,a  herbal remedy for equine coughs and colds, and Supermum, a replacement for mare’s milk that you can mix up in a bottle for orphan foals.  We’ve certainly been very glad of that here at Hillcrest.  The same people do a super show shampoo for glossy manes and tails, and wormer, either in a tube or as granules to add to feed.

 Copper and I practice really hard for the Pony Club team...

Both he and Jigsaw love jumping, but Jigsaw flattens so many jumps in his enthusiasm that Mr Wilkinson is kept busy in the winter months mending and re-painting the showjumps.  We have a lot now, and I can change the course whenever Copper gets too used to it.    this year Mr Wilkinson has been very busy building a Cross-Country course on the land around the farm.  The fences are really beautiful and I can’t wait to take copper round them - although I expect it will be a case of Copper taking me!  Jigsaw thinks they are Jigsaw-proof-fences specially for him. Schooling and Dressage....

Schooling is very important and takes a lot of time and practice.  We’ve always had an outdoor school here at Hillcrest, but a few years ago Mrs Wilkinson decided that as well as using it for lessons and schooling the ponies, we would run shows and have dressage competitions.  They went down really well and now we have regular shows in Spring and Summer and last year so many people came to watch that Mr Wilkinson said he thought they ought to have somewhere to sit.  He has lots of good ideas and he goes away and gets on with them and doesn’t let anyone see what he’s doing until it’s all finished. Mrs Wilkinson was thrilled when she saw the beautiful spectator stand he’d set up at one end of the school - Now our competitors can watch in comfort. Can you find the picture of the school?

 We ought to open a tack shop...

 Says Mrs Wilkinson every time we have a  clear-out in the tackroom.  You’d never believe the collection of rugs, numnahs, bandages, flyfringes, travelling pads, halters, leadropes... I could go on and on.  Mrs Wilkinson can never resist a bargain and as she likes all the ponies to look really smart, and have their ‘clothes’ colour co-ordinated, our collection just grows and grows.

Then there are all the sprays of insect repellent, mane and tail gloss, cans of hoof oil, tendon gel, anti-chew paste to stop jigsaw eating his stable door, bottles of cod liver oil and leather dressing and aerosols of wound spray and the special nasty-tasting spray to discourage Jack from chewing his mother’s tail.  You can imagine what a muddle all those can get into, and it wouldn’t do to get hold of the wrong one in a hurry.

 Summer is showing time....

and from early in the Spring right through to Olympia at Christmas, our ponies travel all over the country to all the County Shows and major Qualifiers.  Hillcrest ponies do really well and Mrs Wilkinson has a whole room full of rosettes, trophies and Championship sashes to prove it.

Can you find the picture of Jess getting Storm ready to travel to the Horse of the Year Show last October?.  It’s very hard work, with a lot of very early morning starts but we enjoy every minute of it. Jess loves lilac (as you can see) and we all think Storm looks really smart in his colour-co-ordinated clothes. He’s just about to get on the lorry - oh, that’s something else I had to tell you, Mr Wilkinson says we’re hoping to have a new lorry this year, so keep a look out for it.  As you can see, we have lots of fun at Hillcrest, so come and join us.....

             love,

            Sarah

 

!