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11 March 2010

Wednesday, 10 March

So, despite the status of the Mondeo, I did have appointments booked for today, so I loaded up the Micra with a mini stud kit and headed out to pregnancy scan a few mares, to see an add-in lame colt, to run a few personal errands, and then to skip down to the south end of the practice to do open a caslicks on an emergent basis.

You can only imagine how funny I looked to clients. The new girl, with a funny accent, no Willesley coveralls/jacket as yet, with a half-assembled kit in a periwinkle 2-door Micra that drives a bit like a lawn mower. Priceless!

However, I did snap a few photos of my daily jaunts. The theme song that continually runs through my head is “nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide!”. Here's a snapshot of a “normal” lane on which I travel quite often.

And this one of the “single carriageway” A-roads that I much prefer.

Even if they do tend to "disappear" in the villages....


and along the way at various under passes.

And this one of the town in which I will be living, Tetbury.

And this, a “lay-by”. These are often outside of towns and frequently have a food van parked in them. The original drive-thru perhaps? I can't say that I've frequented one yet, but I'm sure as the stud season gets rolling, and I have a dependable vehicle, I just might find myself ordering a “beef burger with cheese on a bap” (cheeseburger on a bun!).

When I arrived back at the clinic this afternoon, I was greeted with yet another vehicle, this one a Gold Mondeo that will serve as my replacement for the Silver Mondeo whose clutch is to be repaired/replaced over the next few weeks. Thankfully, the other car's clutch is still under warranty, so I will cruise about in the gold Mommy-wagon for a bit until it is returned.

And then we'll start all over again.... Happy Trails!!

Tuesday, 9 March.

So, I'd planned for this blog entry to be all about the wonders of practice in the UK with pictures of my well stocked vehicle and perfectly organized “kit” along with the beautiful scenery, lovely clients, and sturdy horses. I should learn right off that one should never assume!

After a week of driving the Micra and riding along with the directors (bosses) of the stud (reproductive) practice, my snazzy station wagon finally arrived! OK, sexy it isn't, but it's certainly practical and functional considering the status of the roads and their car swallowing pot holes! I got my “kit” assembled, raided the random plastic drawers and containers in the storeroom, stocked my portable fridge, and was ready to rumble! I had several appointments booked in the diary (schedule) and I was free!!!

So, I managed to see a laminitc pony, a pregnant mare, a two-year old for his annual “jabs” (vaccinations), and an add-on dental, all before lunch when I met up with one of the directors to take some field radiographs (they prefer not to take field films as they have a perfectly useful clinic with radiology suite and full time radiographer). While following the director to the call, my clutch became “stuck” twice and he played round the roundabout until I managed to catch up with him as I did not know our final destination. All seemed fine, though, and we arrived at the call, took the radiographs, and I headed off to my next appointment with the radiograph machine to see a yearling filly who was sporting a swollen hind ankle.

Note to self, the best laid plans are always foiled! So, I'm cruising along, enjoying my newfound freedom, surfing the radio, and figuring out all of the dashboard controls in the Mondeo when “vrumm vrummm” was the car's response to my downshifting. “Of course”, I thought to myself, “dumb American still can't manage the silly manual transmission”; so, I tried again, “vrumm, vrumm” said the car revving to 5500 rpms and starting to smell funny.

Hmmm, doesn't seem good. So, I'm on a busy lane just outside of a village that, of course, is barely wide enough for two vehicles, much less a third one that won't move. Grr! So, I manage to coast into the lovely drive of a country cottage where the car was most definitely completely dead. I could not make it go into any gear, forward or backwards, and each time that I tried, the clutch had less and less resistance. So, now what?! Not ever having driven a manual transmission, I am not familiar with the “normal” problems that may arise, however I've certainly heard of the clutch going out and that seemed to be the issue as I couldn't get the car into any gear, and the clutch pedal weakly went to the floor without any play.

Now what?!? Should I, the new girl from America, ring the clinic for help? Ring the director I'd just left only 5 minutes prior for advice? Call every girl's favorite mechanic, Dad?

Well, of course, I did all 3!!! The clinic arranged a “rescue” for the car (yep, the Audi station wagon seen in the picture below with the rather dense teenaged looking driver, and a tow rope!! They don't have tow trucks here, apparently they just drag the disabled vehicle to the garage behind said "rescue wagon"!), the Director arranged to give my drugs and me a lift, and my Dad assured me that I couldn't have killed the clutch in less than 24 hours of driving!

So, my newfound freedom was thwarted as the Director and I continued in his overflowing car to the filly who needed radiographs and the colt who needed a microchip and his passport drawing.

Once the day was completed, we returned to the clinic where my drugs, and the rest of my kit from the dead Mondeo, went back into the storeroom for later use and I was reunited with the Micra for my journey to the barn and “home”. The periwinkle Micra and I are becoming fast friends.

Oh, and how about this for a gee whiz moment? The cottage at which I was stuck was named the “Valley View” cottage (for those of you who can't appreciate this so much, I spent my childhood summers at a camp called Valley View) in a town called Sandy Lane (quite similar to Sandy Springs where I grew up!).

The Valley View Cottage

Saturday, 27 February: JAS Finals

So, no personal pictures today, as I forgot the camera again, but I thought I'd share a little bit about Indoor Eventing since it received such poor reviews in the US after the Express Eventing disaster a few years ago when Mary King lost her beloved Call Again Cavalier. The “Jump and Style” aka JAS series, is a winter indoor eventing activity that starts at BE90, a 90 cm level approximately equivalent to the Novice level of eventing in the US, through the Intermediate level. It is usually hosted in an indoor arena with a mixture of show jumps and cross country jumps. The first 8 or so fences are show jumps which are given a “style” mark by a judge, lower being better, with the remaining fences as cross country types.

 Only the cross country portion is timed, but all faults are awarded as for show jumping (i.e. 4 faults for a knockdown, 4 faults for the first disobedience, 8 for the second, and elimination for the third). Jumps for Joy sponsors the series, so many of the cross country jumps are from their collection of polyethylene corners, chevrons, roll tops, and fake brush steeplechase type fences that are readily available in the states. There are multiple combinations, skinnies, and even faux ditches.

I found the finals course walked quite challenging in the indoor arena as it was very forward and twisting and turning. Much like the hunters in the US, the style marks are subjective and I never really got a handle on how they were calculated. However, at the end of each round, a judge's card was returned to the competitors, much like a dressage test, so that the activity is both competitive and educational.

Mike and Emma each competed in the finals and had good trips. Each finished in the top halves of their respective divisions and both horses came away with positive attitudes. Perhaps Tate will get to play at this series next winter!

06 March 2010

Thursday, 25 February

A couple of quiet days have passed. I've enjoyed mornings of barn work, pleasant rides on the Taters, a great couple of canters on the gallop yesterday, and a meeting at Willesley today. I finally have wheels!!!

OK, well, we can all laugh at my current vehicular status! Apparently, one of the ambulatory vets had a crash in her car that resulted in severe damage and extensive repairs. As a result, she is driving the spare car which was to be mine. So, the clinic is in the process of acquiring an additional vehicle that will become my vet mobile soon. In the meantime, at least I have wheels. So, it may be a tiny “hired” (i.e. rental) car provided by the insurance company that just might be periwinkle blue with 2 doors, a manual transmission, right hand drive, and an engine the size of a small lawn mower! Much of this was to be expected, the right hand drive and the manual transmission specifically, however, turning 3500 rpms going only 60 mph and in 5th gear worries me a bit; and without and engine temperature gauge (the dash only has a spedometer, rpm indicator, and fuel gauge), I'm clueless!

C'est la vie. Thank goodness it's a hired car that will take the abuse of my learning how to manage a manual transmission (only ever driven one a handful of times around the farm). I endeavored to only stall it twice on the way to the barn from the clinic and did save face at the clinic by successfully reversing, and getting to first gear without scattering pea gravel!

The roundabouts are great fun with an inexperienced American driver on the wrong side of the road driving a lawn mower with a manual transmission! I'll leave the rest to your imaginations!!!

Monday, 22 February

Dressage in the snow!! More snow, and I think I'm being punished for all of those days back in Georgia when I complained about the 34 degrees and rain, just wishing that it would be 30 and snowing. C'est la vie. We had an educational flat lesson in the driving snow where we addressed some crucial issues at the walk and trot.

Sunday, 21 February

The snow has hung around, and it was a classic English morning. There was dense and cold fog, snow blowing about, but it was all good. I rode Mr Taters in the English countryside with only his blowing to break the intense quiet. We had a lovely hack, only brief moments of confusion as to our whereabouts because I couldn't see anything more than 10 feet away, and some quality time alone.

We did find our way back to the barn where I untacked and rugged Tate for another day with his favorite pony, and headed with the girls to a local unaffiliated jumper show for the afternoon. The weather turned and though cold, the sun peeked about and it was a lovely afternoon with the Wayfarer girls and Emma earning some lovely rosettes for some top placings including 2 wins in 3 classes.

Ah, Saturday, finally, I can breathe!!!

Though chilly, and with 2 inches of snow on the ground, it's a beautiful day! Amelia and Donnie took Tate and me for a 45 minute walk around the neighboring fields. I wasn't entirely sure Amelia knew where we were going, as she is only 8 years old, and we might have had little spurts of some trot and canter to help the boys settle, but all in all, it was a quiet hack. The only fences around are ancient and constructed of Cotswold stone. Most of the fields are plowed for spring planting, but a few cabbages are starting to sprout in some of them, and it's beautiful! We arrived back at the gallop where Tate had a short trot around and then another day out with his new best friend :).

Wednesday, no Thursday, no wait, it's actually Friday!... well, whichever day it is!!!

So, in all this traveling, I seem to have lost track of the days. However, it IS Friday and Tate is finally getting some turn out to stretch his travel weary legs! Apparently, though, he spent most of the morning pacing the fenceline wanting a buddy, so Emma kindly rearranged the turnouts so that Tate could be turned out with Amelia's 12.2 hand white pony named “Don Juan”, more affectionately called Donnie. I wish he could have a big friend, but unfortunately, he plays so rough that I worry about his safety and soundness as well as that of his playmate (and their rugs, their shoes, etc!).

So, while Tate is enjoying the lovely sunshine, yes it can be sunny in England, I am bustling about to sort out my UK license with a trip to London and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. This should be an uneventul trip as I'm armed with a printed map from the RCVS website, a round trip coach (no, it's not a bus when in the UK) ticket from Cirencester to Victoria Station, London, and my original degree and passport.

As usual, nothing in life is quite as easy as it seems. My map of London was woefully incomplete and though I had an hour and a quarter to make the 10 minute walk from the Victoria Coach station to the RCVS, I still arrived only 15 minutes early for my 11 AM appointment. This involved several misguided turns down streets that changed names in less than a block (of course, none of these were on my map), a quick stop in an estate agent's office to ask for directions to the Belgravia House which houses the RCVS, the acquisition of a superb map on the back of an advert for some very posh flats in the center of London, and my ultimate arrival.

As I was unsure of the complete nature of my visit to the RCVS, I dressed professionally. However, it was a group meeting in which I felt VERY old as the only other applicants were recent graduates who were wearing clothes that were merely a step up from their pajamas. In the UK and most of the EU, a veterinary degree is obtained after 5 years of “University”. Consequently, these students “qualify” (they don't graduate necessarily) for membership with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons at 21 or 22 years of age. Thankfully, though, two older gentlemen arrived as well and were also attired professionally in suits with ties.

After my meeting, I met up with an old friend of mine (ok, we haven't seen each other in 15 years an reconnected via Facebook recently) for lunch. We dined at a cute bistro and then had a lovely walk about London all afternoon. We journeyed through several different neighbourhoods to the St James Cathedral, then along the Thames as the sun was shining and it was lovely to stroll along the river at high tide, and then back to the London Underground where I was to catch the tube back to Victoria Station. This is where it gets interesting, again... nothing is ever simple...

So, at this point, it's 3:55 PM, and I have plenty of time to get back to Victoria Station. My return to Cirencester on the coach is booked for 4:30 PM. The coaches depart every 2 hours for Ciren and I know that the 6:30 PM and the 8:30 PM coaches are booked as I was unable to purchase an online ticket for a later coach. My friend and I waited, and waited, and waited for the train to come to the station and it did finally arrive. I left my friend, boarded the train, a mere 5 minutes from Victoria Station at 4:10 PM. Ok, I knew I was cutting it close at this point, but really, I still had an additional 10 minutes upon arrival to the Victoria TRAIN station to hike the 2 ½ blocks to the Victoria COACH station for my 4:30 PM coach departure.

Well, once on board, the train moved about 100 yards into the tunnel and then stopped with the kind computer voice educating the passengers of a slight delay because of a “more important” tubeline crossing the tracks ahead. No worries, I can make it. After what seemed like an eternity, the train did finally move, complete its 4 stops before mine, and arrived Victoria Station at 4:27 PM. Yikes! Well, I couldn't miss my coach, so I started running. For anyone who has ever visited Victoria Station, it's HUGE!! It can be quite difficult in Friday afternoon London people traffic to negotiate one's direction, but to do it at a mad dash?!? Regardless, I managed to make it to the turnstiles where I popped my ticket into the reader and it was promptly returned with a message citing that I should “seek assistance.” Well, seeing as I purchased the ticket just that morning from an actual agent and not a machine, I figured the turnstile must be in error. So, I move to the next one, “seek assistance” greets me again; and I move to the next one, same story. Apparently I'm a slow learner, because I must've gone to at least 3 or 4 different turnstiles to have the same message appear while everyone else seems to have no issue with their tickets. Well, crud, I'm late, I've GOT to get to that coach, no one seems to be around for me to “seek assistance” from, so I just snuggled up to someone who apparently had a functioning ticket and pushed through the turnstile behind them. I'm pretty sure this could be considered a crime, but at that point, I had no choice!

So, back to the sprint. I bolted out of the station at a mad run, read signs on the fly and miraculously after what seemed like an eternity arrived at the Coach station where I asked about the gate from which my bus was to depart. Gate 9, of course, of only 10 on that side. I continued to run to the gate where the sign still displayed my coach number and route and their were numerous people in the cue. However, there was not a coach in the lane. Perfect, it's running late too! I must be living right... or not!

Moments later, the sign flashed the next coach and its number that departed at 1700. After some quick math, I realize that my coach must've already departed. That's right, I'm in the UK where everything runs on time! Grr...

So, of course, I do the next most logical thing knowing that the subsequent coaches are booked... I ran out the Emergency Exit and onto the road to find my coach. It must be there somewhere! Thank goodness for Friday afternoon London traffic! A mere block from the station, I found the coach marked for Cirencester, cheerfully knocked on the drivers' window and requested to board the coach. Stunned, he opened his door, made sure I knew where his coach was going, gave me a lecture about being on time, asked me why I was late (I felt like I was back in school!), made sure I held the appropriate ticket, and let me aboard.

Of course, the coach is full, so I hustle my way to the back where there is one remaining seat. I think every passenger on the coach managed to mumble something about my luck as I passed to nestle myself, flushed from running and red from embarassment, in the seat for the 2 hour journey “home” to Ciren.

Ah! Another day complete! It probably would have been smart to take my handy Sat Nav (no, it's not a GPS here either) for negotiating London, or to have downloaded a complete map of the area, or to wear comfy shoes to avoid the nasty bruises on my right lateral arch, but not so in the life of Kim. Live and learn, die and forget it all....

Friendly Faces!

Yay! We made it safe and sound to New Barn farm where we were greeted cheerfully by Emma and the gang, and SNOWFLAKES!!! Grr...

Tate's stall was freshly bedded, had a fresh new net of haylage, full water buckets and a “Danger” sign pre-intalled! Ok, so the Danger sign has been their for years, by the looks of it, but it's quite fitting and funny. Tate quite likes feeling “Dangerous” in his house!

The humans went on to enjoy a lovely pub lunch while Tate settled in.

Amsterdam, NE to Calais, FR to Dover, UK!

Only in Europe can you travel to 3 countries within 5 hours and involve a lorry and a ferry! Courtesy of Parker's International and Sea France, we uneventfully crossed the sea and arrived in the UK.

Unfortunately, during this journey, I had to ride in the living of the lorry which did not communicate with the drivers, so Tate and I had some serious quality time together. I also finished a second book which left me several hours to contemplate life and its greater meanings :).

Tate became bored also, and started to make music. I captured it on video, but can't manage to post it. I will get it posted soon as it's quite entertaining (or it could've just been funny in the moment as I was terribly bored and lonely!!). We've always known he marches to the beat of his own drummer, but now I have proof!

Once on the ferry, though, the drivers and I left the horses in the cargo hold with all of the other 18 wheelers and cars, and headed upstairs for the short (1 ½ hour) crossing to the UK. I went on a journey about the ship and found 4 different restauarants, several pubs, and about 10 coke machines, all of which were out of Diet Coke! Grr! So, a coke it was, with some peanut M & Ms, and a new book from the on board shop.

Upon arrival in Dover, we disembarked, the horses cleared customs (so, this is a bit of a joke as their paperwork was checked, but the horses, nor the freight (i.e. my equipment) was even looked at by the customs officials) and we proceeded to the Parker's International stabling. Tate settled in nicely with his new buddies (a mare and foal who were picked up in Calais just before boarding the ferry) next door. He greedily ate another warm slurry and enjoyed 5, yes that's 25 gal!, of water over the next 12 hours!!

I spent the night in a Nepalese pub in town where I had a lovely English breakfast. I've always known that Englishmen are hardcore about their coffee and tea, but I had no idea that a Nepalese bartender could be so offended that someone didn't want his coffee with her breakfaast. As a result, I did finish my breakfast with a coffee... when in Rome...

I was then picked up by the driver from Amsterdam in town, whisked to Parker's where Tate had another warm slurry and his ulcergard. We then headed to our final destination, New Barn Farm, in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, UK with a team of Czechloslovakian drivers. Once again, I sat in the living, but thankfully, this one communicated with the drivers, so I had a view of where we were headed.

 After a brief stop at a roadside cafe in the woods (seriously, in order to access this place, the guys parked the lorry on the side of the road, and ambled along a deer trail through the woods to a cute little tradestand. I should've taken a picture, but I'd left my camera in the lorry :(), we were on our way to New Barn Farm with a total trip time of about 4 hours.

24-hour Layover in AMS

So, contrary to popular belief, I did not venture into Amsterdam to partake in the local coffeehouses, much to the chagrin of many friends, but I spend the time catching up on some sleep, finishing a book, and enjoying some time with Tate. He was quite exhausted upon arrival as he'd been traveling since Sunday AM and it was Tuesday evening by the time we arrived at Boznicht for the night. He was bedded to his knees, though, on rubber with mounds of shavings, so had a good nap in short order.

After his nap, we had a walk around the horse hotel which in its day was quite the riding school in the old fashioned European sense. It has multiple rooms for lodging, a spacious lounge, kitchen, and bar overlooking the indoor school. He then had his legs shampooed and dried for the evening because after nearly 3 days in shipping boots, he was trying to develop some dermatitis. Not permissable at this point in the journey because we were only halfway there!

We then both gobbled our respective suppers (his a slurry of his American feed with copious amounts of warm water, beet pulp, succeed, and ulcergard and mine a pizza courtesy of our fab driver) and turned in for the evening to have a good sleep.

The next morning, after eating cold pizza leftover from dinner, Tate had a lovely warm slurry again, and continued to enjoy the deep bedding and fresh hay. I had a brisk walk into town to the ATM to withdraw Euros to cover my accomodation for the evening. It was good to get out and stretch my legs a bit. Sitting still is hard work!

By 1 PM, we were loaded onto a Parker's lorry and heading for the ferry.

Finally... an update!! New York to Amsterdam

So, after loading Tate into the shipping container in New York, he traveled on a flatbed truck to be weighed, with his travelling companion in order to figure the placement of the containers within the plane. From there, he went planeside and waited until the passengers had commenced boarding and was then loaded onto the plane.

 As they are closed up in their container, the horses are unaware of the ups and downs and sliding around that is requisite in order to ensure a balanced load. Once on board, though, their “jockey doors” are opened and the head/rump flaps lifted so that the container becomes much like a straight load trailer for the duration of the flight.

Unfortunately, we were delayed on the ramp in New York for over an hour as the plane was de-iced and then cleared for take off. As an on board “groom”, I was responsible for sitting with Tate and his traveling companion in the container for the take off and landing, and then for offering them water throughout the journey. As predicted, the horses do sit down a bit during the take off, but then settle as the plane leaves the ground and starts climbing toward the cruising altitude. All 8 horses were fine with the process and continued to munch hay throughout.

The KLM animal attendant for the flight was fantastic and took over the inflight duties so that the professional groom who was traveling with the Mersant (another equine travel agent) horses and myself could catch a few winks.

We then assumed our positions in the crates with the horses for landing and landed without incidence. In fact, none of us knew that we had landed until we began to taxi toward the gate. I stayed with Tate until his crate was unloaded.

 At that point, the groom and I continued through customs (Wow, a piece of cake in Holland, especially when compared to the UK and the US!!), and on to baggage claim where we had to wait for my 49.7 lb (yep, 50 lbs is the max allowed!) duffel bag to arrive. In hindsight, I probably should've eaten the $50 that would have been in addition to my other airfreight bill and shipped the bag with the equipment, but in my ultimate frugality, I thought I should utilize my one free checked bag.

From there, we lugged my bag for what seemed like miles to the shuttle bus that took us to the Animal Hotel where Tate and his other travel companions waited patiently in their crate to be cleared through customs (2 ½ hours later, apparently in record time!) and dispersed to their respective shippers and final destinations. Tate was the only one continuing to the UK, but he did have one friend who traveled with him to the Horse Hotel, “Boznicht,” for the night outside of Amsterdam.