From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Wrapping it all up

We're home just over four weeks now and it's like we've never been away.  We're now acclimatised to the Irish Summer (we've grown webbed feet) and are settled back into our different routines, Martine with her garden, second horse and Dressage Ireland roles.
Flurry and Gigi have been resting happily/eating like pigs in Anne's paddock.
They've both had their feet trimmed.  Flurry needed almost nothing taken off his toes, but he was indeed quite long in the heel.  He's looking good now and Martine is going to start working him completely barefoot as soon as his holiday is over.  It was good to see that Gigi's heels are opening up nicely, but her feet still aren't quite up to the full barefoot life yet, so she'll continue to wear her Renegades for the immediate future.

Cinnamon settled right back in.  She seems to be sleeping more than before, perhaps, like the Ould Wagons, she needs to rest a bit after Le Big Trek.

Cookie got straight back into Cat Persecution mode.  The cats, Fatty and Skinny, are continuing to try to teach her that Cats are Friends, not Food, but they're not getting anywhere.  Cookie has now learned how to climb trees, so the only safe haven the cats have is on top of the stable roof.
Molly was waiting to greet us when we arrived home.  She seems to have pancreatitis as well as liver issues, but she's comfortable at the moment, thanks to the lovely vets Deirdre and Dave.

Martine and her Long Suffering Husband have made the decision to return to Provence.  They're hoping to leave towards the end of 2012 and will spend a full year there on a trial basis.  If it works out, who knows what could happen!  Martine has set up a new blog, Halt, Salute and... which will chronicle their horsey activities and their lives as they first of all prepare to leave Ireland and then settle in to Provencal life long-term.

Our fund-raising efforts were more than worthwhile.  We knew that our target of €5,000 was pretty ambitious, but we're now just short of €4,000, with a few more "promises" to be kept yet.  It would be great to break the €4000 mark, so if you've been intending to donate, now's the time!  It's all gone directly from to the Assistance Dog Program run by IGDB, barring cash donations which Martine will hand over in the form of a cheque shortly.

The auction of the limited edition print, Ma Blonde, donated by Irish contemporary artist Tony O' Connor, made €150, with only one bid!  Denise Barrett really wanted that print!

Anne hasn't settled back in as well as Martine, finding it really hard to settle into the daily routine after so much excitement !
The horses went to Martine's place initially but were soon moved up to Anne's place as she has an abundance of grass. The neighbourly farmer was going to top the paddock but the weather turned so wet he couldn't get into the field without wrecking the grass, as the field is on a slope. So our noble steeds returned to more grass than they had seen in months !

Lots of grass

More Grass
 But they weren't long working their way through it
Less Grass 
And then they were strip grazed into the rest of the paddock.

Diet Time
Poor Gigi has had her fair share of woes since we got back, Anne had noticed the hair under the saddle being rubbed at the start of the last week of the trek, and while she kept a close eye on it and changed to a thick merino wool numnah , saddle sores appeared about 5 days after she got home. Anne was intending resting her any way, but she really felt bad about Gigi.

Gigi had of course changed shape significantly during the period away, and it's obvious from these pictures that the saddle just wasn't fitting properly any more. But the sores aren't infected and as long as she isn't ridden they should heal well, but she will probably always bear these reminders of Le Big Trek, with white hair replacing the chestnut.

Unfortunately that is not the sum total of Gigi's woes. She suffers from photo sensitivity on her pink nose and Anne usually applies sun cream on sunny days, but after all the sun in Provence, and no problems, she had thought she wouldn't need it in Ireland's watery sun. But Anne was wrong. These sores are very slow to heal, so Gigi gets suncream on sunny days and derma gel otherwise, and Anne is on another guilt trip !
Poor Gigi's Sunburned Nose

Roxy, Anne's guide dog pup, has started training, and is on the Assistance Dog Program, which is appropriate ! Anne is going to visit her next Tuesday, as she has bonded well with her trainer, and shouldn't be too upset by seeing Anne again, it can be quite disruptive for the pups if they see their puppy walkers too soon after the separation. Anne will get another pup later this year but is taking a short break until August.

Fionn is loving being home, after three weeks in kennels, and is delighted with the freedom the garden offers him. Although he looks very grey he still has as much energy as ever and is getting nice long walks every day.

Fionn enjoying the sun
 The vegetable patch has suffered from Anne's long absence, and is mostly planted with leeks, onions and lettuce !
The vegetable patch
Anne:- Martine came to take Flurry back home last Tuesday, which for me really marked the end of our adventure, the horses had been together since last autumn, but Gigi quickly settled in with her new companion Pepper, who was Martine's children's pony.

 I want to say a big thank you to Martine for doing the navigating every day, my sense of direction is appalling and I'd probably still be stuck up a mountain somewhere if it hadn't been for her, it was a huge responsibility and she rose so well to the challenge.

Big thanks also to George, who was always there for us when we needed him, lunches, boot repairs, taxi horsebox, and putting on boots, always with good humour, we couldn't have done it without him.

It took me ages to figure out how to put all the maps together, and I'm not sure it was worth the effort but here it is ! Everytrail has also not added up the distances correctly, probably  because we retraced our steps, but we really did do over 500k!!

Le Big Trek Total at EveryTrail

Saturday, 12 May 2012

It's a Dog's Life

Poor Cinnamon and Cookie have had a raw deal.  While the LSH was still with us on Le Big Trek, they spent their days pretending to be his secretaries, while in reality they were asleep in the car the whole time.

They were given occasional toilet and water breaks, but their days were pretty boring really.  When the LSH left, their life became even more boring. In order to protect innocent B&B rooms, we had to leave them locked in the car while we were riding.  We were incredibly lucky to end up in Camping du Lac at this stage, as Moira and Andrew let them out regularly, made sure they had water and moved the car when necessary, so they stayed in the shade the whole time.
Despite all of this confinement, they've both become much more sociable.  They've had plenty of time in cafes, restaurants and dining halls with us in the evenings, meeting lots of new people and plenty of other dogs too.  Cinnamon in particular has gone from being quite a shy, timid little dog to being a brazen and artful mendicant, begging shamelessly from anyone within range and making friends wherever she goes.

These quad-bikers at the Chateau de St Agnan were particularly taken with her… the big burly guy on the left was looking for baissus (kissies) from her at breakfast the next morning!
She has learned to communicate with fish
And read maps.

She loves the idea of swimming, but not the reality, so she’s really good at paddling and savagely killing any pieces of vegetation she finds near the waters edge.

She has taught Cookie how to paddle too, although Cookie is not absolutely convinced it’s a great idea.

She has also taught Cookie how to make sure that Every Single Hole and Crevice gets investigated properly…. You never know, there might be a mouse or a rat hiding in one of them!

Together, they saw off the threat of the deadly Root Ball.
 They bit and gnawed
 and dug and shook
until that evil Root Ball was no more.

Since Monday, we’ve been able to spend much more time with them, so they’ve had a couple of nice walks each day.  Even when we were in Dijon, which is a big city, we were right beside a park, so they got to experience the life of town doggies, trotting through the park with lots of people and children around, and visiting the little Petting Zoo at the far end.
After a long drive, which included a visit to the Normandy beaches, we were on the ferry, and the dogs were confined to the kennels.  Back in December, they were not happy at all, and barked and yipped every time they heard us coming to visit them.  Toiletting was also an issue, Cinnamon refused point blank to pee while on the boat and Cookie held on grimly for about twelve hours, before eventually giving in.
They accepted it much better second time around, and have both gotten the idea of using the sand box - what a relief!

Anyone remember the Little Old Ladies post?  Well, Jeepy, being a Toyota Landcruiser (remember that Top Gear show?) is still going strong and has done us proud.  Molly, my very elderly Bearded Collie, is just about hanging in there, having been cared for very well by Granny while we were away.

She's very wobbly and it looks like she's slowly heading for liver failure, but we're so very grateful for the opportunity to be with her for her final days/weeks/months.

Finally, this is what met us when we arrived in my house on Friday evening!  Thanks, Daughters, and the LSH for putting them up to it, and thanks Friends for being at the surprise party to welcome us home!  Unfortunately, the biggest surprise was that we were an hour early.... sorry folks, blame Irish Ferries!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Homeward Bound

Today was the big day, the horses didn't realise of course, they were just enjoying having the morning off, Flurry in particular was full of high spirits when I went up to feed them, cantering around and rearing, Gigi just looked at him wisely, and tucked into the extra treat of a pile of hay as well as the usual horse nuts for breakfast. We packed up, walked the dogs, they needed some quality time, having been short changed since George left, with us piling on the kilometres every day. Martine checked the pressure in all the tyres, then it was time to catch the horses and load them up. Our transporter had said they should have the truck in Dijon around 5 or 6pm.

They were both easy to catch, probably expecting to be boxed somewhere to start yet another hack!

The journey to Dijon went smoothly, and we arrived a bit before 2pm. So I went looking for someone to tell us where to put the horses, and met with a French attitude we hadn't seen in Provence. Ce n'est pas l'heure (it's not the time), the man in the room marked accueil (welcome) said! But he relented and showed me where to find the patron.

He showed us to the stables and said he would be back shortly to give us hay. So our darlings were installed and happy, lots of hay and no work, how bad! We had noticed flies on them in Saint Agnan, and had at last discovered what they were, Hippobosca equina or the Louse fly. They are blood suckers, but not a danger. So we spent a happy(?) hour picking them off and squashing them, yuck!
We phoned Mullins to let them know the horses were at the pick up point, and they said the truck driver would call us about 30 minutes before they got to the yard.

The hotel we were staying in has a nice looking restaurant so we booked a table for 7:30 and looked forward to a nice relaxing evening meal. But by 7pm there was still now word from the transporter, so we phoned again, we'll call you back was the response. By now it was nearly 7:30 so we decided to risk having dinner, but we would make it a quick one. At 7:40 Mullins phoned to say the lorry wouldn't arrive 'till around 9pm. We had made the right choice to eat anyway, but not the relaxed meal we had been expecting as we had both stressed out over the whole delay, wondering what the problem was, would the horses be collected tonight etc etc.

Dinner over we headed back to the yard, put Gigi's travel boots on and finally in rolled the truck. It all seemed unreal, we had waited and planned for this trip for so long, and now it was finally over.

We both know the horses are in the hands of the experts, but so hard to say goodbye to our constant companions of the last month.

It was dark by now, but you can just see the truck. The same one that had picked them up, way back in December.

Bye guys we'll see you in Cork on Friday evening, thanks for being such great horses and making the whole trek possible.

Please support our cause, Irish Guide Dogs program for Assistance dogs for families of children with Autism

Monday, 7 May 2012

Day 23 - The Final Frontier

We were on 487.7km, with 12.3 to go to make the 500km, but Everytrail on the smartphone has a nice(?) way of changing its mind about the distance we've covered - we've lost half a k here and there once it's actually uploaded - so we wanted to do at least 13km today to be sure of crossing the 500 marker.  It's 8.7 around the lake, so I added on an extra bit through the woods which looked like it would work out at between 13 and 14k.
We posed for photos in our "IGDB Volunteer" Hi-Vis vests before we left, taken by one of the French cyclists who are staying in the gite next door.  Front view... 
and back view....
but it's still hard to make out the writing!
Today's weather was the best we've seen in the Morvan, the sun shone a bit, and there was no threat of rain.  The fishermen were out in force on the lake - maybe they are celebrating their new President?
We were all tired, both us and the horses, so we took it easy for most of the hack.  We did ask them to canter up a lovely long stretch of grass verge, and they were happy to oblige, and just as happy to pull up and settle into "one foot in front of the other" mode again.
Once we came out of the woods and back beside the lake again, they suddenly realised that this was a SHORT hack and the speed of the walk became noticeably brisker!  But the funniest thing is that we are now calling a two and a half hour hack SHORT - a few weeks ago we considered anything over two hours to be quite long!
We watched the distance build up on Everytrail, and as we passed the 500km mark we cheered, punched air and shook hands.  There was no-one there to witness it but us and the horses, and in the great scheme of things it's not a big event, but it means a lot to us.
We've pushed ourselves as far as we could go - we have no doubt that the horses could have done more, but we're both at the end of our resources, with sore backs, bums and joints.  In addition to the physical fatigue, I found the responsibility of navigating for three and a half weeks, through unknown and sometimes difficult country, very wearing mentally.   I feel like I've run a marathon, and I suppose in our own way, we both have.
The very last French "Through the Ears" shot
Taking stock of things, we've all come through pretty well.
The emergency veterinary kit has travelled over 500km in my saddle-bags and was only ever needed once, when Gigi had a mystery cut on her fetlock.
The horses are slimmer, but fitter.  Flurry no longer looks quite so cobby, he looks like a trim little horse!  You can just see Gigi's ribs, despite the feed Anne has been shovelling into her twice a day, but she started the Trek a little bit thinner than we would have liked.  Both horses have changed shape noticeably, they have muscled up tremendously in their hindquarters and in their shoulders.  Their saddles are not fitting as well as they used to, but despite this we've had no lumps or sores under the saddle or on the girth-line.  Gigi has some new white hairs under her saddle and Flurry's hair is a bit worn where one of his numnahs rubbed it a bit, but otherwise they are great.
And their feet?  They're definitely in need of a trim at this stage, they haven't seen hard ground in four weeks.  The Renegade boots have done a great job of protecting them, and there is no way we could have accomplished this without them.
Well-used Renegades!
Gigi wore through the toe on three of her boots, and Flurry wore through on one.  The tread pattern on all boots has been worn almost flat, and we could feel this for the last week - both horses were slipping more than usual.  I don't think we could have done the really rocky bits in between Vaucluse and the Drôme without them, as metal shoes would not have given any sort of grip on the pure rock surfaces we encountered.
Holey Renegades, Batman!
Flurry and Gigi will leave tomorrow and will have a few weeks break when they get home.  Once we've seen them safely onto the transporter's lorry, we will breathe a sigh a relief.  We then have a day and a half to sort out the dogs' vet visit - they need to be wormed before they will be allowed into Ireland - and travel to Cherbourg for our ferry.  It's hard to believe we've done it.  We had a lot of things go against us - the broken wrist being the most significant, but the LSH's early return was also a major issue.  Neither of us wanted to finish Le Big Trek doing circles, but that's what we had to do to cover the last 100km - we hope our sponsors understand!
Flurry and Gigi, in front of the Chateau, blissfully unaware that it's all over
Twenty-five years ago, on this day, I completed another feat of endurance - 17.5 hours of labour!  Happy Birthday to my wonderful daughter Aideen, at 25 we will have to finally admit you are grown up!  Sorry I'm not there today, but I'll see you in a few days!

We are doing Le Big Trek to raise funds for Assistance dogs for families of children with autism. If you like our blog please take the time to donate at
Thank you

Around the lake Again at EveryTrail

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Day 22 - to the Abbey again

The day got off to a slower start than we had intended, we have moved into Saulieu for a couple of days, as the lovely chateau by the lake was full up for the weekend; fortunately we had been able to leave the horses there so I had to get up earlier to feed the them. It was just starting to rain as I left, but as usual the horses were pleased to see me. But Flurry was in for a shock, he's been misbehaving again, spooking at things that wouldn't normally worry him, so his rations have been reduced to one feed in the evening, he was not impressed! When I got back to the hotel Martine was still in her pyjamas, she had been researching the flies that are sticking under the horses' tails and time had got away from her. So after an uninspired breakfast, we went back to the horses and got tacked up in the rain. Martine decided not to bring her camera, so I'm afraid the photos are not up to the usual standard. Especially as I think there was a bit of Carambar stuck to the lens.
We finally decided Gigi's front left boot had seen better days, and so I put our spare on her, and off we went!
It was a very grey morning, even the dandelions had decided not to bother opening up.

But then the sun came out and things looked a lot better.

Then we came upon this sign telling people not to light fires here.......

And maybe you can see the smoke in the distance, but that was some fishermen lighting a log fire to cook their catch. Ah the French, laws are to be interpreted not necessarily followed !

Finally we arrived at the Abbey we had visited before, L'Abbaye de Pierre qui Vire, but from the other direction.

After leaving the Abbey we came on a field with 3 young flighty ponies, Gigi was very interested in them, I think she must be coming into season, and when they started to canter towards us, Gigi decided to turn around and join them, well I quickly whipped her back in the right direction, but she decided to keep cantering anyway. Flurry, who was in front, maybe thought, if  Gigi is scared, so should I be, and took off at a canter as well. After a bit of a scurry we got them both under control... a bit of excitement is good...right?

Part of our journey was on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago de Compostela in Spanish) which is marked by this little sunshine sign

After the Abbey we trotted through some fairly soggy grass, and Flurry managed to trash one of his front boots, so Martine took the other one off, and we would see if we could fix it later.

Lunchtime and we had covered around 20k! The horses were turned out same as yesterday and Martine set about fixing Flurry's boot, but managed to drop one of the small adjusting screws in the process, but we had Gigi's abandoned boot from this morning, which now turned into a source for spares!

The afternoon started off really wet, we had a target of just 10k, to give us a manageable hack tomorrow to reach our 50k and most of it was done in the pouring rain, the only highlight was two small deer, who took off as soon as they saw us.

So we just plodded on, the sun came out and we reached our target for today.

To the abbey again at EveryTrail
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