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Monday, 28 September 2015

Post 47. Down to Sussex.

I set off from Newark on the 23rd March, it takes me three weeks to travel the 200 miles down to Hailsham in Sussex. Cold and frosty most mornings but nice sunny days, often warm enough to walk along in shirt sleeves. It's a lovely time of year to be travelling.
On the way l worm the horse, good to do it in March.
At Moreton in the Marsh l get chatting to a very kind horse dentist called Dave Regan, he offers to do Tarateeno for me, l'm really glad. Normally l get his teeth done each year but missed doing it last year while l was in France. He has good teeth. I like to get the teeth checked of every horse l work with. Some horses have mis-aligned jaws and other problems, they develop nasty hooks on their teeth that can cause terrible discomfort. Horses often suffer for years because of it. People will waste lots of money on their horses but begrudge spending some money getting their teeth done. Often people proudly tell me they've rescued horses, if you don't get their teeth done you may not have really rescued them.

Stop getting overgrown, near Newbury.

I know places to stop all over the country. Sometimes l get to one that l haven't visited for some time and it's become overgrown with brambles or blackthorn. I stop near Newbury at one of my regular stops, but it's four years since l've been here and it's getting overgrown. I make a mental note that perhaps it's the last time l can use it. Nothing lasts forever, but l'm grateful to have been able to use it. I'll change my route slightly next time, maybe l'll find a better stop.

Sometimes l get asked how many people travel like this. In the whole of the UK l think only a couple of dozen people live in horse-drawn wagons all the year round. I know most of them a little. Some of them travel just a short distance, others may travel a few hundred miles in a year. Last year l did 3,000. It's like nourishment for me, l haven't got any better ideas. I love a constantly changing horizon, the road and the destination are essentially the same thing, perhaps it is the heroic present?

Sunsetting, North Downs, Hampshire, 5th April.

I stop a night up on the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire, looking north l can see for miles.
I cross the North Downs in Hampshire, wonderful views looking south, lovely countryside, but sparse for good places to stop.

Horse tired out by being ridden through night.

Some mornings horses look tired. Hagridden. This can be because witches have ridden them in the night. If you wake early you may be lucky enough to see one, but be careful they don't cast a spell on you.

At the end of April l got back to Pevensey Levels. I've been staying af the scrapyard, nice to see Mick and Stella and the lads again. It's always interesting to see what scrap comes in, it's quite exciting sometimes, you never know what will turn up. Mick is kind and lets me have quirky pieces that take my fancy, to make things.



Tarateeno, my horse has been having a rest, he needed it, for five months he's been eating good grass and has gained 60 kg, this will help him through the winter.
l needed a break from constant travelling too, after a while it becomes difficult to stop, it becomes a habit, then it's time to take a rest.
Mick at the scrapyard with his flappy wagon.

l've been busy refurbishing my wagon, building a new trolli, training cobs and ponies.
I like to make everything myself, if l can. I like to learn new techniques, see if l can't find better more efficient ways of doing things.



I've been practising my painting, lining, scumbling and scrolling. It's satisfying to get better at doing things.
I got an old forge going and made up pieces of ironwork l needed. I started making a tool to adjust the shape of horse shoes without a forge or anvil. I haven't quite got it right yet, but l will.

Cupboard scumbled

I've refurbished my bagpipes, they're nearly worn out to be honest. I made them about 30 years ago. They've done a huge amount of work, travelled all over the place, earned me money. They'll keep going a bit longer. A musical instrument is just a tool and no more sacred than a hammer, but after a while the instrument gets to know the tunes you like to play on it. I could make some new pipes but they'd know nothing and like a new lover we'd have to get used to each other.They're a type of bagpipe from Berry in central France, a Cornemuse du Berry. I fell in love with the sound of them and have been seduced by them ever since. The music played on them is very romantic, lots of waltzes and mazurkas.

My bagpipes.
Over the summer I've been training  cobs and ponies. I've got good, efficient methods that the horse quickly understands. To get good at training horses and constantly improve, takes a lot of time, thought, practise and experience. Luckily there are plenty of horses to practise on. Ideally l like to work with barely handled 3 year olds as these are young enough not to have got set in their ways and learned bad habits, but are also generally strong enough to start light work and they learn quickly.
All too often l get asked to train much older horses that have learned bad habits. Quite a lot of skill and knowledge is required to handle these horses safely. Sometimes my time is spent sorting out very basic problems, worming the horses, sorting out suitable harness. Often the owners don't have a safe environment to keep or train a horse. In an ideal world, there would be a 50 foot diameter round pen, a large sand school and a well fenced field of about 10 acres. More often there is just a badly fenced, muddy field scattered with rusty old machinery. Often even the halters and lead ropes are not fit for purpose. I provide my own. I do the best l can.

Halter.

It is possible to train a horse with very little equipment, but it wants to be right for the job, 20 feet of strong stiff cord to make a halter, a stiff, strong, unbreakable stick 4 feet long, (used to keep a safe distance between me and the horse) and 6 feet of cord to put on the end of it. The halter is fashioned using a fiador knot, some double overhands and tied off with a sheet shank.
The lead rope is 1 inch yacht braid about 15 feet long and attached to the halter with a sheet bend.

Each new horse l work with teaches me something and it's very rewarding. Sometimes a horse offers me a real gift, a real insight. The other day a pony showed me something and l felt so pleased. The pony is a 5 year old and had learned some bad habits, after just a  few days the pony and l are getting along fine, he's now becoming well mannered, co-operative and the owner is glad. The pony is much happier too.
Horses do have feelings and emotions; anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, joy....
Knowing this and respecting it can help a lot. That doesn't mean l don't get stuck in and get on with the job, l certainly don't bother with years of psyco-analysis.  Happily the problems that cause negative, unhelpful emotions and attitudes in horses are often simple mis-understandings and can  be resolved very easily and quickly with the right knowledge. I have had good results with apparently intractable older horses. Sometimes l get given the horses. When people have problems with their horses, they worry about the symptoms and not the causes. It happens with dogs too. Sort out the cause and the symptoms disappear. A horse not letting you pick up its foot is a symptom. It's no good treating the symptoms.
I'm surrounded by livery yards here. One day a man came to see me, he'd seen me out driving a cob. He asked me if l could help teach his horse to pull a cart. He said it was the Friesian across the road that always had its tongue sticking out. I had noticed and wondered about it. He said its tongue hung out because it didn't have any teeth! I asked him how old it was, he said 22! (Looking at its old face it could easily be 32), l declined helping him. Why would you be so unkind to start training a horse so old to pull a cart? How peculiar. Even more peculiar is that he has a completely useless horse, kept in livery and l know the livery costs £85 a week, if you add the cost of going to see it and other expenses, it's probably costing about £6,000 a year! If it lives another 5 years he'll have spent £30,000. Apparently madness is the rule rather than the exception and this must be an example of it.

While l'm working l sometimes think of the people, often complete strangers, but also friends and family that have helped me in various ways over the years, often little bits of advice, that they might not even have noticed they've given me, but that have made a real difference.

I've enjoyed my time at the scrapyard, received a lot of kindness, help and encouragement, learned more, l hope l've contributed too.
Mick and l have been out a lot in the evenings, driving the horses around the levels. It's a beautiful area, l've appreciated it.

Sunset, Pevensey Levels, Sept 2015.

It's nearly the end of September now, the equinox, that means the night is now as long as the day. l'm getting restless again. Time to set off. The horses are shod.
Horses? Well Tarateeno and a pony, called Bob.

I almost forgot to mention, one day I met a lady with a pony, she seemed to be headed in the same sort of direction ......

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Post 46. Heading South.

After Scotland l head back along the Solway Firth in Cumbria. I like it there, l find the people kind and hospitable and l like their sense of humour. I enjoy stopping beside the sea, sometimes l lie awake at night listening to the roar of the surf, the wind screaming round the wagon, searching for ways to tear the roof off,  other times, when there is no wind l lie there listening to the sound of the waves just gently caressing the shore. I collect driftwood, watch the seabirds, ride the horse in the sea, he tries to make sense of it. Although it's only February there are some lovely warm sunny days and a feel of spring in the air. I rest and relax.

Tarateeno in the Solway Firth.
A week or so and l'm restless, l head east over Caldbeck to the Pennines. At Melmerby l head along the Eden Valley, there is more sleet and flurries of snow. Stirred by a childhood memory l walk along  catching large snowflakes on my tongue, a pleasant tingling sensation and l'm glad to be alive. The Eden valley is lovely, l quickly pass through  Appleby, Soulby and Kirkby Stephen and up past Mallerstang. The hills have  snow on them. I manage to buy a good bale of hay and spend the night at Garsdale head, it pours with rain all night, the becks and river flood, near Hawes the water is up over the road, up to the axles, Tarateenos feathers get nice and clean.
Only 300 miles to London.
I'm moving fast, one  day l stop at 2pm a couple of miles east of York. I rest until mid-night, it's almost a full moon.l yoke the horse up and travel through the night. At 1.30am l go through the centre of York, there's not many people about, hardly a soul, a couple of tipsy students unsteady on their feet, by 2.30am l'm through the city, l trudge along beside the horse, by 4am the temperature has dropped a lot and l'm starting to feel cold and tired, l reach my stop at the Pocklington Canal at 5am, glad to get there. I unyoke the horse, tether him, give him a feed and a drink, then light the stove and make a strong coffee. As l climb onto the bed the birds start to sing, l drink half the coffee, then fall fast asleep, content to have got here. At 9am l wake, feed the horse, move his tether to some better grass, then go back to bed again and sleep until 3pm. I enjoyed that adventure.

25th February. Mallerstang, stopped for water.
I'm out of the hills, it's flat as a pancake, easy for the horse, l like the change and enjoy going through Goole and down beside the river Trent. I'm back in Lincolnshire.

Frosty dawn, 6.30 am, March 9th, near Lincoln.
I've been doing a lot of walking, the souls of my feet are starting to get sore, constant travel for 3 weeks, 285 miles. By the 10th of March l'm back near Newark stopped with Sylvia. It's good to see her and the horse and l are glad to have a rest. Sylvia's bought a small donkey and is busy breaking it in, it needs gelding. Sylvia is restoring an old donkey cart, she has had the cart a long time and last painted it more than 30 years ago. She shows me old photos of her using it with another donkey. Sylvia told me that in 1953 when she was 13, she ran away from home with the donkey and cart, but she was ill-prepared and returned home later the next morning. Sylvia also showed me a photo of a wagon she bought in 1962 for £45.

We take her cob out and go to the shops. It's a good, forward going cob, about 13 hands, ideal for pulling a light vehicle. Sylvia likes a cob with a bit of go in it, but tells me she's got the donkey to use in her dotage. I suspect that she will soon get bored plodding along at 2 miles an hour and swap the cuddy for a nice trotter.
Sid the donkey.
One day we go and see Harry, l buy some wagon wheels, axles and leaf springs off him. I'm pleased with the deal, he is too. I'll use them for my new wagon. Sylvia paints the fore-carriage l made in Scotland with wood preserver. The fore-carriage is made of ash, a tough resilient wood,  ideal for the job, but prone to woodworm and rot, so it's best to treat it before painting.

Another day Sylvia asks me to help her move her chain harrows. They are quite heavy and l'm impressed by her strength and the seemingly effortless way she lifts them, although she's lightly built. She yokes Benny up and harrows a 2 acre field. Benny walks quite fast and it's quite a long walk up and down doing 6 foot strips. [To plough one acre with a single furrow plough is about 16 miles, a days work, if the land is not too heavy]. It's about a 6 mile walk to harrow her field. The harrows spread out the dung, pull up the moss and help keep the land in good condition. It's a great way to get a horse fit and a green horse used to pulling. The harrows make a pleasing jingling.

On Sundays Sylvia meets up with some lads who drive horses, two of them are also retired, they have good horses and enjoy chopping and changing them for new ones, it's good to see them, l admire their vitality and zest for life, getting out there and doing it, often they go 20 miles or more.
Sunday drivers.
Its the 23rd of March l've been here for 10 days, had a good rest, mended my harness, got the horse re-shod and lots of other jobs done, now l'm ready to continue. Spring is on its way, l've had a really lovely winter travelling , [done 900 miles since November]. I'm going down south for a bit.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Winter in Scotland, post 45

December 23rd. I've had several days of heavy rain and strong winds, l've gone  through Gretna and Annan, it's a dismal stretch of road, l reach the river Nith at Glencaple in the afternoon. This is the first nice bit of Scotland, going west. l stop on the quayside, the horse is glad to eat the clover, it's a good spot, with lovely views. A huge skein of geese fly over at dusk, beautiful, l'm really glad to be back here.
I rest the next day, the local people are friendly, Morris, who drives horses and has a bowtop wagon, gives me a sack of barley for the horse. It's a nice sunny day and I get the horse's rug and harness dry. I tether the horse on the shore, l practise my pipes and watch the tide coming in, it keeps coming in, up around Tarateenos feet! He's looking slightly perturbed, I go over and move him to higher ground.
Sunrise, Glencaple December 25th
Christmas day, l watch the sunrise, a lovely sunny day, l move three miles down to Kingholm Quay and stop in the park, on the way l get water from Isla and Hamish. Gill and her daughter bring carrots for the horse and give me chocolat biscuits. I go through a small housing estate to get to the quay, children come over and proudly show me their new bikes and scooters and ask if they can 'clap' the horse, which means, can they stroke the horse? Of course I'm glad for them to. Morris brings me some diesel to light my fire, [it makes it quicker], I collect a load of dead hawthorn from the hedge and Morris saws it up for me, he invited me for dinner but l declined as l preferred to be on my own and reflect. For my Christmas dinner l grilled a nice piece of steak and washed it down with some delicious red wine. l remembered to feel sorry for all the people having to share Christmas with relatives they don't like and wishing they hadn't spent so much using their credit cards. Legend has it that Jesus was born on straw and spent his first Christmas on The Road to Egypt, does this make him a Traveller? Apparently a pied wagtail followed and brushed away the footprints with its tail, so that Herod didn't know which way they'd gone, Gypsies consider the pied wagtail a 'lucky bird,' the Romani chiriklo.
Over Christmas l was brought lots of nice food by various kind people, salmon, steak, turkey sandwiches, a lady called Jane brought me a box full of interesting jams, sloe gin, chutney, biscuits, soup and two small Christmas puddings, delicious.
Sweetheart Abbey, 27th December
I move down to New Abbey, Dalbeattie and Auchencairn, it's cold and frosty, by New Years eve l'm back at 'the Doon' near Kirkudbright, [pronounced k koo bree] stopped on the beach. It's a beautiful spot and l enjoy watching the surf in the moonlight. Over the years l've had all sorts of wild New Years Eves with other people, but on my own, in this lovely spot, this was one of the best.
Sunrise at The Doon, 2nd Jan 2015
I head round the coast to Gatehouse of Fleet, l pull up outside an old church that's now a cafe and gallery, Franca, the proprietor, makes me a coffee and gives me some biscuits, she's kind and attractive, she doesn't want paying, we have a nice chat, l'm glad l stopped. l head up into the hills, it's wild beautiful country, with lovely views of the Clints of Dromore, rocky granite outcrops, an old lady appears out of nowhere and walks along beside me for a bit, after a while she starts singing, rather tunelessly, but l don't mind, it amuses me and is typical of the funny things that happen when you travel with a wagon. At the top of the hill l stop and talk to a man working outside his cottage, he says to put my horse in the garden of the abandoned railway station for the night. We chat for a bit and he gives me two bottles of dark beer he's made. It tastes very good. The temperature drops rapidly and by 4pm l can see frost forming, l build up the fire so it'll keep in overnight. There is a very hard frost. The next day l head for Challoch, a lady with two children comes to chat, l give the children a ride on the wagon, the lady gives me a nice cake she's made. In Newton Stewart l stop to get water from a house, l also get given onions, carrots and potatoes. Mild air from the Atlantic comes in and by dusk the temperature has risen by 15 degrees, a peculiarity of this maritime climate. I stop that night on some grass beside the church. At 3am a lorry goes past and the noise wakes me. I look out the window, it's a mild cloudy night, but the moon is quite bright, Tarateeno has eaten all his grass so l yoke him up and set off in the night. The road to New Luce is not very busy, in the middle of the night there is no one. The wagon is quite well lit up by fairy lights around the front and the lights on inside it, l've got good reflectors on the back. I really enjoyed travelling in the dark. It adds a new dimension to, 'here today, gone tomorrow.'
The Clints of Dromore 3rd January
6th January, l'm back at Port O Spittal, stopped with Jim and Julie. It's good to see them again and we have some laughs. I look at their horses, nothing l can buy, but good to look. I borrowed an Australian stock saddle and went for a nice ride. Julie rode a racehorse, we had a gallop through the woods, it made a change for me and Tarateeno. I stay for a few days, Jim arranges for a farrier to come and shoe Tarateeno, l get my washing done and oil an old bridle that l've begged off Jim. Laura, who keeps a horse there gives me a 'cooler' rug to put on Tarateeno, so he can dry off better, without getting chilled. A kind man called Billy brings round delicious shortbread with toffee and chocolate on it, he is very good at making it, l remember it from my last visit.I'm glad to stop a few days and rest. The farrier doesn't come, strong south westerly gales arrive, instead.

Jim and Julie
l head over to the east side of the Mull O Galloway and shelter at Sandhead. The wind is terrible and scarily, strong and the wagon is buffetted violently for several days, at night time l wonder if the wagon will blow over. It's the worst wind l've known. Luckily there is lots of good grass here, plenty of firewood, a good village shop and a pub that does nice food. I stay there for four days until the wind drops. I've parked the wagon right on the high tide line, l like to be near the sea.
Sandhead, 13th Jan, Mull O Galloway
I was disappointed not to get Tarateeno re-shod by a farrier, but it's not desperate yet. I head down the coast to the Machars and stop at Port William with Frank and Fiona at the old mill. I stay a week and show Frank a few things to get better results with his Clydesdales. He works hard and is pleased how much better he gets at handling the horses and how nice and well mannered the horses get. I feel rewarded too. It can be very frustrating trying to work with horses if you don't have the enough information.
Charlie the Clydesdale
While l stop there l use Franks workshop and l make some pieces of ash up into a fore-carriage for the new wagon l'm going to build this year. It goes well and l'm pleased. When it's finished l take it apart and stow it under the bed, until l need it. Although it's January in Scotland, there are days that are warm enough to sit out in the sunshine and do some coppersmithing. I make some stock to sell. John calls by to look at my wagon. He used to drive a wagon to Appleby, we get on well. The next day he turns up with some nice thick plain stamped horse shoes, l offer them up to my horse, they could have been made for him, perfect! Funny how things turn out. Frank has a brother in the village who has a pillar drill, l go and drill 24 holes in the shoes to take the tungsten studs. I'm really pleased. John comes another day and gives me some hames to fit a spare collar l've got. I reshape them to fit the collar. I'm enjoying having a workshop to use. One day Frank breaks his bandsaw blade, while he's out I scarf the ends and silver solder it back together again. I like to be able to use my skills. It's a pleasure to stay with Frank and Fiona and l'm sorry to go.
Detail of fore-carriage, showing chamfers
26th January 2015. As l leave Port William I give Holly who's 12, a lift up to her school at the top of the village, she's really pleased l think and her schoolmates look at her with admiration. I carry on to Newton Stewart,18 miles, on the way l stop and replace a hindshoe that is worn out and clinking badly. I have an odd shoe that a farrier in the Massif Centrale gave me, that'll do for now, l soon have it on. A farmer gives me a bale of hay. The next day l head over the hills towards New Galloway and stop by the mare's tail waterfall again. It's a beautiful bit of country. Two Americans come and chat, l sell them a halter and a copper sconce, they're pleased. It's a wet windy night, by the morning it's turning to sleet. At 8.30am l'm yoked up and ready to go, a lady with her disabled daughter turn up. I give her daughter a ride down the road, she was pleased, l gave her the old horse shoe l took off the day before for luck. We joked that her mum could pick her up in June at Appleby! At New Galloway l normally stop beside the river, but it looks much too angry and dangerous, l carry on to Balmaclennan and stop with Malcolm in his wood. I feed Tarateeno some hay. By evening it is snowing hard.
Spud the Clydesdale in a stall
In the morning there is 6 inches of beautiful snow. Malcolm rings his neighbour Donald, who has cobs and Clydesdales and he sells me a couple of good bales of hay. Malcolm is living on his own in the woods, l told him it is lovely, apart from there's no women. Not long after, Jen, a very nice Scottish lass turned up. We made a sledge out of a pallet and yoked Tarateeno up and had fun pulling it about in the snow. Later 'young Donald' showed me the horses he had for sale, nothing suitable for me, but still a pleasure to look.
Balmaclennan 28th February
I head off the next morning in the snow,  it's stopped snowing and it's a lovely sunny day. The roads are icy in places but Tarateeno is fine. It's a fine journey, 14 miles to Castle Douglas, which has lots of shops. I stock up on porridge oats and some nice bread and a bag of horsefeed, the lady sells it to me cheap as the sell by date is nearly up. I stop in the park near the Loch. It has been sheltered from the wind and there is some grass without snow on it. The next day l go to Dalbeattie and stop in the centre of town in Barry's yard with Jimmy and Lindsay. They are very kind, l'm glad to see them, they've driven wagons to Appleby and still have some horses. It's nice to leave the wagon and horse and go to the shops by myself. I get a few novels to read from the charity shops. The next day Jen the Scottish lass turns up and travels down to New Abbey with me. She's brought a lovely spicy meal. It's a pleasure to have her company and l hope we meet again. A lovely journey in the snow.
Road's a bit icy
3rd February. I'm back at Kingholm Quay. Last night the temperature dropped to minus 9. There was plenty of Hawthorn in the stove and the wagon was cosy. The ground is frozen hard, l spend the morning putting two shoes on Tarateeno, l heat the shoes up in the stove and use a pair of molegrips to hold them. Hawthorn has a high calorific value and the shoes soon get hot enough to burn the hoof. When l've finished fitting them l quench them in the bucket of water, the ice is so thick in the bucket that the hot shoes do not melt through it! 
It's 12 months since l set off to France, during that time l've done almost 3,000 miles, six sets of shoes. It's been a good year, now l'm thinking about the adventures ahead of me.
Lovely bright sunny day

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Heading North for the Winter. Post 44

After Stow horse fair l headed north, through Warwickshire and Leicestershire. I stopped one night with Harry. He was brought up on the canals when the boats were still pulled by horses. They couldn't afford the best horses and used to buy the town runaways, horses that had bolted and were unsuitable to use in towns. On the towpath the horse had less options to runaway, sometimes they'd end up in the canal, but they would soon get the hang of it. Harry showed me a special halter for killing horses. There is a spike, you hit it with a hammer, quite simple. Mainly they were used on pit ponies.
Horse killing head collar
Strawberries in November
The autumn has been really mild, some people had a second crop of strawberries. I stayed with my friend Sylvia and rested a week. Sylvia thoroughly oiled my reins and reproved me for letting them get so dry and stiff. I was glad. She showed me Jack, the Jackdaw she'd rescued as a nestling, it was very tame. I tried catching American crayfish in the nearby brook, unfortunately the weather turned cold and frosty and they hibernate, l did catch one though and cooked it. We got a lift to Derby horse sale. The most pathetic horses l've ever seen at a sale. I felt depressed.
Back at M62 Goole 18th November 2014
I carried on up the Trent from Gainsborough. I stopped with Willy and Justine, nice horse people, l met them several years ago and l'm always glad to see them. Went up to Goole and stopped under the motorway again, l like stopping there.
Sunset Beverley Common, 4.30pm
After Goole l headed east, it's not a part of the country l know so l thought l'd go and explore it. A retired traveller called Tom invited me to stop in his yard and put my horse in his paddock. He had a nice cob in a stable and was busy building a top on a dray, l was glad to meet him. If you travel by car you don't really meet anyone. Travelling by wagon you meet interesting people all the time. The next day l stopped on Beverley Common. I got there shortly before the sun was going down. A friendly lady came and chatted and we watched the sun setting. A man with a dog came over and rudely interrupted and told me l couldn't stop there, he didn't bother to introduce himself. I don't like people like this. I told him l was stopping to rest my horse. He declared l'd be gone within the hour and marched off! The lady was suprised by his rudeness. I'm habituated to it and don't take too much notice. Needless to say l stopped the night without any trouble. People sometimes think you can just be summarily moved on but you can't, they like to try and bully you and be important. Dog walkers often think commons and beauty spots are for their exclusive use as toilets for their dogs and are indignant when any one else uses them. I've no time for them.
3rd Dec, 1pm, Pendragon Castle
I stopped with my friend Les, who makes a few wagons and trollies. It was good to see what he was doing and to share ideas. His wife cooked a nice meal and l used the washing machine and had a shower. The next day l went to Hornsea. The sea looked grey, cold and uninviting, l carried on.
l stopped on a wide verge. In the night l woke up and heard a gentle sawing sound of fencewire moving backwards and forwards in the hedge. I knew what had happened and got up to have a look. Tarateeno had pushed through a gap in the hedge to eat the winter corn in the field, on his way back through the hedge he had got a piece of fencewire jammed between his hoof and shoe. In this situation it's difficult for a horse to understand what's the best thing to do. Many untrained horses will panic and injure themselves in this scenario. The horse's instincts are first to flee, if it can't flee then it will fight. In this case,  fight with the wire, this is how many horses get badly injured. The horse owner often gets injured too, a horse that is in the fight mode is very dangerous. I train my horses not to panic when they get their legs caught up. Once a horse is panicking it's difficult to help them. Tarateeno just stood patiently while I got my wire cutters and cut him free. In the morning l pulled off his shoe, got the remains of the wire out and nailed the shoe back on. I can't imagine travelling without having the skill and tools to be able to pull off and fix a shoe back on.
5th Dec, frosty morning, Great Asby.
By the 28th of November l'm back in the Yorkshire Dales, it's lovely to hear the curlews again. I go along Wensleydale, through Middleham and Bainbridge. At Hawes a kind lady brings me eggs, a loaf of bread, flapjacks, chocolat and a bale of hay. A retired couple bring some carrots for the horse and a chocolate bar for me. I'm pleased. It's getting colder. I go up to Garsdalehead and stop at the Moorcock Inn. It's bleak and beautiful, l give the horse the hay and I eat in the pub. There is a very hard frost and the next morning the road is slippery with ice. Tarateeno, with six tungsten studs [they're called crampons in French], in each shoe has plenty of grip. It's a beautiful still, sunny morning. This is one of my favourite stretches of road, down past Mallerstang to Kirkby Stephen, wild and dramatic countryside. At this time of year there is almost no traffic. Lovely. I stop the night by the rather romantic Pendragon Castle. I'm back in Cumbria.
I stop at Soulby then Great Asby. The frost in the mornings looks beautiful.
I go through Appleby and stop at Melmerby. During the night it snows a bit.
Melmerby, 8th Dec, a dusting of snow
There is an icy beauty to the countryside. I head over to Potters Lonin, the weather comes in bad and l stay there two days. The wagon is buffeted by icy squalls. Tarateeno has his rug on to keep the wind off. December the 11th, l make porridge on the stove, l put a potatoe in the embers to cook, then set off in the snow, it takes me 5 hours to do 11 miles, quite a journey, with lovely views of the snow covered mountains. On the way l stop and eat the hot potatoe, l'm glad of the warmth from it.I'm elated to get to Hesket Newmarket. The snow has not settled so there is grass for the horse. I eat at the pub. The same people are sitting at the bar that were there 18 months ago, they must have taken root. They're friendly, it's nice to hear their accents and enjoy their earthy humour. The next day it's a long climb up Caldbec Common, at the top l'm rewarded by great views across the Solway Firth of snow covered hills in Scotland. I stop a couple of days with Swanny and look at his horses. I'm glad to rest.
I get a couple of half worn shoes off Swanny. At Dearham l stop at a farm with Joe and Joan. I have known them for years and they are very kind. I re-shoe the horse. I borrow Joes welder and build up the worn shoes, they've done 650 miles. One of the shoes is too worn so l use one of the shoes from Swanny's horse. It is a bit too big so l cut the heels shorter, l use the old shoe as a pattern, while l'm trimming the hoof, my friend George comes round and shapes the shoe better, with a few blows of the hammer, l'm glad of his help and friendship. The shoes are soon back on and l'm ready to continue. I prefer to pay a farrier if l can but sometimes it's neccessary to do it myself as it can be very difficult to find one to do a good job. Most of the horses in this country are little more than garden ornaments and that's what the majority of farriers are used to shoeing. They don't want to mess around making shoes and putting 24 studs in! Many farriers are just interested in making money, they're not really interested in their job. They're no good to me and l'm no good to them. Luckily l know half a dozen really good farriers and go to them whenever l can.
Potters Lonin, 9 am, 11th Dec
I carry on up the Solway, l stop on the green at Allonby, a gale is blowing, l go to sleep listening to the roar of the surf. In the morning Diane and Brian who live opposite invite me over for tea and toast. They've got their Christmas tree up. It's nice to see them. I carry on up to Silloth and stop with Rob in his yard and put Tarateeno in a stall. I use his battery charger to charge up my battery. Solar panels struggle at this time of year, there's little sun and it's at a very low angle. It's good to see Rob. He drives a wagon each year to Appleby, that's his holiday. I stop the next night at Whitrigg bridge near Kirkbride. Sometimes the tide comes right up over the grass here but l hope it'll be ok tonight. It's a lovely spot and thousands of migrating geese and hooper swans stop here.
Whitrigg, Kilbride, NW Cumbria 3pm 20th December
It's almost Christmas, l'm nearly back in Scotland.