The Stables

Naomi (and her family) have been fairly horse-daft since forever. Before Naomi and I first met she had a loan of her sister's Arab mare Kerry Bee. She was a pretty competent rider. I, on the other hand, had had occasional riding lessons as a child and had been on various pony-trekking holidays in my youth, but hadn't sat on a horse in over 25 years.

Naomi managed without her own horse for a while after we met, but the itch eventually asserted itself and we acquired Murphy (a 17hh Irish sports horse for me) and Romeo (a 16.2hh Belgian Warmblood for Naomi) in quick succession and arranged livery for them at Manchester Equestrian Centre in Urmston. We enjoyed our time at MEC, especially the ability to hack out along the banks of the River Mersey without touching a road. MEC had a huge indoor school, a smaller outdoor school, and plenty of fields for turnout (except in the winter). We enjoyed taking occasional lessons from John, the resident instructor, and, for me anyway, learning a lot not just about riding, but also about horses generally. The only downside was that we were still living in Bury, but at the time I was working days at the GMP HQ in Stretford, and so I'd fight my way around the M60 through the morning rush-hour to get to work, fight my way back home through the evening rush-hour, just to pick Naomi up and then repeat pretty much the same journey to go and take care of the horses.

I was spending so much time and money every week driving around the Manchester orbital motorway that eventually we decided enough was enough, and we upped sticks and moved to Urmston in 2005. Around the same time I started to lose interest, to some extent, and eventually we sold both Romeo and Murphy and instead acquired Midnight, a black Dales X, for Naomi. Midnight stayed with us when we moved to Scotland in 2008, but Naomi's deteriorating health prevented her making sufficient use of her to make it worthwhile keeping her and we sold her on. Now we enjoy horses vicariously through Naomi's sister Judy's family, who are mostly besotted with horses and who own three at the moment.


Murphy was a lovely 17hh Irish sports horse whom we initially bought for Naomi, but decided that he wasn't quite right for her, but perfect for me. Murphy was the ultimate gentle giant. He was so affectionate and good-natured that he's a joy to handle even though he was built by the same guys that did Everest. I'm not much of one for hacking out (particularly in winter) and Murph the Smurf is sometimes a bit fidgety out on a hack if you ask him to halt for any significant period of time, so I tended to concentrate on flat-work in the school when I rode him.

Murphy had lovely paces and, when ridden by better riders than me, gets into a lovely outline even on a loose rein. One slight surprise we've had recently is just how good a jumper he is (not much style, perhaps, but bags of courage). That's not something I'm really into when riding (17 hands is a long way to fall if you come off as I have done once on Murphy).

My nephew Taylor jumped Murphy very nicely at the age of 12 (teenagers bounce, unlike 50-year olds!), and two of the teenagers at the Manchester Equestrian Centre (where we keep the Boys) have recently been jumping Murphy over jumps as high as 1.2 metres. He's the quintessential all-rounder. He is, however, immensely powerful and does throw in the very occasional buck to test you when going into canter. We sold Murphy in the spring of 2007 to a lad in Warwickshire who we know will really look after him.


Romeo was Naomi's pride and joy whilst we had him. He has the most incredibly handsome head and is alltogether very well put together. Naomi loves hacking out and he's fantastic for that, good in traffic and never seems to spook at anything(horse-killing trotting poles aside, that is!!). There's not an ounce of malice in him, but I think he does have a cheeky sense of humour. Generally his stable manners are excellent, but he can be fun to tack up sometimes when he decides to do his [very good] imitation of a giraffe to prevent you getting the bridle on.

Once tacked up, though, Romeo was an enthusiast: He was a very honest and willing horse and good both doing dressage and was a very stylish jumper. The one and only problem we've had with him is that he sometimes tanks off a bit in canter, perhaps after a jump but sometimes just for the hell of it and he can be difficult to control. Naomi has had a few spills when she's been riding him and he's done this, and she's currently lost her confidence where riding him is concerned, so we eventually sold Romeo to a friend in North Wales.

Romeo was a Grade B Show-jumper and we enjoyed several trips out with Ceri Evans to watch her jumping him in competitions around North Wales. Last we heard, though, he was developing problems with his back.


Midnight is the mare we bought in October 2007 to replace Romeo. She was a 15 hand Dales cross and an absolute sweetheart. Midnight was not likely ever to be a dressage queen as she is stocky and very laid-back but she is calm and bomb-proof and absolutely solid out on a hack, which is exactly what Naomi was looking for.

When Naomi rode her initially she was quite difficult to get into a canter and the urban myth arose that she had been pulling landaus along Blackpool Prom most of her life. In truth we don't know her background with any certainty, but it does seem likely that she has spent a fair amount of time as a carriage horse of some description. Naomi has been working hard schooling her, though, and she is now a great little all-rounder.

Midnight was on working livery to start with, part of the riding school at Manchester Equestrian Centre where we keep her, but after we sold Murphy we decided to move her off the Riding School onto DIY Livery instead. This definitely seemed to agree with her. Everything was going along swimmingly with Naomi enjoying daily hacks out on her and broadening her horizons.

Midnight started putting on weight, though, and we were considering putting her on a strict diet. Imagine our astonishment when Lee (our guru when it comes to horse management) and Emerson who runs the yard (and who had sold us Midnight in the first place) came up to us one day and said they thought she was in foal and that we ought to get her checked out by the Vet. What?



One thing Naomi and I had never considered was that she might be preggers. This came as something of a bombshell, as you might imagine, but we duly got the vet out and he confirmed that she was, ineed, in foal. Well that was at the end of March 2007. We started reducing the intensity of her exercise (walk and trot but no cantering) and Lee's best guess of her due date was 4-6 weeks so we sat back and waited. Midnight's daily routine consisted of me turning her out into the field with the other mares in the morning, and we or a friend bring her back in in the early evening, with Naomi riding her out on a hack several times a week.

Sunday 6th May I went down as normal to turn Midnight out for a day chilling out in the field, only to find 8 hooves in the stable rather than the normal 4! She'd had her foal without any fuss during the night and there it was, scampering around like a tornado. The vet checked Midnight and him out ("I'm a STALLION, baby!!!") and they were both perfectly fine. We decided to call him Jazz...

Jazz was the latest addition to our menagerie, having been born in the early hours of 6th May 2007 to our mare Midnight. At 1-day old, Jazz is a lightish bay colour (like most foals), but our local expert told us he'll be fully black like his mum eventually. Although it's impossible to tell with any certainty at this stage, the vet suggested he was likely to make 16 hands. Midnight had enough milk for two foals, apparently, so he'll certainly not go short and Jazz is already scampering around the stall, giving his mum a hard time as she tries to keep him in view.

In Jazz's early days we kept a Blog, which Jazz himself dictated to Naomi and me by telepathy during our daily bonding sessions. In due course after he was weaned, we passed Jazz on to Lee at MEC, who was comparatively an expert on raising foals and bringing them on and we've no recent news on how he is doing.


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