1 EAGLETON NOTES: Frances is Not Alone

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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Frances is Not Alone

in parting company with her horses. Frances just does it rather more frequently and with more spectacular consequences than I have ever achieved.

Somewhere around half a century ago I took myself off to Grasmere in the English Lake District one beautiful weekend. I was staying at The Swan Inn which was an old coaching inn  built in the 1600s. The principal purpose of my visit was to get some 'pony tracking' in. Having had a bit of riding experience I was given a splendid chestnut called Churchill. I was warned that he had a habit of galloping whenever he got the chance and that prior to taking off he always thrust his head forward.

After several outings when Churchill and I got along very well we went from Grasmere over the side of Helvellyn and down into Grisedale. All went well until the return journey when I was riding down the side of Helvellyn along a ridge. Now you have to be an infinitely more competent horseman that I was ever likely to be to gallop downhill. I was nice and relaxed when Churchill decided that he was going to put my skills to the test. I still had a very firm hold on the reins so when Churchill stuck his neck forward I was yanked right out of the saddle onto his neck. Churchill lost his balance and I fell off. Unfortunately there was nothing for me to land on and I went straight over the side of the ridge. 

I hadn't gone very far when bracken broke my fall and I came to a halt. Gathering myself together I climbed back up the hill to the path where Churchill had returned to wait for me. It was then, when trying to re-mount that I realised that I din't have the use of my right arm: the collar bone was broken.

We walked down to the stables and I had to go in and tell them that I couldn't attend to the saddle and the horse and, by the way, where was the doctor's surgery? "You'll find the Doc in the lounge bar of the Grasmere Hotel. He'll be the one drinking Tio Pepe." So there I went and introduced myself and my useless arm.  When he asked me what I'd like to drink I had the foresight to ask for Tio Pepe thus ensuring his full attention.

So there in the lounge bar full of people he proceeded to strip off my shirt, examine me for any other injuries and put my arm in a sling. After the drinks were finished he drove me back to the Swan where the full enormity of my plight struck me: it is impossible to get leather riding boots off with one arm.  So having had assistance with that from the Head Waiter when it came to dinner he also cut up my food!

Then, thankful that it was a weekend, I had to ask my Dad to get a bus up to Grasmere and drive the car and I home.

Although I did ride again just to ensure that I hadn't lost my nerve that was, in effect, the end of my riding ambitions.

36 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention....I think...

    That sounded like a horrible fall. I never, ever gallop downhill. It's horrible. Riding and horses are an addiction, and you probably don't really have it (sensible man that you are). And mabe Harris isn't horse/rider-friendly, anyway?

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    1. Frances I certainly never ever pretended to be competent enough to gallop downhill and I definitely had no addiction: I enjoyed riding on horses more than I enjoyed horses themselves.

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  2. What a story! I never knew you were into horse-riding.

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    1. For a while Helen I fancied the freedom and enjoyment.

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  3. Great story, but big "ouch" as to the broken collar bone... My riding ambitions never got any further than reading a few girly books about horses in my pre-teens. I've never actually sat on one! (Horse I mean. I can't swear to never having sat on a book.)

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    1. Oddly, Monica, the broken collar bone didn't actually hurt. I think the only horse book I ever read was Black Beauty although Trotty did appear in Farmyard Tales.

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  4. Great story, GB. Even the worst of our adventures make a good yarn many years later, don't they? I give thanks I don't have that horse riding addiction that Frances mentioned and gave up when the tumbles got a bit serious.

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    1. Pauline it's the worst adventures we tend to remember I think and, oddly, with a certain fondness.

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  5. My goodness, you were really brave to ride again, I would say.

    I do hope Head Waiter washed his hands between getting the boots off and cutting up your food.

    Did you ever have anymore attention seen to your collar bone than just holding it at your side?

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    1. Mrs Thyme it wasn't so much a case of being brave but a need to know that I could do it still if I wanted to. Fortunately when I arrived back at The Swan it was well before dinner time. The collar bone just knitted naturally although the bone didn't join end to end of course.

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  6. Good story. We don't realize how helpless we are with only one arm. I broke my wrist one time. How do you wash your hair?

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    1. Red looking back at it I wonder how I managed but it's like all these things: we just do.

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  7. My wife had a similar experience about two years ago, but in her case she broke some ribs (we think). She was in pain for about two months, but it could have been a lot worse. When I was young I had an unpleasant trap pony, she was great pulling the trap but hated anyone on her back, with predictable results. I gave up riding for years. The last time I rode was when we had a friend come down from England in a Gypsy Caravan. He had a Welsh Cob (Joe) that had originally been a rag-n-bone man's horse in London. Joe did everything by word of mouth, and was wonderful; I was able to regain some of my previous confidence.

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    1. I empathise with your wife Cro. There was no pain from the broken collar bone but in a freak accident in Australia a few years ago I broke three ribs (confirmed only when I subsequently had one of my cancer scans). That was a horribly painful experience.

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  8. Great story! Even breaking a little finger can make things awkward. I have never broken anything major (touch wood). I was put off riding when |I was a kid and was taught by someone I think was probably an alcoholic. (Still, doesnt sound as if this stopped the doc fixing your arm! )

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    1. Jenny I'm not suggesting that the Doc was an alcoholic but if he'd driven these days with that amount of alcohol inside hime he'd have been in trouble that's for sure.

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  9. My only riding experience was the occasional accompanied horse back trip around the woods near where we used to live when I was little. The people running the stables offered rides for children, on only the most docile horses and ponies, sometimes on a lead, sometimes with one of them in the saddle as well.
    I remember the largest and most beautiful horse there was a chestnut-coloured one named Anita. I wasn't afraid of heights and felt on top of the world when I was allowed to ride on her back. My sister was more cautious and preferred the small ponies. Neither of us ever fell, but riding simply wasn't something my parents could have afforded as a hobby for us, just like skiing.

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    1. Meike I had left home and was in my early 20s when I took up riding. It was just one of those challenges.

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  10. Oh dear what a tumble, I had no idea you rode horses.
    Horseback riding here is expensive, and so the last time I rode a horse was on a visit to Canada many many years ago.
    After dogs they are my favourite animal...beautiful and loving creatures....their eyes always capture my heart.
    I do miss them.

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    1. Virginia it was a relatively short period in my life and it was riding rather than horses that attracted me.

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  11. Serves you right for riding a horse called Churchill! You should have picked one called Bevin instead. I think you were lucky to get away with just a broken collarbone and hope that Churchill ended up as glue.

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    1. Just like life in the politics we are dealt YP I didn't have a choice. However I wouldn't have wished a bad end to Churchill. After all he did come back to make sure I was ok and probably couldn't understand why I had been so silly.

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  12. I still enjoy the company of horses. I switched to motorbikes as soon as I had enough money.

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    1. Adrian I never owned a fully-fledged motor cycle although I have driven one: a Triumph 500. I seemed to have a penchant for things that were too powerful for my experience. I didn't have any problem with the Triumph although as you will know the possibility of a broken ankle when starting it was real. [I had to correct the last comment because even I couldn't live with the spillchucker's replacement of whatever I typed instead of 'motor' with the word 'moron' and my mixing of tenses was hideous]

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  13. Thrilling story galloping downhill! You never feel pain with a broken bone. Its only after surgery the pain begins :)) i broke a bone in my fore arm last year and it is getting better after surgery.

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    1. Ruby when I broke three ribs a few years ago the pain was severe. I think it may be a case of which nerves are affected.

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  14. When I was a school girl, I had a friend named Karen who was horse mad. She invited me to spend the weekend with her family so we could go riding on Saturday. The nag I was given was supposed to be docile, but he spent the entire afternoon trying to scape me off on any available bush or tree. I found the whole thing so exasperating that I never rode again. My father, who loved horses and owned several before I was born, was very disappointed in me I think, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. After that I stuck to merry-go-round horses!

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    1. DeeDee I am certain that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to things like horse riding and if one is not addicted then why do it?

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  15. That would be enough to put you off riding. I had a similar incident as a child. That stopped my ambition to be a horse rider.

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    1. Diane you are obviously another of we sensible people. I really must stop just visiting your blog and start commenting.

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  16. Wow! You were really lucky, though. It could've been so much worse, and I'm not referring to if the pub had run out of Tio Pepe!

    I only ever tried once to ride a horse...along with a girlfriend...we were about 12years old at the time. For whatever reason, we jumped on board a horse that used to graze around the local sports field. No saddle; no bridle; no reins. Believing we were the modern-day (late 50s) Calamity Janes we almost had a calamity when the horse began to canter and we both slid and ended up under its belly, upside down. We dislodged ourselves, unhurt...and I, for one, have never been on a horse since that day! I do love horses, though.

    I responded to your comment on my last post, Graham...explaining the presence of Inspector Morse...hang your head in shame, laddie! ;)

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    1. Haha Lee. I found cantering the hardest of all the motions with which to cope. I've responded to your comment on Morse. One of the things about your photos all coming before your text is that they can sometimes be puzzling until one has read the text. Morse in amongst the original photos was quite confusing until I read the post.

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  17. Sadly, the Swan has closed for a few months because the collapse of the A591 in a few places in the December floods means there is no passing traffic. The road will not be reopened until at least May and traffic from Grasmere to Keswick has to go via the motorway over Shap!

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    1. I had no idea that had happened CJ. All the television coverage I've seen has been of the towns but 5 or 6 months with that road closed will have a significant impact on Grasmere I would have thought.

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  18. I finally got to read the full story, sitting here in our Heathrow hotel waiting for our flight back to NZ tomorrow. I look forward to seeing you over there soon. A good yarn by the way, and a great mountain to have the adventure on!!

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    1. Travel safely Julia. I'll see you soon on the other side of our world.

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