Horse scouting in the UK

Published 11:40 am Thursday, April 20, 2023

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Paul says I’m the only one who can go on vacation and lose weight.


There is truth to that, but I’m not sure my recent four-day turnaround trip to the UK to go horse scouting for a client would be classified as a ‘vacation.’ Oh, alright, the first day, when one is obliged to stay up all day in order to beat jet lag, I did plop myself down at a teashop in Windsor.

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(Can I just ask why would anyone stay at a big, soulless Radisson next to Heathrow when, for a $40 cab fare, one can stay far more cheaply in Windsor, with the late Queen’s favorite residence, Windsor Castle, smack in your face?)


I wanted a cup of tea. Nay, (or should I say ‘neigh’), I wanted a pot of tea. Actually, a trough of tea would have suited. I needed the caffeine. I did not need the cucumber and cream cheese or egg salad finger sandwiches and the pair of scones with the ramekin of clotted cream and strawberry jam, but, you know, when else are you going to eat like that inside a 16th-century building? And as it was drizzling and 45 degrees out, well, you know, after walking around the town for a couple of hours and popping in and out of shops and enjoying all the store windows decked out with coronation souvenirs of King Charles, it was only natural that I took dinner in The Horse and Groom, a pub that has been in business since 1792.


And we think the brick shop fronts in our small, southern towns are old…


I was greeted at the door by two large dogs, straining against their master’s leash to welcome all who entered and, well, you had me at ‘dogs welcome.’ I didn’t need a menu: Cod and chips (do you hear me? NOT flounder) please, with peas and a Guinness. I was so hungry I wouldn’t even toss a chip toward the woeful eyes of a Labrador.


Bellyful of beer, fish, jam and tea, somehow I slept like a rock and the next morning was Up and At ‘Em and ready to view the horses my friend, Denny, had lined up for me to see. A funny black gelding, very tall and lanky, young and green, but most amenable. A bit of a pencil neck but that’s OK. I have one too. Plus, we share the same inseam.


We left Somerset and traveled deeper into Devon. Now, if you, like me, are a big fan of ‘Escape to the Country,’ where people who are sick of urban living are shown country houses within their budget and we viewers sigh with longing at the charming thatched cottages with roses round the door, let me share this with you: if you’re going to truly Escape to the Country in England, child, you’d better have a freezer. English homes are often described thus: “A 17th Century Country House, surrounded by its own parkland, in an area of splendid isolation.” 


Splendid isolation means that you suddenly become aware that 70% of England is still farmland and one can go deeper and deeper into the rural countryside until you realize you’ve passed no amenities for an hour. I’ve no idea where people grocery shop. And if you think South Cakkalakki roads are bad, well, there’s a reason those battered old Land Rovers still trundle around, bouncing from pothole to pothole.


All in all, we viewed 9 horses in 3 days, I rode several, and we’re still trying to decide among three of them which is pretty rare. I recently spoke to someone who has just returned from the Netherlands after looking at 40 and found nothing. Within that time, like a hibernating bear, there was no time to eat and I was still living on the clotted cream of the day before. By the third day, I noticed I was having a hard time keeping my shirt tucked in because the waistband of my riding breeches became too loose. I can hear you now: “Why on Earth would you fly way over there when you could buy a horse here?” Believe it or not, even when you factor in the price of shipping a show horse over the pond, and especially with the post-Brexit pound being very weak against the dollar, it winds up far, far cheaper to buy overseas.


Before you ask, yes, horses are shipped by air. And there better not be any fat-shaming applied against whichever one we choose (and passes the vetting).


It’s not his fault he got stuck with a middle seat.


Pam takes a young prospect for a spin as her shirt comes untucked.